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NBC (ended 2014)

Revolution S02E01: "Born in the U.S.A."


One of this season's most exciting new fall shows is Revolution, NBC's new drama about a world that's 15-and-a-half years removed from a worldwide blackout and six months removed from a domestic nuclear attack. Wait, what? Revolution is in its second season? Are you sure?

That's the mental approach show creator Eric Kripke hopes viewers will take going into Season 2, and really, it's the only way Revolution stands a chance at ever fulfilling the potential it had when it was but a wee logline gestating in Kripke's brain. At Comic-Con this past July, Kripke told me that Season 1 was full of mistakes and crashed several times, rendering it barely able to crawl across the finish line. Electricity was too common in a world that wasn't supposed to have any, there were guns everywhere, and the light switch that powered everything was the only thing people talked about, which meant people talked about it way too much.

So what did Kripke do to kick off Season 2? He blew up the whole damn show. He nuked it—literally—by letting the bombs that were launched in the Season 1 finale fall on Atlanta and Philadelphia in the opening moments of Season 2. Season 1, you are dust. Let's pretend you never happened. Not only was it the right choice to make for this one-time hit, it helped the series experience its own... Revolution. Bam! And sorry. I got excited.

All that's left in the ruins of Season 1 is probably what the show should have been in the first place: bleak, filthy, and chaotic. Gone are the Disney overtones, the terrible dialogue, and the useless characters (good riddance, Nora); in their place are a new team of writers (Supernatural's Ben Edlund, Defiance's Rockne S. O'Bannon) and a new attitude. Revolution felt like a completely different show in "Born in the U.S.A." Maybe the episode should've been called "Reborn in the U.S.A.," because aside from the familiar faces, it was almost unrecognizable. And dammit, it was good. Well, compared to what we were used to. 

The real villain or antagonist of Revolution isn't Monroe or Neville, it's the world that's been decimated by a universal power drain and an imbalance among who's in charge. And "Born in the U.S.A." took all of the show's characters and threw them right into this new life. Remember how Atlanta had a bunch of people walking around farmer's markets in fancy suits? Remember how stupid that was? Well, the dapper dandies are no more, and everyone is up against the same post-apocalyptic shit. I get that Kripke initially wanted to create a U.S. of A. that was cordoned off into different city-states that all evolved differently (cannibals in the Midwest, psychos in California, formal wear in the South), but that idea never took hold. It just wasn't believable, because wouldn't everyone have tried to move toward Atlanta? Now, as far as we can tell, this world is almost a uniform pile of rubble. 

We can see the effect of the destruction on all of the show's core characters, too. They all played a role in the obliteration of millions, and it's weighing them heavily, particularly with Rachel. And the nuclear hangover has carried over into the most important aspect of the show: its tone. "Liberty" gave us a Revolution that's much more subdued, much less cartoonish, as if the series went through puberty over the summer. Last spring, the show was a tantrum-throwing, babbling, hyperactive toddler; now it's a young man with whiskers sprouting under his nose. 

So yeah, I'm a lot more excited for Revolution's future than I was before. Kripke and his new team have done a lot of work to clean things up as fast as possible. There's still a long way to go, but as some guy who made a lot of money selling bumper stickers once said, "The most important step in a long journey is the first one" (or something like that). And at lease Revolution tied its shoes correctly this time. 

Okay! Enough of that! Let's briefly talk about what actually happened in the premiere. Miles, Rachel, Aaron, and Aaron's new girlfriend (nice work, Aaron, and way to get over that last woman you totally blew it with!) were all hanging out in the fake town of Willoughby, Texas, feeling mostly miserable about vaporizing the East Coast. And they should feel miserable. Rachel's dad was there, and he's a good addition to the group as a man who can lend more insight into the pre-blackout romantic entanglement of Miles and Rachel. The threat of well-organized militia armies has been replaced by the threat of savage, independently run war clans, bringing a Mad Max feel to the show, which I've always thought was appropriate. And you know what? These guys aren't dopes like the hapless fools of the Monroe Militia. They hang people! They're actually scary! And they scooped up Miles (who goes by Stu now, btw) and friendly Sheriff Mason. 


