Four months is a long time for any network show to be off the air, and it seems an especially dangerous proposition for a show like Revolution. As much as it’s been one of the biggest hits of the season—helped by a strong season of The Voice and anemic ratings for most everything else—from a quality standpoint it’s also been one of the season’s most frustrating shows. Whenever the show starts to embrace the strengths it clearly possesses, it falls back into the problems that have shackled it since the pilot and somehow manages to make them worse. Every time the writers do something interesting with the concept of a powerless world, they tie it to asking the broader question of why it happened. Every scene with Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito and a bench of compelling villains has to be unbalanced by more whining from Tracy Spiridakos or Graham Rogers. And every episode that embraces the sense of fun, old-fashioned RPG-style adventure winds up eventually compromised by plots that are poorly developed or simply kill time.
So going into the midseason finale, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” one big question hung over the entire episode: Would it make viewers want to come back? Would it justify a four-month gap between installments, or would it serve as the logical point for the hate-watchers to jettison their favorite punching bag? I’ve grown used to being disappointed by the show, so it was a pleasant surprise that the former turned out to be the case. Revolution ends its first major story arc, the kidnapping and recovery of Danny, in a manner that avoids so many of the problems that dragged previous installments of that arc down. And at the same time, it sets up the show’s second act in a fashion that promises far better things than the first.
A large part of that is because “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is an example of everyone’s favorite part of an RPG campaign: the boss fight. With the party arrived in Philadelphia, it’s on Monroe’s turf, and of course, it doesn’t take the group long to get captured, despite finding early shelter with an friend of Miles from the old days. Neville drags Charlie to Monroe’s lair—an old power plant outside the city—where the Mathesons enjoy their first family reunion in years. As much of a reunion as one can have under gunpoint that is, as Monroe reveals himself to Charlie and makes the final ultimatum to Rachel to either finish the amplifier for real or pick which of her children Strausser shoots. Charlie offers herself as the sacrifice, but once again, like clockwork, Rachel refuses to listen to her daughter’s excuses and agrees to his terms.
Putting aside the disappointment that no one pulls the trigger on Charlie (honestly Revolution writers, you need to do something if people keep calling for your main character’s head), there’s a definite sense of momentum to “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” that makes it far more likeable than any of the recent episodes have been. Miles does not simply walk into the militia clutches as seems to happen an awful lot; he gathers careful intelligence—courtesy of turning the tables on Neville and trading Julia’s life for Aaron and Nora. The fortress of Monroe’s power plant is set up like a classic infiltration mission, right down to the sentry posts and secret entrances, with options and objectives clearly set in the early going. This isn’t a side mission; this is the lair of the primary antagonist, and neither the party nor the show stumbles in what is clearly a critical moment to the story.
And it also gives us the confrontation we’ve been waiting for all season. The reunion of Charlie and Danny long since took a back seat to the conflict between Miles and Monroe, and recent episodes have only amplified the turmoil each man has felt over the possibility of confronting his oldest friend again. Not that it’s been perfectly set up—I continue to hold it would have been better if this relationship had been more fleshed out over the course of the season, and this episode in particular shows the strain as the writers try to force additional context. By Revolution standards, it’s a schizophrenic batch of flashbacks this week, leaping through the two’s history in distracting fashion. One flashback to a military campaign five years after the blackout that feels like a Call of Duty commercial, one two years before as Monroe mourns the family he lost to a car crash (“On their way to a Harry Potter screening–one drunk driver later and they’re scraping them off the gravel!”), and then one to childhood where it turns out Monroe’s tattoo/the Republic sigil is a drawing he made to symbolize they were best friends.
But if presentation of the past is weak, the present more than makes up for it. Miles’ hallucination last week in “Kashmir” proved Burke and David Lyons have a definite chemistry with each other, and the moment when the two have each other at gunpoint once again coaxes a strong performance from both. There’s a multitude of emotions playing over each of their faces, ranging from regret to guilt to hope, both men convinced the other won’t kill the other and yet trying to work up the urge to do it themselves. And the world-weariness of Miles finally gets its explanation as he reveals the truth to his oldest friend: not that he regrets the choices he made, but the blunt declaration: “I’m sorry I didn’t kill you the first time.” We still don’t have the full story of why Miles made the choices he did, but as he wearily points out, none of that even matters any more because so much time has passed his thread of reasoning is irrelevant. The sword fight that follows—something Revolution continues to execute well on a weekly basis—is an afterthought, the real battle already fought with Miles the victor and something irrevocably broken inside Monroe.
