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NBC (ended 2014)

Revolution S02E04: "Patriot Games"


For a show called Revolution, Season 1 was less revolutionary than it was revolting. What exactly was this revolution? Because it certainly didn't fit the small band of people fighting the scattered and disorganized Monroe Militia. Was the so-called revolution a fight against the tyranny of electricity? Was it a war against our conception of what post-apocalyptic hair would look like? Or did "revolution" just sound cool as a show title and fit right in because the second "O" in the word created a perfect opportunity to create a logo with the universal symbol for the power on/off button? And let's not forget that if you drop the "R," you get "evolution," which is another cool-sounding word. The title Revolution was everything the show needed, except for one small thing: It didn't make a whole lot of sense with regard to the show itself.

"Patriot Games" finally made good on Revolution's title by preparing the show's world for an actual revolution, and while it was at it,  the episode figured it would take care of the "evolution" part, too. It's getting increasingly more difficult to make fun of this show as it continues to scrub my brain of Season 1 by being better-than-good in Season 2. I mean, people spontaneously combusted in this episode and I didn't groan! Instead, it was totally cool. Though "Patriot Games" may not have been as eventful as the previous episodes, it served as a great act break and continued the series' unbelievable upward swing. Seriously, if I hadn't seen all four episodes of this season I'd think I was crazy, too. 

The addition of the mysterious Patriots has provided the show with the scary enemy that the Monroe Militia never could be. Monroe's army was a pathetic clown club of idiots who couldn't shoot, and it was helmed by a guy who always looked like he was about to cry. These Patriots are the real evil deal; they've been infiltrating Everytown, U.S.A. with sleeper agents for at least seven years while the leaders hunkered down in Cuba, and they fly the American flag as propaganda for their nefarious true motivations. You can't punch someone when they're draped in the American flag, Uncle Sam would have a heart attack! And old Stars & Stripes is a very effective symbol in this battle for power. People tend to blindly follow someone who is waving Old Glory, because who would ever abuse its majesty? Ummm... EVERYONE, if given the chance.

It's impossible not to see the connection between these Patriots and the parties involved America's current political mess our country is currently in, with both sides of the real-life Congressional aisle rebutting debates with larger flags and increasingly bigger symbols of patriotism instead of collaborating, using common sense, or exhibiting any real desire to make the country a better place. I would not be surprised if Allerford descended on Willoughby in a giant, steam-powered bald eagle robot next episode as an appropriate allegory to the way both Democrats and Republicans throw around the word "freedom." And I'm totally on board with the Patriots' "We have this flag, we're the good guys!" hoopla; it's resulting in the perfect enemy to be toppled as catharsis for all of us who are sick of the present state of the bickering United States government. We'll all get misty when Miles shoves a REAL American flag down the impostor government leader's throat and screams, "Pledge allegiance to my ass!" as the people rise up and retake control. This is the type of revolution I can get behind. 

Getting on to what actually happened in "Patriot Games," which admittedly was mostly a reinforcement of what we already knew, Rachel took the spotlight as she awoke a few days after getting shot by an arrow in the Battle for Willoughby last week. The Patriots firmly planted their feet in town, establishing a sorta Halloween celebration that was good for the kids and even better for keeping its citizens from prying around the Patriots' true intentions. But not Rachel! Rachel is—as her dad told us and her in a splendidly stern talking-to—a Nosy Nancy with nothing better to do than question everything at all costs. To paraphrase: Chill out and stop getting shot with things, Rachel! But of course her crazy hunches were right, and she snooped around Patriot bigwig Ed Truman's house because that's what Rachel does. The giveaway was more of that Illuminati-style symbolism on every secret document the Patriots pass around, which doesn't sound like the best way to keep something secret, but does make it a lot easier for viewers to recognize an evil thing when they see one, so let's call it a wash. 

Concerned about Rachel, Butcher Ken invited her over for a round of wine-chugging and secret-spilling, and it only took a few Merlots for Rachel to tell Ken all about her involvement in vaporizing the East Coast with nukes. Soused up and thirsting for more, Rachel followed Ken down to the wine cellar to grab another bottle, which is a television no-no. Note to everyone: If someone invites you down to the wine cellar in their basement, PASS. "Wine cellar" is just another name for "murder chamber." It took Rachel slightly longer to figure that out, but after seeing one of those Patriot symbols (sloppy, Ken, real sloppy), she got wise to Ken's betrayal. Ken was a Patriot all along, and that bummed me out because he and Rachel had a good thing going. They watched Spaceballs A THOUSAND times together! A little scuffle later, Rachel the blabbermouth was chained up and Ken was digging a grave for her because Patriot secrets needed to stay Patriot secrets. But Rachel squeezed out of her chains because binds mean nothing on this show and then she butchered the butcher. I would have been overjoyed if she'd stabbed him and said, "May the Schwartz be with you," but her silent slicing sufficed. Finally, a murder by Rachel that wasn't completely insane! 

