Miles’ shady past may never have come to light if Nora hadn’t introduced us to her friends in the Rebel Alliance, including their leader, Nicholas (Derek Webster from Damages and Harry’s Law), labeled a Catholic priest but struggling to walk the walk in a world turned topsy-turvy. More credit for the rebels’ survival may be owed to their nameless sniper who has the pleasure of mercilessly wielding the precious M40A rifle that Our Heroes acquired last week. (If they distinguished which of the three kinds of M40As it was, then I missed the last digit.) While everyone else hides in the basement of a former restaurant called Harrigan’s that resembled a Bennigan’s except of course totally different, the noble sniper mowed down the onslaught of evil cannon fodder as quickly as they could be ushered out of hiding by their leader, Jeremy (Mark Pellegrino from Supernatural, playing quite the remarkable villain here). Fortunately for the sniper, either Nora also lifted a gigantic box of M40Ax rounds along the way back to Harrigan’s, or the rebels stole the bullets previously and kept lugging the dead weight around until they could locate a weapon to match with them.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t glean the location of the Harrigan’s. The only real geographic note I caught in the present-day scenes in this episode was a throwaway reference by Nora to a recent rebel raid in Chatsworth, which is over a hundred miles southwest of Chicago. Compared to the dozens of miles sauntered in the first two episodes, I’m sure this raid was a mild cakewalk from the Harrigan’s. Meanwhile in one of three flashbacks, we learn that Miles and his old buddy Sebastian “Bass” Monroe once spent well over 4½ months walking from Parris Island Marine Depot in Royal Port, NC, roughly 940 miles northwest to Chicago in hopes of locating Miles’ brother Ben. With enough stops to rest, refuel, and borrow new shoes from dead people, perhaps that would be doable over an extended time frame. I’m beginning to wonder if “Miles” is more of a nickname than a birth name.
This wouldn’t be the best pseudonym of the episode. And no, I don’t mean “Bass”. Also, Charlie’s frenemy “Nate” was nowhere in sight. No, the cutest gag was Miles covering for himself and Charlie by introducing themselves to the Rebel Alliance as “Stu Redmon and Frannie”, character names from Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s nice to know that Miles remembers books, even if Charlie doesn’t get it. It’s also nice of the writers to acknowledge that the show really does invite comparisons to any number of dystopian road-trip works that preceded it.
Meanwhile in a smaller subplot, the nefarious Neville barely graces us with his presence because he’s busy running errands or reading an old copy of Lee Iacocca’s autobiography. (Weren’t we just talking about role models a second ago?) While his attention is astray, Charlie’s captive brother Danny finds himself used as a plaything by a vengeful minion (Michael Mosley, veteran of one episode of The Wire that I haven’t gotten to yet) who’s bitter on behalf of his deceased fellow soldier Templeton, and Templeton’s widow Huge Carol. The bullying goes as such things are wont to go, and then Danny fakes an asthma attack, and then a lesson is learned while Nevile watches inscrutably. Neville may be reevaluating his opinion of Danny, but the scene ends so ambiguously that I’m assuming their relationship status is To Be Continued.
In a slightly larger subplot, the mismatched Aaron and Maggie reach Grace’s farm in Grant Park without hyperventilating or even complaining about foot pain. There’s no sign of Grace or the mysterious “Randall” who accosted her last week with fully functioning shock-based tech. Instead, all that’s left behind are an old Discman and shards of what used to be Grace’s computer. Aaron plays with the parts to no avail, but then accidentally triggers a hidden control on the late Ben Matheson’s potentially world-saving flash-drive MacGuffin amulet that, for a brief moment and within a limited radius, brings good things to life, including Maggie’s iPhone with her children’s photos, and the Discman playing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. (See, it’s funny because of communicating covertly across distances like Grace does! I wonder if her mix-CD is filled with nothing but wink-wink apropos tracks such as “Secret Agent Man”, “Revolution”, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”, or “The Night Chicago Died”.)
None of this subtracts from the presence of Miles, whose swordfight with Jeremy is limited because of fighting space, guns, and familiarity. When the duelists recognize each other, Jeremy helps reveal that Miles harbors an even greater secret than the frustration he feels every time Charlie and Nora team up against him in conversation. No, much worse than that: in a previous phase of his life, Miles just so happened to help co-found the oppressive Monroe Republic. In fact, he was their commander for several years. He trained most of their men to be killing machines, though this seems like the least menacing part of his confession when you notice that he dispatched most such followers pretty handily in the first two episodes. Everyone gives him grief about this, all while he stands there and takes it, not even bothering to mount a defense that should immediately begin with the words, “AND THEN I QUIT.” They keep chastising him as though he, Neville, and “Nate” are still like best buds. Obviously he’s sinned horribly, has untold amends to make, and is trying to put all that behind him. I look forward to the other characters giving him a minute or two at some point to catch them up to speed on where his head is at right now.
Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend Nora also reveals moments from her own unfortunate past, albeit with a little less backstabbing to them. In between her time with Miles and her time with the rebels, she had another relationship with a man who bailed out because of threatened masculinity, and she had a miscarriage. The delicacy of the conversation between her and Charlie, and their much louder shouting lessons during action sequences, go a long way toward giving Charlie a sorely needed friendship to guide her toward achieving true credibility and competence as a main character.
Also, you can tell she’s thoroughly reveling in the scenes with Miles after the Big Reveal. I can imagine her saying (or at least daydreaming about saying), “I may be Just a Girl, but you are a murderer! I may get emotional when someone tries to hack at me with a blade, but you were responsible for the slaughter of millions! I may still be stinging from all the really mean comparisons to that blasted Katniss Everdeen, but you used to be like Saul of Tarsus times infinity!” And so on.
Most of that is wiped away when the climax of the episode arrives in the form of Charlie and Nora burning a bridge. Jeremy and the remnants of his cannon-fodder brigade are left behind on the opposite side, hopefully along with Charlie’s shakiness, Nora’s past travails, and at least some of Miles’ gargantuan burden. Explosions cure everything on TV, but it remains to be seen if that will hold true here, especially since the promo for Week Four promises in stentorian tones that in our next thrilling installment, “One of them won’t make it out alive!”
Based on usefulness and importance, my money is on Maggie. Seeing her children’s photos one last time on her briefly resurrected iPhone is probably as close to closure as her character needs to achieve…unless she can find the Rebels another stash of unlimited sniper bullets and use them to bargain for her life.
[UPDATED 10/2/2012, 6:55 p.m.: NBC has announced that Revolution has been granted a full-season pick-up. This means twenty-two full episodes of swashbuckling Miles and other assorted distractions. Here’s hoping the creators make the most of it.]