Aaron now has an interest in entomology because he witnessed a massive firefly fireworks show. He also talked about other critters acting odd, as though nature was ready to reclaim the planet from the human vermin that destroyed it. I seriously thought Aaron was a goner when he took a sabre to the chest and actually died at the end of the episode (and it made sense, with all the restructuring Revolution is doing), but the final frame showed Aaron gasping and springing back to life. You got me, Revolution. But what does it mean? Is this a phenomenon that's unique to Aaron? Is that why the fireflies were showing off for him? Is Aaron the Immortal King of the Bugs? Or did he just take a quick nap in the middle of a fight? I guess that's what next week is for. 

And how about the new Charlie? I'm kind of liking this version of her. She's sluttier, more driven, and she's finally believable as the badass that Revolution attempted to U-turn her into in Season 1. Maybe her reasons for leaving the group aren't so believable (she was mad at her mom?), but based on the limited time we spent with her, she's already looking like a much more improved Charlie. I still hope she gets punched in the face a bunch, though. 

Charlie stalked Monroe to New Vegas (helllllo, Fallout), where the latter was engaging in some bare-chested boxing for sport. The citizens of Under the Dome took an unbelievable eight days to start punching each other over resources, but here on Revolution I'll allow it. It's been six months since the bombs dropped (plus an extra 15 years of no electricity before that), and all hope was lost five months and 30 days ago. What else is there to do? Charlie tried to kill Monroe to take him off her list, but before she could put an arrow through his skull, Monroe was whisked away by some unknowns. The man has plenty of enemies, so that sort of thing is probably a daily occurrence for him. 


Over in the Great Plains Nation, the Nevilles roamed around what looked like a campground for Bonnaroo in search of Tom's wife, but things were looking bleak. She's probably all over Philadelphia, and I mean all over, turned into vapor from the nukes that exploded there. Tom was a broken man without a purpose until purpose sailed down a river in a shiny new boat. And on that boat was Secretary Justine Allerford, a representative of the U.S. government who was displaced by savages like President Kelly of the Georgia Federation and Monroe of the Monroe Militia. They're back to reclaim the country and supposedly make it great again, but all I got from them was a nutjob Tea Party vibe. Tom did too, because he stopped trying to kill himself and figured that Randall was working with them, therefore they're responsible for his wife's death. "I am going to rip them apart from the inside until they are begging me to die." It's good to have you back, Gustavo Fring. 

The world is different, the characters are different, the writing is different. And that's the best news I have about Revolution. I'm not foolish enough to say that the show is back on track. One better episode doesn't erase the 22 hours of disappointment we trudged through last season. But given the circumstances, Revolution returned in the best way possible. We'll see if it can keep moving in the right direction. 


POWER LINES

– One of this episode's greatest accomplishments was figuring out how to incorporate Kripke's love of classic rock into the show, and he did it by having hipster minstrels play acoustic and old-timey versions of "Crazy Train," "Smoke on the Water," and "Tom Sawyer." Maybe I'm just a music nerd, but that is awesome. It saves a lot on licensing, too!

– Didn't "Liberty" feel more like a show from the creator of Supernatural than Revolution ever did in Season 1? That's an improvement. 

– What the hell was Miles doing in that shack with his bloody hands? 

– Miles to Charlie: "Just try to keep your stupid to a minimum." See? The dialogue is getting better!

– So Monroe goes by Jimmy, and Miles goes by Stu, as in Stuart. JIMMY STEWART! Someone come up with some How the West Was Won or Rear Window conspiracy theories, please!

– There were a lot of different time jumps, which could cause some confusion, but they were necessary in order to keep the episode going. Six months ago, four months ago, present time, flashbacks to last season, etc. I don't see much more of that happening as the show moves forward, unless Revolution wants to fill in some gaps between the nukes and present time.


What'd you think of the Season 2 premiere? Where do you want to see the show go next?

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