Every other story was patched together pretty quickly. Over in Savannah, Tom Neville was having problems with authority, but lucky and super conveniently for him, his boss was a heroin junkie who liked to shoot up in the peace and quiet of whorehouses. So Tom caught him mid-stupor and made a deal with him: Promote Tom and tell Tom where Jason is, or everyone finds out about his drug use. Bossman didn't know where Jason was, but he promised Tom a promotion, but sorry, that wasn't the answer Tom was looking for so Tom shot him up with double dose of smack as a permanent lullaby. Cold, Tom! And in the next scene, Tom was taking over for his boss because his boss never showed up for work, and Allerford approved. That's how you climb the Patriot chain of command (provided your boss has a debilitating addiction to drugs)!

Charlie and Monroe continued their trajectory toward friendship. Charlie, probably bummed that her sexy bounty hunter friend was still knocked out cold on the road somewhere, was drinking her sorrows away and eating in a very unladylike fashion at a dive. And you know what happens to hot women wearing tight pants like Charlie's in a crusty old bar like that: roofies! The locals were looking to grab a slice of Charlie pie, but she fought back until the drugs kicked in. And who should come to her rescue but The Cape Monroe! And that's TV Writing 101 on how to redeem a bad guy and get two characters to come to an understanding. Except it didn't go that smoothly, and I appreciated the way Charlie still thought Monroe was a dick even after he saved her from a gang rape. 


One of the most difficult tasks Revolution faces in Season 2 is to bring Monroe into the fold, so in the next scene a pouting Charlie was in a carriage with Monroe, rolling toward Willoughby. This wasn't the most engaging story because we all knew what the writers were trying to do, yet they still had to go through the process to make it seem believable. At least it was much better than last season, which would have had Charlie say something stupid like, "I didn't trust you before, but you saved me. You're a changed man, I can see that in you." And then she would've kissed him on the cheek and they would've exchanged friendship bracelets. What's happening here, the time-consuming predictable push-and-pull, is much better. 

Finally, Miles broke the Patriot rule of "don't leave the Willoughby town gates in order to see whether the threat from Titus's war clan is still a real thing." Nope! But Miles did run into Titus and stabbed him, making for another Revolution baddie gone before his time. That's too bad, because I liked Titus and his sinister headmaster attitude. Before he died, Titus told Miles that the Patriots had rounded up all his people and were holding them captive at a train yard—and sure enough, they were. I know I just made a bunch of comparisons regarding the Patriots, but here, they were reading from the handbook of Nazi takeovers. The Patriots rounded up remaining war clan members and stuck 'em in train cars, where they were systematically killed and then choo-chooed into town as trophies, to further fake the Patriots' importance to the Willoughby citizens.

And that's when this episode got weird. Miles was caught spying by some Pats, and Aaron saw all of this through the eyes of a firefly swarm. Wait, what!?!?! Yup, Aaron, Lord of the Fireflies, can turn on Firefly Cam while he's asleep and possibly control their actions. But that wasn't even the weirdest part. The two Patriots who had Miles dead to rights were suddenly engulfed in flame like Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial, and it's obviously because Aaron made it happen. So there you go, Revolution is going full-on supernatural/paranormal now by giving Aaron the power of firefly sight and pyrokinesis, and so far... I'm surprisingly into it! This series has nothing to lose, so I say go for it. I still suspect Aaron's power isn't the last one we'll see from our gang, and all of them being in the Tower during its meltdown had something to do with it all. This is crazy stuff to introduce at a time like this, and it may put some people off, but I'd be more skeptical if the show wasn't in Eric Kripke's hands. 

The insta-inferno of Miles' captors made for a great breakfast-time story the next morning, but we're still several episodes away from seeing whether it will actually work or not. Instead, it's Revolution's new universe that's propelling the season. This darker, grimier world seems much more believable than whatever we were dealing with last season, and bringing in the Patriots to occupy it was one of the best decisions the show could've made. While putting the fire in fireflies will grab the headlines, it was something else Miles said that really drove home the Patriots' role in the series' improvement: "This is an occupation. Every good occupation deserves a resistance." And every good occupation makes for a good Revolution.



POWER LINES

– Another thing Revolution has done to radically transform itself is completely change its tone and presentation. The Stepford quality of the town that Rachel woke up to, complete with the scary trick-or-treater shown above, elevates the show's quality—or at least its impression of quality. 

– Charlie got punched in the face again! Even though Charlie is much improved this season, it's always worthy of a celebration with she gets punched in the face. Yay!

– Life tip to all heroin-via-injection users: Don't roll down your sleeves. 

– Someone on Twitter told me that the broadcast version of Episode 2 was missing a scene I mentioned in my review, which was based on an advanced screener. In the version I saw, there was a flashback to what happened after the Tower blew up, involving our heroes outside on the ground waking up from unconsciousness. NBC did not send out a note that the broadcast version would be different, so I'm sorry about the mix-up. However, it wasn't that big of a scene, and I suspect we'll all see it eventually, as more of the flashbacks are rolled out. 

– It's so nice not to care about the power, isn't it?

Revolution continues to improve, but viewers don't seem to care. Without The Voice as a lead-in, the show hit another series low in the ratings last night, with 5.4 million viewers and a 1.4 rating in the adult demo. That's down from last week's then-series-low of 1.5.


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