Episode 14: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
By: Carlos Uribe
Revolution is a show set 15-years after electricity died.
It's a good thing that this episode was delayed for a week. The network replaced the scheduled episode last week for a special news report on the Boston Marathon bombing. It was the only one to do so. I think this was the right decision even if it pushes the finale of Revolution into June. Why? The bombing was a national tragedy that should have been covered by all of the networks. Real life should sometimes trump entertainment and this was one of the cases. There's also another reason and it has to do with what this episode is about. Monroe has sent a nuclear weapon to Atlanta. He threatens to detonate it if the Georgia Federation doesn't surrender. He doesn't place the nuke in a military complex but in the middle of a civilian population. The nuclear bomb might not have come off but the mere threat of it might have hit too close to home for me. I'm in Boston so the bombing would have definably been on my mind. It might have even ruined any fun I might have found in this episode. It's been a week so it's not like I've completely moved on. The whole events of last week are still in the back of my mind but I'm able to enjoy this week's episode of Revolution. This just makes me think that the timing of an episode can be crucial. Some fans of Castle were upset that the intended order of the season was disrupted by the bombings but I'm sure that the network's decision to change the order didn't come lightly and took everyone, not just the devoted few, into consideration. So I was able to watch Revolution with little problems. The question is if the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia is a good episode or not. I would say that it's an interesting one in the world-building that it does but the plots themselves were either predictable and disappointing. It's not a bad episode but rather a good one that fails to ultimately stand out within the narrative.
The main plot involves following the nuclear bomb to Atlanta and stopping it from detonating. It's basically an excuse to get our characters temporarily out of the Monroe Republic so that the writers can build the world up. We get to see the Georgia Federation. This country is a successful and wealthy one because of their plantations. They have managed to rebuild their society into one that is more familiar to us. They have even managed to open trading with Europe. The most significant change was that they have mastered the use of steam technology. When the series first premiered, many detractors scoffed at the idea that no electricity means no energy sources. They point out that before we have electricity, we had steam engines to power trains and other tools. They were right in the sense that this could happen but wrong in their assumption that it would. The Monroe Republic clearly has stability issues and they simply haven't gotten to the point where steam engines would have become common. They are rebuilding a society that collapsed after all. The first sign they were starting to develop steam engines came with the train that transported Danny. There was progress with the writers confirming that steam engine is indeed possible in the Revolution universe. The Monroe Republic has generally been seen as an all-powerful government but going to the Georgia Federation changes that perception. The President of the Georgia Federation calls the Republic a third-world country and it's easy to agree with her. The Georgia Federation has been able to use it's success to build a steampunk society. They are powering old cars with steam engines. When the detractors were talking about the steam engines, they were thinking of a society like the one the Georgia Federation built up.
Why? It makes sense that the crops would have made them money but how were they able to rebuild seemingly society more efficient than the Monroe Republic? The title of the episode suggests we wouldn't just get to know the Georgia Federation but we would know it's background. That isn't the case. We don't really know what actually happened that night nor do we know what has happened since. There's hints of war but nothing to suggest why the Georgia Federation became a first-world country within the standards of this world. All we get is a plot where Miles, Charlie, and Nora go to Atlanta to stop it from getting nuked. There's a neat trick they pull where they use flashlights to determine where the pendant is. A trick that works but the Monroe Republic soldier responsible for it is able to get away with it. Surprisingly, nobody uses this trick again even though it would work. Miles does get captured but this doesn't really have a lot of consequence. It's just a way to introduce that Miles and the President have a personal past together. Miles is able to find the nuclear weapon and saves the day. The President decides that she'll reward him by going to war with the Monroe Republic and donating some soldiers to make the rebels a formidable force. There's nothing more exciting than the promise of war but I hope Revolution is able to actually deliver it. There's a lot of fiction that always promises an epic war but can't ever hope to actually deliver one. So all they do is state it's going to come. This was all fine and while the plot was a bit by-the-numbers the writers did try to add a layer by having the bad guy be a former protege of Miles. They were so close that Miles considered this soldier a son until he was forced to send the kid to Texas after a botched assassination attempt. This basically is a cheap way to make it personal. Why is it cheap? This is the first time we've learned of this kid that he was supposedly very close with. It's like the writers didn't feel the personal stakes weren't high enough so they introduced a random character he was close with. The flashbacks did lay out their relationship so the writers are able to get away with it but it's bad form to introduce a “close” character that for all intents and purposes will only exist within that episode. It's just manipulative when it's rarely necessary.
In other news, Rachel and Aaron go visit an old friend to get the plans for the tower. Rachel sure seems to have a whole bunch of scientists scattered across the show's world. This scientist friend turns out to be a genius and it's implied that the nanotechnology actually applies to her. I'm not sure I like this implication because it sort-of undermines the idea that Rachel and Ben significantly contributed to it. I also think it's a bit perplexing that the series tried to introduce her as a character who is a “bit odd” so much that Aaron should “avoid setting her off and avoid eye contact” when all she turns out to be is an emotional lesbian. The obstacle to getting the plans for the tower is that this scientist's lover is being kept alive by them. That's right: the little machines that turn off power have the the ability to fight cancer. I imagine this means not a single character on this universe has died of cancer since the blackout. The scientist doesn't want these nanobots to turn off because it would mean the death of her lover. The theme of this plot is basically doing selfish things (keeping loved ones alive) at the cost of the world. It's actually a pretty interesting theme and having Rachel argue that it's not worth it (as the death of Danny taught her) is a pretty strong choice. Just two complaints. The first is that it's getting kind of ridiculous how many scientists Rachel knows within the area. The second is that this episode would have been a good one to prove why Aaron needs to come along with Rachel. All he does this episode is eat sandwiches. A strong note in favor is the introduction of the scientist when she saves Rachel and Aaron in a moment that truly belongs on Fringe.
The Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia is largely a world building one. We find out that the Georgia Federation is very different. What I like about this is that it really does open the possibility of how each country is unique. The actual plots could have used some work. The Miles one was a bit by-the-numbers and the personal connection might have worked but it was manipulative. The Rachel plot was a bit better but it had some problems with logic and Aaron's role. The episode also builds up a war between the Georgia Federation (and the rebels) against the Monroe Republic. That simply sounds entertaining if actually delivered.