Revolution is the new series created by Erik Kripke (creator of Supernatural) and executively produced by J.J. Abrams. The pilot episode, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) was released online a couple of weeks ahead of it’s premier on September 17th. Beware of some mild spoilers for the first half of the episode.
The show starts with an opening teaser where Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) rushes home in Chicago to his wife and his two young children, clearly panicked and starts backing up something on a laptop to a USB drive. Hurriedly, he tells his wife to start bottling up water and calls his brother Miles (Billy Burke), who is currently driving along the freeway. He starts to tell him that ‘everything is going to turn off and it will never turn back on’ before being cut of as exactly that starts to happen.
Lights flicker and go off, the cars on the freeway all stop and the headlights go dead, mobile phones turn off, and then we see the full extent of it, the Chicago skyline goes black building by building, planes fall from the sky, and as the camera pans out, we see that the same thing is happening all over the world as in seconds, entire countries and then continents go dark.
Fifteen years later, the world is a different place, Ben lives with his now teenage children Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Danny (Graham Rogers) after his wife’s death years earlier. The estate they live on has become a rural village, with crops growing in every available space, cars have soil in them with crops growing where they once had engines. The village kids who would rather be learning about hunting sit at desks in an outdoor school while their teacher Aaron (Zak Oath) tells them about the world before the blackout, and how on that fateful day ‘the laws of physics just stopped working’.
When the local militia, led by Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) arrive at the village looking for Ben and Miles, Ben quietly hands Aaron a necklace containing the USB drive, telling him to keep it safe and never let them find it. They try to take Ben into custody but Danny objects, and a gunfight ensues with Ben being mortally wounded. The militia leave, taking Danny with them, and before he dies Ben tells Charlie to get to Miles in Chicago to warn him and help her rescue Danny. Setting out accompanied by Aaron and the village’s Doctor (Anna Lise Phillips), Charlie finds Miles in Chicago, unaware that Militia have been following them.
The episode’s opening teaser makes for an attention grabbing moment, with some impressive moments including the highway as all the car lights one by one turn off, and then a couple of ‘wow’ moments as a plan crashes to the ground and explodes, and the shot of the world as everything turns off is impressive. Unfortunately after that, things slow down for the majority of the first half of the episode.
Due to Abrams’ involvement, I suspect this will be a series with flashbacks to the night of the blackout and the chaos that ensued in the fifteen years that we jump over. There is an instance of this with a single flashback to what happened next for Miles after he left his car on the highway that night that thankfully is nothing like the lingering and numerous flashbacks in Abrams’ major TV series Lost.
The acting here is average at best, with Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito being among the best as the episode’s villain. The real stand out aspect of the show is the production design and set dressing, with the housing estate turned village/farm being nice, as well as some shots like the remains of a church half submerged in a lake from a failed dam, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field baseball stadium abandoned and overgrown with weeds.
Once the episode gets past the halfway point things begin to pick up a bit, but what the show gains in momentum comes at a cost of convenience. The group arrive in Chicago far too quick for my liking, and the storyline following Danny where he turns up at a farm that seems important to the overall plot of the series seems extremely coincidental at best. Being a single episode pilot, this definitely could have gained from being a double length one as some shows get, though that could have turned out disasterously off-putting had it tested the audience’s patience for 40-odd minutes instead of 20-odd.
An action sequence where Billy Burke tackles an entire team of armed militia with only a sword and a couple of well placed standby weapons requires a suspension of disbelief as the militia, armed with powdered muskets and flint lock rifles, all seem to suffer from extreme cases of ‘Stormtrooper aim syndrome’. Overall the episode is not a complete failure, as being a pilot it does get your interest, and certainly poses more questions than it answers. I will give it a chance when the opportunity comes to see further episodes, as I suspect many others will. Just how many will depend on the quality of future episodes, and whether enough people watch it to keep it around past the initial 13 or so episodes.
Revolution has yet to be picked up by a UK broadcaster, but watch this space for updates!