Revolution S01E01: Pilot

Revolution is a show that definitely has a pedigree most other TV networks could only dream about. Let’s see, we have Eric Kripke, a creator who’s had plenty of experience of writing oddball roadtrips on Supernatural (and who definitely has experience in making shows appeal to the fangirl set). Then Jon “I made people care about Iron Man” Favreau directing on the pilot. And of course, reigning god of epic concepts on the small screen J. J. Abrams sitting in the executive producer’s chair- Alcatraz may not have gone the distance, but Lost: need I say more. So obviously it’s got a lot of expectations to ride on. Are we in for the second coming of Battlestar Galactica, or will it be another rehash of the intensely disappointing Jericho? Let’s watch and find out.

Also, this entire post is basically just wall to wall spoilers, be warned.

They throw us into the plot pretty quickly, which is always nice to see. We get the standard “guy comes home an alerts family to upcoming disaster” scene, which is all very Dancing with Tears in my Eyes without everyone dying in the end (the 80s was a dark time for music videos). And then it happens. The lights flicker off. All the computer-powered cars stop dead in the road. A plane drops out of the sky. Title page. 15 year timeskip. Narration. Wham bam.

In the meantime, the world has turned to small, self-sustaining communities and bow hunting to get by, and Ben, the father from the beginning, is heading up a scruffy town of EMP refugees, which is currently being narrated over by Aaron, school teacher and portly obvious-former-netgeek everyman. He informs us that when the lights when out, “physics went insane, the world went insane,” which is probably going to cover for some hard and fast creativity with real world mechanics later. Here we also meet Charlie, Ben’s young daughter from the first part, who is obviously chafing at small town life and wants to get out to explore. She takes her asthmatic brother Danny on dust-filled adventures around the town, she sasses her step-mom/town doctor Rachel right down to the dose of “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM” she lays down on her, she don’t afraid of nobody.

Introducing your protagonist

Suddenly, with the arrival of an ominous band of black-clad, gun wielding men, we get introduced by proxy to the obvious final boss of this TV show: General Monroe. Or rather, the militia of General Monroe who come looking for Ben and his brother from the beginning (aka Miles). In an ensuing scuffle led by Danny, Ben gets shot, Danny gets taken away, and Ben gives Charlie a purpose sending her off on a mission to find Danny. And then promptly dies. Heroes don’t have parents after all. Don’t worry, earlier in the show, Ben rather obviously passed on to Aaron the USB stick he was messing with from before the war. Say guys, do you think it means something?

All we’re missing here is some hardcore mustache twirling.

Interesting point though, I’ve seen people wondering about why there aren’t any guns in the future here when an EMP wouldn’t knock out anything but your most computer-powered of weaponry. Looks like guns are illegal for everyone but the militia, so that explains at least 80% of the bows and arrows.

Moving on, Charlie is all ready to go out and rescue her brother, but she has to get her merry band of adventurers assembled before we can get to the lingering shots of post-apocalyptic devastation as they start travelling.

Just outside of Chicago, 20 miles west of Pripyat.

She and Rachel are being blatantly set up as the primary antagonistic relationship that will eventually result in comradeship, but since right now Rachel’s not going along on Charlie’s quest for her step-daughter’s sake, they’re being thrown in this together like it or not. Aaron comes along for the ride too, with the USB stick that no one knows about yet. He’s also afraid of bees.

You guessed it, Aaron’s definitely being positioned as the comic relief of this series. Turns out he was a Google exec at one point and has a lot of old-world playful schadenfreude to explore along the line of “80 million dollars in the banks and I would trade it right now for a roll of Charmin.” The Occupy Wallstreet style social commentary is strong in this one. So we finally run into one of those marauding bands we were warned about in the first act, but a bottle of poisoned whiskey and Nate come to the rescue. And oop, Nate is now a member of the intrepid band, since he’s heading to Chicago anyways to join a fishing crew. In the meantime, Danny is showing some gumption and manages to escape from the militia camp.

Luckily, it looks like the Search for Miles isn’t going to take up an entire first arc, and thank God for that. We meet the guy in Chicago, in the ruins of the Grand hotel where he is now a gruff, world-weary barkeep, and don’t you know he just wants to be left in peace in this crazy, crazy post-apocalyptic world? We also find out why General Monroe was after Ben; apparently he knew something about turning on the lights again, and Monroe wants to use this for nefarious gains and taking over the continent with some newly turned on tanks and munitions factories. However, Miles totally isn’t feeling the family bond, and sends Charlie on her way, but not before Nate is revealed as a member of the militia by a brand on his arm. You know what’s coming next: Miles ends up having to stand up against the entire militia unit when they come looking for him.

But what about Danny? His storyline is actually revealing one of the main overarching plot points of the series here, so while it doesn’t include dispatching militia with a sword, it probably does carry more weight in the long run. Danny has been picked up by a mysterious stranger with a farm (IMDB says her name is Grace), who treats an asthma attack of his with some actual asthma medication. Long story short, the militia track Danny back, the head guy who’d shot Ben goes after Danny in the house and captures him, and Grace much later reveals she has a similar USB device to Ben’s, and it’s not actually a USB. She uses it to power up a rudimentary computer in her attic, where she sends an email to another mysterious stranger about what’s happening. Intriguing…

So more on Miles vs. the Militia. He’s doing well for himself until they get him cornered, and what do you know, Charlie shows up for an assist. They’re family, after all, even if he’s too mercenary to see it just yet. It’s all fairly standard, though the stakes get higher as Charlie demonstrates why the crossbow is a terrible weapon to wield if you’re not in a medieval army. She’s cornered when she tries to load another bolt (seriously, crossbows are terrible). However, wouldn’t you know it, but Nate comes to the rescue. What on Earth, is this some YA romance crap they’re trying to seed here? Two houses, both alike in dignity, she’s a renegade, fighting for the fate of the world, and he’s militia scum with a secret heart of gold. They’re torn apart by circumstances, but in the end the stars align and it’s just meant to be despite an inevitable love triangle in there somewhere.

Ladies, I heard you like foemance.

Anyways, Miles kills the militia cell leader, agrees to join the group, and boom. We have our core group of adventurers.

Taking bets, who’s still going to be alive by the end of the season?

Big reveal of the show though: holy hell, General Sebastian Monroe was actually the other guy in Miles’ car the night the lights went out, as we find out in a flashback. Which leads me to another question: what kind of person tattoos their own personal logo on their arm? The kind of person who turns into a probably-sociopathic post-apocalyptic warlord when SHTF? And how did that ink stay so fresh for 15 years? It must be those crazy physics they were talking about earlier.

Verdict: At the moment, the show’s relying a bit too much on tropes and pop culture cliches to create its characters, and it doesn’t half have a tendency towards melodrama. But hey, this is a pilot, and pilots have the unenviable task of setting up a few seasons of storyline, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and tune in for episode 2. It’s one of those shows that has the potential to be fairly entertaining or a bit off course.

About Jac Thurmond 25 Articles
Co-founder of The Spoilist. Resident horror aficionado. Also reviewing science fiction, animation, and arthouse films. You can find me on Twitter.