Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Revenge: “Masquerade”

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One of Revenge’s greatest strengths is its ability to embrace its own inherent soapiness, yet still somehow manage not to take itself too seriously. Take “Masquerade,” which features some of the most melodramatic, ridiculous moments of the series’ run, yet executes them with just the faintest wink, giving the tiniest nudge of “yes, this is over-the-top, and we know it” to make them work. It’s impressive stuff.

The insanity in question revolved around Victoria’s annual Masquerade Ball, the perfect soapy setting for Emily to begin unraveling Victoria’s life, one step at a time. Despite promising to refocus her energies on taking the Graysons down, the episodes have been cluttered with her doing everything but that. After learning of the son Victoria gave up for adoption so many years ago last week, Emily’s focus has returned with laser intensity, and she goes all in: beginning her torture of Victoria and declaring herself romantically involved with Daniel, both at the ball.

The torture is the sort of thing Revenge does best: Emily sets Victoria up by sending an RSVP for the ball hinting her long-lost son will be there, then follows up that invitation with a delivery of 11 black roses—with the 12th destined to be on her son’s lapel at the party. It’s the perfect setup to drive Victoria slowly insane, and it works, sending Victoria into a fainting spell when Emily arranges for the “son” to float through the party and catch Victoria’s eye before disappearing into the wind. But really, it was all a ruse, a way for Emily to force Victoria into revealing where she gave up her son in the first place, so Emily could track him down. Victoria’s curiosity about the well-being of that son—a son who had sought her out many years ago, but was told nothing at Victoria’s instruction—leads Emily to a convent where she poses as a pregnant woman of her own in order to get close enough to find out the information she needs. It’s a patently insane, totally soapy, and all-around delightful turn of events. What’s a good soap without a spell in a convent?

The meat of this episode, however, was not in the soapy revenge shenanigans but the emotional content. Emily and Nolan's growing friendship has slowly become the most important touchstone on the show, grounding it even during the moments the rest of the show was flailing. The dedication to building this relationship pays off handsomely tonight when Nolan learns of Padma’s death. Although their relationship was poorly developed, his grief is palpable, and the resulting scene where Emily takes the blame for her death and attempts to comfort him is one of the best they’ve shared together. Nolan telling her he loves her, and Emily allowing herself to hear it, feels like an important place for the characters to be. Last season, she would never allow herself to feel such a strong emotional attachment to anyone. Now, between Nolan and Aiden, she almost welcomes it. It’s been a lovely, gradual character progression.

If only the show’s plotting was so successful. It’s been a season-long complaint, but tonight cemented it: I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the Initiative storyline. Tonight, Aiden did something with some investments in order to draw Trask out and find Padma, but that something also meant the Initiative divested all their interest in Grayson Global. This appears to be a good thing—at least for the Graysons—but the Initiative is still the show’s big “bad guys” and the people ultimately responsible for what happened to David Clarke. Them divesting themselves from Grayson Global means Daniel can date Emily in the open (and hilariously bust his mother for sending him fake threats in their name), but they’re still evil, and they still have a plan. Maddeningly, it appears the show wants to string the mystery along by having Trask literally say all will be revealed “in due time.” For that strategy to work, however, we need to be invested in the reveal to begin with, and that is what is lacking here. All I basically know at this point is working for the Initiative as liaison to the Graysons seems like a pretty bum job. With a 100 percent mortality rate, you’d have better luck working a fishing boat in Alaska.

And then there’s Jack. New, angry, revenge-minded Jack is great, but he’s also kind of absurd. It doesn’t help that he’s wrapped up in Conrad’s insane bid for the governor’s office, one that he’s doing well in now that Jack has come on board as some sort of working-class idiot political savant. Revenge isn’t a realistic show, but thinking that a man with so much scandal and general disdain for humanity could pass himself off as even a little bit human to poor people seems like a stretch, even in this political climate. Still, he’s gaining ground and doing town halls at the Stowaway, all while Jack slowly plots his demise behind his back. The cracks begin at the town hall when someone asks him a question about reopening the case against David Clarke, forcing Conrad to promise to do so if elected. Oh, and he has to give this answer while getting a tape of him conspiring to kill Amanda with Nate piped into his ear by Nolan.


But that’s not enough for Jack, so he goes to the least likely place possible for help: Ashley. Ashley hasn’t served a real purpose on this show, well, ever, so giving her an active role in the narrative seems like a good choice. Still, it’s hard to understand how Jack all of a sudden got astute enough to see Ashley as a fellow outsider, and then go to her without worrying she’d run and tell Conrad. No matter the improbabilities, it will be interesting to see how the show plays their partnership, that’s for sure. Pairing two secondary characters together on a storyline together often fails miserably, but I have hope here, mostly because New Jack is angry.

And angry on Revenge is almost always good.

Stray observations:

  • This was a welcome six-week jump in time, especially because all of Nolan’s hand wringing over Padma got to happen off-screen.
  • I enjoyed the show hand-waving away Victoria not throwing this party last year by saying it didn’t happen because Daniel was in prison on murder charges. Factual and hilarious!
  • We know it’s Halloween because Declan is randomly hacking at some pumpkins. See, Declan does have a purpose!
  • The scene where Charlotte punches a random girl for making fun of Amanda was just so, so strange. Its placement and pacing stuck out like a sore thumb in what was otherwise a fairly well-edited party sequence.
  • Nolan: “Well, start your revenge-ines. That’s him; right on cue.”
  • Conrad: “Would you say this reflects likeability?” Victoria: “More so than the man behind it.”