Last week’s premiere of the new JJ Abrams series Revolution achieved encouraging Nielsen ratings. Then again, so did the pilots for The Event and FlashForward. We’ll have to wait until Tuesday morning to discover how episode two fared. I’m sticking with it for now with some form of curiosity, but I can’t say the show is firing on all cylinders yet.
The interesting sword-fighting scenes in this week’s episode, “Chained Heat”, are mostly between Miles and special guest C. Thomas Howell as a generic bounty hunter. Unfortunately for Miles, all his other party members lack key adventuring skills. If they were Dungeons & Dragons characters, their class would be Hostage. Worse still in Miles’ mind, head hostage Charlie still adheres to old-fashioned, inconvenient, old-world beliefs such as Killing Is Wrong and Slavery Must Be Stopped. Through the course of the hour, Uncle Miles has to teach his niece that (1) life in the new world is basically a constant state of war, so killing is mandatory until someone reinvents the American legal and penal systems; and (2) they have better things to do than become a traveling abolition squad. The validity of either lesson remains open to debate.
At first Miles abandons his dead-weight companions and tries to carry the series solo, but Charlie refuses to let him because she believes she’s the main character, and also she wants to fight by his side with her crossbow that she’ll willingly use to wound animals or shield herself from swinging swords. Despite her inexperience and naivete, despite Miles’ considerable head start, and despite a scene where she plods around a playground for a while and has an intense childhood flashback, somehow she catches up with him anyway. One has to wonder if perhaps she possesses innate tracking skills not yet mentioned, if Miles somehow got lost, or if he was just testing her to see if she would follow him, and had been hiding in the bushes all this time.
Miles wouldn’t be alone in using shrubbery as camouflage. That’s exactly where “Nate” spent this episode, keeping himself, his conflicting motives, and his general brooding hidden but never far from the action. Basically he’s set up as a season 1 Angel to Charlie’s Buffy. Those are some big shoes to fill, “Nate”.
Of course, in order to follow Miles in the name of “only trying to help”, Charlie had to let Aaron and Maggie stay abandoned and fending for themselves. The duo reacts to this by not staying put, instead venturing forth armed only with the late Ben Matheson’s potentially world-saving flash-drive MacGuffin amulet, a dead iPhone that hopefully doesn’t experience memory degradation issues, and Aaron’s magic glasses that have survived fifteen years or more without collecting scratches all over the lenses. Maybe I shop at all the wrong optometrists, but after two or three years with the same pair of glasses, I’m usually half-blind and having to learn how to focus through the few clear spots.
Thus do Aaron and Maggie throw caution to the wind and advance in the direction of Grant Park, the hometown of Grace, the mysterious lady from last week that Danny met by pure happenstance, who then threw him to the wolves, and who for some reason has a working computer with a 56K modem with the old dial-up squawks and everything. We know little else about her so far except she had/has an asthmatic son whose inhaler had no expiration date; she’s not afraid to throw innocents to the wolves for the sake of saving her own skin or cause (too early to tell which of those means more to her); and her subplot ends in a cliffhanger involving a rude home invader named Randall. I like to think that a character with that name just has to be awesome, so I’m sure there was a perfectly courteous reason for him to smash her door down.
Funny thing about Grant Park, though: it’s fifty miles south of Chicago. That wouldn’t be a cakewalk for the Fellowship of the Ring, let alone for casual pedestrians. I can’t wait to see how that goes for Maggie and Aaron, who’s not exactly built like a cross-country runner. I also look forward to finding out how Charlie’s brother Danny, who was taken captive many miles west of Chicago in the pilot, somehow beat them to Grant Park by a full episode — accidentally and with asthma, at that. They do have one thing in their favor: Miles told everyone to meet in two weeks in Lowell, Indiana, which lies a measly fifteen miles east of Grant Park. That leg of their trip should be a breeze compared to the Chicago-to-Grant-Park marathon.
Miles’ side quest, as it turns out, is to recruit the last cast member, Nora (Daniella Alonso), who can hold her own in a fight, can allegedly blow stuff up, is willing to steal herself better weapons, and has a Rebel Alliance tattoo on her back, in the form of an eleven-star American flag. Apparently the rebels are so hardcore, they think North Carolina and Rhode Island don’t count as Original Colonies because they were too slow to get ratified. 11-OC in full effect, y’all.
Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito’s Neville, the most interesting evildoer in the show, saw reduced screen time, but taught us two key lessons: he’s some kind of religious (for me, the most eye-rolling revelation this week), and the original fifty-star American flag has been renamed the “rebel flag”. With the series taking place in northeast Illinois, it may be years before the characters walk far enough south for us to learn what a Confederate flag is now called. His superior, Sebastian Monroe, presidential monarch of the Monroe Republic, had even less screen time with only two scenes to call his own: one demonstrating that he’s against torture but not murder; and one revealing that Charlie’s mom is alive and captive.
Hopefully the future doesn’t see Charlie following her mom’s lead in every other episode. I’d like to see her grow as a character, preferably sooner rather than later. It was sad to see her innocence die a little when she experienced her first kill (and, seconds later, her second kill) while helping Nora steal the cool sniper rifle from the copter-hoarding Imperial forces. She doubtlessly has more trials ahead of her, so she’ll need to keep working on her backbone development, stop letting strong men back her into helpless positions, and start owning the fact that this entire journey was her idea.
If she keeps insisting on retreating to the background, I would recommend the show change focus ASAP so that Miles really is the one true main character. Along those lines, they’d do well to change the name of the show as well. My suggestions for a new name would include Miles to Go; Miles Down the Road; Crossing Miles; Miles and Nora’s Infinite Hit List; or We’re Walking, We’re Walking, We’re Walking.