[If you haven’t watched the episode, stop now, spoilers abound] 

Revolution’s second episode was a serviceable narrative that moved the action forward a bit, introduced a few new key players, and added some last-minute twists to feed the underlying mythology of the show.

Eric Kripke can write compelling characters – how much time do I spend dissecting Bobby and the Winchester boys on this site? – but there needs to be some intense development with some of these people so that the audience can begin to invest in their safety and survival.

For Charlie, the show might have been better served by having Danny around for more than one episode before being kidnapped. As the older sister to brothers that I’ve always felt compelled to watch over, Charlie’s plight – her need to care for and save her brother – is an emotionally resonant component of who she is. The problem lies in the lack of interaction we were allowed to witness before his capture. If you examine the relationship between Sam and Dean Winchester (and yes, I’m going to keep referring back to Kripke’s Supernatural, a more established show), you feel Dean’s pain every time he fails to protect Sam. And while that relationship didn’t develop immediately, the first episode was about their fractured relationship. We got to spend that first 40 minutes in their company, watching the complicated emotions seething beneath the surface of their interactions. Charlie has a good reason for being dedicated to her mission – and for insisting on dogging the steps of her uncle, Miles, but we haven’t seen enough of the Danny/Charlie relationship to fully embrace that emotional intensity.

The characters that really resonate are the ones with the strongest actors. Elizabeth Mitchell sells every scene she’s in because she’s Elizabeth F***ing Mitchell. The reveal at the end that she’s alive and being held captive by Bass wasn’t totally a surprise – the reveal of who had her, yes, that added a level of fun, but her being alive? No. . .because it would have been silly to have Mitchell on the payroll without using her as much as possible.

The same goes for Giancarlo Esposito. While his character is a bit of scenery-chewer, Esposito just moves and speaks with an ease that belies that he’s acting. The accent though. . .that’s tricky after spending so much time with him as Gustavo Fring, where his character carried himself with a quiet calm that cloaked the seething anger that ran through his veins. Esposito, like Mitchell, needs more to do, but I’m hoping this will come in later episodes.

Billy Burke’s Miles Matheson is intriguing. His character’s ability to straddle multiple worlds gives him layers the other characters lack. His relationship to Bass, and to the Monroe Militia should prove great fodder for future episodes. Also, that man can wield a sword. While there wasn’t quite the set piece that we got last week, the fights were insanely good.

So, what we learned:

  • Rachel Matheson is alive and being held captive by Bass (General Monroe), who she knows because of Miles
  • Captain Neville believes in his mission and his men, though I’m looking forward to seeing what truly motivates him
  • Charlie will kill when necessary – which she learned by watching her mother kill a somewhat violent stranger who tried to steal their food during their escape from the city (note: Rachel can kill. . .Ben cannot)
  • Miles *really* is quite good at killing people – you want him on your side
  • There is a resistance (so tempted to call this the rebel alliance), and the American flag (which is now burned on sight) is their symbol.
  • There is someone in that rebel force (?) that would appear to have turned into a mercenary or some new evil – whose face we never see but his name is Randall (all I can think is Randall Flagg from The Stand) – and is threatening the life of Grace Beaumont.
  • Miles cannot give characters nicknames (“Chuckles”). He is *not* Sawyer and shouldn’t try to be, even with both characters considered the Han Solos of their respective shows.

There have been many critics who see Revolution as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the American Revolution. This isn’t quite right. This is clearly a Civil War – this is a world where there has been secession and overthrow of an established government, where once again brother has turned against brother and lines have been drawn in American soil (this week’s reference to slavery also highlights the connection). This is an American war – an American battle – and I’m hoping it will soon be an even more robust comparison.

Side note: C. Thomas Howell. . . .that casting, as with Spider-Man this summer, pulled me right out of the story. I’m not sure stunt casting actually works. If you can’t actually see the character as anything other than their real-life persona, then the casting isn’t successful. While it’s not his fault, I couldn’t see Howell as a menacing bounty hunter – I could only see him as 80s actor C. Thomas Howell. [see also: Casting Paris Hilton in an early episode of Veronica Mars and in Supernatural – completely distracting and clearly only for ratings.]