Revolution season 2 episode 1 review: Born In The USA

Billy goes once more unto the breach. Here's his review of the Revolution season 2 opener...

This review contains spoilers.

2.1 Born in the USA.

As a child, I reacted strongly to those TV shows where the characters experienced extreme jeopardy. These sent me scurrying behind a chair until the ‘danger’ had passed. For entirely different reasons the return of Revolution gave me that same feeling again, that hiding might be a better option to confrontation.

It’s not that anything that goes on in it is sufficiently dramatic enough to warrant a panic attack or even mild concern. It’s just that I suffer with an inherent low incredulity level that if exceeded, makes me feel violently nauseated, and this TV show has a knack of sending me past that point within the first five minutes of each and every episode.

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On that basis, you might reasonably wonder why I review it, as surely someone with a higher tolerance for garbage might be better placed to talk about it? My view is that I volunteered for this show, and I refuse to be bowed by its utter crassness, banality and Mr Ed level performances. I will endure, damn it!

That said, Born in the U.S.A. really tested my mettle for being at times unrelentingly tedious and yet at the same time pointlessly convoluted. From the outset the signal is sent strong and clear that whatever happened last season is mostly irrelevant to where the characters now find themselves.

Charlie has gone to shag her way across the Plains Nation, and found a guy for whom the lights coming on briefly while asleep was a more significant event than the dropping of two massive nuclear weapons. Obviously, it wasn’t his brain that attracted her. Meanwhile Miles (or is that ‘Stu’ now?), Aaron and Rachel have gone to hang out with her father in Texas. And others wander around in the utter desolation caused by events at the end of season one. That ended in a cliff-hanger where the missiles were in flight, but they could be stopped by turning the power off again. They weren’t, probably because they’d been rigged with amulets.

The nukes are used as a massive reset button, destroying both Philadelphia and Atlanta along with their respective armies. My reaction to all this destruction was pretty positive, because all the junk that went on with the militia last season was a narrative ball-and-chain the show could well do without.

But the brave new world didn’t last long, because almost immediately we encountered our first head-scratching moments, when Rachel attends to an injured militia man. He has part of his clothes fused to his skin from the Atlanta nuke, the radiation from which he’s apparently immune. Sorry, but if he was that close to the blast, he’d be dead six months later, trust me.

That scene did have one positive in it though, the appearance of Stephen Collins as Rachel’s dad. He’s a seasoned TV and film actor, who I remember most for being Decker in the painfully slow Star Trek: The Motion Picture. His small part was much more interesting that anything that Billy Burke or Tracy Spiradakos emailed in, and for a solid ten or fifteen seconds I forgot how abysmal this show could be.

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From that point, the show then flipped back and forth between some marginally interesting interactions and others that had one foot stuck firmly in season one. It didn’t help that they’d chosen to do flashbacks, and successive ones, so they kept issuing reminders that it was ‘six months ago’ and ‘four months ago’, and so on. As you don’t get any message saying that they’re back to ‘now’, it was often difficult to know the chronological order of events. It didn’t even work very well as a mechanism to reveal key changes or explanations, because some of them were easily guessable.

And then, just like season one, it had the stupid and annoying bits, for good measure.

My favourite pet-hate of this week was the fireflies, because it seemed to suggest that the light effects in these were the result of the electricity coming back. It was like the writers thought that fireflies have little incandescent bulbs in them, and not a complex chemical process where luciferyl adenylate is combined with oxygen to create oxyluciferin, AMP and cold light. I may have this wrong and the writers aren’t that allergic to doing proper research, but they were last season, so I’m not drawing these conclusions unjustifiably. I’d like the reason to be is that the radiations from the nukes had altered the nanites and they start doing unpredictable things, but that would probably make too much sense in this show’s context.

I’m not going to give a script page by page account of the rest of what went on, other than to say that Charlie wasn’t the only person looking to catch up with Bass. Miles also has a charming new nemesis whose people are inspired by Mad Max. They come and attack the town where Aaron and Rachel are living, and still sporting the same glasses from sixteen years back, the big fellow takes one in the chest for his new love interest.

I recall this is probably the third time that Aaron has died, or at least the second, and he’s not dead long. The only real question this left was his resurrection a gift from the magic firefly colony for taking interest in them, or did Rachel stick her super-nanite suppository where the sun doesn’t shine? I guess we’ll find out next week, along with who Miles killed in the shed.

Overall, this was markedly better offering than last season, though they still need to make many of the scenes more believable. One they needed to work on was the crowd scene where the ‘Secretary of State’ told the assembled rabble that the President was making his way to the Whitehouse ‘as we speak’. I’d of loved for someone to ask how he was still President, given his term had ended more than twelve years ago, but nobody did.

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Better still, a person pointing out that given the relative proximately of Pennsylvania to Washington D.C., without a working geiger counter, the Oval Office might not be the best place to do business from. We need to see people challenged when they speak out of their backsides so blatantly.

Whatever we’re likely to get from this point onwards must be an improvement, and at some point I might even be tempted to enjoy it. Those who liked season one, I feel your loss, as this is not that show any longer.

In a recent Comic-Con interview the creator and writer Eric Kripke admitted that in season one “there was a shitload that we did wrong”. His solution to addressing the woes of Revolution was to recruit Ben Edlund (Supernatural, Angel, Firefly), along with Rockne O’Bannon (Farscape and Defiance) and Trey Callaway (CSI:NY). Between these talented people there must be a few good episodes on their way, surely? Not so far perhaps. But we have a long way to go down the Revolution road, yet.

Read Billy’s review of the season one finale, The Dark Tower, here.

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