Saturday, September 22, 2012

TV Review - Revolution Pilot

Revolution is a new TV Series from Executive Producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias), created by Eric Kripke (Supernatural), the show runner. Now, given that I loved Lost, and really enjoy Supernatural (despite itself, at times) I was rather excited for this show to debut. Now I've sat down and watched the pilot and... I didn't really like it. At all.

The plot of the show is, one day, out of the blue, all electricity on Earth stops working. Anything powered by electricity, computers, planes, cars, lights, all of modern technology and modern society is rendered useless. The show is then set 15 years later, where society has fallen apart and only begun to rebuild itself through small forms of chaotic governments, militias, who strong arm honest people into paying them taxes, and war with each other.

Now, if at any moment that sounded interesting at all, I hate to break it to you, but it's really not. The first mistake this pilot makes is by skipping over the most interesting thing it has going for it-- The world falling apart. By skipping forward 15 years we miss the most interesting aspect of the premise, which is seeing how the world would react. By the point our plot is set, the world has mostly reformed into something new, and seeing all of that happening would be a million times more interesting than simply seeing the reactions.

The next problem with this pilot is that it's incredibly predictable. I could accurately predict everything that was going to happen five to ten minutes before it did. Predicting who's going to die at the end of a scene before the scene begins, who a character really is as soon as he's introduced (as someone else), predicting that one character isn't who he seems as soon as we meet him... The result is a tedious slog of an episode. The only thing I didn't expect was one twist at the end, which admittedly was well executed, and will probably make me come back for more.

Another problem this pilot has is the characters, if you can even call them that. "Archetypes" is probably a more descriptive term. You have the brother, the love interest, the nerdy guy, the dad's new girlfriend, the bad guy (oh, and on a positive note, the actor who's playing the bad guy of the episode does and excellent job, he also plays the Mirror in Once Upon a Time), the scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold, and of course, not-Katniss.

Because the characters are so archetypal, you don't care about them in any way. It's a pitfall you run into in any pilot, but I want to be clear here, it's certainly possible to introduce characters in a pilot and make you care about what happens to them. Supernatural, for example, Kripke's other show, introduced, in the first episode, the two brothers, and managed to make them feel like more than just archetypes. You learned immediately how these brothers got pulled into the world of the hunters. You learned about how they were raised, how they hadn't spoken much recently, how Sam and his father had a falling out, how Dean always stuck with his dad... I don't consider Supernatural to have the best first season out there (or, indeed, even a very good first season), but you definitely cared about the two characters enough to have reason to care whether they lived or died. And when Sam's girlfriend dies at the end of the first episode, you care.

In this, however, I couldn't care less about what happens to anyone. They introduce so many characters, so quickly, that you don't understand who any of them are. That's likely a problem that can be fixed over time, by fleshing out the characters over a season, but even Flash Forward, gave us more details in the pilot about it's characters than this did. I didn't remember drunk-cop's name, but I could tell you at least one thing about his backstory (that he was an alcoholic). I don't remember lesbian-cop's name, but I could tell you at least one character trait (that she was a closeted lesbian). Instead, this one introduces not-Katniss to the viewer, but doesn't really tell us anything about her. Her entire character, thus far at least, is that we know she doesn't like dad's new girlfriend and we know she's protective of her brother. Ok. This is not enough to build a character upon. These are not personality traits, in anything but the broadest of strokes.

I don't think I can describe how boring this pilot is. Since I don't care about any of the characters, it shrugs off the mystery until the very end of the episode, and the plot is so predictable that I knew what was going to happen ten minutes before it happened, I just found the whole thing tedious. All that was left was the look of the episode and... Yeah, I guess it looked pretty good. You know. If you like watching Life After People. But then that raises the question, why aren't you just watching Life After People?

The actual disaster aftermath, and societies regrouping, is nothing I haven't seen before... You know, what, let me be honest. I don't think I liked this, because I've seen this done infinitely better before. I've played Fallout. I like Fallout. I even love some Fallout. I'll give Revolution a few more episodes, and I hope that it'll get better, I honestly do, but so far, I just want a Nuka-Break TV Series.