“Revolution” 4/22/2013 (spoilers): Charlie vs. the Nuclear Terror

suitcase nuke, NBC, RevolutionAs of tonight, now we know for certain why NBC tastefully postponed the new Revolution episode “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” from last week. At first I wondered if the reason would be more scenes of Nora carrying out heroic bombing on behalf of the Rebel Alliance, but no. Even more unnerving, given the events of last week in real life: this week, Sebastian “Bass” Monroe, President of the Monroe Republic, mad with electrical power and incensed paranoia, sends a few henchmen to Atlanta, the capital of the neighboring Georgia Federation, to threaten it with an old-fashioned suitcase nuke. Presumably Monroe and his loyal scientists have been sitting on this portable, stylish WMD through all fifteen years of the blackout, waiting for the opportunity to fire it up and stop postponing WWIII. Luckily for them, most fissile materials have a half-life with a distant expiration date.

Monroe’s plan is already in motion even before a hapless messenger damages his calm by informing him that Major and Mrs. Neville have gone into hiding, and that witnesses have spotted their dead son Jason working with the Rebel Alliance. It’s no surprise when an agitated Monroe tips the messenger with a bullet to the head. With so many betrayers formerly on Monroe’s payroll — Jason, Miles Matheson, and now Neville — Monroe’s trust issues are understandable, though employee turnover in his organization might improve if he would stop basing all his decisions on power-grubbing evil.

Word of Monroe’s terrorist plot reaches Miles, Charlie, and Nora at the Rebel Alliance camp, courtesy of the sole surviving spy from a quartet that mostly died en route. Assuming their base camp is still anywhere near Annapolis, our trio therefore have to save the day by quickly traveling 675 miles southwest to Atlanta on foot. (Coincidentally, as part of today’s Earth Day celebration, an ad crawler ran underneath another scene tonight to inform ignorant viewers, “Walking to work is cheap and eco-friendly!” They couldn’t have picked a better TV show as their poster child for the wonders of walking.)

The trio stops twice after they sneak across the unguarded Georgia Federation border: once so that Charlie can savor the first time in her life ever exiting the Monroe Republic (for which Miles calls her a hick); and again to search an outpost for officers’ uniforms to steal so they can infiltrate the Federation and stop Monroe’s terrorist henchmen. Slight problem with this outpost: Monroe’s men already killed the guys stationed there and took the clean, bloodless spare uniforms from their closet. Our Heroes have to settle for the corpses’ bloodied remnants, but they also find one disturbing accessory: an intimidating hunting knife that once belonged to Miles’ own grandfather (Korean War souvenir), to Miles’ father (Vietnam good-luck charm), and to Miles himself (post-blackout riot survival memento?). The last time Miles saw it, he had gifted it to another good friend named Alec, a subordinate from Miles’ days as an evil commander in the Monroe Militia.

In one flashback, we see Miles bequeath the knife to Alec after a night of friendly male bonding. In another, we’re told that Alec botched an assassination attempt on a Texas official; as punishment for messing with Texas (which you still don’t do in this alt-future), ex-friend General Miles Matheson does his duty and ships Alec off to Texas as a sort of peace offering. Back in the present, Miles turns morose when he realizes that the henchman toting the nuke is Alec, played by special guest Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh from The Hunger Games!).

Upon reaching Atlanta proper, we see a post-blackout civilization markedly different from the tyrannical squalor of the Monroe Republic. Down in the well-to-do Georgia Federation, the people have money, they wear neckties and dresses, and they’ve rigged themselves some steam-powered vehicles. Georgia is so much more upper-class than Monroe’s dominion, they even have boats over in Savannah, and they share diplomacy and commerce with England. This is how you live through a fifteen-year blackout in style.

To search for the suitcase nuke, Miles hands each of them a flashlight and orders them to split up. Theoretically, if they’re within range of the nuke — which will require a power-pendant to function — the flashlights should turn on, acting as a nuke detector. We’re generously assuming those flashlight batteries still carry a charge after sitting inert for fifteen years. Miles wins, finds Alec and the nuke, and has the best swordfight we’ve seen since the hiatus. It ends with Charlie nailing Alec/Thresh with a crossbow bolt before he can finish stomping Miles good. After separating and then finding each other once again, Alec escapes once more after shooting an Atlanta officer, tossing the gun near Miles, and running away while Miles struggles to catch his breath or his wits. Fortunately for Alec, Atlanta’s police aren’t bankrolled well enough to have a crime-scene kit that would allow them to test the gun for prints or Miles’ hand for lack of powder burns. Fortunately for Miles, the question of his innocence becomes irrelevant and tossed aside thanks to a showy distraction: a Monroe Militia helicopter flying overhead and showering the city with leaflets demanding they all surrender to Monroe or else “NUCLEAR EVENT”.

