Revolution "Ties That Bind" Review: The Rio Bland
Revolution had one thing for its heroes to do last night... ONE THING! Get across that damn river.
After an hour's worth of mixed messages about family, the scariest villain of all-time doing nothing even remotely scary, and daddy troubles for multiple Monroe officers, I still have no idea whether Pouty Lips, Budget Han Solo, That Lady Who Always Shows Off Her Rockin' Bod, and Wimpy Google Guy ever made it across the river in "Ties That Bind," an episode that I probably should have been watched in fast forward or on a handful of Oxycontin. I know that by the end, Our Gang jumped into a river to run away from the scary men, but was it THE river? Did they come out on the other side? Did the big conundrum get solved by them jumping into the river? You may be interested in Revolution's blackout situation, but now there's a new mystery that I'm way more invested in: DID THEY CROSS THIS RIVER OR NOT?
And I ask this because "Ties That Bind" spent half of the episode trying to solve that problem before abruptly abandoning it completely. Are you stoned, Revolution? It all started off with a simple question: Can Miles, Charlie, Aaron, and Nora get across the Allegheny River river via a militia-controlled bridge in order to continue their quest to save Danny? All the bridges within 100 miles were blown up and the Militia was sinking any boat that tried to cross. Their plight was as simple as storytelling can get: There was an obstacle (a river that needed to be crossed), and the episode was about overcoming that obstacle. It's a classic and effective and oh-so-safe setup for the most remedial of television. Unless you're watching Revolution, that is. In that case, fuck you, river! Fuck you, plot! And most of all, fuck you, audience! Maybe this is a two-parter and that river will be crossed next week, in which case, my apologies. It is a pretty big river, after all. But if it isn't going to be concluded next week, Revolution found another new way to waste our time last night, and that is astounding.
If you were thinking of buying the Cliff's Notes version of "Ties That Bind," let me save you the $3.99 you'd spend on the Kindle edition: Monroe got Aaron's pendant and Neville's wife wants Neville to be the new leader of the Militia. Oh, and Nora's sister is a bitch. There's nothing else to take away from this episode or its poor attempts at developing Nora into something other than a bad actress who can't keep it in her pants around Miles. If you think you'd like to continue watching Revolution, in the coming weeks you should feel free to set your alarm for 10:54pm and just watch the last six minutes of each episode, because the A-stories the series is flushing out are so impertinent to anything else that the show probably makes more sense without them.
But we're going to talk about that A-story anyway! The first attempt at crossing the river was actually an ambush by Strausser, Sebastian Monroe's really mean torturer. You know, the scary guy who ALMOST tortured Rachel. And ALMOST tortured Danny. He may have tortured someone else early in the series, but so far he's living on reputation, knife sharpening, and a satchel full of dental instruments. Miles sniffed out the trap and had a plan: Run away! Which they did, all while Strausser's cross-eyed soldiers fired guns in vain (their hit ratio suggests they might actually being using blanks). But Strausser is a cunning strategist, so he concocted a plan—some might call it a fairly elaborate plan—to use Nora's sister Mia as bait to draw out Miles.
Mia was strung up captive for Nora to see while Strausser shouted, "Hey Nora, we have your sister!" hoping that Nora was around to hear. Nora then planted a whole bunch of explosives that I guess she was carrying around in her backpack, and blew stuff up as a diversion so that the men guarding Mia would run in that direction and die in some of the explosions too while Nora and Miles cut Mia free and took her away. Muahahaha... just as Strausser planned! You gotta wake up pretty early in the afternoon to pull one over on old Strausser. Sure he could have just ordered his men to stay by Mia and not run into these explosions that were blatant distractions in order to capture Nora and Miles, but every villain in Revolution lives by one code: "We shall serve Sebastian Monroe by using only the most convoluted plans to defeat our enemies!" Seriously, it's written on their badges.
Free at last, Mia said she had a man who could get them across the river using a boat (never mind about that stuff about Militia men blowing up boats, apparently), so they went to see him except he was very dead. Mia also waited a day to tell Nora that she found their dad, because talking about how Miles broke up with her a long time ago was more important and dominated the conversation last night around the campfire. Mia said, "Hey let's go see Dad, he's in Texas," but Nora said, "Sorry sis, I made a promise to risk my life and save this stranger's brother because FAMILY IS IMPORTANT." Mia then sat down Nora and explained that because they had the same dad, THEY were family. Nora agreed and said, "You make a good point." The two then said goodbyes and went to find their daddy. (I paraphrased that, but not too much.)
