Revolution "Children of Men" Review: The Show and the Mystery Are Unraveling

  • 196comments

Revolution S01E19: "Children of Men" 

First of all, how dare you name an episode after one of the greatest sci-fi movies since 2000, Revolution?!! Relating the two—even if by happenstance—is just asking for a punch in the nose. Whereas Children of Men intelligently commented on a dystopian society and nature's greatest miracle while mixing in some incredible action sequences, Revolution is a rambling children's book come to life. I know it's unfair to compare a feature film to an NBC drama, but the Revolution folks brought it on themselves. Maybe "Battlefield Earth" would have been a more appropriate title.

"Children of Men" was as bumbling as ever, filling its hour with brief hits of importance and lots and lots of hot lead (and white-hot electromagnetism!), but ultimately the episode wasn't as revealing as we expected, given that we'd been promised a penultimate episode full of brain-busting secrets and reveals. But that's Revolution in a nutshell, isn't it? Run in circles for about 40 minutes, then finish with a few minutes of "shocking" teasers, like last week's cliffhanger with Rachel pulling the pin on a grenade inside Monroe's tent!!!

Of course, the situation was quickly resolved in the opening scene of "Children of Men" as Monroe's goons tackled Rachel and threw the grenade out of the tent. Problem solved. I totally thought it would blow Monroe up... said someone who is totally gullible. That feeling of invincibility for Revolution's main cast made the action-jammed "Children of Men" less entertaining than an episode full of sci-fi gunfights should ever be. After cutting down Miles' party to its bare minimum last episode, there was no way Miles, Charlie, Nora, Aaron, or Rachel were getting electro-magnetized to death, and there was a 100-percent chance that all bad guys shooting at them who weren't Monroe would be killed. 

Revolution has smartly packed its episodes with gratuitous explosions, toddler-sized piles of shell casings, and now electro-magnetic coil guns that make people splat like overripe tomatoes when they're chucked at a wall, but the low stakes and sheer repetition of the action sequences has numbed things considerably. Aside from one pleasantly chaotic exchange when Monroe's men met the Tower Defenders for the first time, the action hasn't evolved—though the weapons have—since the mid-season order for more guns and corpses. There's been no effort to make the fight scenes more than just a shot of Miles pivoting around a corner and shooting a gun followed by a cut to a guy jumping backwards and falling on his back and acting dead. And I know it's impossible to dream about this next idea becoming a reality, but imagine how different the show would feel if Miles jammed a grenade in someone's mouth, or Nora stared into the dying eyes of man she just stabbed, or, I don't know, Charlie ripped some guy's heart heart (literally, not metaphorically like she's doing with Jason) or something. Remember how visceral Miles' first fight sequence in the pilot was, when he was twirling around and opening up bad guys with a sword? That wasn't great, but it at least made Miles a badass; now he's just an unhittable target, which is more an indication of the opposition's incompetence than Miles' proficiency in gun battles. It's Revolution's curse to be stuck between sci-fi for adults and a family-friendly adventure hour, but surely there's room for more than just the good guys going, "Pew Pew!" and the bad guys going, "Ugh I'm dead!" There are no "cool" kills, just easy ones that a dad might allow his 14-year-old to watch. And even then, the show has traded higher-quality "entertaining" deaths (for lack of a better term) for an abundance of unremarkable ones, simultaneously shying away from real acts of violence but overloading audiences with generic ones. There's a mixed message here, and it's diluting what should be Revolution's saving grace, the opportunity to turn off the old noggin and enjoy some post-apocalyptic sci-fi shootin'. 

But at least there's a cool mystery to unravel, right? "Children of Men" took us into the depths of the Tower, Revolution's version of the Hatch. And when we finally arrived, there were no monsters that ripped people apart, no high-tech androids, no half-scorpion-half-man experiments made in a lab (not even rabid monkeys as Aaron teased), as those of us who enjoy watching this show go completely insane had hoped for. Instead, the great mystery at the center of the Tower was a group of old computer nerds who vowed to take up arms (electro-magnetic coil guns!) and defend the Tower's destructive capabilities, like those old knights in the third Indiana Jones movie. See, with the press of a button, the Tower can vaporize cities around the world because there are still spy satellites in the air (somehow) and the self-powered Tower was the government's greatest weapon against who knows what. And because there always has to be a "but," we learned that if they decide to turn the lights back on and save the world, there's a "one in a billion chance" according to Rachel that the entire world will be "set on fire." So Revolution's core question just went from "How do we turn the power on?" to "Should we turn the power on?" 

Of course, the episode didn't give us any real details on the potential world BBQ, which makes it a hard question to answer. One in a billion you say? I like my chances. Flip the damn switch.

Perhaps more interesting than either the gunfights or getting into the bowels of the Tower was the situation Tom Neville found himself in. After Neville and Jason were captured by Monroe's men, Neville proposed a coup against Monroe to a young captain, who wasn't that young at all (seriously, why did Neville make a big deal of that not-very-young-looking guy being so young?). What is Neville planning, exactly? Will he actually attempt to switch sides again and take over Monroe's army? It seemed a little hasty to have him swap again, particularly since he just started working with Miles and Charlie. But his move over to the good guys hasn't really yielded anything that memorable, so maybe it's already time to kick him back over to the bad guys. I don't know if the writers are course-correcting on the fly or if this is what they had in mind all along, but if it's the latter, it failed spectacularly. It seems like no one knows what to do with Neville or Jason, so all they can do is just agonizingly float them in the middle.

More surprising, though, were Monroe and Rachel's absurd changes of heart. Monroe, who has been 52 cards short of a deck since the show returned in March, suddenly remembered he had a son (who he can't find) to be a good role model for, and started to regret all the nasty things he's been doing. Are you kidding me? An "oopsie!" doesn't cut it here, Monroe. Rachel went from dropping a live grenade at Monroe's feet to handing him a gun. Since Danny's death she's been a murderbot with her targets set firmly on Monroe, yet one TERRIBLE speech about sad suicide attempts by Monroe delivered in a presidential safehouse along with a promise of a changed man and she put a coil gun in his hands and marched alongside him. The episode tried to sell Rachel's decision as the only way to save Charlie, but instead it was a forced loophole to escape a corner the writers had backed themselves into and to set up another Miles-and-Monroe showdown in the basement of a secret building. The scenes with Rachel and Monroe hiding out in a confined space were awful, they completely undid both characters, and spoiled fantastic opportunities for the two to duke it out. 

There's nothing natural-feeling about Revolution. It's just clumsy steps trying to get from one place to another, and "Children of Men" was another smoking gun in an ever-growing trash heap of evidence. With one episode left in the season, Revolution is unrecognizable from the powerless swords-and-dirt show we met with hope and anticipation in September; it's become a jumbled, aimless mess with coilguns and a whole lot of electricity. I know I'm repeating myself each week in these reviews, but so is Revolution. 



NOTES


– Charlie got stuck under a pile of junk... AGAIN. Except instead of a pile of rubble it was just parts of a low-tech robot Halloween costume.

– Another round of pointless flashbacks, this time showing Rachel and Ben arguing over their responsibility for the blackout.

– Hey, at least they figured out a way to solve the bullet shortage... BULLETLESS GUNS!

– Nora is pretty wicked with those throwing knives, isn't she? 

– Did Revolution switch from a question about how dependent we are on technology to a veiled debate about gun control with all the talk of power being about who has access to weapons?

– My favorite part of the episode was when Monroe tried to deny responsibility for Danny's death by saying, "Hey, I wasn't even there!" He just sent those helicopters to destroy that rebel base, is all. It was Danny's fault for shooting back. What a damn idiot.

– So the Tower Defense people claim that they will defend the Tower, and their children and children's children will do the same? That's a lot of inbreeding. Also, it's not fair to the women stuck in there that Aaron was their fresh meat, while the men got Charlie and Rachel. 



Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom