For an episode titled “Victory,” there sure wasn’t ample opportunity for triumph for our intrepid heroes tonight. Their pain was the audience’s pleasure, though, as Revenge continued its winning streak with another solid episode. As the complications compound and the show steadily adds more layers of revenge and deceit each week, I can’t help but wonder: What took it so damn long?
That it took Revenge so long to get to the good stuff is the mildest of complaints, really, considering how quickly the show has rebounded from its dreadfully boring first half of the season. What’s immediately clear is that the show isn’t interested in letting things overstay their welcome the way they did at the start of season two. The best example of this is Eli, Emily’s former foster brother and someone the show set up quite nicely last week to be a potential long-term thorn in Emily’s side. If Eli had shown up in the first season, it would have been an obvious set up for a quick shot of revenge before he disappeared into the ether.
But this season has been quite different, setting my expectations up last week that Eli would be yet another thing distracting Emily from her true goal of taking down the Graysons. Happily, this wasn’t the case at all. What seemed like a nefarious infiltration into the Grayson family last week turned out to be Eli’s attempt not at complicating Emily’s life, but at taking down the foster mother who ruined them both, in an attempt to make up for him being the reason Emily was sent to juvenile detention all those years ago. Eli and Emily set it up as a classic Revenge scheme, making foster mother Meredith Hayward think they are giving her a big donation from the Amanda Clarke Foundation. Instead, when Eli goes to present the money he reveals, all of Hayward’s abuses toward the children in her care.
Eli, having gotten his revenge against Hayward, leaves town—but not before making an important revelation to Emily’s revenge scheme. A big part of Emily’s past is how she internalized Mason Treadwell’s book as gospel, only learning the truth about her father from the journals he left her after his death. Eli reveals that Emily’s father had written her letters all along, but Hayward had sold them to a third party: Mason Treadwell. When Emily goes to confront him, she gets just the leverage she’s been looking for: Victoria has another child, one she gave up as a teenager. What Emily will do with this information only she knows, but I doubt it will turn out well for anyone.
This story worked for two main reasons: It was a nice bit of tangible, self-contained revenge, and it tied directly into Emily’s past. These two things have been missing from a lot of season two, and it was great to see them again. Another great thing about it was how it made the timeline of Emily’s life feel like a living, breathing thing: If Emily had never gone to juvenile detention, then she’d never have met Amanda, and Amanda never would have died on that boat. Emily is always at her most interesting when she’s considering the consequences of her revenge and how it affects others, and this recognition that her life is just basically the starting point of a butterfly effect impacting everyone around her really made the story sing.
Less successful—but still a heck of a lot of fun to watch—was Nolan’s attempt to help Padma get her father back from the Initiative. When Emily is too busy to help Nolan execute the scheme, she enlists Aiden to help in her place. The absolute disgust on Nolan’s face at every moment he has to deal with Aiden is a complete delight. Nolan’s distrust in Aiden is completely validated when the mission he controlled down to the very detail blows up in their face, resulting in the Initiative getting Carrion and abducting Padma as well. The story culminated in the best way, with Emily giving Nolan a heartfelt pep talk right before he goes half insane trying to track down where the Initiative is hiding Carrion, determined to beat the Falcon, who has apparently jumped ship to the Initiative after helping the Graysons. The Falcon is the best character we don’t even know actually exists yet.
Though Nolan’s story on its face was highly entertaining, the emotional side was less compelling. Nolan and Padma’s love connection has always been tenuous at best, so to try to sell them exchanging “I love you” in order to make this some sort of epic star-crossed love situation was ill-advised. Nolan feeling responsible for Padma, I buy. Nolan pledging his undying devotion to her simply makes no sense, considering how the relationship has been portrayed up to this point. It simply feels forced.
What doesn’t feel forced is Jack’s transition into pulling a revenge scheme of his own against Conrad. It took his wife dying for Jack to finally wake up and become an active participant in his own life, and it’s definitely a change for the better. Jack is determined to make someone pay for what happened to Amanda, and all roads lead directly back to Conrad Grayson. Even Kenny—whom Declan and Jack pull off an unlikely trap scheme on, considering their usual collective competence at such matters—is adamant anything Nate was doing was completely bankrolled by Conrad, and now Jack wants to get proof. Conveniently, Conrad sees Jack as a way for him to get a bit of blue-collar credibility for his sagging gubernatorial campaign, and Jack deviously agrees to help, giving him an automatic way to weasel into Conrad's affairs.
The idea of Jack attempting to bring Conrad down from the inside while Emily does the same with Victoria is one of the better things the show has proposed. Whether their schemes dovetail or collide, it almost doesn’t matter; just getting all of the stories on the same path—the path of Grayson destruction—is the most exciting thing that’s happened all season.
- Was I the only person who was half hoping it was actually Padma’s head in that box?
- Victoria manipulating Daniel into thinking the Initiative will come after Emily is yet another in a long string of reasons why Daniel will never be his own character. Every time it seems like he’s about to make his own move, his parents manipulate him right back into the malleable little follower he is.
- Nolan: “I’m sorry to bother you, Lee Harvey, I guess I just get a little nervous when I’m about to kill people.”