B+

Revenge: "Mercy"

I jokingly remarked in a comment a few weeks ago that if Revenge hooked up Nolan and Patrick, every episode would get an A. While I can’t follow through on that half-serious promise—I have to at least pretend to be a professional, here—their pairing in this episode (and all the circumstances surrounding it) gave me so much joy I almost want to. After a fairly dismal season two and a shaky season premiere, Revenge is solidly, consistently delightful again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

What’s working so much better this season is that although there are still plenty of double-crossing and ulterior motives to go around, the motivation as to why people are keeping secrets and playing games feels far more personal than the abstract mess that was the Initiative. Take Patrick: It’s more than obvious he isn’t everything he portrays himself to be, but the show has been very judicious at giving us any actual information about him, allowing him to hang out in the background being dapper and mysterious for a while before starting to unravel the mystery. By taking his mystery and having it be something Nolan is tasked to solve—and perhaps solve via a torrid affair—well, that’s just fun. At this point, Nolan knows more about Patrick than we do due to his visit with Patrick’s ex-wife, and his initial move on him is obviously an angle. The genius of the scene is how it ultimately seems as if it’s an angle for Patrick, too, and we the audience are the ones getting played by both of them. Note how Patrick initially pulls back from Nolan’s advance, quickly considering the situation before reciprocating. There are far more layers going on here than just two very attractive men making out, and that’s what makes it great. (The making out isn’t terrible, either.)

Patrick is also intriguing because whatever is really going on with him, the show is doing a great job of showing just how much it will destroy Victoria when she ultimately finds out. His little scheme with Victoria this week to implicate the owner of her favorite art gallery in trafficking stolen paintings in order to take over as owner of the gallery herself just cemented Victoria’s dependence on this new child, the one child who hasn’t abandoned her or been poisoned by her duplicity yet. As Conrad and her other two children push her further and further away, Victoria clings to Patrick like an emotional life raft. Victoria might not be the warmest soul, but I find myself feeling strangely sorry for her this season.

And then there’s Conrad, who is somehow always the luckiest evil bastard in all the land. Not only does he walk away from an accident that killed his passenger, but he also finds out his initial Huntington’s diagnosis was a mistake. He announces this news in perfectly dramatic Conrad fashion, dumping his pills—the pills Emily provided, mind you—on the floor and grinding them into powder to put an exclamation point on his freedom from terminal illness. He’s really quite something in the whole episode, blaming the accident on Father Paul’s driving (when he was actually at the wheel) and then saying this near-death experience gave him the sudden clarity not to confess all his misdeeds, clarity that he originally got because of a terminal illness. It’s classic Conrad self-aggrandizing bullshit, and it’s awesome.

But Conrad still has problems. It seems he wasn't the one who caused the accident, as the brake line on his car was cut by an unknown assailant. Aiden uses the opportunity to pin in on Jack, which is meant to leave us to wonder if Aiden is going rogue again in order to get Jack out of the way so he won’t vie for Emily’s affection, or if this is yet another one of Emily’s schemes somehow. Aiden isn’t necessarily interesting yet but using him as a sort of in-house thorn in Conrad’s side is definitely something I could get behind.

Although Aiden gets a bit more of a meaty role here, Jack’s insertion into Emily’s revenge plot is still not having the impact I think the writers intend it to. He gets a bit more to do here, asking to help Emily to implicate Conrad in the car crash and murder of Father Paul. It almost seems like he might get something interesting to do when he makes a mysterious phone call behind Emily’s back, but it turns out to ultimately go nowhere, simply a device to get him in the same place as Emily and get evidence to hold over her head. Jack is not a useless character when used correctly, but as a roadblock in Emily’s revenge scheme, this is definitely becoming a case of diminishing, far-too-repetitive returns.

Surprisingly, one of the most interesting aspects in this episode for me was Daniel. Daniel bribing the cops to cover up Conrad’s potential fault in the car accident was yawn-worthy when it seemed like he was just being his father’s puppet again, but it became much more compelling when he revealed he did it all for selfish reasons, so there wasn’t another big Grayson scandal right before the magazine launch. Even more interesting was his conflict with Emily over it, simply because their relationship never quite makes sense on an emotional level. (What do they even talk about? I can't even imagine.) But in those moments that Emily was angry with Daniel for helping Conrad and he was angry at her in turn for her revealing his past drunk driving scandal, they felt like an actual couple with actual emotions and stakes, and it finally felt like something compelling.

Daniel has always been a weird character in that he exists as Emily’s ultimate pawn; a way for her to insinuate herself into the Grayson clan so she can ruin them from the inside out. But rarely does Daniel get the chance to actually be a character in this grand scheme, and his fight with Emily—a fight that’s still going on, as he stays in a hotel for the time being—feels character-driven in a way he never gets to be. It doesn’t hurt that alienating Daniel endangers Emily’s entire plan, adding additional stakes to the fight. Now that we know for sure Emily plans on taking down the Graysons at her wedding, Daniel weirdly might be the most important bit of Emily’s entire plan—and the one part she’s been neglecting. Revenge harder, Emily!

Stray observations:

  • So who did cut Conrad’s brakes? Theories, please.
  • Nolan’s temptation scenario with the electronics was highly amusing. The smartest thing this show has done all season is remember Nolan is one of their best characters and given him appropriately great material.
  • I don’t care if Nolan and Patrick are using each other for ulterior motives. I ship it.
  • Jack finally got a haircut. Thanks, Jack!
Filed Under: TV, Revenge

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