Revolution finally pulls out a great episode for its season finale

Illustration for article titled emRevolution/em finally pulls out a great episode for its season finale

Revolution has had a rocky first season. It started out as a show about two plucky teenagers, and then retooled into a show about the bitter older generation. And at long last, the show's season finale proved that Miles, Bass, Rachel and Tom can more than carry a show. Spoilers ahead...

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Revolution's season finale, "The Dark Tower," was co-written and plotted by show creator Eric Kripke, and it was the first time in ages I've gotten a clear sense of what this show and its characters are supposed to be about. There were tons of strong character moments that incidentally cast light on the political and social issues this show grapples with. Despite a slightly WTF final twist, this episode provided a lot more cause for optimism about the show's second season.

Like I said, Revolution started out appearing to be the story of Charlie and Danny Matheson, with the older generation largely serving as a backdrop to their coming-of-age story. Charlie and Danny seemed to be the Sam and Dean Winchester of this show, so it made sense for Uncle Miles to be the show's dark and slightly compromised John Winchester. But after Charlie and Danny proved not to be popular characters, the show retooled, killing off Danny and massively reducing Charlie's role. Now the challenge seemed to be building a show around the remorseful, bitter, angry Miles.

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Since then, we've been getting a lot of Miles saying every week that he wants to kill his old best friend Sebastian "Bass" Monroe, whatever the cost. And also wallowing in the evidence that he was a bad guy, back in the day, while continuing to be kind of a bad guy nowadays. This could have been a fascinating character study in darkness, but often felt kind of repetitive instead.

Last night's episode, though, took us inside the relationship between Miles and Bass, and developed it in a way that felt organic. It starts early in the episode, right when both men decide to stop trying to kill each other so they can team up against the Others who are protecting the Tower. Miles and Bass just exchange a series of non-verbal signals and head-jerks, and that's enough for them both to understand that they're teaming up, plus a rough strategy. This conveys, better than a speech, that these are old friends who've fought alongside each other for years.

Later in the episode, there are some great scenes of Miles and Bass beating the crap out of each other — and actually working through some of their shit. In a handful of flashbacks, we learn that Bass went off the rails when some rebels bombed a café where he and Miles were eating, and put Miles in a coma. In retaliation, Bass killed the bomber's entire family, including little kids. This leads to a scene where Bass admits he never really gave a crap about the Republic that bears his name — he only started it because Miles told him to, and all of his atrocities were for Miles' sake. After Miles turned on him, Bass was lost.

Something about Sebastian Monroe admitting he's never really given a crap about the Monroe Republic is kind of awesome.

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Also, Miles walking away in the middle of beating the crap out of Bass is nice, as is Bass screaming at him to come back and finish the job. Later, when Bass has gotten himself captured by his former troops, Miles comes in and rescues him and admits that they're still brothers and always will be — and that's why Miles couldn't kill Bass when he tried. Now Miles cuts Bass loose but also uses him as a diversion, getting everybody to chase him while Miles slips inside the Tower.

Probably the episode's most winning moment, though, is when Tom Neville has Bass tied up and finally tells his former general what he thinks of him and his almost erotic fixation on Miles Matheson. After weeks of Bass obsessing about his former comrade, this was incredibly welcome and up there with "general of my balls."

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Tom Neville also continued to make great strides towards being a highly watchable character with this episode — the fact that he takes over Monroe's forces and immediately becomes a terrible leader, without even an attempt at being better is kind of awe-inspiring. He makes a big speech about how he's not as "capricious" as Monroe, and then immediately fakes an attack so he can kill a dissenting officer with impunity. He plans a flimsy show trial for Monroe, and he quickly abandons his promises to his son to spare Charlie and Rachel's lives. He's less of a bully than Monroe, but way more sneaky and manipulative, and it's kind of amazing to see how quickly he becomes a terrible leader.

And meanwhile, Rachel faces a dilemma in the episode — help save Nora from her awful stomach wound, or rush to Level 12 and try to turn the world's power back on. On one level, it's a "needs of the many vs. needs of the one" thing, but on another it's about Rachel's drive to fix her biggest mistake — and on some level, to avenge Danny's death by finishing what he started and destroying the militias.

