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'Revolution' Review: A Not So Powerful Debut

The cast of 'Revolution' (Photo courtesy of NBC)

No more Cubs games, guys. (NBC)
Zimbio's resident TV critics Jill Slattery and Darrick Thomas debate the merits of NBC's new series Revolution, which debuted its pilot episode online a few weeks ago ahead of Monday night's premiere.

Jill: Since Revolution is about a post-apocalyptic world where all forms of power have mysteriously disappeared, I wanted to let you know that I'm writing this review by candlelight with a quill.

Darrick: Good to know. Hopefully, you're not writing on a plane because if a Revolution-style power outage goes down, that thing is falling out of the sky for some reason. But Revolution isn't supposed to be about science; it's supposed to be about mystery, vague intrigue, and emotionally complex characters struggling to survive in a brave new world. Hmm... sounds like another big-budget TV drama, only this time it's a modern-day dark age instead of an island. 

Jill: It seems like every season some show tries to fill the Lost void with a high-concept, mythology-laden ensemble drama. Since Revolution actually comes straight from Lost creator J.J. Abrams, it's safe to say that it's definitely a wannabe. But did you think the pilot was anywhere close to being as gripping as the Lost pilot?

Darrick: I went through a bout of depression after watching Revolution because it just had me longing for Lost (Lost Longing — definitely a disease I suffer from often.) Even in Lost's most meandering episodes, it never felt like as much of a slog as the Revolution pilot. Comparisons aside, the special effects in the cold open where "the incident" takes the world from normal to electricity-free were cool, but then it was just a lot of walking and complaining punctuated by poorly constructed moments of swordplay and musket fights.

But the real bummer was that I didn't feel attached to any of the characters. I'm not sure if it was the acting or the writing, but everyone fell flat, which didn't help the boredom factor. Am I alone on this, or do you see more potential here?

Jill: I really like a lot of the actors in RevolutionGiancarlo Esposito, Billy Burke, Elizabeth Mitchell — so I want to see potential in the show. But yeah, none of the characters are particularly engaging in the pilot. Setting aside the logic issue of why batteries and engines also turn off when the power goes out (does Revolution take place in a world where the laws of physics cease to exist?), my biggest problem with the show was actually the 15-year time jump. I assume that flashbacks will be an integral part of the post-blackout storytelling, but jumping that far forward really sucked all the urgency out the pilot. (And for the love of god, why isn't anyone using water or steam to power things in the future?)

But let's be fair and also talk about the few things we did like. Revolution actually managed to surprise me with the reveal of the arch-villain Monroe's identity. And J.J. Abrams has a track record with strong, butt-kicking women, so Tracy Spiridakos' Charlie Matheson could eventually prove more interesting. Was there anything you liked about the pilot?

Darrick: Yes, perhaps I've been too harsh on poor ol' Revolution. While I agree the pick-and-choose science did distract from the story, I also agree there's potential here. Breaking Bad proved Esposito makes one hell of a villain, and I was definitely down with the way they introduced the leader of the ambiguously motivated bad militia. (There's also another smart reveal at the end of the pilot that should add a few new directions to the show's limited blackout plot.) I sure hope flashbacks become a staple of the show because the juxtaposition of the old high-tech world with the new low-tech wasteland can only serve to give the show and its characters more of an impact.

I have to disagree on the Charlie Matheson character; I found her annoying. She comes off as pouty, stubborn, petulant, and shortsighted, much like Kate in the later seasons of Lost or Daenerys' turn on the most recent season from Game of Thrones. The problem is that Charlie's already frustrating, and we're only in the pilot. Hopefully they focus on giving her a rewarding arc.

Was there enough in this first hour of Revolution for you to recommend it, or, at the very least, tune in for episode two?

Jill: I like the creative team and cast of Revolution, so I'll excuse this dud of a pilot and give the second episode a shot. But if they don't start explaining some of this pseudo-science malarkey (and why everyone's using swords) then I'm cutting the power off. Get it?

Darrick: Zing! I think I'll just start re-watching Lost and screaming "we have to go back" at the screen until you tell me that Revolution's turned things around. (Boom! Revolution, turned things around... We're on fire!)

Revolution premieres Monday, Sept. 17 at 10/9c on NBC.

See more Elizabeth Mitchell pictures:
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in 2011 WonderCon - Day 3
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in Elizabeth Mitchell, Charles Measure & Joel Gretch On Set Of "V"
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in 2010 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in 2010 Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Arrivals
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in TV Guide Magazine: The 2010 Hot List
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in Girls That Kick Ass: A New Generation Of Heroines - Comic-Con 2010
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in 50th Monte Carlo TV Festival - Closing Ceremony
  • Elizabeth Mitchell in Elizabeth Mitchell at YVR
View Giancarlo Esposito Pictures »
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