A little bit of continuity goes a long way with a soapy melodrama. I was worried that the first few episodes of Revenge seemed oddly walled off from each other: In episode 3, nobody seemed to remember the Leering High-Powered Hedge Fund Dude who threw $2 billion down the drain in episode 2. So it was immensely pleasing to see that, at the start of last night’s episode, events in the Grayson household picked up right where we left off. Kind Conrad suspected Queen Victoria had been using his personal laptop to destroy the political career of the Baby Daddy Senator. Victoria thought he was being ridiculous, but the suspicions were driving a wedge in their already-troubled marriage. When Conrad said he was heading off to San Francisco, Victoria deadpanned, “Business…or pleasure?” (Aside: I’m from San Francisco. I love San Francisco. But unless Conrad is a fan of fresh fruit and Fernet Branca, the answer is probably “business.”)
Turns out that Conrad was just using the San Francisco trip as a cover to check in on another pleasantly-unforgotten plot point: His adulterous flame Lydia Davis, who has set herself up in a nicely-adorned Manhattan apartment with Conrad’s blackmail money. (To Conrad’s credit, he did seem at least half-serious about catching the flight to California, before Lydia flashed him a look that said “I’m not your wife, and isn’t that awesome?”)
Meanwhile, next door at Casa Thorne, Emily had trained her Sniper-Scope of Convoluted Vengeance on her next unsuspecting target: Doctor Michelle Banks, a Super-Psychiatrist for emotionally troubled Hamptonites. (Fans of Louie no doubt recognized the actress portraying Dr. Banks; Amy Landecker, played a woman on a date with Louis C.K. and the mother of Louis C.K. last year.) Emily had been seeing Dr. Banks for a year, feeding the shrink stories about her difficult orphaned childhood and her resulting inability to connect to people. The fact that those stories were completely false didn’t make Dr. Banks’ words any less true: “The early exposure to impermanence makes it difficult for you to trust in your adult relationships.”
It quickly became clear why Emily was seeing Dr. Banks. In a flashback, we saw little Amanda Clarke in a juvenile institution that looked like the bleakest corner of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with a younger Dr. Banks playing Nurse Ratched. (Aside: The date on the video of young Amanda’s session said “9/18/93,” thus adding further confusion to the Revenge chronology. Rather than tie myself into a knot about the timeline, I’m going to follow my colleague Sara Vilkomerson’s “The Immortal Dog is a Reference to Homer’s Odyssey” Theory and just enjoy the mythic discontinuity.)
Dr. Banks was apparently waging minor mental warfare with young Amanda, claiming that her father was a bad man. But Dr. Banks wasn’t always a horrible person. In fact, she might have actually been a pretty good shrink: Someone who cared about helping kids in trouble, who didn’t mind the long hours and bad pay. But all that changed when she met Victoria Grayson.
We saw Victoria, in a flashback, approach the psychiatrist with a bargain. She’d pluck Dr. Banks out of her horrible monochromatic asylum. She’d give her “a private practice with a steady stream of the right kind of clients.” Why, Victoria herself would become her client – and even a common humanitarian like Dr. Banks had to know that Victoria Grayson would bring all her wealthy friends with her. And all Dr. Banks would have to do is commit one angry young girl to an institution for, oh, the entire remaining decade of her pre-adult life. What’s wrong with that?
Emily’s first three Vengeance targets were all specific evil-rich-person archetypes: The Cheating Wife, the Shady Financier, and the Corrupt Politician. Dr. Banks was a little bit different, someone who could have lived an essentially middle-class life, but did one single sinful action in order to achieve a higher station. And in this episode, that sin was coming back to haunt her. In some ways, the moral universe of Revenge feels not so far removed from Breaking Bad – albeit frothier and heavily mediated by a singer-songwriter soundtrack and ridiculously attractive people – where every bad deed eventually must be punished, one way or another. Which could cut both ways: Right now, Emily is the Avenging Angel, but she’s got some bad karma coming her way sooner or later.
NEXT: Who knew that housewives in the Hamptons had so many embarrassing secrets?