Revolution: Soul Train
I’m trying so hard to like you, but you’re not totally working with me here. So let’s just cut to the core of the problem. The show is being centered on the character of Charlie – her story is the sun around which all other narratives orbit – and she just can’t carry that weight. I think it was at Comic-Con this year, when they did a sneak preview of the pilot, that there was quite a bit of chatter about Tracy Spiridakos and how the audience was going to see that JJ Abrams casting magic once again – the magic that gave us Keri Russell in Felicity and Jennifer Garner in Alias. That’s a lot of pressure. . .and it’s not really pressure that Spiridakos can live up to. Charlie is a middling character, and the sooner the Revolution writers, and producer/creator Eric Kripke, realize this, the better off the show will be. Charlie and Danny are necessary elements of the show, but this week proved that you’re better off getting more time with Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Mitchell, and (finally) David Lyons than you are by focusing on the Danny/Charlie turmoil.
Yes, I do sound like a broken record, but the fact that each episode leaves me with the feeling that there’s potential untapped frustrates me. The concept of the show is solid, and there are many avenues for development. But as long as the focus is on the kids, and not on the adults who are far better actors, then the show will consistently leave viewers wanting more of an orbiting storyline rather than that center.
With Miles, I’m waiting to see Billy Burke have an emotional storyline with someone other than Spiridakos. I’m not completely sold on the Miles/Charlie relationship. “Soul Train” attempted to show the deepening bond – and the fear that Miles has that he’s turning her into a version of his modern-self, squashing the caring personality who was more innocent than warrior. This works, to a degree, but as I’ve mentioned before (and seen in other reviews so I’m not totally crazy), Burke has been cast as a Han Solo figure. The problem is that Burke hasn’t really had much of an opportunity to convey that devil-may-care charisma that made audiences swoon for Solo. While I wouldn’t argue that Burke will ever reach Ford levels of roguish mercenary with a heart of gold, I think he would benefit from getting a storyline apart from Spiradakos. This is a possibility if we get more backstory on the Miles/Rachel relationship. There is also the Monroe v. Miles conflict in the future, which could provide a better stage for Burke.
“Soul Train” allowed us a glimpse into the early life of Tom Neville, a man more coward than warrior when the lights were still on. A mild-mannered insurance adjustor, Neville is married to Julia (Kim Raver) and has a young son, Jason. The day of the event, Neville has been fired from his job, so the world going dark might not have been such a bad option for him. It’s an incident soon after the event, when a neighbor breaks in to steal Neville’s tradeable goods, that pushes Neville into becoming more of the person we now know. He’s brutally attacked by the neighbor, in front of Jason, and when he, surprisingly, gets the upper hand Neville beats his neighbor almost to death. That son, Jason, will grow up to serve in the Militia at his father’s side – and the audience currently knows him as Nate, the boy who is clearly in love with Charlie and trying desperately to capture Miles. Surprise!! The Neville storyline seemed the most fruitful of “Soul Train,” possibly because it is allowing the audience to develop a deeper understanding for the characters.
In my last review I complained that Monroe hadn’t really manifested great menace. He seemed to be a villain who would use the “I’m speaking softly to show how scary I am” technique to get his way. However, this week found him in a few more scenes that illuminated just how megalomaniacal he really is. At one strategy meeting, there is a map spread across a desk that charted out how America had split after the apocalypse. There are six “nations”: Monroe Republic, Georgia Federation, Texas, Plains Nation, Wasteland, and California Commonwealth. Texas having its own nation was both a nice nod to their political leanings and rather funny, while Wasteland reminded me of Fallout: New Vegas. I can’t lie. I was very relieved to see that Lake Tahoe had made it into California Commonwealth, and wasn’t mired in Wasteland. For now, the main focus is Plains Nation and Georgia Federation, as they share borders with Monroe Republic. As these two nations begin to turn against Monroe, he makes it clear that having electricity, with which to power heavy weaponry, will allow him to annihilate his enemies and rule over all.
Monroe also turns this menace on Rachel, speaking softly but using Danny as a weapon – a weapon successfully delivered to him by Tom Neville. It appears to work. Rachel tells Monroe that both she and Ben were working on the secret electricity project and that there are a set of pendants, twelve in all, that are crucial to the project. Find the pendants – let there be light. Yet it seems hard to believe that Rachel would cave so quickly. There’s more here, clearly, and Rachel seems smart enough to strategize how to use information to keep both her son and herself safe. Or maybe I feel that Elizabeth Mitchell is smart enough to do that. At this point I’m not sure.
Oh yeah, there was also a train. But honestly, that entire storyline was superfluous, with the exception of Miles and Tom having a mini-battle when Miles has to save Charlie, AGAIN, and the guest appearance of Jeff Fahey (his arrival made me immediately yell out “Lapidus!”), who is part of the rebel alliance and joined up with Nora to try and blow up the train – the train that’s carrying Danny.
“Skip to the end.”
Train leaves, train almost blows up, Miles saves train, Charlie sees Danny, no one saves Danny, Nate/Jason throws Charlie from the train to save her life.
This show has a lot of work to do.