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In the end, Rachel abandons Nora, who dies (bah), and she does actually succeed in getting the power back on. But meanwhile, the Miles-Nora-Rachel love triangle (which never really seemed to be a thing, despite the occasional attempts to make it a thing) is resolved — because Miles stays with Nora even after she tells him Rachel needs his help.

The scene between Rachel and Grace in the infirmary, where Rachel talks about the premature birth of Danny being the best day of her life, and tries to appeal to Grace's feelings as a mother, feels pretty emotionally spot-on, and is the first time in a while that Elizabeth Mitchell has gotten to breathe a bit instead of just seeming a bit bonkers.

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All in all, then, the major characters on this show are finally starting to "click" and to serve as worthwhile replacements for the Matheson kids. Nora was probably the best character on the show, so it sucks that she had to be the sacrificial lamb. And Google is still Google. But to the extent that this episode was laying down markers for season two, it actually made this show seem like it has potential, from a character standpoint. I'm guessing the long-term arc is Miles and Bass rebuilding their relationship and Bass learning to be less of a creep.

Meanwhile, of course, there are twists. We learn that Google (whose code from MIT controls the Tower) wrote a "back door" into the code (it's hilarious when he tries to explain that to Charlie) and someone has exploited it. Meaning the global blackout wasn't an accident, but was deliberate.

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And at the end of the episode, it turns out Randall's goal all along was to get the world's power back on, so he could launch ICBMs at Atlanta and Philadelphia, shattering the two East Coast militias, so the President of the United States, in exile in Guantanamo Bay, could come and retake the country. Because, as Randall says, "I'm a patriot." So next year, I guess we get to see the world rebuilding once everyone has electricity again (although aren't all the power plants ruined?) and the Evil President launching a campaign to retake his country. It sounds a bit random, but could be fun.

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DISCUSSION

A little exciting, some little emotional tugs, but just as consistently dumb and jumbled as the rest of the season. I'm not very good at giving up on shows once I start watching them, but I will try my very best to skip next season.

Examples of dumb:

  • The Tower defenders have video surveillance, but they have no communications. Why not? They carry around guns, but they know nothing about coordination or tactics. Why not? They're shooting at every outsider they see, rather than trying to take them prisoner. Why?
  • There's a big, well-lit sewer on the 11th underground level of the Tower. Why? Waste-water or cooling water from ... what? And this thing flows down from the 11th level to a river a half mile away at what must be ground level ... and the guys who get sucked under don't drown?
  • Rachel wants to convince the Tower folks to turn on the power, but she's not willing to work with the scientists to figure out how to ensure that their feared outcome could not happen. (This was a real fear with the original A-bomb, and it's something that Edward Teller presented as an unlikely possibility that could not be entirely ruled out.) The show gives us this moral dilemma but doesn't bother to argue it through. Fortune favors the bold, I guess.
  • Bass Monroe is a crazy person who tortures, kills, and commits mass murder. And we're supposed to buy that he does all this for the love of his former best bud (Rosebud!) who left him a long time ago and tried to kill him at least twice? And Bass and Miles do the "I punch you because I love you" dance that was already a cliche in late 1950s John Wayne movies?
  • A number of people have talked about how the power comes on everywhere even though no power plants are running and the electrical grid has to be shot to hell. Dramatic license, sure, but how much license do you want to give these people?
  • Randall quotes Lincoln ("A house divided against itself cannot stand") in a completely ridiculous context. In 1858, Lincoln was saying that issues between the North and South needed to be settled or there would be war; the "house" would collapse. In Randall's day, the house is long gone. The union has been put asunder long since. You don't repair the house by burning it down. (Yes, he also said it was time to start over, but that doesn't excuse the Lincoln quote.) In any event, why the heck did he kill himself? Because he was wracked with guilt? Seriously? He's a sociopath.

This is a really crappy show that we're watching only because quality alternatives are just not there. (If Defiance had Revolution's budget, it might actually be decent. Probably not, but it's possible.) When will we see the next BSG, Fringe, X-Files, or SG-U?