There's been no science to creating a successful serialized science-fiction TV show based on a central mystery since Lost teased us for six seasons with one simple question: "What in the holy heck is going on?" The ABC hit ultimately held off on answering its biggest question until its final hour, revealing the truth about the island as part of a huge event of a finale. That sort of reveal became the blueprint for every Lost copycat that's aired since. Ask a question as soon as possible, and do not answer it until the very end—or at least until the network says "You're canceled, wrap it up, Life on Mars."
But then came Revolution, which decided to answer its little secret WAY early, and last night it finally revealed the answer. The secret is...
CHARLIE IS MILES' DAUGHTER!
As promised, Rachel revealed the cause of the Big Electricity Suck of 2012 with as much fanfare as if she were reading an instruction manual, and it was—brace yourselves—microscopic robots that slurp electricity out of the air and self-replicate like bunnies listening to Marvin Gaye on repeat. Rachel estimated that a couple hundred quadrillion of these things were flying all around the globe, floating in people's coffee, hanging out in their lungs, and keeping them from playing Ridiculous Fishing on their iPhones, and they were all a product of technology gone haywire. The nanobots were released from someplace called The Tower, and theoretically they could be turned off from there. Yet Rachel had no interest in trying to get to The Tower because she didn't want to leave Charlie again. *groan*
So, yes, Revolution did just tell us what caused the blackout. But it may as well have said "We lost power because Baby Jesus made it so," because nanobots are the current unexplainable scientific reasoning du jour. We know that the nerdiest minds of the scientific community are currently working on nanotechnology, and that soon microscopic bulldozers will unclog our arteries, teeny-tiny electricians will fix computers automatically, and itsy-bitsy mecha-spiders will keep your water spouts clear. But today and tomorrow and probably for the next decade or so, nanotechnology is, to most people, the equivalent of voodoo magic, and science-fiction writers' go-to crutch for making anything happen.
Does the explanation work in this context? Sure. Nanobots eat electricity, okay. Is it satisfactory? That's for you to decide. It's not hard science, so if you were looking for that, sorry, you're hosed! But—and I can't believe I'm about to defend this development—in order for Revolution to succeed as a series, the specific cause of the blackout shouldn't matter a whole lot. And certainly the show has been heading in that direction by (correctly) focusing more on what the world is like post-blackout, rather than dwelling on what caused it in the first place. If The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes were to discover what caused the zombie outbreak, that'd be great! But it wouldn't change the fact that The Governor still wants to see Rick's and Rick's friends' heads in fish tanks. That's not the best comparison, but the point is, you can have electricity up the wazoo, but the world of Revolution that we're watching is still fractured into militia city-states, with madmen dividing the country amongst themselves like slices of pizza. And that is the story that Revolution is actually trying to tell: a girl, her uncle-dad, a wimpy Google exec, a spicy Latina with self-regenerating abs, and a murderous soccer mom are trying to stop their old friend from taking over North America. Adding electricity just makes for a more potent war, so even if the lights come back on, the show can still survive just fine.
And speaking of that story, did I miss some shift in the sun's magnetic field, or did angels descend from the sky into Revolution's writing room? Because the story is actually coming along quite nicely, carrying on the series' competent run that began with the mid-season finale. "The Song Remains the Same" benefited from the best use of Giancarlo Esposito as Tom Neville to date, posed a tangible new threat, and sent the show's characters out to acheive specific goals that didn't involve saving a floppy-haired boy only to kill him moments later. Plus, LIONEL RITCHIE! Revolution is on a roll, ladies and gentlemen! A roll of not being terrible!
Let's start with our pal Neville, who had to trudge through some cliches and dialogue that should've come with a choking warning just to set up his story for the week. Monroe's new man crush is his new toy Randall Flynn, and Neville's on Monroe's shitlist after repeated failures—though to be fair, pinning everything on Neville seems like projection on Monroe's part. Either way, that's how the show (flimsily) established the situation, so let's just accept it. Neville was sent to fetch a mystery object, but got caught by Charlie and Miles thanks to some pretty amazing scouting by the rebel forces, who were able to spot Neville's convoy, relay the intel to the base, setup an IED in the middle of the road, blow up the trucks just right so that only Neville survived, and capture Monroe's once-prized military dude—all, I'm assuming, through a network of smoke signals and carrier sparrows. Who needs electricity when you have convenience?
Neville was then locked in one of those stark, nondescript rooms fit for torture and cuffed to one of those metal chairs also fit for torture, because that's just how torture is done on television and that rule is never to be broken EVER. We were led to believe that Miles was going to beat information out of Neville, but then Jason, the rebel force's newest pledge and Neville's son, who pulled a pretty nifty trick on his dad. Jason went in for answers about his crappy childhood, got Neville to say something to the effect of, "But I always loved you plz uncuff me," and called Neville on his bluff. Then Neville explained to Jason that if Neville doesn't get back on his mission and succeed, Monroe will kill Julia, a.k.a. Jason's mom and Neville's wife. That got Jason to uncuff his father for the good of the family, and then Jason casually dropped the "Where are we going?" question. Convinced that they were family again, Neville told him the super-secret location of the super-secret mission. GOTCHA, Neville! The room's doors opened and all the rebels were there with a round of applause for Jason because he just super-duped his dad into giving them the goods. It was the old bait-and-switch-then-rebait-then-switch-back-again! A flawlessly convoluted plan executed to perfection. Question: Why risk Neville not mentioning mom by not going along with Neville's initial ruse in the first place, when from the get-go Jason could have just said, "Okay dad, I forgive you. Now where are we going?" Because Revolution, that's why.
Later, Neville received a visit from the rebel Padre, and said he wanted to confess his sins (RED FLAG), and when the Padre was like "Yeah, right" Neville remembered that handcuffs, chains, and all types of binds do not work on this show, so he got himself free and killed everyone in the room. It was pretty badass. Now, fearing for their lives, Neville and his wife Julia were on the run from Monroe. Did I mention that the Nevilles have a really nice house?
With the information tricked out of Neville, the rebels arrived at an abandoned cement factory (LOL) at the perfect time to find Randall in the middle of a transaction with a scientist-type. A guns-and-arrows-and-swords fight broke out, and it was a pretty good one, too! The body count was high, characters we'd just met died, and Charlie got to make killing faces like this:
Randall got away, and based on the omnipresent radioactive symbols painted on things left behind at the cement factory (LOL), the gang deduced that Randall had just acquired a NUCLEAR BOMB and that Monroe was going to go all Kim Jong Un on someone. STAKES SUFFICIENTLY RAISED, I'D SAY.
The nuke news slapped Rachel in the face to the point where she changed her mind and decided a trip to The Tower was a good idea, so the "good guys" could also get some power and fight against Monroe. So Aaron and Rachel are headed to The Tower, and Miles, Norah, and Charlie are off to find Monroe's nuke. It's some badly needed direction for the series that spent 10 hours finding Danny and didn't appear to know where to go next. Whether these new quests will take the next nine episodes to finish, we'll have to wait and see.
What is going on with this show? All of a sudden it's become a totally watchable and somewhat-enjoyable action-adventure series with only minor gripes in logic instead of a totally confused mess. A lot of the family-friendly Disneyfication has disappeared, the writers are using their characters better, and things are more focused to the point where trips in the Tunnel of Hallucination appear to have been left far behind. I still had plenty of grievances with "The Song Remains the Same," but Revolution appears to have made the most of its four-month-long break.
– Rachel might be my favorite character on any show ever right now. First, she's played by Elizabeth Mitchell, the nicest person in the business. Second, Rachel is a murderous killing machine. No one else on Revolution, even on Monroe's side, scares me more than Rachel. She killed Monroe's big assassin, she killed the kind old scientist who she double-crossed, and she was the only one who couldn't wait to kill Neville. Yet she does it all looking like the VP of the PTA.
– And she makes out with her ex-husband's brother! Rachel and Miles! Gettin' it on! And that wasn't an "I've always wanted to do this!" kiss, that was a full-on relapse kiss. As I stated way up above, can we now piece together that Charlie is actually Miles' daughter? Hence Rachel's concerns over Charlie being "more like Miles" and exhibiting the same tough behavior the wimpy Ben Matheson never could? It seems like a detail added late to the party, but whatever, it would fill the soapy requirement this show's been missing.
– Let's see, remorseless killing, blonde, affinity for making out with family members... is Rachel to Revolution what Cersei Lannister is to Game of Thrones?
– Do we still not know what that blinking thingy was that Rachel pulled out of Danny?
– Revolution still hasn't answered any questions of currency in this world, but diamonds are still valuable, apparently! Does one take a diamond down to the bar for some homebrew? How do you make change for a diamond?
– For a show about a powerless post-apocalyptic America, there sure are a lot of random people making some awesome kickass weapons. A sonic blaster two weeks ago and a nuke this week?
– Special thanks to Cory Barker for filling in for me last week while I was out of town rescuing puppies with special needs. I agree with everything he said about "Ghosts," except for Miles' "Conan the Librarian" line which was AWESOME because it was classic Kripke cornball.
– And let's never forget the big death from the episode, Steering Wheel Face Guy. R.I.P.:
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom