Last night's episode of Revolution, the cryptically titled "Clue" (did I miss something?), bounced around with all the pacing of a Nora mood swing. Things started off fast—like, Nora-showing-up-to-your-room-half-naked-wearing-only-a-men's-shirt fast—with Monroe torturing the truth out of Nora and the gang during their quest to save the world. Then the episode ground to a halt like Nora's attitude after a night of steamy sex, and the bulk of "Clue" took place in a post-apocalyptic rest stop. Seriously, "Clue" was basically a "who's the mole?" story while the group stopped for gas.
That wouldn't've been a problem if the story was interesting, but as far as I could tell, besides a few VERY interesting details (more on that later), the purpose of "Clue" was to kill off extraneous characters and stall for another week. Here's the premise, quickly: Nora got tortured by Monroe and told him about the Tower, so Monroe hurried off to Colorado to stop Rachel and Aaron before they could get in, and Miles and his crew set off to do the same to stop Monroe. It was life or death for Miles. If they didn't make it to the Tower in time, the whole world was going to explode. That's a good set-up for an episode! A race to the Tower! Good guys chasing bad guys chasing good guys!
And the reason it felt so disappointing was that the characters, especially Miles, put so much pressure on themselves to get to Colorado. There was an understandable feeling of desperation to reach their destination. But while Monroe's massive mobile army and Rachel and Aaron made it to the Tower without a hitch, Miles and his crew would never make it there in "Clue" because some maniac was killing them when they stopped to fill up on diesel. Maybe it was just me, but Miles saying, "We don't have time for this" and "We have to get to Rachel before Monroe does" indicated some sense of urgency, and I was genuinely excited to see the situation play out. Like, in this episode. The "ticking clock" storytelling device—putting a time-limit on the action—is tried-and-true, but it only works if the clock can't be casually set back. It was like lighting a short fuse only to later reveal that the fuse was actually five miles long.
Instead, a mysterious killer was picking off the superfluous members of Miles' rag-tag team (like the redshirt helicopter pilot and that rebel leader) at an abandoned airfield far from the Tower, all while a bunch ham-fisted—no, that's not hammy enough—arms-full-of-hams misdirections steered our suspicions toward various characters. Scientist John Sanborn was the obvious suspect, having just come from Monroe's camp with a drugged-up Nora. Jason became a suspect when someone planted a bloody knife on him. And just for good measure, Nora was literally tripping on a 'shrooms cocktail (it was made with psilocybin, the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms) and became a suspect herself. Unfortunately for our entertainment, she didn't suffer visions of man-eating water reptiles like the ones she experienced back in the Hallucination Tunnel. Paranoia took over the group, and it could have been anybody who was the murderer. But let's just skip to the end and divulge that it was Jim Hudson (Malik Yoba), who showed up with a sloppy eleventh-hour reveal that Monroe was holding his wife hostage and was threatening to kill her if he didn't kill everyone on the helicopter ride. Needless to say, Hudson didn't make it and the good guys won. Like the senseless killing of Mark Pellegrino's Jeremy Baker last week, losing Hudson seemed more like a lost opportunity for Revolution rather than a smart creative decision.
While all this went down, Monroe's men were at the Tower long enough to set up an elaborate campsite and Aaron and Rachel peered down on them from a ridge, wondering what their next move would be. Again, the build to "getting there first" was hollowed out by Monroe's men making one half-assed attempt to enter the Tower (Randall's handprint entry key didn't work) and twiddling their thumbs the rest of the time.
Thank the lord for Rachel. It was Rachel—crazy-ass psychopath Rachel—who provided most of the hour's entertainment. Her plan was to saunter down to Monroe's tent, kill him, and then have Aaron enter the Tower using overriding access codes while chaos broke out among Monroe's men. Solid plan! And in one last-minute thrill, Rachel actually executed her plan, strolling into Monroe's tent with a grenade in hand and pulling the pin for one heck of a cliffhanger (if you still care at all and are foolish enough to think Monroe will actually die).
But forget all that stuff above. Seriously, forget it. Especially the part about Nora on mushrooms. The real interesting chunk of "Clue" came from Randall Flynn, who told Monroe some details about the Tower. Apparently there are things in the Tower that would give Monroe REAL power, things like whatever man-beast was in the elevator that shredded that guy a few episodes ago. Flynn's comments ("things that make choppers look like Model-Ts" and "things that the president never knew about") indicated that there's some impressive technology in there, too. Which, when you think about it, kicks Revolution out of its orbit and into a completely new show.
Initially pitched as a series about a world without power and technology, Revolution has become more about power and technology with every passing week. It's creating an identity crisis for the show, and as a result, the series isn't delivering on its early promises. There's nothing wrong with a show evolving naturally, but Revolution has artificially mutated from swords and muskets to automatic weapons and nuclear bombs, from hiking to helicopter rides, and from barren wastelands to underground high-tech silos full of mysterious monsters and weapons of mass destruction. The scale of the show is expanding on an unsustainable trajectory. But the worst part is that the show just skipped over the missing links; there's no explanation as to why everyone is using automatic weapons, or how Monroe built enough power amplifiers and has enough power pendants to relocate a small army, or where his attack drones came from. Everything just appeared. And in a serialized mystery sci-fi drama, especially in the post-Lost world, these explanations are important to an audience that's more engaged and smarter than ever. I get that technology is just a replacement for magic in Revolution, but it's going to be treated just as cryptically as magic, then Revolution should just use magic.
Revolution has gone completely insane, but thankfully there's still an opportunity to squeeze some mindless entertainment out of it. The characters and their relationships to each other are past the point of being salvageable. The weekly side quests are boring and inconsequential. Even the universe Revolution created, once so full of promise and mysterious, is entirely disappointing. But there's value in seeing just how crazy this show can get, and it starts with figuring out what that thing was that ate the guy in the elevator. I don't know about you, but I'm praying for some wacky shit.
– Who were those people in the Tower!?!? Another Tower mystery!
– Gutsy call by that helicopter pilot to attempt an Atlanta-to-Colorado helicopter ride without carrying extra gas! Sure there was an airfield on the way, but since 15 years had passed, it was a bit of a stretch to expect to find gas in the grounded vehicles. Gas can still be used for things other than operating vehicles! I don't know, like, lighting fires? After a decade-and-a-half, the country should be completely foraged. Heck, that airfield should have been turned into a big camp. But nope, it was perfectly preserved. This show is dumb.
– There were a few Raiders of the Lost Ark homages in this episode. Monroe giving Nora a white dress to wear instead of her ratty old adventurer's clothes was exactly like Belloq giving Marion a very similar dress (Marion wore it better). And Aaron and Rachel peering down on Monroe's camp was just like Indy and Sallah doing the same to Belloq's camp near the site of the Ark. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite movie of all time, so while I should be upset that a vastly inferior piece of entertainment like Revolution is playing off it, I'm not. The homages are coming from the right place.
– What happened in the rest of the world during Nora's 21 days of torture? Did Miles stop attacking the rebels? That drone strike went pretty well, why didn't he just send them out again? Georgia was ready to surrender, for crying out loud!
– I loved Nora's guard when Sanborn said he had to kill her. "Too bad, she's a fine piece of tail." This show...
– Lost's hatch >>>>>>>>> Revolution's tower, even though the latter wants to be exactly like the former.
– Another jumping-into-a camera shot to kill a Monroe Militia man, this time from Rachel. The number-one death cause of death among the Militia is death by someone magically appearing behind them. When I see these scenes, all I can picture is the actual filmng of them, with Elizabeth Mitchell hanging out off-camera just behind the guy and then jumping into the shot.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom