Revolution's Pilot Delivers Signature JJ Abrams Twists and Turns
Since the inception of ABC's mega-hit Lost, producers spanning the major networks have sought to recapture the lightning in a bottle brilliance of that series. Many worthwhile shows have been doomed from the get-go, merely by staking their reputation on being "the next Lost" (remember Flash Forward and The Event?), a bar set so insanely high that that no fledgling series has yet to live up to that claim.
Enter Revolution, produced by JJ Abrams, the actual mastermind behind Lost as well as the hit shows Alias and the recent Star Trek reboot. So, has Abrams himself finally been able to give us an offering worthy of usurping the coveted Lost throne? Let's discuss.
From the opening frame of the series pilot (which is available for viewing in its entirety on Hulu right now) it's clear this has JJ's finger prints all over it. The voice of Elizabeth Mitchell (who played Juliet in Lost) engages in a mundane conversation with her mother as her five year old daughter zones out to Loony Tunes on the tube. Suddenly her husband barges inside in a panic and frantically calls his brother, letting him know that "It's all going to turn off and it will never turn back on again!" As his bewildered brother tries to make sense of the cryptic warning, their conversation is suddenly cut short. The lights inside the car start to flicker, the ground shakes with tremors beneath its wheels and, we gather, across the world as well. All signs of electricity cut out, and moments later, 747's tumble from the sky down to cityscapes and explode on impact. This earth shattering event is our set up for the central premise of Revolution. We've entered a world in which electricity suddenly stopped working, and now we've got to find out why.
We jump fifteen years into the future, where we're treated to beautiful landscapes of our world as it once was ravaged by nature. Skyscrapers, bridges, baseball stadiums, and more lost in a sea of vines crumbling due to the inevitable neglect a world without electricity would incur. We meet the grown up Charlie Matheson, the young girl watching Bugs Bunny at the top. For her, a technologized world is a fuzzy memory, and she and her family have to contend with the struggles of living in the new world; a world besieged by bands of roaming militias, lawlessness, and a total lack of toilet paper.
So let's take a moment now to take inventory of all the similarities to Lost we have within the first five minutes: both premieres begin with what seems like a day that couldn't be more ordinary turning into a day of extraordinary tragedy. The tragedy itself thrusts our characters into a desperate and primitive world, and immediately we are tasked with the question "How did this happen and why?" Stylistically much is similar as well. Just like Lost, we've got an eclectic cast made up of recognizable yet not overtly famous veteran actors. We've got the same approach to score from the same composer. We've got stunning natural tableaus and the "every man for himself" ideology colliding with the notion of protecting your fellow man. Finally, although we don't know what's behind the catastrophe that's set up the world of this series, it gives us a strong feeling that the answers must lie in a rather complex conspiracy, and that the explanation just might be supernatural in nature.
Okay, so it's INCREDIBLY similar to Lost in all these respects, but does it match its level of quality? That remains to be seen because, keep in mind, we're comparing it to one of the greatest series of all time here. The truth is, in spite of some kinks, Revolution's pilot is definitely worth your time. The Jon Favreau directed opener covers a lot of ground in its forty-three minutes, and contains more goodies for viewers than missteps. In terms of the cast, the overall look of the series, and the pacing, everything is spot on. The show does seem to brush into the spirit of melodrama unintentionally here and there, and that's when the show is at its weakest. It's unclear yet if this is a characteristic that will continue to dog the show; it's quite possible that this is just a by-product of having to cover so many plot points so quickly, and as the series progresses it will come into it's own. Part of Lost''s brilliance was that the drama that unfolded seemed so effortless. We can see some of the strings being pulled here, but the action surrounding it all is immersive enough that we're not taken out of the experience when they appear.
Pilots on their own (and even the first several episodes of a series) are not always an indication of whether or not a show will be extraordinary. Revolution is off to a promising start, though, so let's keep an eye on it and see what develops. There's a lot we couldn't get into here for fear of releasing spoilers, but any fan of good storytelling should check out the twists and turns of its opening episode for themselves.
Do you think it'll hold up to Lost?