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Revenge: “Guilt”

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Revenge

“Guilt”

Season 1, Episode 5
A-

Revenge

“Guilt”

Season 1, Episode 5

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When Revenge first started, I admit I was skeptical about its ability to do much beyond telling simple, contained stories revolving around Emily’s weekly revenge plot, so discovering how thoughtfully planned the series arc seems to be has been quite a pleasant surprise. Once Lydia was so quickly and thoroughly dispatched in the pilot, it genuinely seemed like we would never see her again. To have her story continue in subsequent episodes, only to come to a head here in the most unpleasant manner possible, well, I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to consider someone unnecessarily plunging to their death delightful, but delightful is how it felt.

Really, this is the only way the story could even work. Emily is not some sort of revenge-for-hire exacting vengeance on random people each week; no, these plots and people are all connected, and her revenge is going to have a cumulative effect as she gets further and further into her plan. Everything she’s done so far led to this exact outcome, whether it was intended or not. It was only a matter of time before one of Emily’s plans went off script and something horrible happened, but the big question here is just how off-script did this one go?

First of all, this episode was immediately different because it deviated from the revenge procedural structure established in the first four episodes. The structure works, but it’s important to establish the show’s viability outside of that rigid story confine, and this episode definitely did that. Doing this caused the soap level to be kicked up about 10 more notches, but in a completely pleasing way. Tonight there was scheming, lying, fighting, threatening, sex, murder, breaking and entering, and fast cars. All they needed was a little casual drug use and an accidental pregnancy use to hit the coverall on the soapy drama bingo card. I kid because on its face it was a bit over the top, but everything about it worked.

As for Lydia, what exactly happened and how much of it was due to Emily? Lydia was obviously hell-bent on exacting some revenge of her own, which is smart because giving Emily foes other than Victoria brings a real freshness to the story. Lydia in part blames Emily for her fall from grace (for “accidentally” outing the affair to Victoria, I’m sure) and after extorting $10 million from Conrad is ready to reclaim her old life, and this means reclaiming her old house from Emily. Emily has no plans of giving it up, though, and decides to set Lydia up as the one perpetrating everyone’s downfall lately by sending her a box of things related to the schemes and making sure Victoria knows to go looking for it. What Emily doesn’t count on is Lydia spying her in the corner of one of her old pictures, cocktail waitressing a gala as Amanda Clarke.

Lydia fabulously promises to take Emily down, forcing Emily to use a very amusing Nolan to help her get out of the jam. When Nolan goes to retrieve the damning evidence Lydia collected connecting Amanda Clarke to Emily Thorne, he happens to arrive right after Grayson security officer Frank was there and found Emily’s box of treasures, and assumes exactly what Emily wanted them to assume, that Lydia is the culprit. Lydia and Frank get into an altercation which ends up with Lydia falling off her balcony onto a taxicab roof, which is where Nolan finds her when he hears the sirens. Because Nolan is Nolan, and Nolan set up a secret camera at Emily’s which ended up at Lydia’s, he has video of the entire thing.

Aside from the fabulous soap of the entire scenario, it also has interesting implications for Emily’s character. All she wanted was Lydia out of the picture when it comes to her house and the blame for her previous actions deflected somewhere else. How will she feel knowing Lydia, who despite being quite the schemer is as much a cog in the Grayson machine as anyone else, died because of evidence she planted in her apartment? The episode is titled “Guilt,” and guilt is the focus of the voiceover, but how much guilt does Emily actually feel over her actions? In bed with Daniel, she obviously felt something, but Emily has such a poker face it’s hard to know if she was just returning to her default or if she truly feels guilt over using him. Her reaction to what happened to Lydia will be interesting to see, and I can’t wait for the show to tackle it next week.

Five episodes into the series and we know Revenge does its procedural elements well, we know it does its soap well, and we know it can tell longer-arced stories as well. It’s really very impressive for a show so young, especially since every week seems to be getting better as the story moves along. For them to nail it—and I mean really nail it—all Revenge has left to do is fully involve us in Emily’s emotional stakes each week. Despite this episode thematically revolving around Emily's guilt, it’s the one thing that hasn’t quite connected yet, but considering how well the show does everything else, I have no doubt it can do this, too.

Stray observations:

  • Is this the first time David’s journal explicitly stated Conrad was the one who actually embezzled funds for the terrorist group? If so, he might be the slimiest fictional character on television right now.
  • Madeleine Stowe continues to be fantastic. Her kiss-off speech to Lydia was perhaps one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen, certainly scarier than anything on American Horror Story.
  • So Daniel eschewed his rich life to work as a bartender? Pretty soon Daniel and Jack are going to be the same person and then Emily is really going to be confused.
  • Frank and Lydia’s fight was very, very Lifetime Movie Network. I’m surprised she didn’t fall down some stairs.
  • I normally ignore the voiceover, but tonight’s was so silly I had to comment. “In revenge, as in life, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Um, I actually don’t think that’s right. But okay, Emily!
  • At this point, I’m pretty sure Charlotte and Declan exist only to create awkward moments for Jack and Emily to run into each other.
  • “I had my hands full. Perhaps you can tell me where your hands have been?”

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