“Revolution” 5/6/2013 (spoilers): Charlie vs. the Sinister Dr. Anthrax

Giancarlo Esposito, Tom Neville, Revolution, NBC

Meet Miles Matheson’s new partner! Can these two dangerous men share a post-apocalypse without driving each other crazy?

Tonight’s new Revolution episode, “The Love Boat”, begins with our man Miles Matheson in the darkest place we’ve seen him so far. Last week his long-lost love Emma, whom we’d just met and didn’t have much reason to care about, was killed after finding herself stuck in the middle between Miles and President Monroe in a hometown gunfight. The episode ended with Miles vowing to escalate the war, which we learn this week is his inefficient, roundabout way of seeking cold-blooded revenge.

In case we doubt the seriousness of Miles’ intentions, the first present-day scene finds Miles presiding over a Monroe Militia informant’s execution by Rebel Alliance firing squad. We’re not in heroic gallantry mode today. Charlie seems disturbed, but doesn’t move a muscle to intervene on the traitor’s behalf.

After Miles retires to his Rebel-Georgian Coalition office, his manly brooding is interrupted by the arrival of his new partner: former Monroe Militia madman Tom Neville! It’s not just a crazy scheme — Tom has a sealed letter signed by Georgia Federation President Foster herself, testifying that Tom is now on their side and working for her. I’m guessing she asked all the wrong questions at the job interview, skipping over the harder ones such as, “Do you have any sadistic tendencies that might interfere with your job performance?” or “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well would you say your conscience functions?” Now Tom and Miles can be the world’s wildest mismatched buddy-duo, like Angel and Spike, or Riggs and Murtaugh, or Quantum and Woody, or Tom and Jerry. If Miles refuses, Foster revokes all the weapons and soldiers Georgia has been funneling to the Rebel Alliance. Miles is presently not feeling righteous enough to say no.

No one else is glad to see Neville either, least of all his own son Jason. Glares are exchanged all throughout the episode, culminating in predictable and unsatisfying fisticuffs at one point. Jason refuses to believe his dad’s new allegiance. Tom spits back at him that — because Jason put the needs of others above his own, not to mention prizing good over evil — Tom and Julia were forced to abandon the Monroe Republic for their own safety, with Julia developing hypothermia along the way and nearly dying. In Tom’s book this makes Jason “selfish”. Sadly, switching sides hasn’t instilled any more self-awareness in Tom.

Before Tom and Miles even have a minute to decide who gets top bunk, their new mission is laid out before them: Monroe has acquired a scientist named Dr. Ethan Camp who, even fifteen years after the blackout, still remembers how to synthesize anthrax with the proper lab setup. Now that Monroe apparently has power pendants to hand out like Halloween candy — given how much more plentiful they are now than in the early episodes, when Monroe was desperate to scrounge up just one — powering a lab with microscopes and centrifuges and such is a snap. Understandably, the Georgia Federation — a likely target for such despicable warfare — has a problem with this and wants Neville and Miles to do something about it. Slight ethical concern: they don’t want him dead — they want to kidnap him so Georgia can make its own anthrax supplies. This phase of the plan fits well with Miles’ unspoken revenge cravings, but the revelation leaves Charlie looking slightly more disturbed.

Thus Our Heroes are given a ride inside the Monroe Republic courtesy of a steamboat commanded by a Captain Richard Lucas (Jason Brooks from Days of Our Lives) and his armed sailors. At the lab, Nora is finally allowed to put her specialty to use and set some explosives for the first time in weeks. While she prepares the lab for demolition, Miles locates the scientist, whom you’d expect to be creepy or nefarious — the kind of guy who would want to know how to manufacture anthrax for a reason — but no, Dr. Camp is just that harmless nebbish Timothy Busfield from TV’s thirtysomething and the original Revenge of the Nerds. Poindexter grew up and became a germ warfare technician. Take that, stupid Alpha Beta house.

Neville doesn’t tag along for the lab extradition — and misses the chance to walk away from the lab while it’s exploding without looking back, like everyone else gets to — because he has a separate but related side mission: he finds where Dr. Camp’s wife and 11-year-old daughter are being held hostage by Monroe’s men, absconds with them, and then he holds them hostage instead on Georgia’s behalf. The Camp family fails to notice any appreciable improvement in their dire situation. (Remember, kids: the best way to avoid a nasty situation such as this one is: never learn how to make anthrax. You’ll be glad you didn’t.)

During the long steamboat ride back to Georgia — which takes fives time as long as the trip out of Georgia took — Charlie realizes that taking people hostage is really disturbing. She insists they free the Camps. Miles says no, more than once. Nora threatens to quit. Miles is unperturbed. This level of ultimate hardcore is why he walked away from the Militia and went into drunken hiding in the first place. Now that the death of last week’s Miles’ Ex-Girlfriend of the Week needs avenging, he thinks he has no choice but to become ultimate hardcore Miles once again. He reminds me of Bad Clark from Smallville minus the disconcerting smile and the Red Kryptonite.

At one point the two boats — Captain Lucas’ steamboat, and a second boat carrying Camp’s bound-‘n’-gagged wife and daughter — are accosted by a Monroe Militia inspection boat, whose men board and have a look around for suspicious things. Their leader is played by Michael Gladis, once known as Paul Kinsey from AMC’s Mad Men. Gladis looks weird in Monroe Militia togs instead of classy suits or the Hare Krishna get-ups from his post-Sterling Cooper days. He and his men find nothing out of sorts because Neville, Charlie, and Dr. Camp hole themselves up in a hidden compartment during the inspection. During the long minutes in which they’re supposed to be silent, Neville keeps threatening to shoot Dr. Camp just so Monroe can’t have him, and Charlie keeps threatening to shoot Neville for any number of viable reasons. The two of them are terrible hiders, but somehow they’re not discovered, and Kinsey and his men move along after Captain Lucas bribes them with a few tiny diamond fragments. Once the coast is clear, Neville sasses and slaps Charlie, then gets himself sasses and slapped back by Miles, with the same old threats and all. No one really seems happy in their work.

