Wednesday, November 2, 2011

For Your Consideration…REVENGE

Are you watching?  Well you should be.  You may be thinking, “But Alisa, isn’t Revenge just a soap opera?  Aren’t there more meaningful and thought-provoking procedurals on?”  Or you could be one of those “TV is a wasteland” or “I don’t own a television” types. If so, why the heck are you reading this?  Go away, hipster.  We don’t want your kind ‘round here. 

For those of you who do own a television, it should be tuned to ABC at 10pm on Wednesday nights.  Well, maybe set your DVR/TiVo because there’s another fun show at 10pm on Wednesdays.  

So to answer your earlier question that I totally made up in my head…yes, Revenge is a soap opera and I actually mean that as a compliment.  It’s what so many shows, no matter the genre, aspire to be but just can’t pull off.  It’s what Desperate Housewives should have been but never could accomplish.  Plus, it’s for everyone who has ever been hurt and wanted to make someone pay. 

At its core, Revenge is about a girl, Emily (nee Amanda), whose father was set up and falsely accused by the people he trusted.  Then, years later, he dies and she’s left with guilt, pain, and the deep need for retaliation.  Those people her father mistakenly trusted not only ruined his life but took away her childhood as well.  And as most of us know, a stolen childhood is the basis for some great writing, not only in literature but in movies and television as well.  Now I’m not saying Revenge is anything like great literature except for one little thing.  It’s totally satisfying!  Actually it is a bit like The Count of Monte Cristo so there!

I am going to get up on my high moral horse (his name is Bob) for a second, and admit that I never would have imagined that I’d be watching a nighttime soap titled Revenge. I would like to believe that people who do bad things get bad things done to them in return.  I also believe that a life lived only to take down others is an unfulfilling one.  What happens when you’re finished with your mission of retribution?  Are you able to sit back, breathe a deep sigh of relief and enjoy a mojito?  Mojitos don’t sound right for that kind of occasion.  Maybe that’s more of a Jack and Coke kind of day. After you’ve taken revenge on others don’t you have to constantly watch your back? Don’t you live your life waiting for their kids to take revenge on you?  Like The Bride said in Kill Bill, “It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I'm sorry. But you can take my word for it, your mother had it comin'. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I'll be waiting..”  Anywhoodle, I found myself giving the show a shot and dangit if they didn’t suck me in right off the bat.  Five episodes in and I’m cheering every time one of these people’s lives is ruined.  Bob the horse is long gone and I want revenge as much as Emily does.

Story aside, the show is really well done.  The writers have obviously sat down and mapped out the entire season. The pacing is just right and leaves nothing out.  Typically in each episode, Emily orchestrates someone’s demise while not losing sight of the bigger plan.  I was unsure of how they could pull off a second season but creator Mike Kelley addressed that question from Entertainment Weekly:
according to Kelley, who cites Dexter as somewhat of a storytelling model. “In our show, there’s a whole conspiracy and seasons worth of people that will reap what they’ve sewn,” says the producer. “Revenge is a universal concept and it’s gonna permeate the show on every level. I plan to do installments of revenge. So I’ll set two installments a season which will be self-contained. They’ll focus on a group of people that need to come down and we’ll introduce new people. We’ll also give other characters on the show a reason to want their own revenge.
It’s really refreshing to hear a showrunner so confident in the direction of the show.  I’m not naming names but I suspect that at the end of Revenge’s run none of its viewers will be having a WTF moment wondering why the characters were stuck in limbo the whole time and not alive at all.  This is an honest-to-goodness, well-thought-out television program.

What’s cool about the story is that even though it’s the goal in Emily’s life to take down some of the Hampton’s elite, she really doesn’t have to put forth much effort.  Basically, Emily does a little tweaking here and there, orchestrates certain situations now and then, and lets the chips fall where they may.  And they almost always fall right where she wants them.  One thing the writers figured out before they even started this show is that bad people will always be bad.  Give them a nudge and they’ll do the rest.  The other thing that works is that we don’t exactly know what the situation was with her father but we get bits of it each week.  The writers satiate our curiosity with each week’s plot of retribution without giving us too much

So we have established that the writing is good.  Guess what?  The acting is good too (aside from a now hospitalized Amber Valetta – her character, not the model/actress. Geesh!).  Emily Van Camp is so good as Emily that she has forced me to completely forget her as Amy Abbott on Everwood, and I freaking loved that show.  Madeleine Stowe, while overly nipped and tucked, is doing a fabulous job as the main target in Emily’s plan.  Yes, there are strong elements of soap opera in the acting.  There are looooooong lingering looks between characters who are trying to convey strong emotion, but who cares? It works. 

My one real complaint is based on what we saw in the pilot.  I actually may watch it again to really pay close attention to what went down.  In the pilot we flash forward to see Emily’s engagement party to Daniel, the son of Madeline Stowe’s Victoria.  Poor Daniel (Brit Joshua Bowman) ends up dead!  Not a way to end your engagement party.  I’ve really grown to like the guy and I was truly rooting for him.  He’s had a checkered, frat-boy past but sincerely seems to be trying to live a good life. It’s possible we’re supposed to root for Emily and bar owner/friend from childhood, Jack (Roswell’s Nick Wechsler).  I’m torn because both guys are great but obviously her relationship with Daniel is built on a lie (and sweet, delicious revenge on his family) so it wouldn’t have worked.  That doesn’t mean he needs to die though. Then starting with the second episode the show goes back to the beginning of the summer to show how events unfold to get us to that fateful engagement party.  I’m enjoying all the parties that people tend to associate with life in the Hamptons. If I were wealthy I’d have a place there.  Maybe not as big as Madeleine Stowe’s TV house…

Have you watched it and disagree with me?  Tell me why!  I’m biased because usually once I love a show I’m in it for the long haul and tend to ignore some of its faults <>Lost<>.

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