Revenge did something tonight that was fun in the moment but I fear could turn out to be a horrible mistake. Before now, the show hasn’t bothered to bog itself down with the details of why Conrad was in cahoots with terrorists. Wisely, the focus has remained on his betrayal of David Clarke and how it created a ripple effect not only on David’s life but his own as well. Tonight, however, that changed. And those changes make me nervous.
The big change in question comes with the expansion of the “white-haired man” character, the man who murdered David Clarke in prison. When he strolled in tonight, proffering threats and mumbling about secret shady cabals of most likely old white men who call themselves the Initiative (where’s Adam?), about fifty alarm bells went off in my head. For all of Revenge’s twists and reveals, the reason it works as well as it does is because the story is fairly simple. The focus on two families and how they destroy each other in ways both big and small is captivating. Expanding and attributing this destruction to coyly named shadow figures removes what we like most about the show: the characters. How many shows have fallen down the rabbit hole of poorly constructed conspiracy plots and not been able to crawl back out? It isn’t clear if Revenge is about to take this plunge, but the sheer possibility is concerning.
That being said, the story of the white-haired man in this episode was pretty darn satisfying. Emily’s focus is on killing him to avenge her father’s death, and when Emily is focused only good things result. The show feels light on good, old-fashioned Emily schemes in the latter half, so seeing her manipulate Conrad in order to bring old white-haired out of hiding was delicious. Things got especially fun when Nolan got involved, because Nolan makes everything better; this time, he took a page out of the old Emily Thorne handbook and tricked her into going to the wrong location (to prevent her from killing white-hair) while he set up surveillance in white-hair’s house, disguised as a cable guy. Because victory in Revenge only comes with great defeat, as soon as he boasts of his successes to Emily he is immediately shown to be outsmarted, as white-hair shows up at his house and chokes him from behind. I doubt the show will kill off their breakout character so the ending doesn’t have true stakes, but it is shocking nonetheless and a heck of a good time.
Dominating the rest of the hour was the surprisingly tender story of Sammy the Immortal Dog’s inevitable demise. The dog has always been nothing more than a tool to illustrate the connection between Emily and Jack, so it was appropriate he died fulfilling his apparent life mission: to bring them together again. The opening scene with Emily digging a grave was so obviously for Sammy that the fake-out of her having committed her first direct act of murder didn’t really work, but what was great about the Sammy story is even though it was clear from the very beginning he was going to die, it didn’t dull the impact at all. Emily so rarely gets to show true emotion—her tightly controlled persona is one of the most interesting things about the character—so when she does break, it is truly affecting. That Jack’s shared sorrow brought them together (and Emily doesn’t seem to be rejecting it out of hand this time) presents interesting opportunities for both their relationship and her engagement to Daniel, especially since Ashley witnessed their little dalliance.
Threaded throughout all of this was the continued battle of Victoria and Conrad, which has somehow become one of the most consistently entertaining parts of the show. The ways they’ve plotted to take each other down this season are as epic as they are varied, but Victoria seems to be holding the trump card here with her attempts to get Conrad to finally take the fall for all the David Clarke nonsense. It likely won’t work—having them constantly working against each other is far too fruitful a story device, at least for now—but between the execution of the plotlines and the wonderfully barbed dialogue Conrad and Victoria fling at each other like bullets it really doesn’t matter who comes out on top. It’s the process that’s fun.
In addition to being a decent episode on its own, this episode set up next week’s finale fairly well. Nolan is at the mercy of the white-haired man; Victoria, Conrad, and Daniel are all playing chicken with the evidence needed to send Conrad to jail for life; and Emily is flailing a little bit, torn between Jack and her mission and staggeringly unaware of what is going on in the Grayson family right under her nose. She promised she wouldn’t lose focus again. We’ll find out if that is actually true next week.
- This week in “Nolan is awesome”: Mustache, cable-guy voice, his continued status as a Jack/Emily shipper, diamond sweater, the look on his face when he realized he’d been outsmarted.
- I guess Emily doesn’t take Daniel for an Orwell fan. I kid! Like Daniel reads.
- The less said about the tired Declan/Charlotte/random other girl plot the better. Just when Declan and Charlotte stopped sucking so much, they give them this.
- “I like but I need” with Conrad and Victoria Grayson is the best party game.
- Nolan: “You may be a lot of things: black belt in karate, impeccable dresser, and a certified sociopath, but you’re not a killer.”