After one last failure at convincing Miles to come back from the Dark Side, Charlie finally snaps, locks Miles in his quarters, has Jason knock out his dad with a few seconds’ application of chloroform — which someone is apparently still manufacturing or stockpiling fifteen years after the blackout (no expiration date on the bottle, then?) — and adds Nora to their ranks when they head upstairs and attempt to commandeer the boat from Lucas and his armed men. Charlie smiles for the first time in weeks, and it’s not charming. Her plan works for all of three minutes, long enough to get the Camps untied and this close to freedom, until Neville wakes up from his chloroform catnap and restores command to Lucas. The steamboat crew comes this close to firing on Our Heroes…until they’re interrupted by incoming gunfire from another source: Paul Kinsey’s inspection team is back! Kinsey recognized the Miles Matheson, but decided to wait until he could take the boats in an unfair ambush instead of a head-on throwdown.

Luckily for all involved (except Lucas, first to be mowed down), Miles escapes his improvised cell and more or less saves the day, driving the steamboat away with all the good guys on board intact. Except Tom, “accidentally” left behind. Oops. By the time Tom catches up back at the Rebel-Georgian Coalition HQ, the Camp family is long gone and safely enrolled in the Rebel Alliance Witness Protection Program. Tom threatens to withdrawn Georgia’s support from the rebels, but a smug Miles — feeling much better with his conscience no longer comatose — points out that Miles has been winning for Georgia so far, and he can’t imagine Foster wanting to give up all that winning. To reward Miles for escaping the Dark Side, Nora dresses in her skimpiest sleepwear and offers him what some parents call “special hugging”. I think that means she’s instantly not mad at him anymore for orchestrating the kidnapping of innocents, even the 11-year-old.

Meanwhile in the episode’s primary subplot, Aaron and Rachel are still traveling through the Plains Nation to the Tower in Colorado, to restore electrical power back to mankind. In the week between episodes they’ve traveled from LaGrange, Missouri, to Lenora, Kansas — over 500 miles due west on foot. After spending four days and probably hundreds of miles without eating, they stop at a locale called the Thompson Tribal Lands, but no one will barter with them because everyone needs their food for their own eating. Our Heroes try stealing a few morsels, but their elderly target tracks them down, demands it back, and prepares to execute them on the spot in accordance with local anti-theft bylaws. Rachel disrupts the legal process by murdering the gentleman before he can murder them, using the gun Miles gifted to her back on the east coast. We already saw Rachel’s ruthlessness in previous episodes, but Aaron is shocked and appalled.

When two local horsemen give chase, the two evade them in the night, but at a cost: Rachel ends the chase by tripping in the woods like a college-age horror-film victim, rolling down a wooded hillside, and snapping her leg so badly that the fractured bone juts through her skin. Aaron understandably freaks out, especially when he has to be the one to shove it back in place and set a splint. He earns bonus points for not repeatedly fainting through the nasty process.

After spending the night in a delivery truck, the horsemen finally find them. A close-quarters fracas ensues. Aaron stabs one in the side, then lets the other one beat him up because he still can’t actually fight. Rachel grabs the first one’s shotgun and shoots the second one in the back. This definitely isn’t Scouts Honor Week on Revolution.

Rachel keeps beseeching Aaron to go on without her. Aaron refuses to leave her behind, thinking that she would do the same if she were in his place. No, Rachel insists she totally would carry on regardless (and we believe her!), but there’s a part of the plan she hasn’t revealed to him: the most important thing isn’t that someone gets to the Tower to turn on the power. The important thing is that Aaron needs to get to the Tower. To alleviate the confusion setting in for Aaron and the audience together, Rachel turns to page 74 of Dr. Warren’s Tower operator manual, to which is paper-clipped an article scissored out of a fifteen-year-old newspaper.

The article’s headline: “MIT STUDENT DEVELOPS GROUNDBREAKING SOFTWARE”. Accompanying the article is a photo of Aaron himself, much younger and dorkier. After sixteen episodes we’re now discovering that Aaron is officially central to the plot in some way, though things might’ve been complicated if Aaron had chickened out and stayed behind in their cozy Illinois village back in episode one. So that worked out coincidentally well.

What of the Tower? Remember when it was in the show? This week its leader, Randall Flynn (Colm Feore) has his first scene in weeks, paying a visit to President Monroe at Independence Hall. While Monroe has last week’s gunshot wound patched up, an unflappable Flynn dares to tell Monroe that perhaps he’s acting a tad irrational, putting his lust for vengeance above the responsibilities of his office, plus common sense. An irrational Monroe dismisses Flynn as “my IT guy” and threatens to perform a fatality on him if he talks trash to his face again. Flynn smiles without responding, obviously biding his time until Monroe missteps, dies in the finale, and leaves Flynn alone to become the one true Big Bad. I’m guessing, anyway.

Meanwhile back at the Tower, our friendly captive tech Grace finally accomplishes her assigned task of activating the secret elevator that will carry passengers down to…Level Twelve. Once it rises to the top, the henchman in charge of her for the day takes it upon himself to test it out and go see for himself what lies beneath them in…Level Twelve.

The elevator descends from the ground floor to as far as Level Seven, at which point the elevator stops, the security camera feed disconnects…and the screaming begins. A few moments later, the elevator rises back to the ground floor, covered in henchman blood.

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
4/22/2013: “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia
4/29/2013: “Home

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