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Revolution Review: "Pilot" (Episode 1.01)

September 18, 2012  |  11:40am
<i>Revolution</i> Review: "Pilot" (Episode 1.01)

Trust no one.

That seems to be the go-to advice for the characters in NBC’s new post-apocalyptic drama Revolution. It’s hard to take the show’s advice with the names attached to the pilot. The series is the brainchild of Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, with J.J. Abrams, a man whose credits speak for themselves, executive producing. If those two weren’t enough, they got Jon Favreau (Iron Man) to direct this epic first episode.

But please don’t compare this show to Lost, Fringe, Supernatural or an action-packed superhero blockbuster. While the show is shrouded in mystery, it feels a lot more like a classic fantasy story than anything that’s been out on television at the moment. Revolution is a harrowing journey set 15 years in the future, a decade and a half after all of the power—electricity, engines, even batteries—stopped working.

In the center of it is the Matheson family. Just before the blackout, as seen in the opening moments of the show, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) rushes home to warn his wife Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) that it’s “all going to shut down.” He calls his marine brother Miles (Billy Burke), who is out drinking with a buddy, to warn him too before loading an encrypted file onto the fanciest-looking flash drive I have ever seen.

While the immediate aftermath of the blackout would be interesting to see, and it looks like we will in a series of flashbacks that will leave clues for us, the story takes place down the road as a revolution seems to be in the works.

Ben lives in a small town where paved roads turned to dirt, everyone farms like it’s Colonial times and town folk don’t leave their tiny community because you simply can’t trust anyone. While some of the changes in the derelict future don’t seem likely to have happened in such a short amount of time, it’s easy to get lost in Revolution’s world. As unbelievable as it is that all of the power would go out, it feels real.

You really feel sorry for Ben and his now-teenaged children Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Danny (Graham Rogers), whose wife/mother left them and is presumably dead. They seem to be settled in quite comfortably before Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) comes trotting in. Neville is a captain in the Monroe Republic, a militia that seemingly runs what used to be America.

Monroe wants Ben and Miles because they are believed to hold the knowledge to why the power went out and how to fix it. It’s the switch that turns the revolution on. Ben is killed, his son Danny is taken, but not before Charlie is told she must go find her uncle and save the world. It all seems a little Lord of the Rings, but without the hobbits.

In fact, it seems a lot like the Fellowship. We’ve got Charlie, the young person dedicated to avenging her father and finding her brother, teamed up with Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), a loving doctor, and Aaron (Zak Orth) a nerdy friend who used to be a millionaire thanks to something called Google.

The three set off on their journey to Chicago to find Miles. As I said, it’s a classic story and everything falls into place. The storytelling keeps a sensible pace and allows viewers to catch up on information rather quickly. The cast provides solid work but lacks any breakout performances. Billy Burke needs to be the core of the cast, and he is. His character is easily likable, and he doesn’t disappoint. Obviously Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie is meant to be the heart of the show. We need to connect to her emotionally, and she does a fine job in the premiere. She’ll need to continue this to keep us emotionally invested. Add the interesting story and characters with Favreau’s knack to seamlessly tell an intimate story while providing breathtaking imagery, and you find yourself watching a real winner.

Revolution’s pilot comes with the expected twists and turns. There’s a good-looking boy to give Charlie a love interest who may or may not be what he seems and an ending that gives some shocking revelations about who knows what about the power, as well as the truth about the Monroe Republic.

This is one of those shows where there is so much that unfolds in the course of an episode that you can’t help but get wrapped up into the story immediately. It wasn’t perfect, but it fed my appetite for what it was supposed to be. As I’m thinking about what exactly happened in this episode, I realize so many seeds have been sown and it’s possible this series has the potential to blossom into a fan favorite that will be talked about years after the last episode.

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