Episode 13: The Song Remains the Same
By: Carlos Uribe
Revolution is a show set 15-years after electricity died.
Did I really need to know why the blackout happened? I like the premise behind this show: a modern world struggling to rebuild itself after society had collapsed. It took away electricity from the world so that there was a combination of the medieval and the remnants of our culture. It's a pretty original world for television and it's one that has a lot of potential for the story. There really is no reason to concentrate so much on the backstory as this series has. It's a double-edged sword. On one hand, viewers like to get explanations for mysteries. They like to know things and they expect to eventually find out. This is especially true since the internet age. I have a feeling that if Revolution had aired in the seventies then we wouldn't have this episode. It wouldn't have been necessary because fans wouldn't have a way to congregate and ask the questions or post their theories. The world is different now. Lost has changed the way we watch television in that the whole fan community can talk with each other. They can ask the questions, keep track of theories, and hope for answers. It's a new era of television where serialization means that writers feel the need to explain when sometimes it's best to leave it a mystery. I would have been perfectly content not knowing how the electricity was turned off. I knew what I needed to know-who was behind it. I now understood why it happened. I didn't need to know the details. The answer is as dumb as you would expect: small little computers whose sole purpose is to replicate and absorb electricity. They're everywhere. I guess the pendants disable them. So that's the big answer that doesn't really do anything other than provide Rachel and Aaron with a quest to reprogram these buggers. Only this separates them form the characters and I'm not happy with that decision because it means they're going to be away from the main narrative. They're going to be separate from the core group of characters and the danger is that they will feel like they're on a different show. What makes even less since is that the marketing sells this show as the group's quest to turn on the light. It's not much of a group if only two characters end up going.
That's my little rant on a minor part of the episode so let's get into the actual meat. It's all about Captain Neville. He's currently in a bad position in the Monroe Republic. He let Ben Matheson get killed, he allowed Miles through his fingers, and he played a role in Danny's rescue. They might see him as loyal but he is no longer seen as competent. He has stopped being an asset and started being a liability. The actions of our heroes is having direct consequences on Neville. They might have lost Danny but it's Neville who ultimately lost. His standing in the Republic has been hurt and Randall is moving in to replace him as Monroe's most-trusted adviser. Neville is given one chance to fix things. His simple mission is to go to a cement factory to pick an object up. If he fails then he shouldn't bother going back because it's implied he's going to die. This is his last resort if he wants to stay in the militia. The stakes couldn't be higher for him. He fails. It's not entirely his fault but being captured by the militia was his last straw. There's no way they're going to be able to trust him and his life is in danger. He and his wife are forced to escape Philadelphia. The question becomes what's going to be his place in the narrative now that he's no longer with the antagonists? Removing Rachel and Aaron from the group made sense since at least they had a purpose but Neville isn't given one. He's just trying to survive. This might work in the short-term but he needs to have some kind of objective that contributes to the overall plot. It's an unexpected development that makes sense based on what has happened but it also removes him too from the narrative.
This episode was basically about splitting up the characters. Rachel and Aaron will now be on their separate journey while Neville has to find a new objective. The two plots basically built up to that point and it's interesting to compare the entertainment value of how the writers accomplished this. The whole tower plot basically involves a huge exposition dump at the beginning of the episode as Aaron is told everything. Rachel basically spends the entire episode refusing to consider going because it's too dangerous. She believes that going to the tower would be a fruitless exercise because the chance of succeeding is low. When the main plot reveals that Monroe has a nuclear bomb, she decides that it's time to give the good guys access to electricity so they could be on some fair ground. It's developed only through several scenes but it has more problems than the main plot. It's not that entertaining and the exposition dump was delivered too straight-forward. The Vampire Diaries and Person of Interest manage to make exposition interesting. The Vampire Diaries will use flashbacks to shape and twist our perception of the events while Person of Interest has Michael Emerson-whose one of the rare actors that can deliver information in an entertaining fashion. Elizabeth Mitchell is the best actress on Revolution but she's not an exposition machine. This means that not only is it delivered in a dry way but she's not capable of selling it. Michael Emerson sold the machine simply partly because of his charisma. It didn't employ any real storytelling technique to make the discovery of the tiny machines any more interesting.
Getting Neville kicked out of the Monroe Republic was fun to watch. He gets the mission and my first thought is that he'll barely succeed and continue to keep his worth. It makes sense because what's the show going to do with him if he isn't in the militia? I still don't know but he goes and the rebels manage to easily capture him. They torture him, Rachel wants to kill him, and there's a lot of great conflict created by his very presence. Nate manages to work his way back into the show because he had joined another regiment of the rebels. Since his father was captured, he goes to visit the base to try and talk to him. They do let him in the room and he asks some emotional questions about his father's treatment of him. This did turn out to be a trap on Neville but I believe that this was a real attempt by Nate to get some answers. Nate is able to get Neville to reveal where he was going which allows them to try and pick it up. They're too late as Randall got the package. Neville manages to escape but his only concern is getting his wife and leaving the city. The package they wanted to get was a nuclear weapon. This was all delivered in the most entertaining way possible which made it work so much better than the whole electricity plot.
The Song Remains the Same is an okay episode of Revolution. It makes the mistake of revealing too much about the mystery while separating too many characters from the narrative. Rachel and Aaron being on their own might prove to be entertaining but the concern is that it's going to feel like they're on a different show as they get closer to the tower. Neville leaving the militia makes sense but it also means he has no role to play in the plot. Overall, it's an episode that's setting up the chess pieces for the rest of the season but I'm concerned they weren't the rights one to make.
I'm not sure how I feel about the whole nuclear bomb plot. It seems...far-fetched and over-the-top.