Sunday, September 29, 2013

REVIEW: 'Revenge' Tries to Reestablish Itself in 'Fear' but Feels More Like a Retread of the Past

ABC's Revenge - Episode 3.01 Fear

The summer season kicks off in The Hamptons as Emily's course of revenge is renewed and set against an unexpected timeline. Meanwhile, the return of Victoria's son brings changes and complication to the all-powerful family. And a glimpse into the future shows that the wedding of the century may lead to Emily's ultimate demise.

"Fear" is a better episode than a large bulk of the second season. However, it still earns a low grade because it still falters by many of the same issues. One third was the show simply being self-referential about everything that didn't work in the second season. Another third was resolving plots that the second season finale created and left hanging in the air - most of which had too much time allotted to them. The last third was the exciting takedown and the mystery that will propel the season. However, it is in this final third that the opener is a big disappointment as it is basically just a retread of successful plots and mechanics from earlier in the series' life.

The premiere is surprisingly very corny and tongue-in-cheek. Making numerous references to the terribleness of the second season - Nolan's line "Let's never say the words 'Carrion' or 'Initiative' ever again." And then, the series tries to remind us of the simpler times in season one where things were exciting and interesting. When asked about what she does, Emily says, "I specialize in making sure people get exactly what they deserve."

The opener is trying to make the statement that season three will be just like season one! Even down to the exact same plotting! Emily vows that by the end of the summer the Graysons will be finished. She will win back the love of her life, Jack. To start off the takedowns of the summer, she poisons Conrad so that he passes out in the most public of spaces. Hey, didn't the show already do that once? Yes. Yes it did!

I like the idea of what the ramifications of Conrad's Huntington's Disease diagnosis will have on the season. Unfortunately, I feel like it's just a way to make one of the series' grand and flashy characters even more grandiose, big and flashy. Henry Czerny can handle the material and sells it as well as he can. But this could really send him over into pure camp.

The show simply doesn't trust its audience to make meaningful connections or to remember what occurred earlier in the hour or in the series. At the very end, it has to explain just how Emily made Conrad ill even though it was painfully obvious. The show had to write off Ashley. But she did not deserve the screen time of an actual takedown by Emily Thorne - with assistance from Victoria. It was satisfying to see Emily craftily take her down a peg but we have had almost zero connection to this character. So seeing her destroyed like this ultimately elicits no real emotions from the audience. It only elicits the idea that the series is going back to basics. But if it thinks that these types of stories are the ones the audience enjoys seeing, then the creative team has missed the mark incredibly.

Some more thoughts:
  • Like lead-in Once Upon a Time, ratings really took a nose dive in the back half of the second season. If they don't bounce back, this should be the last year.
  • Creator Mike Kelley no longer is serving as showrunner for the series. Executive Producer Sunil Nayyar is now taking over the reigns and has promised more clear-cut, simple, revenge-takedown stories for the season. Let's see if he can savage the series or if the second season simply left it irredeemable.
  • It was hardly half an episode before Justin Hartley was in a scene with only a towel on.
  • Barry Sloane never broke out as a character last season. The show never presented a case where we should root for or against him. That likely won't change this season as he is only here to offer a "shocking" conclusion to the premiere.
  • I loved Karine Vanasse on Pan Am. Here, she's a plot point and the one that you immediately know what her whole part on the series will be.
  • The show is still trying to make Charlotte happen. And bangs will make her more interesting, right?
  • The in media res opening is probably the only thing keeping me interested in the arc of this season. If it turns out the show is still a large mess in the coming weeks, I will drop out.
  • Regular coverage of Revenge simply won't happen this season. If something shocking or great occurs, then I will say something about it - either in an actual post or on Twitter.