Fall TV In Review, pt. 6: Revenge

Waaaaaaay back in September, I watched Revenge purely on a whim. It was Premiere Week, and I was sort of high on television. And to be honest, it didn’t GRAB me. At least not at first. I was so busy blogging about it and other shows that I really didn’t pay attention, and had to watch a second time on hulu the next day. That was when I realized I’d stumbled upon something great.

Now, to qualify, “great” is a really subjective word. Because a “great” episode of Glee is not going to be on the same scale as a “great” episode of Modern Family. And a “great” episode of Modern Family is going to be judged totally differently from a “great” episode of Breaking Bad. So, to put it in perspective, Revenge is my favorite show that premiered this year on network TV. Which is a win.

So, in case you don’t watch, the show is about Emily Thorne – who is really Amanda Clarke. Amanda’s dad was framed by his friends, co-workers, and girlfriend into laundering money for terrorists responsible for bringing down a plane and killing hundreds. Amanda channels her anger – and billions of dollars – into re-inventing herself into Emily: a beautiful, wealthy, philanthropic woman who is trained in martial arts, deception, seduction, and infiltration. She has made vengeance her life, dedicating years to bringing down everyone who framed her father.

At the top of the list are the Graysons, elite social royalty. The patron – Conrad – orchestrated the whole affair, using his wife Victoria to seduce David Clarke and plant evidence. Victoria has become a huge bitch since then, ruling the Hamptons with an iron fist.

Over the course of the series, Emily has used mild poison to reveal Conrad’s affair, posted the community’s therapy sessions online, KIDNAPPED a woman, bankrupted a hedge fund, blackmailed politicians into resigning… Oh yeah, and seduced Victoria’s son Daniel.

Which brings me to the love triangle, which is one of the only love triangles I’ve ever felt conflicted about. Usually I have very strong opinions (Buffy and Angel, Veronica and Logan, Sydney and Vaughan, Jean Grey and Wolverine, you get the point). And yet this is one I honestly could go either way on. On the left, we have Emily/Amanda’s childhood sweetheart, who kept her dog and named his boat after her, and now manages his dad’s bar. So far, it sounds like we have a clear winner. Except that on the right, we have Daniel, who used to be a typical spoiled rich kid, until he had his moment of clarity after nearly killing his girl friend while drunk driving. Now, he is totally sober, incredibly nice, humble, down-to-earth, and completely in love with Emily. Both guys are genuinely good, nice, and incredibly good looking. Both love Emily/Amanda.

Further complicating things is the classic “becoming the mask” scenario, where Emily finds herself legitimately falling in love with Daniel. The emergence of the REAL Emily Thorne (who is now pretending to be Amanda), has made the situation even more outrageous, especially once she decides that SHE likes Jack (the hunky bartender [this was my family’s official nickname for him before we learned names]). My theory is that this will be a Little Mermaid. The Prince/Bartender has fallen in love with a girl in the past/yesterday, who is right in front of him. Before he can fully fall in love though, a Sea Witch/psycho appears, claiming to be The Voice/childhood friend. The Prince/Bartender is fooled, but his DOG is NOT. Where it goes from there, I don’t know (but the first episode makes it seem as though Jack is going to shoot Daniel, so… there’s that.

Anyway, this show is addictive. It has slowly peeled back the layers on Victoria – showing us that she really loved David, and probably still does; showing us why she hates her husband; showing us the troubled relationship with her daughter; showing us a surprisingly sympathetic villain. At the same time, as we get to know Emily/Amanda, she seems to be getting less sympathetic. I mean, I understand why she is the way she is. But at the same time, when she truly is herself – around Nolan, the only person who knows who she really is – she’s a complete bitch! It reminds us that Emily is not a Nice Person, even if she is the “good guy.”

Yes, this show is dramatic. Even a little silly at times. It’s sensational (in the literal, shock value, sense). But it’s well written, well directed, and very consistent. It doesn’t rely on sex or craziness to sell like some other (cough Grey’s cough True Blood cough) guilty pleasures. The characters are fairly fleshed out. There’s something primally satisfying about seeing rich douches pay.

At this point, my only complaint with the show is the green screen, which varies from barely tolerable to downright awful. But if that’s the worst thing I can say about it, then it’s doing pretty well. I eagerly await the second half of the first season.

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