The main difference between season one and season two of Revenge is that this year the show is trusting its viewers with the long con. The beginning of season one was all about delivering story in small, easily digestible chunks, slowly easing into more long-form storytelling. By this point in the series, however, any trace of this narrative hand-holding is long gone: You’re either in for the long-term payoff, or you’re likely not in at all.
The biggest example of the show slow-playing its hand is with Conrad and the Initiative, a story that finally seems ready to move forward after five episodes of shadowy meetings and meaningless conversations. Introducing a shadowy cabal is a dicey proposition for any show, and Revenge is walking a tightrope with just how much it can give over to this without losing audience interest completely. The one stellar thing about putting Conrad in the group's debt again is how it came about fully because of one of Emily’s schemes. There wasn’t a lot of meat to “Illusion,” but what was there was pure soap goodness. A wedding with ulterior motives is great, but a wedding with ulterior motives where the groom gets arrested at the reception is simply a step above. Conrad, with his blithe disdain for pretty much everything around him, has been the MVP of season two so far, so getting him more involved can only be a good thing. Whether this Initiative story will turn out to be worth it is less clear.
Even less clear than the Initiative story is Kara and where her character is going to go from here. From the second she’s been onscreen, both the writing and Jennifer Jason Leigh have done everything possible to make Kara’s true intentions a complete mystery, and that mystery only deepened tonight with her reaction to Gordon’s murder. Kara’s past is as a woman unhinged, but it’s presented in flashbacks as more of a volatile madness. Here in the present, it’s all barely restrained calculated mania, and it imbues every scene Kara’s in with a sense of unease. Will she snap and kill Victoria in her sleep? Or is she sane enough to follow in her daughter’s footsteps and get her revenge against the Graysons in a less violent way? The uncertainty is what is making this storyline work for me, despite it having a snail-like progression.
One story that is definitively not working is Jack, Declan, Kenny, and the bar subplot that ate the Hamptons. The level of “do not care” that permeates every second of this story is astounding. To make it even worse, it just keeps getting more and more story time, now adding extra Declan to the mix via his rekindled relationship with Charlotte. It’s fairly obvious that there’s a bigger plan for all of this, and that it fits into a larger long-term story the show is trying to tell, but unfortunately, the short-term pleasures necessary for it to be even a mildly compelling story are not there at all. I still believe these characters are important to the have and have not tale Revenge is trying to tell, but it’s a complete disservice to have nots everywhere to have them represented with such boring stories.
But the big doing of tonight’s episode was Mason Treadwell and how he is so close to unraveling all of the lies Emily’s been building her entire adult life. The best part was how it happened due to a simple aside, a leak of information Emily never expected. When Mason showed up last week questioning Amanda’s true identity, Emily was able to set up a paper trail of lies for Amanda to feed him and get him off their backs. Will that all be undone with Victoria’s casual mention that Emily spent time in a juvenile detention center? Judging by Mason’s crazy Carrie Matheson conspiracy wall, he's connected the dots, and something big is about to go down. This time, will Emily have to take him out for good? She’s shied away from murder in the past, but I wouldn’t doubt she’d let Aiden or Amanda do the dirty work for her. Emily’s morality is certainly a sliding scale.
Now that we’re six episodes in and Revenge continues to set up these stories, though, it is starting to get easier to doubt the long con and question how the writers are going to get everything to neatly circle back to the images of Jack’s boat sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Just how many more pointless arguments about liquor prices are we going to be subjected to?
- Nolan had far too little screen time this week. I fear the more time Aiden spends helping Emily, the less Nolan will have to do, and this is unacceptable. More Nolan!
- That doesn't mean Aiden is bad. He's a compelling enough character, especially as a potential love interest and complication for Emily.
- Both the opening and closing montages were aces tonight. I especially enjoyed Conrad and Victoria preparing for their fake wedding while Emily intoned about illusion in the background.
- Any medical examiner worth their salt would figure out that body had been frozen, or at least that’s what the hundreds of hours of procedural television I’ve watched have taught me.
- Aiden’s idea that Ashley might be working an even longer con than Emily is very, very interesting. Could she be Initiative?
- Amanda and Jack are totally going to get married. I definitely believe that.
- Aiden: “Are condolences or congratulations in order?”
- Nolan: “Ems, Mr. Bond.”
- “And here I thought you were offering me a way out of this.” “Never."