Happy September and happy weekend, friends! I hope you all enjoy a great holiday. Aren't four-day weekends fun!?
Writing characters that viewers will actually want to invite into their home on a weekly basis is a tricky business; ideally, they are imperfect but strive for self improvement. There is an oh-so-fine line between creating characters who are a little bit naughty and characters to root for – to laugh with and applaud. Revenge took a stab at perfecting the former though even in its prism of enchanting darkness, I am not sure we should blindly buy into this scenario.
Childhood memories are sunny days on the beach for Amanda Clarke. Hers was one anyone may envy. But that was before her father’s former business associates ruined him… before every one of his friends turned against David Clarke (James Tupper). Now, close to twenty years later, Amanda has disappeared… in her place steps Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp). Wealthy beyond her years, Emily has a trust fund and is the “new girl” summering at the Hamptons. Renting the elaborate summer home of the recently separated Lydia Davis (Amber Vallenta), Emily falls in love with the home and despite Lydia’s claim she won’t let her ex sell, her life is ruined when she is caught having an affair with Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny), one of Hampton’s most powerful families. Married for 25 years to his wife, Victoria (Madeline Stowe), Conrad is a successful businessman whose wife finds power and prestige more important than the ruination of her own dreams.
Returning home after last summer’s tragic accident, Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman) has made himself a promise to never drink again. His mother expects her beloved son to keep to this “agreement” while his father wants him to go into the family investment business. It isn’t until Daniel meets Emily that everything changes. Her influence on Daniel is one of the best things that ever happened to him but Victoria is suspicious of the newcomer and keeps a close watch on her son’s new fling. What no one knows is that Emily is that forgotten little girl, Amanda… and she is out for revenge on everyone who wronged her father. The one snag in her otherwise perfect plan is Jack (Nick Wechsler)… the boy she once loved.
Wow. That was my reaction after watching an entire six-block of episodes of this first season of ABC’s latest, soapy nighttime drama in one sitting. My mother and I were glued to the television and did not intend to watch more than two episodes but – much to our shock – we continued to hit “play” after the credits rolled on each episode. The writing is clever as each plot twists and thickens prompting us to discuss where the show was going multiple times though that doesn’t mean this show is for everyone. From a story-telling perspective, this could have been brilliant, and in fact, in more outlets than one, it is. Based off of – or perhaps I should say “inspired by” – and loosely at that, the Dumas classic tale of revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo, this Mike Kelley created show had so much going for it.
The first five to eight episodes are structured nearly exactly alike. They all pick a victim for Emily to target and along with her trusty red Sharpie marker, she “ruins” those responsible for her father’s demise. After a "poisoned" childhood, it wasn’t until she came of age that truth was revealed and she discovered that her father left her a legacy of wealth, and a box filled with truth. The hatred she feels for the family festers and makes her into a person even she begins to question. As a result, the characters actions – particularly those of Emily since she is the heroine, constantly let us down though glimpses remind us they are human even behind their cool demeanors (to say nothing of their soft-spoken words and sweet smiles that are really just hiding sinister tricks!). There are times when I love Emily and Daniel to death but I detest what they ultimately did to Daniel and furthermore their season two plans for him. There is one moment when we think Emily is about to forget everything and actually live her life but her vendetta has gone too far by then. Likewise, an old friend in Nolan is likable – sometimes. Now there are “rumors” about Nolan and Emily together as a couple though I much prefer them as friends – Emily has a lot of things she needs to set right, some even about her own self, but Nolan is not the romantic match for her. They are better as friends and he is the voice of reason keeping her from reaching insanity.
To be honest, I will say that I found this show fantastically good. It is not morally decent and in that way, I was let down by it multiple times BUT judging only the mystery, this can hold its own and then some. If you are looking for a narrative that gives its audience warm, fuzzy characters, you'd best look elsewhere but in all other respects, this is a well executed show (especially its beginning). The cast likewise is fabulous and the actress cast as the young Amanda is a perfect choice. I have two people to thank (blame?) for my interest in this show (well… other than ABC’s promo) and they are my aunt and friend. For me, the show was worth seeing because I like a good mystery but I didn’t watch it blind to the misguided themes. I cannot recommend it easily because some Christian’s will likely not appreciate the subject material but if you don’t mind wading through the whole revenge plot, you might find it entertaining. In the end, there is no promise Emily will learn anything – and that is, unarguably a depressing prospect.
(Use discretion: There are about half a dozen bedroom scenes [removal of clothing, movement beneath sheets] and passionate kissing. Two characters are bi-sexual, one is homosexual [there are three same sex kisses]. Plenty of references allude to extra-marital affairs [more than one]. There is some immodest clothing. One character is an alcoholic, another a drug addict. A main character is killed off, and four others are murdered. Other scenes involve hand-to-hand combat and people are roughed up [one man is beaten in prison]. Profanity is infrequent but there are a few instances of it. The show is rated TV14.)