And there’s plenty of other excitement going on throughout the rest of the complex both before and after that confrontation. Charlie manages to be not useless for a while and shows maybe she has been paying attention to Miles after all, orchestrating her and Danny’s escape from a cell and even trading fire with some of the militia guards. After being separated from the action all season, Rachel joins the group in decisive fashion by cracking Strausser over the head with a hammer and burying the torturer’s own blade deep in his chest. (I’m sorry to see David Meunier depart from any show, but he’d moved into such cartoon villainy that his character was past the point of saving, uttering truly atrocious lines like “I like your girl; she’s a peach. And I could eat peaches all day” without a hint of irony.) Even Aaron gets some form of redemption, as he’s placed in charge of blowing the front gates open for an escape route and—in a clever callback to an earlier episode—has to improvise a way to successfully light the pipe bombs and blow the gate open.
This could have been a good moment to end on, but Eric Kripke and J.J. Abrams have never been content to leave their shows on a victorious moment, and they leave things in a dark place that assuages one of my chief concerns about the show. I don’t know what the widespread return of the power will do to the post-apocalyptic scenario I’ve grown fond of over the last few weeks, and I’ve been worried it will change the dynamic of the show to an unreasonable extent. What has reassured me is the continued implication that when it happens, it’s no small thing to the people who have lived so long without it, and the possibility of it has taken on almost mythic resonance—be it something as small as an iPhone or as large as a lighthouse, in this world technology is literally synonymous with magic. Immediate threat aside, there’s no mistaking the fear and awe on the party’s faces as, for the first time in 15 years, the whirring of rotors becomes audible and a helicopter rises into the sky. Miles speculated as early as “Chained Heat” that Monroe could wreak untold havoc with even one, and now that fate has come to pass—complete with whirring machine guns trained on our newly trapped heroes as the screen cuts to black.
This is the best midseason finale Revolution could have asked for, a finale that raises not only a lot of questions but questions that are being asked out of legitimate curiosity as opposed to frustration. Now that Neville’s relationship with Miles has turned from professional rivalry to blood vendetta, how long before he crosses swords with Monroe over the latter’s fate? Rachel’s joined the party, but exactly what history does she share with Miles and Aaron, and why did she go over to Monroe in the first place? Will Monroe, so unhinged by his best friend’s betrayal, go mad with power and parade in front of his troops wearing a hooded cloak? (Wouldn’t be the first time.)
Either way, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” makes one thing clear: Revolution’s upended the game board in decisive fashion. And four months from now, it may be a far better show for it.
- One major request for retooling in the hiatus: For the love of God, get rid of that opening introduction. It adds nothing and annoyingly presents our adventuring party as a gathering of messiahs.
- This week in Magical Pendant news: Other than the news the amplifier works, no new details. Whatever’s going on with Randall and Grace remains on the shelf, but Monroe’s newly expanded arsenal should logically draw them out of hiding, and I’m curious to see which side if any Randall will choose.
- Matheson beatdowns this week: Offscreen beating of Danny, but otherwise nothing. Boo.
- Speaking of the show’s well-stocked bench, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” confirms Mark Pellegrino’s Jeremy Baker is still around, and adds a new member of the militia in Glynn Turman’s Major Kipling. It seems like the latter’s headed for an grisly fate given his reluctant aid to Miles, but I can’t imagine Kripke and Abrams bringing in The Wire’s Mayor Royce for a two-minute cameo.
- Although I’ve actively disliked both Spiridakos and Elizabeth Mitchell’s performances on this show to date, their first scene together shows a clear resemblance befitting mother/daughter casting. Though a lot of that comes from their shared whining and wide-eyed stares at each other.
- Past Miles and Past Monroe debate what the world will be like when they run out of bullets. “Start using swords; we’ll be like pirates!” Adds another ugly layer to their duel years later.
- Danny: “You’re Uncle Miles!” Miles: “You’re the reason I’m in so much trouble.” Everybody hates Danny.
- And on that note, the lights go out for a few months. As always, thanks to everyone who’s read and commented over the last 10 episodes—it’s been a pleasure to move through this often-aggravating show with you. I’ll see you again in March.