It's official: the failure mode of Revolution is melodrama. We witnessed it last night. I still really like this show, and I want it to be as good as it was a week ago — but last night's episode had me wishing the power would go out permanently, so I didn't have to watch any more of this claptrap. Spoilers ahead...
The theme of last night's Revolution was "Charlie's Abandonment Issues." Everybody always leaves Charlie behind, and it's left her feeling emotionally fragile, as we saw in a series of sledgehammery scenes. (Or maybe the show was just taunting us with the fact that we're the only people who will never be able to abandon Charlie, since the camera insists on following her.) And then, just when we all got the message loud and clear, the episode caps off with a scene of Charlie looking at the camera and wailing, "EVERYBODY ALWAYS ABANDONS ME." Just in case we missed the subtle character development earlier.
Her abandonment issues stem from the fact that her mom left her when she was little — and at the end of the episode, we learn that it was Uncle Miles' fault. Miles summoned her to the Militia camp to become a prisoner. And I have so many questions about that, like why didn't Miles summon his brother at the same time (since he presumably knew they were together)? If they wanted Rachel for her knowledge about the blackout, wouldn't they want Ben even more? Or if this is prior to them caring about that, why wouldn't he want to keep them together?
In any case, her mom leaving has left Charlie feeling unloved. And now her dad is dead and her brother is a prisoner. And Uncle Miles is getting sick of her constant needling, and is threatening to go off on her own instead of fulfilling his promise to help rescue Danny. So Charlie is all fragile, even before the death of iPhone Girl, whom Charlie has always kind of hated but now she feels sad about.
So... iPhone Girl. The producers of Revolution let it be known that there would be a major death in last night's episode, and it was pretty obvious who it was going to be. (I kept hoping it might be Danny. But no.) iPhone Girl was pretty much the only disposable member of the main cast — they can't kill off Google Boy, because he's full of exposition, and he's the show's Hurley. Everybody else is a member of Charlie's immediate family, or Nate the Love Interest. Or Giancarlo, who can act. So it had to be iPhone Girl.
I liked iPhone Girl in the pilot, when she was a poison-whiskey-toting, hard-as-nails survivor. But every other episode since then has reduced her to, well, iPhone Girl. Her pink iPhone is all she has left of her kids, and it's her only character trait. This episode tried frantically to make us care about her before killing her off — she was one day away from retirement! — and it only made her impending death more obvious. I did like the idea that she walked from Seattle to Buffalo, and then all down the coast, trying to get home to her kids in England. But like with a lot of other stuff in this episode, the writers leaned a little too hard on the sentimentality button.
I guess the other theme of this episode was "family is, like, important, man." iPhone Girl tried to kill herself when she realized she wasn't getting home to her kids, until she met Ben — who saw another emotionally repressed blonde woman and figured she could replace his wife. So she became part of the Matheson clan, and it saved her life. She tells Miles, in the most cringe-inducing scene of the episode, that he, too, can have his life saved by Charlie and her big heart. Meanwhile, the episode's villain is a guy who lost his daughter to tetanus because looters stole his meds, and now he's a crazy Phantom of the Diner who wants Charlie to be his new daughter. Charlie is so special and everybody loves her — too bad she's too busy having Abandonment Issues to notice!
Oh, and crazy Phantom of the Diner guy has a pack of dogs that he's semi-domesticated and turned into his attack dogs. Why couldn't the episode's theme have been, "Get a dog. They're more loyal and useful than most people"? I liked Person of Interest's handling of the "attack dog" thing way better, a couple weeks ago.
iPhone Girl's body isn't even cold yet, before the hottie formerly known as Nate has apparently joined the crew as her replacement. Of course, he's still working for the Militia, and he's still technically their prisoner because he was following them and they want to interrogate him — but after he helps save Charlie from the Phantom of the Diner, they seem to decide he's basically okay, and start trusting him. Probably within a few episodes, he'll be officially part of the gang. Because MIles used to be in the Militia, and now he's a recovering Militia-ite, so why not "Nate"?
Meanwhile, Danny is still a captive of Captain Neville — and the guy who was tormenting Danny is apparently gone now. Did he evaporate? Did Captain Neville send him on a scouting mission? I was looking forward to seeing what would happen when Danny realized the "fake asthma attack" trick only works once? In any case, Captain Neville's crew gets caught in a hurricane that isn't visible to Charlie and Miles, despite them being a day's walk away. And they take shelter in a barn, where Danny decides to try and escape again. This leads to Captain Neville bonding over family and stuff, and us realizing that Captain Neville isn't all bad. Or something. Danny has the chance to leave Captain Neville for dead and make his escape, but instead he saves Captain Neville, because he's convinced that's what his dad would have done.
But this just means Danny's headed for some extreme dental work, because as soon as he gets to where his mom is held captive, Sebastian Monroe is going to have him tortured in front of her. In this episode, Rachel herself is subjected to torture that leaves her still looking flawless and telegenic. She's apparently trying to claim her husband was just an algebra teacher, but Sebastian knows he was working for the Department of Defense and warned Miles about the blackout before it happened. (So the blackout was a DoD thing?) Torture won't break Rachel — but maybe watching Danny get his teeth ripped out will change her mind.
So all in all... this episode of Revolution wasn't really in the same league as last week's. There was 100 percent less Mark Pellegrino, for one thing. And on the character development front, there was nothing as interesting as Charlie accusing her own father of being a coward, and Miles still seeming proud in some way of the Militia he'd created. This felt like a major step backwards for Revolution. Good thing next week's episode features Miles meeting Captain Neville. This show seems to work best when they put Billy Burke alongside one of its other decent actors — fingers crossed Burke and Esposito get a lot of screen time together. And maybe over time this show will start playing to its strengths, rather than its weaknesses.