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"Home" shows Monroe exploiting his and Miles' past in an effort to manipulate Miles into surrendering, while elsewhere Aaron (now in the Plains Nation) is confronted by someone from his past and is forced to come to terms with his questionable choices. The idea that the past strongly informs the choices and decisions we susequently make has been a major theme since the very beginning of the series. Revolution is, essentially, a show about redemption. It explores the way people deal with their own experiences (positive or negative) in order to move on with life. Some people emerge empowered by their past experiences, while others become crippled by haunting past experiences. While this is a major theme of the show, and there is still a significant chunk of the characters' pasts about which we know absolutely nothing, the writers should be careful not to rely too much on this narrative device. Last week's episode, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," delved into Miles' conflict with his own past, but didn't offer much new information in terms of character development. His inner conflict and reluctance to lead, and therefore to reinsert himself into the world he helped create, has been a part of the character since the show's inception. And while going back to reiterate his inner conflict does fortify Miles' personality traits and motivation, it can grow tiresome and repetitive. We get it: Miles is haunted by his past. Let's get moving. Miles isn't the only character who is trying to right a past wrong or is motivated by events from his past; this concept applies to almost all the characters in the Revolution universe.
The most effective and most frequently used method of communicating this theme is through flashback. The flashbacks are often interesting and compelling because they allow us to learn vital information about the characters and mythology; sometimes they bring up even more questions about the story, and they are not always successful. For instance, the use of flashbacks in this latest episode is not a particularly strong device, and the flashbacks don't add anything to the story that we wouldn't have understood through the present narrative. Seriously, the producers didn't need to go through the trouble of casting young twenty-something look-alikes just so they can exchange moody glances, recite some dumb and hackneyed dialogue about enlisting in the Marines, and engage in an uncomfortably un-sexy love scene. None of that is necessary; it could all be communicated through the present day story, using the actors we have grown to like (or at least to tolerate). The best episode of this second half of the season, "The Song Remains the Same," had no flashbacks whatsoever, but managed to work because of the quality of the present narrative as well as the strength of the performances. Giancarlo Esposito's portrayal of Major Tom Neville is one of the highlights of the show and is always entertaining. Neville's extensive presence in that episode definitely made it intriguing, without needing any exposition/revisiting of the past.
Speaking of Esposito, after what feels like an excruciatingly long absence (something the show is not strong enough to do or repeat) we finally get to see Neville for, like, ten seconds. Regardless of its brevity, it is still the best and most satisfying moment of the entire episode. When that door opens to reveal Tom Neville in his three-piece suit looking like a boss and the badass that he is, the moment is just fantastic. This is maybe the first time in the series' run when the last scene of an episode has made me look forward in anticipation for the next week. I will admit that I had completely forgotten about Neville and am honestly surprised that he's the man President Foster is talking about. Of course, I instantly felt incredibly sheepish because it is glaringly obvious Foster has been taking about him, and many viewers probably picked up on it early on in the scene. (For some reason I had it in my head she was talking about Miles). Nonetheless, it is just exciting to have Neville back and be a strong presence on the show.
Making a strong impression this episode is Monroe, who carries out a predictable, albeit somewhat effective, scheme to lure Miles to him. David Lyons continues to be an uneven actor, but is slowly growing on me. There are moments in this episode where I believe him and he is convincing in his portrayal of the obsessive General. I am enjoying how over the top Monroe is becoming, I think the writers are embracing the batshit crazy side of the character and exploiting it appropriately. Look, we all know that the villian to really watch out for is Randall; we can take him seriously and Monroe can just keep us entertained, however overwrought his storylines always seem to be. Yes, his dialogue is laughable and his motivations juvenile. Monroe is indeed still a caricature, but I get the impression the writers have a sense of humor and are embracing the preposterousness of the character. There was more humanity in him this week (which was gladly welcomed) and Emma's revelation and consequent death will probably make him go down a brooding, maniacal, insane downward spiral that will no doubt elicit a few chuckles from viewers, but will also (hopefully) be engaging.
The resolution to the dramatic love triangle storyline is fine, just fine. Emma's death feels predictable, but still effective. I wonder (at least briefly) if what she said about her son was just a lie to manipulate Monroe, but then I remember what show I'm watching and figure that that would be expecting too much out of these characters; the writers seem to love cliched soap opera storylines and will come up with any excuse to cheese up the show. "Don't kill me, I had your baby all those years ago!" Are we going have to go through Monroe's search for his bastard son now? Is his name Jon Snow? I'm really not looking forward to that. I do enjoy Miles' immediate reaction after Emma is shot. Boom! Miles shot ya! It's a completely irrational and emotional sort of gut reaction and a complete surprise. I also appreciate that the writers didn't go with the expected romantic reunion between Aaron and Priscilla. This storyline isn't the best the show has done and isn't entirely engaging, but it is realistic in their the world. What did Aaron expect? She wasn't going to just wait around for him to change his mind about abandoning her, yet he seemed completely in shock by the idea that she would move on. Poor Aaron. Now that he has some kind of closure with Priscilla, does this mean he is ready to die? Rachel has implied that this journey they are taking is essentially a suicide mission. Are the writers setting up the expected big finale death? I don't know; he is the main source of comic relief for the show, but he has nothing to live for now.
I have been cautiously optimistic about the quality of the show. Since it came back after hiatus the writers have shown some awareness of the series' misgivings and have worked to repair them. With five episodes left in the season I am not entirely convinced that they have done enough to make Revolution surpass the quality of an average sci-fi show. The second season renewal bodes well for the future, and the break between seasons will hopefully be enough time for the writers to carefully evaluate the quality of the show and it will be able to catch up to the potential of the premise.
-- Where did Rachel find the time to get her hair done out treking cross country? Aren't they in a time crunch? You hair looks good, girl. Also, where did they get so many diamonds?
-- The actress they cast as young Emma bears a resemblance to Tracy Spiridakos, which made me think it was Charlie cuddling up with young Miles, which is just wrong.
-- Rachel's dismissal of Aaron was slightly amusing. I think she is so determined to get to her goal her people and behavioral skills just shut down. There's a lot going on in that giant brain.
-- Nora who?