The timing for the premiere of Revolution could not be more perfect. For anyone in the throes of indecision over whether to upgrade to the new iPhone, how better to unwind than by grokking a new fantasy in which electricity is kaput, and one’s only truly pressing decision is whether to upgrade one’s crossbow? Set 15 years in the future (or to put it in perspective, that’s one Romney term as President [electricity thus resigns in protest], followed by two Hillary Clinton Presidencies and then the shocking election of a 79 year-old Bob Dylan), Revolution is neatly high-concept for NBC: How do people adapt and survive, especially when they’re trying to storm ABC’s Castle?
Arriving with the bona fides of J.J. Abrams as a producer, Supernatural’s Eric Kripke as creator, and Jon Favreau as director, Revolution’s pilot moved right along. The world blacked out. A genius dad (played by Tim Guinee, who between this, his baby-toting investigator on The Good Wife, and an upcoming appearance on Homeland has become a very welcome TV presence) knows why the juice evaporated, loads that info onto a flash-drive, and then we jump to the electricity-free future, in which villages look like a cross between an extremely dowdy Desperate Housewives cul de sac crossed with the Ponderosa on Bonanza.
The hour followed the Matheson family (is the name Kripke’s homage to fantasy-suspense-horror writer Richard Matheson?), replete with a cute daughter with deadly crossbow skills (Tracy Spiridakos), her hunky, kidnapped brother (Graham Rogers), and their uncle, played by Billy Burke as a cross between Indiana Jones and Errol Flynn, wielding a mean sword and a caustic sense of humor. Along for the journey as comic relief is Zak Orth’s Aaron, a former Google zillionaire. Giancarlo Esposito, perhaps happy to be from prison in Once Upon a Time, is jolly good as a malicious Militia man villain.
Revolution mashes up Lost (mythology alert), Hunger Games (girl; arrows), The Walking Dead (abandoned buildings), Doomsday Preppers and Robin Hood plus Stephen King (modern life can devolve into chaos) and wedges that mash into an NBC context, which means a Monday-night scheduling that executives are sort of hoping you’ll forget was originally Heroes’ night, unless you really liked that show, in which case they’ll take your nostalgia and your eye-balls, thanks very much.
I got antsy whenever Revolution tried to work up its mythology. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW YET. The flash-drive/amulet thingee that contains a lot, if not all, the clues to the black-out; the would-be dictator Sebastian Monroe revealed as papa Miles Matheson’s old friend; the woman toward the end of the hour revealed as using an old computer (how?) to communicate with who? All of this is bound to get more complicated, whereas I’d be perfectly happy to continue watching while adhering to Aaron’s simpler explanation to school-kids: “Physics went insane; the world went insane, and nobody knows why.” “Nobody knows why” – that kind of thing worked just fine for a multitude of episodes of The Twilight Zone, didn’t it?
Better Revolution should concentrate on its own here-and-now, since the opening hour clearly peaked with an elaborate fight scene in which Burke’s Miles took on a lot of bad guys using a combination of sword skills and the now-TV-standard Muay Thai/Krav Maga/ hand/elbow/knee strikes (see also: Person of Interest).
The action is exciting; Spiridakos could, for better or for worse, be the next Hayden Panettiere; and there’s an intriguing overarching theme that could resonate with viewers: In the face of disaster and hardship, people rely on the family unit and rebel against oppressive political/martial factions that rise up in a power vacuum. Whether Revolution pays off on this premise will probably be key to whether the series remains worth watching regularly.