Revolution "Soul Train" Review: On Track Then Back Off Track

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Revolution S01E05: "Soul Train"

First, let's just all agree that "Soul Train" is the worst title ever for a TV episode and will sweep the Worst Title Awards when someone makes them up. Yes, there was a train, I get that. But if they just added "Soul" because the focus was on the he-of-darker-pigment Tom Neville (Gus Fring), well then shame on Mr. Episode Titler. If Snoop Dogg and Godfrey were the train's engineers, it would've been a different thing. That's the BAD NEWS. The not-as-bad-but-still-kinda-bad news is that this episode wasn't terrible for most of the hour, and that's because it gave us a glimmer of hope that the hunt for Danny would end and it showed a semblance of improved structure. Hey, I'm trying to look at the positives here.

Revolution's series premiere veered off in the wrong direction in the first 15 minutes, when it immediately separated the show's main characters into two stories. As an audience, we like to take in our on-screen surroundings and get to know the characters together for a few episodes before everyone starts doing their own thing. What Revolution did was invite us to a party taking place in two different party pads. And we never got a sense of the party because we were too busy being pushed around from house to house.

Since splitting up Charlie and her group from Danny and Neville in the first episode, Revolution has felt like two different shows. Sure, the separation gave the characters something to do (find Danny!), but I sure as heck didn't care that Danny and Charlie were apart from each other because I never got a sense of a kinship between the two (unless you count having an asthma attack as sibling bonding). The early separation also forced lame storylines like running away from a storm cloud or mean old dogs, but most of all, it meant we had to suffer through episode after episode of one group finding the other while knowing that the reunion wouldn't get us any closer to solving the main mystery of the show (Why dem lights turned off?), which is why we're all watching in the first place. It almost feels like we're still waiting for the series to start. Remember that show Lost? Remember how it made that gigantic ensemble cast stay together early on and how well that worked? And if the writers needed character isolation they sent someone on a task or did the flashback thing but always brought them back to the group in the first season? Yeah, me too.

So how exciting and Show 101 was it to see these Revolution characters (except for Monroe and Rachel) all together in the same time zone for once? Charlie getting strangled by Monroe! Miles knife-fighting with Monroe! Danny and Charlie being held as human shields just feet away from each other! It sure beats going off on side quests. But just as we thought we might finally reach an end to the suffering search for Danny, Revolution separated everyone again at the end episode and we're back to where we were before. But for a fleeting moment, it seemed as though Revolution was going somewhere.

"Soul Train" took another step in the right direction with its flashback structure. Total Lost rip-off, I know, but it's a story device that isn't old and that's very applicable to a show like this given how much the world and its characters have changed (except in looks, because no one on Revolution has aged in 15 years except the kids). In Revolution's attempt at recreating Lost's excellent "Walkabout" (it's even the fifth hour of the show) (wrong-o, Tim, it was hour 4), we met pre-blackout Neville, a beat-down insurance adjuster who got pushed around by his hard-partying neighbor and boss. It was a nice try to show how Neville has become a hardened man since the blackout, but the condensed story needed a lot more meat on its bones because it didn't really resonate with what was going on in present time, something Lost excelled at. Unfortunately, Revolution's flashbacks didn't tell us anything we didn't already know and gave us very little insight into the character. I am a strong proponent of keeping flashbacks limited to one character per episode, though, so congrats on that, Revolution. Baby steps!

But with that said, this baby is going to have to take a lot of steps before Revolution can be called watchable. Charlie continued to be a good-looking idiot way out of her league as she disobeyed Miles' orders and got into dangerous situations... AGAIN. How many times will Charlie be held at knifepoint or tied to a chair before Miles says, "You know what? Why don't you sit this one out?" Someone is constantly needing to save her ass, and that's not a good trait for a show's heroine. No wonder Miles keeps snapping at her. She's a liability.

Nora is also deadweight; she's basically the worst team player in the history of team playing. In her me-first desire to blow up the Soul Train, she jeopardized everything by putting her vengeance ahead of everyone else's lives and throwing her log bomb onto the train before Danny was extracted. Crossing your fingers and hoping Miles does his job before your random bomb explodes is just plain selfish, girl! Hey, at least she felt bad about it later. And how many times is this chick gonna get stabbed in the gut? She still has the bandage on from the last time she got shanked in the tummy. She's a human pin cushion who loves to strip down to her bra whenever she can.

"Soul Train" slowed down Revolution's precipitous downward trajectory by a teeny-tiny bit when it momentarily brought the show's main characters back together, but then it quickly extinguished hope when it reset things at the end of the episode. And it doesn't look like the moderate improvement will be sustained: The previews for next week's episode (Nora is sick and Charlie and Miles must reenact Indecent Proposal for medicine) indicate that the show is headed toward an even worse place than before.



NOTES

– Okay, so steam power works. It's 15 years later and this is the first we're seeing of this? How about a bicycle? Wouldn't those be all over the place? I'll even take a unicycle at this point.

– LOG BOMB. It's a bomb stuffed inside a log!

– Excellent gratuitous pervy camera work when Nora was getting dressed, as the shot panned up from her supple ankles to the upstairs goods. Give that cameraman a raise and a restraining order!

– Neville's son is the character formerly known as Nate! Is there any bigger of a fizzle-out reveal than learning that two characters are related? Especially when it's obvious at one point? At least "Nate" finally has a name: Jason.

– Hey Aaron you stupid dumbf*** why are you playing with the power amulet RIGHT in front of the Monroe Militia prisoner you moron you know you're just going to do something stupid like knock the table with your clumsy belly you G-D buffoon and it's going to end up in the prisoner's hands and now he has a good look at it and can tell Monroe that he saw it and you're a moron. Idiot. It should have been you and not Maggie.

– I can't believe I haven't mentioned this before in these write-ups, but you do know that Danny is the State Farm "CAN I GET A HOT TUB?" guy, right?

– Hello, Kim Raver as Neville's wife! Sorry about your new job.

– Nothing makes your men more loyal than holding bare-knuckle boxing matches and calling them wimps, Neville. Great leadership.

– Next week: Charlie is forced into PROSTITUTION! Woowoo! Finally, a good use for her!

– And here's the map of New America, divided into six gigantic city-states: