Just a few short weeks ago, Revolution's electric start to Season 2 was one of the feel-good TV stories of the year that only something like 10 people really cared about. But thinking that the series could stave off the slowdown that plagues nearly every serialized sci-fi show on network TV was a mistake. Just like most other non-cable series, Revolution faces the strict deadlines of a relentless 22-episode season, and going into this week's "One Riot, One Ranger," Season 2 hadn't even fallen back on any standalone episodes.
In truth, the show did start to drag a bit with last week's episode, but "One Riot, One Ranger" practically stalled out completely (although that's mostly because the first few episodes of Season 2 were that good). I realize this might be an unpopular opinion, but I didn't like this episode, especially after the high quality of Season 2 to date. The good news is that it wasn't as bad as anything we saw in Season 1; it was simply a tad on the boring side, because its main objective was to get the group back together after blowing it up in the first four episodes of the season.
This was a necessary development. Revolution couldn't keep Miles and Charlie and Seabass and Rachel (and Aaron, I guess) apart for too long, could it? No. But it could have made their big reunion a bit more thrilling than it actually was. When I saw that "One Riot, One Ranger" was co-written by Ben Edlund, one of Supernatural's best and most demented writers and the Revolution writers' room's big get in the off-season, I was totally excited because his body of work is frickin' insane, by every definition of the word. But to be honest, Miles and Charlie's return to Willoughby was as straightforward as it could have been.
People were like, "Monroe, you're a jerk!" And Monroe was like, "Grrrr!" And Charlie was like, "Hey, he's cool now even though not too long ago I wanted to murder him but he saved me from a gang rape." Whatever, it's definitely the right decision, story-wise, for the series to bring Monroe into the group, and Revolution's writers probably want to get it over with as quickly and as painlessly as possible. We're just gonna have to deal with jamming a square peg into a round hole for a while and accept that two arch-enemies would be willing to work together as long as there's a third enemy out there who's worse. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is a proven television trope, I guess. But here's a question: What does Monroe offer to the group that's worth the risk and uncertainty of bringing this psychopath into the resistance clubhouse? Because as we saw at the end of the episode, this guy is 52 cards and two Jokers and that stupid instructional card that ranks poker hands short of a full deck. In grand scheme of things, isn't he just one more pair of hands that can hold a gun? Couldn't there be a better reason for the group to take him in? Are he and Miles that good of a team that they can turn the tide of war?
Stop it, Tim! Just accept that bringing Monroe into the group is a good thing, because for the show, it is.
Okay, okay, on with the review. Now that we've established that the Patriots are assholes (which was done very successfully in the last two episodes), the revolution can begin in earnest and we can all start thinking of great nicknames for our resistance fighting force. The True Americans? Charlie and the Freedom Factory? The Libertarian Movement? But what can a handful of people do to an organized, well-armed, and deeply entrenched group such as the Patriots? Not a damn thing, on their own, at least. Fortunately for Miles, some Texas Rangers came horse-riding into town like cowboys, bringing a sense of authority and Deadwood to the Revolution universe. And one of the Rangers was everyone's favorite father-figure and identity-stealer, Jim Beaver! Miles' idea was to recruit the Rangers and their Texas-sized manpower to fight against the Patriots, but Ranger Beaver required proof that these Patriots were as terrible as Miles said they were. Unlike present-day Texans, this guy needed an actual reason to go to war. Haha! Just kidding, Texas! You guys are great. Please put the guns down.
Finding proof was not easy! The trainyards holding Titus's war clan were all empty, and... well, that's about all the proof Miles had. But blessed be the gods of circumstance, because a skirmish between Miles, Monroe, Charlie, and a few Patriots just outside of town put one of the Patriots' high-ranking officials—the same guy who Jaime Lannister'd Miles' hand—right in Miles' mitts. His good one, at least. As Miles saw it, the prisoner would talk, Ranger Beaver would get his proof, and this rootin'-tootin' revolution could get underway with the Lone Star State in full support. But then it turned out the Patriot had a secret cyanide tooth (yup) and chose death over tattletale-ing, leaving Miles with nothing to show Ranger Beaver.
And that's where Monroe paid instant dividends. Or more correctly, screwed everything up by doing the worst thing possible. He shot Ranger Beaver dead! His reasoning? That now all Miles had to do was frame the Patriots for the murder of the Ranger, which would get Texas on board with war. This is why bringing Monroe into the group was a bad idea that didn't make a whole lot of sense. He was with everyone for what, 15 minutes? And he shot the guy who was supposed to help them? It was bad for them, but great for us, because it kept things exciting and television-y. Monroe didn't ask anyone whether shooting the man who was supposed to save them was a good idea, he just did it. Monroe is Breaking Bad's Todd, and Ranger Beaver was that creepy tarantula-collecting kid. It's a plan that's so stupid it might just work. Move forward, plot, justification be damned!
And what was up with the big change in Neville's plot? He got selected to play security man for Secretary Allerford's wagon-ride over to Washington, and some other Patriots showed up and started shooting at them. Why? Because Allerford was morally opposed to the Patriots' use of reprogramming centers, which gave impressionable youths a bunch of acid and draped them in American flags until they followed the Patriots' cause. Allerford took a bullet, and everyone else in her group took many more, so it was just a bleeding Allerford and Neville left in the woods after a huge shootout.
This sequence of events essentially transformed Allerford into a good gal, I guess? She's a Patriot, but she's not as bad as the other Patriots? Honestly, I preferred her when she was bad. But now she's another character who we have to accept has turned sorta good, and she's going to help Neville rescue Jason from the reprogramming center. So that's where he's been! Are you guys ready to see a bloodshot-eyed Jason in a trance-like state, humming Pink Floyd and spouting nonsense about how the Patriots are good people? Because I'm not! Revolution's second season has smartly borrowed elements from other successful shows, but Falling Skies was not one of them. By the way, sweet post-apocalyptic bra, Allerford. Also, budding romance between Allerford and Neville? Or am I just being an idiot and following TV's trend of matchup up skin tones?
The real exciting part of "One Riot, One Ranger" was—*gasp*—Aaron, whose storyline has remained compelling since the Season 2 premiere. Last week he scorched two bad guys WITH HIS MIND, so naturally he was crying about it in this episode and running away from everyone. That's just what Aaron does, that sensitive sap. Of course my immediate reaction was, "Dude, chill! It just happened that ONE time." And that's when Revolution slapped me across the face and told me to shut up, then showed us a series of flashbacks that revealed this wasn't the first time Aaron had mind-flamed someone and also relayed how Aaron and Cynthia met (awwww!). See, Cynthia was married before she met Aaron. And naturally, Cynthia's husband was the worst person in the entire world because it made for easy television writing. And of course he was cheating on her with floozies in the back seats of burnt-out cars. And wouldn't you know, Aaron stumbled upon him making whoopee with one of them and the husband bullied Aaron and told him not to say anything. That's when Aaron got mad, clenched his fist, and WHOOSH set them both on fire like a pre-teen Drew Barrymore. Embrace the ability, Aaron! Become Lord of the Fireflies and rise to power! Instead, Aaron tried to run away.
What made the first four episodes of Revolution's second season so great was the change in direction for several characters. Everyone was in a new place, and the show was resetting itself primarily on a character level. But a lot of that was missing from "One Riot, One Ranger," which focused more on setup and simple plot advancement—and even then, only budged forward a little bit. There are cool things going on with Aaron's superpowers and the Patriots, and we're still way, way, way ahead of Season 1, quality-wise, but if things go south, we can point to "One Riot, One Ranger" as the episode where it all started. Okay, now you can start throwing rotten tomatoes. *ducks*
– Aaron was teaching electrical circuitry to post-blackout children in flashbacks. I'll say that again, but with different words: Aaron was teaching electricity in a world without electricity. Is it Revolution's equivalent of a Latin class?
– This show loves the "like a bad penny" metaphor, doesn't it? It was mentioned once here, and I swear we've heard it several other times in this show.
– Apparently entering and exiting Willoughby isn't very difficult anymore! Charlie made it in somehow, and Miles was coming and going as he pleased.
– I still think Revolution LOOKS a lot better than it ever did. I'm down with the darkness, even though it makes screencapping and .GIF-making almost impossible.
– I really thought Jim Beaver would be stick around for more than one episode, and I'm bummed he's already dead. This guy will not stop dying on television.
– After several great action sequences in the first four episodes, the firefight between Charlie, Miles, Monroe, and the Patriots resorted to Season 1's terrible tricks. Charlie was providing cover fire WITH A SHOTGUN against at least a half-dozen dudes, and Miles and Monroe just appeared behind guys and shot or stabbed them. Are Miles and Monroe actually teleporting ghosts?
– Tough talk and guns drawn. Miles: "Gotta love Texas."
– +1 to that Patriot who called Ranger Beaver a dick. That was funny. In fact, the show has retained a lot of Eric Kripke's humor this season, which is a HUGE plus.
– This week in Miles-Monroe homoeroticism, from Miles: "You’re nothing but a dark pit I spent too many years trying to crawl out of. The last thing I’m going to do is let you pull me back in.”
AIRED ON 5/21/2014
Season 2 : Episode 22