While Nora and Charlie follow in as-yet-unruined uniform disguises, Miles is briefly brought before Georgia’s own President Kelly Foster, played by special guest Leslie Hope (Mrs. Jack Bauer from 24), who knows Miles not only as a former enemy who slew many of her men, but also as a man who apparently angered her in other, unspoken, probably intimate ways. That former General Matheson must’ve been quite the Casanova before he quit. Their awkward reunion is cut short by the unvoiced realization that Monroe failed to give them a deadline for surrender. Everyone pretty much assumes the nuke is a done deal and everyone will die, even if they all walk outside and salute Monroe’s helicopter with their prettiest white flags.

While President Foster orders citywide evacuation to the tune of air raid sirens, Our Heroes track Alec and the nuke to a generic showdown factory, where he’s sitting patiently and awaiting the radio signal from Independence Hall. They fight and fight and fight. While Monroe barks the detonation order from afar, the fight ends when Miles skewers his former friend with that very same knife he once handed to him hilt-first and sheathed. Just as Evil Miles had sacrificed his friend for the good of the Republic, so does Good Miles sacrifice the same friend for the good of the Federation. The toll taken on Miles’ conscience is not unnoticeable, despite having saved thousands of lives from nuclear holocaust.

Charlie decides this is the perfect moment to ask Miles about something Alec said to her during their brief meeting earlier: “Ask him what he did to your mom sometime.” Miles’ aggravated response is vague, self-loathing, and unhelpful. Another time, perhaps. To cap their adventure, President Foster declares war on the Monroe Republic, asks Miles for his assistance, and offers him a couple hundred troops and plenty of weaponry.

Miles has much to ponder, indeed.

Meanwhile in the episode’s subplot: Rachel Matheson and her happy helper Aaron have split from the main group to pursue their own side quest — a journey to Colorado to shut down the Tower, the command center that controls the nanobots responsible for the worldwide blackout. As their co-inventor, Rachel knows that’s where the world will be saved. Slight problem: she knows her way around the nanobots, but not around the Tower. For that part, she needs to visit this lady she knows, just as every other previous episode began with Our Heroes visiting This One Guy Miles Knows.

At first their quest is complicated by a chance encounter with a pair of roving thugs, but they cease to be a problem when they begin boiling where they stand, then char and fall to the singed grass beneath them, dead and well done. Standing nearby with nifty quasi-magical self-defense murder gadget in hand is Rachel’s acquaintance in question — one Dr. Jane Ward, played by special guest Kate Burton (the current U.S. Vice President on TV’s Scandal). Jane invites them home, introduces her partner Beth (Avis-Marie Barnes), and is a gracious host until Rachel reveals her mission to take down the Tower. On this point they disagree.

Thus is a vital secret clarified for us: the nanobots not only prevent all electricity; in a few select test cases, they also keep certain people alive. Exhibit A: Rachel’s now-dead son Danny, whose childhood illness would’ve been terminal if not for the nanobots and the mysterious blue light Rachel extracted from his corpse. Exhibit B: Beth, a sixteen-year stage-four cancer survivor. If the Tower falls, Beth’s surviving days end.

Rachel takes it upon herself to search Jane’s office behind her back and comes this close to meeting her maker at the wrong end of the nifty quasi-magical self-defense murder gadget, until an eavesdropping Beth intervenes. Realizing what’s at stake, Beth demands that Jane give Rachel what she needs, despite the cost. In fact, Beth threatens to slit her own wrists if Jane doesn’t assist. A tearful, angry Jane hands over what Rachel needs: a large black book that I assume is The Tower Official User Guide and Troubleshooting Manual. Now they can continue trekking thousands of miles to Colorado on foot.

To be continued!

* * * * *

If you missed a previous episode of Revolution, you can check NBC’s official site for any episodes remaining online, consult your local Video On Demand provider, spend money on them over at iTunes, try Hulu if you’re so inclined, or check out past episode commentary/recaps here at MCC. Your handy episode checklist is provided below, along with recap links. Thanks for reading!

9/17/2012: “Pilot
9/24/2012: “Chained Heat
10/1/2012: “No Quarter
10/8/2012: “The Plague Dogs
10/15/2012: “Soul Train
10/29/2012: “Sex and Drugs
11/5/2012: “The Children’s Crusade
11/12/2012: “Ties That Bind
11/19/2012: “Kashmir
11/26/2012: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine
3/25/2013: “The Stand
4/1/2013: “Ghosts
4/8/2013: “The Song Remains the Same


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