Yes, it was obvious that Mia was a plant for Strausser, but Nora is really dumb so let's give her a break. When Strausser showed up, Mia stole the pendant from Aaron the night before and handed it and the whereabouts of Miles (and Charlie and Aaron) over to Strausser so that he could kill the rebel scum. Nora was not happy about this! "You just killed my friends, sis!" Mia tried to explain that she did it to save Nora, but she really should have shown some class and let the Militia kill her instead in order to save Nora and her friends because that's what good people do. Don't be so selfish, Mia! Also, that whole about their dad? Lies! Nora left Mia behind, and that's the last we saw of adult-sized Mia (there were flashbacks, more on that later). Good riddance, loser. I hope the Monroe Militia figures out how to build a cannon and shoots you out of it.
Then Nora single-handedly took down Strausser's hunting party while the others hid behind cars. Miles brought an empty gun (LOL Nora used all the bullets) to a knifefight with Strausser, the only man Miles said he was scared of, and we were all prepared for a brutal brawl. Except Miles kicked Strausser's ass very easily. I'm beginning to think this Strausser guy is a real wuss. Why are we scared of him again?
Before the chaos could settle, our heroes went to the very reliable tactic Operation Run Away but found themselves with no place to go except over a cliff into a river (was it THE river?), so they jumped into it to get away from Strausser and his men. And that was the end to this story. This story started with a river and ended with a river, like one of those lazy rivers at The Mandalay Bay, and the circle was complete. It's very fitting because this show is going around in circles.
Meanwhile, back at Monroe's, Jason/Nate was getting the black utterly beaten out of him by Monroe's men for bribing someone for info on Strausser's mission because he has a total boner for Charlie. You and me both, bro! Monroe, in his most lifeless, dead-on-the-inside, bored-just-to-be-there voice, told Neville that he was going to ship Jason/Nate off to California on a mission of diplomacy. Sounds great, right? A little sunshine, some killer buds, and I hear you can still go down the drop on Splash Mountain on a cardboard box. Except that was Old California! New California is full of rabid mountain men who kill anyone that doesn't end every sentence in "dude" or "gnarly." In other words, Jason/Nate would only need to pack his funeral suit.
What Neville needed was another officer's son who was doing something even worse so that Monroe's attention would be on that kid instead. But where? What are the odds he would find someone like that? It would take a miracle to find––oh, nevermind. Someone appeased the convenience gods, and Neville's wife brought in a Latina maid (I know, I know... ugh) that was cleaning another officer's house and overheard that his son was a member of the Resistance! So Neville ratted on him without a thought, and the father got tortured while his son and his friends all died horrible deaths. There wasn't much drama to the situation, just a series of things that happened. It might have been more interesting to put Neville in some moral quandary about whether to get his officer friend in trouble or not, but what do I know!? Instead, a solution to Neville's problem fell into his lap and said, "Exploit me!" because tension had the day off.
This taste of victory combined with Monroe's instability and paranoia got Neville's wife Julia all power hungry, so she suggested that Neville start making plans to take over the army while she lazes about and does nothing. Hey Julia, get a job you damn freeloader!
Finally, the ending may have looked familiar for all you Alcatraz fans out there. It was revealed that Grace and Randall, who live in some super high-tech sewer bunker, had a series of computers that are tracking all the pendants in the world and noticed that Monroe now has one of the pendants. So Randall told Grace she's going to do something about it. Revolution loves these cutaways to "big" moments at the end of episodes lately, but by now we're all too smart to fall for them. Right?
"Ties That Bind" asked us a question, "How will these guys get across this river to get a tiny bit closer to saving Danny?" and then interrupted itself with Nora's backstory, Neville's kid problems, and useless flashbacks before forgetting what question it asked in the first place. The episode was self-contained alright, but it didn't have a beginning, middle, or end. Where's my closure, Revolution? I've been able to get some enjoyment out of this show at least through making fun of it, but this was so lifeless and bland that I couldn't even get that. I'm going to cry now. Thanks a lot.
– Revolution's ratings are finally starting to fall as viewers bail. Last night's episode registered a solid 2.8 rating in the adult demo, but it was a series low. Expect the slide to continue.
– I highly recommend this Entertainment Weekly story on how Revolution was pitched. It pretty much confirms that the show is a product of a half-thought-out idea and studio notes.
– I didn't really mention the Nora flashbacks above, because they were pointless. At least Aaron's flashbacks gave us something to chuckle about. Nora's were just two kids tucking each other into bed.
– "You should know gravity is compressing your sister's organs." Great quote taken out of context. Or even in context.
– At the absolute most, a story should have only one scene where the bad guys are looking for the good guys with a torch but don't explore the area and therefore don't find the good guys. This episode had two of those scenes. Yikes!
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