Revolution episode 1 review: Pilot

Review Billy Grifter
18 Sep 2012 - 14:52

Billy takes a spoiler-filled look at new power outage sci-fi series Revolution, from J.J. Abrams, Erik Kripke and Jon Favreau...

This review contains spoilers (our spoiler-free pilot review is here).

1.1 Pilot

In terms of TV pedigree, shows rarely come along with one as good on paper as this. J.J. Abrams is executive producer; the creator, writer and showrunner is Eric Kripke (Boogeyman, Supernatural), and the pilot episode is directed by no less than Jon Favreau (Iron Man).

With all that talent on offer, the weight of expectation was heavy enough to make disappointment a distinct possibility, and it didn't take much of the first 42 minutes for this reviewer to feel that way.

The people behind this new show clearly liked The Hunger Games it appears, and they're also looking for the same viewer demographic as that and the Twilight franchise. All the young adults are implausibly buff, smartly dressed and have sharp hairstyles along with brandishing compound bows.

This is all more amazing when we're told that no electricity works since it all suddenly turned off in the opening sequence. We then jump forward 15 years, thankfully avoiding weeks of people complaining they previously blew good money on an Easy Boy that did shiatsu massage, or excited that they can see stars again since all the streetlights were turned off.

But having defined its radical premise, the show seems to get entirely stuck on the concept of having no electricity, like it's almost unimaginable. The first unanswered question this throws up is if physics has really altered like is suggested, then we should be all dead? Because we work on electricity too. I'm curious to see how they explain that, or if they even try.

But then from the outset Revolution doesn't have an effective grip on any version of reality. When the power goes off we see airliners fall from the sky like leaves, like somehow having no electrical power also ruins the rules of aerodynamics. But it also doesn't seem to consider that lots of engines don't need electrical power to work. So where are the steam engines, and the wind turbines, and the water wheels? Mechanical power is more difficult to distribute, but we managed it in the past.

The more I watched Revolution the more it reminded me of FlashForward where they didn't think at all about what would happen in the actual situation they'd thought up. In Revolution they've forgotten that people made ice cream long before that had refrigerators, they had cartridge gun rounds long before electrical power, and electricity appeared at the end of the industrial revolution not before it happened. And, that without static electricity we'd all be dead from dust inhalation, not just those who suffer with asthma.

So this isn't any form of science fiction, so what is it?

It's a lightweight cheesy human story where 'Family' is all-important, and some people have the answers to the disaster that befell mankind but aren't disposed to explain it to anyone. We're posed a enigma, and hope that the writers don't bore us to death waiting for some answers.

What are nice are the impressive-looking derelict vistas they've created of America, to which they've clearly allocated budget. But the same expense doesn't seem to have been made elsewhere.

Most of the acting talent is loosely familiar yet unremarkable, though some, such as Giancarlo Esposito have been in big mainstream TV shows before (Breaking Bad). He's the best of this crop, as a TV friendly version of the Jew Hunter from Inglourious Basterds.

Some of the other acting was so poor in places that I was relieved when those characters didn't actual survive, though some of the worst unfortunately did make it. I can't blame the cast entirely, because often the dialogue they get to say is often a homage to the word-craft of George Lucas.

What we're left with is a little mystery, a few awkward character interactions, and the notion that America would return to the Wild West without electricity, even if widespread power didn't actually arrive to most US locations until long after this period.

It just doesn't add up, and this show will need to get much more engaging and logical if it wants to make it through its full order of episodes. I was, however, left curious to see the second episode, if only to find out if it made as little sense as this one did.

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