The People Vs The Power Paradox
Do you watch TV shows for the mystery or the characters? Or a mixture of both?
This is the conundrum that confronts us as viewers after watching the first two episodes of Revolution. Which type of show is Revolution going to be? After two episodes it looks like the show is heading towards more of the latter with sprinkles of mystery.
This far into its nascent journey Revolution still has to catch up and address audience reaction and judgement. This is due to the pilot being shown back in the summer at the San Diego Comic Con and NBC making the pilot available online a week or two before it aired.
During that time period between the previews and the pilot airing much questioning and speculation has been about the how and what turned off the power. There has been decidely less discussion about the characters which is understandable given the small amount of the screen each cast member has been given.
As with every show in the early going they are trying to establish a base of characters that will divert or supplant that portion of the viewing audience that is just watching for the reveal of the mystery. This is the paradox that every high concept show faces.
It is a tricky balance act to set up a fictional world with interesting characters and put them in a world with a compelling through story. Plus find the right balance between the two. It is an elusive goal that is more alchemy than science. In the end the goal should be to strive towards the series mythology being a platform to explore these characters.
In the case of Revolution, it is the Power Versus The People Paradox.
The main reaction the pilot has created has been wariness in regards to the starting premise; the loss of power.
Is this stoppage based in science or magic? If it is science and the flow of electrons has been stopped why are living things still alive? Life is based on forms of electricity, especially electric eels and fireflies, and should be affected too. What about hydro and steam power? And so on.
Whatever showrunner Eric Kripke’s game plan is for the show, hopefully he has heard these comments and will address the power problem ASAP. Tell the audience how electricity is being stopped. Lay out the rules and go from there.
Be it magic or science, give us the explanation.
The sooner the better so this point of series resistance is removed and the viewing audience’s attention shifts focus to the long term goals the show is trying to achieve.
After watching the first two episodes my hope for Revolution being a success is based more on the behind the camera team. Beyond the JJ Abrams brand the showrunner is former SuperNatural showrunner Eric Kripke. He successfully ran the first 5 seasons of SuperNatural. A show that deftly juggled character and mythology.
The bulk of the characters belong to one family, the Mathesons. (A shout out to noted SF writer Richard Matheson perhaps?)
The focus is on the daughter – Charlotte ‘Charlie‘ Matheson and the uncle – Miles Matheson. The show appears tailored to be relying heavily on these two characters to carry the dramatic weight of the show. To this point the material being given to Charlie played by Tracy Spiridakos strikes as being more than she can bear. This could become very problematic unless the actor can rise to the material or the writers are better able to tailor it to her. Or if the Revolution creative team recognizes this and shifts dramatic focus to other characters.
On the plus side the setup that the main adversary, Sebastian Monroe aka General Monroe head of the Militia was Miles’s buddy before the power went out holds promise. Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring aka Giancarlo Esposito as Militia Captain Tom Neville is a definite highlight and the most nuanced character.
The rest of the cast has made little to no impression but it is still early in the game. It will be interesting if the initial character dynamics remain in play or if the show tries to make any corrections.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
It took Kripke well into the first season before he found the right mix of character versus mythology for SuperNatural.
Will NBC give him that much time for Revolution?