Revenge: “Penance”
B+

Revenge: “Penance”

B+

Revenge

“Penance”

Season 2, Episode 7

One of Emily Thorne’s greatest strengths as a master revenger is her ability to manipulate people by always making them believe they’re getting the better end of whatever deal she’s offering. She did this with Amanda, using Amanda’s desire for family to get her to capitulate to her needs. She did this with Ashley by giving her the high society access she craved when all Emily really wanted was an in with the Graysons. But Emily’s greatest triumph of manipulation has to be the way she fully played Mason Treadwell tonight.

From the second Mason reappeared on the scene, he was a problem that needed to be dealt with. A snarky, ambitious, gloriously bespectacled problem, and judging from the intricacy of his Carrie Mathison conspiracy wall he wasn’t a problem that would easily go away, which is why the way Emily dispatched him was so brilliant. Setting Mason up to take the fall for killing Gordon Murphy and blaming Conrad was easily guessed by many last week, but the twist of having him go down for setting up David Clarke as well (while strange icing on the cake) was the one-step-over-the-top type of thing Revenge has so much fun doing. All Emily had to do to get this very sane man to accept some very insane things was to offer him the one thing his ego could never turn down: the chance to write the entire true story of Amanda Clarke’s quest for revenge against the people who framed her father. It’s the juiciest thing she could possibly dangle in front of him, and of course, he accepted.

What’s genius about this plan is that Emily not only gets Mason out of her business completely while she completes her mission, but she gets the ultimate comeuppance at the end because there’s no way she actually gives him full access to all her misdeeds, right? Many things Emily has done along the way have been highly illegal, and she’s much smarter than allowing herself to go to prison. So when everything is through, she can tell just as much or as little as she wants then, and still get everything she wants now. Once Mason knew her secret, he was a complete wild card—just look at how easily he want off-script and told Kara about David’s innocence—and now, he’s a controlled variable.

Emily’s flawless execution of the Mason Treadwell plan made this episode a real pleasure to watch, especially when things started to go belly up and she was forced to scramble to come up with immediate solutions. This aspect of the character hasn’t been seen in quite a while, and Emily VanCamp is so enjoyable to watch in action that it was great to see again. There were a lot of emotional beats for her to play tonight—from panic to icy anger to longing—and she played them all wonderfully.

The plot that interests me the most right now, however, is the growing possibility that Grayson Global will soon own a majority stake in Nolan’s company. Nolan’s absolute fealty to David Clarke (and therefore Emily’s mission) has always been one of his most consistent character traits, but allowing the evil Grayson Global to be in a position to take over his company is at least 10 steps beyond what anyone would think is reasonable loyalty. Nolan and Emily’s relationship has consistently grown stronger as the series has progressed, and even tonight, he admits the Clarkes are the only people he’s ever considered family. Emily couldn’t stop Nolan from handing over the evidence that could break him completely, but how will she feel if Nolan loses everything in pursuit of her quest? How will Nolan feel? I feel intensely protective of their bond, so the trajectory of this plotline is the one I am most interested in seeing play out.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, there was another version of Revenge tonight. A Revenge that asked us to believe that Nolan Ross would set up a party by giving people clothes from Target and secretly conscripting some sort of leather-clad messenger to deliver said Target clothes to the most boring people in the Hamptons. A Revenge that asked us to believe that Nolan would have a super-lame party in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere with pedestrian white tablecloths and models in eye masks. A Revenge that asked us to know who the hell that lady was that was singing. A Revenge that asked us to see all of this as a gift. My friends, that was no gift. That was a nightmare. (Though honestly that black lace dress was kind of cute…oh great, they got me. Damn you, REVENNNNGGGGEEEE!)

Stray observations:

  • The beginning voiceover montages used to be my least favorite part of the episode but I am enjoying them greatly this season. The writers have learned to connect them to the narrative, and let’s face it: It’s just fun to see something so over-the-top soapy every week.
  • Mason’s theory that Emily and Amanda were lesbian lovers in juvenile detention together means he’s been watching too many late-night movies on Cinemax.
  • What the heck is going on with Jack and the bar plot of doom? Is Michael Trucco there to start dealing drugs from the docks or something? This is just terrible. I’m now more convinced than ever that this horrible side plot is going to result in the boat crash we saw in the first episode of the season.
  • It was nice of the Graysons to give Kara a full tutorial on how to run their Jetsons security system so she could use it against them to hold them at gunpoint later. (No way she just knew how to work all that, right?) How long until she pops up to cause trouble again?
  • Padma: Still boring.
  • Nolan, to Emily: “Hey Nolan, this one time at revenge camp, I met this fellow avenger and guess where he’s going to be summering?”