Revenge "Payback" Review: Two-faced
LOL this show. I spent most of Revenge's first episode back from hiatus collecting evidence that would prove Emily is currently possessed by a trickster spirit known as a nogitsune. If you've been watching Teen Wolf this season, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The most obvious example to support this hypothesis are the blackouts that Emily is currently suffering from. They're now happening more frequently and lasting for longer periods of time. Her world is dissolving even further into chaos created by pain, which is what the nogitsune feeds on. And further more, she's planting evidence and leaving clues during these blackouts that could potentially lead to the demise of someone she holds dear, just like Stiles on Teen Wolf! Are we sure we want to rule out supernatural causes, guys, because I think we can make a real case here.
Fine. Emily isn't possessed by a nogitsune, but something is definitely wrong with her, and it's looking more and more like she's suffering a psychotic break similar to what happened to her own mother when Emily was a young girl. This is probably the best explanation we could hope for, because it could potentially lead to a return appearance for Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose storyline was horribly mangled in the mess of Season 2. But it also provides a real answer for Emily's own breakdown, and means the shooting was not the cause. There's the constant worry, however, that Revenge will somehow screw this up.
Right now, Emily's blackouts serve as a reminder of just how dangerous this entire situation actually is, especially now that she's taken up residence at Grayson Manor. For two-and-a-half seasons, Emily has been living a double life, and now the show has taken that idea and turned it sideways so that Emily is actually two different people. She's no longer just Amanda Clarke pretending to be Emily Thorne, but a different person entirely. She has no control over that side of herself—she comes and goes whenever she feels like it—and no recollection of what happens during those blackouts. But we know she planted Takeda's sword in Aiden's room so Niko could find it. She lashed out at Nolan (oh no you didn't, girl), and now she's lured Stevie Grayson—Conrad's first wife—to the Hamptons with a story about wanting to divorce Daniel (and yes, we will get to Stevie and her little bombshell in a minute).
It doesn't matter if this new version of Emily—who we'll call Blackout Emily for the sake of my sanity—really does want to end her marriage to DannyBoy, because that cannot happen. It would give Daniel exactly what he wants and ruin two-and-a-half seasons of work on Emily's part. Blackout Emily is leaving a trail of chaos in her wake, and there's nothing Emily can do about it. And to make matters worse, Blackout Emily appears to be in cahoots with Conrad—CONRAD!—and Daniel's on to her thanks to a chatty bellhop at the Southfork Inn. How long will Emily be able to hide this dual personality from everyone? And just how long until Blackout Emily spills the beans on Operation Revenge, because she's already given Stevie the impression she's in love with someone else?
I'm not particularly thrilled with this blackout storyline, to be honest, but it has definitely shaken up a series that was desperately in need of a makeover, and for that I am grateful. I've not been shy in voicing my concerns over the staleness of Emily's revengenda of late, but I'm hesitant to call this a triumph just yet. The idea that the writers are presenting is an interesting one: Emily has made it her life's mission to destroy the Graysons, but with this development, all of her carefully laid plans are weakened at the foundation. Instead of an outsider threatening to tear it all down, though, it's Emily herself. She's her own worst enemy at this point, and what's Emily's purpose if she cannot trust herself to complete the mission? But those questions aren't what worries me about this particular road. The show's biggest problem is that it's difficult to tell if this is the series playing the soap card, or if it's really attempting a commentary on identity and the perils of living a double life. And that's always been one of Revenge's biggest problems; It wants to tell this great sweeping story, but it's also a soap and sometimes struggles to mesh the pieces together in a coherent and meaningful way.
Which brings me to Stevie and her episode-ending knowledge bomb that she's Jack's mother. I'm sorry, you're what now, lady? You don't get to just stroll into the Hamptons, exchange a few sharp barbs with Victoria, and then drop a paternity bombshell like that. This development is ludicrous and yet it's still not that surprising given how happy Jack's been lately. After all, it's an established fact that happy people cannot exist in this version of the Hamptons. But this storyline also provides Stevie with a reason to stay in the Hamptons beyond the fact that she's the real owner of Grayson Manor.
The real question however, is if Stevie is Jack's mother, did she have an affair with Carl Sr. or is Jack a Grayson born from the fruit of both Stevie and Conrad's loins? *shudder* The world definitely does not need more Graysons, guys. They can't even find good storylines for the ones they've got. Charlotte isn't even a person at this point. She exists solely as a prop in everyone else's storylines. Her birthday party in "Payback" was not about celebrating her birth, or about Daniel being an awesome big brother, but rather an easy way to bring the rest of the characters together and an even easier way to secure Charlotte a position at Voulez. Which, by the way, might make sense on opposite day, but I would hire exactly zero Graysons if I ran a company. I've given up on waiting for the writers to make Charlotte relevant. She'll exist as long as the rest of the Graysons exist, but she'll never carry a storyline of her own, especially not one that's meaningful. And Jack's been suffering similarly lately, and I worry that this new bombshell is just a way for the writers to bring him back into the fold.
"Payback" wasn't the best or most exciting episode of Revenge, guys. It was more of a combination clean up/setup episode. It took out the trash—bye Niko, I'll miss your taste in Pier 1 Imports candles and our shared desire to see Aiden dead—while also setting the stage for the rest of Season 3—Emily's battle against her own deteriorating mental health. There was also the matter of Victoria's rape and Patrick hiring said rapist as the contractor for the gallery because he wanted to meet his father. This entire storyline was poorly handled, in my opinion, and I don't think I can even stomach all the ways in which Revenge failed women in this storyline. Jimmy was the monster Vee said he was, but I suffer from my own rage blackouts when anyone—even if it's just the rapist—says the victim was asking to be raped or that it was consensual, so let's just skip over that and to the part where Patrick has now killed two people for his mother, and is still barely more than a sketch of a character. If the writers want us to care about this storyline, or about Patrick at all, they're going to need to start filling in some of his shading. The same can also be said for Emily's blackouts. Right now they're a threat to her mission, but if they're going to be meaningful, they need to lead to more than just a soapy twist. As long as the series uses them to tell a deeper story about Emily, then they're a welcome addition to a shaky season. If not, they should probably pack their bags with Victoria and find a new place to live.
– Seriously, Niko, was there a sale on candles? Otherwise, I cannot make sense of why you bought so many. I wasn't even watching the fight between Emily and Niko in that scene because all I could think was, "OH MY GOD, THERE IS SO MUCH FIRE RIGHT NOW. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?"
– When Victoria asked Emily where she came from, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" began playing on a loop in my brain. And now it's stuck in your head. YOU'RE WELCOME.
– Charlotte still doesn't know her half-brother is responsible for shooting her half-sister. And she still doesn't know Emily is her half-sister. Sigh.
– I think it's a whole bunch of bullshit that Stevie's the real owner of Grayson Manor and is evicting Vee, but I also really like Stevie and what her presence in the Hamptons is doing to Victoria. Why did Conrad ever divorce her? She's sassy and amazing. Do you like her?
What did you think of "Payback"?
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