Revolution (TV Series): Pilot Episode Review – The Next Breakout Hit?

NBC’s Revolution comes with a pedigree most other new television shows would drool over. The pilot episode is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens), written by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and produced by J.J. Abrams (Alias, Star Trek) and Bryan Burk (Fringe). With recognizable names attached to the project and an intriguing premise, Revolution is poised to garner some much needed buzz to break through the deluge of numerous new shows debuting this fall. It also doesn’t hurt that NBC has made the pilot episode available on-line for advance viewing through Hulu.com and at NBC.com. NBC believes they have a bonafide hit on their hands, so it’s imperative for this show to hook in a large audience from the beginning or risk falling by the way side like “Flashforward” or “The Event”.

The formula for a successful serialized sci-fi drama is not an exact science however they are some basic elements needed to build a solid foundation. 1. A unique, compelling premise that can drive the show for multiple seasons. 2. An engaging cast of characters that the audience identifies with. 3. A core set of mysteries and unfolding, progressive mythology to sustain viewer interest 4. An amazing pilot episode that sets up the world, the characters, the stakes, and some water cooler moments that people will be talking about the next day. Of course there are many more aspects that are needed to make a great show; these are just the starting blocks.

In our society that relies on technology for every aspect of life from transportation, communication, entertainment, medical treatment and food manufacturing what would happen if the entire world became unplugged and regressed to the dark ages? Is technology the glue that keeps our families, communities and governments functioning or do our values and beliefs still hold some importance? Set in the near future, Revolution is the journey of a make-shift family fifteen years after all technology on the planet inexplicably stops working. Every car, airplane, refrigerator, cell phone, battery and light bulb powers off in an instant.

*The remaining article will contain some spoilers on the premiere episode. Continue reading if you’ve watched the episode or want to know more before diving into this series.

In this brave new world, a young woman named Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos), must search for her estranged Uncle Miles (Billy Burke) to help rescue her abducted brother Danny (Graham Rogers) from the Monroe Republic Militia. Monroe believes the Matheson family knows the cause of the blackout and more importantly holds the secret to regaining technology. Rounding out the cast is Maggie (a doctor and love interest of Charlie’s Dad), Aaron (a former Google executive) and Cpt. Tom Neville (a member of the Militia played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito).

The pilot episode moves along at a very quick pace. It has a very specific story it wants to tell and doesn’t waste any time by quickly introducing the core characters and setting up the beginning of their journey. There are some minor flaws, mostly due to the rushed story telling and not allowing some emotional moments to resonate and play out. One aspect I hope the show will revisit are flashbacks to 15 years ago to the time of when the blackout began. Some of the strongest images were in the first 5 minutes of the episode and it would be interesting to see how the Mathesons managed to stay alive. In present time, the new world without technology needs to be fleshed out. How does this society function and in what ways have they adapted in a world without any power?

The two lead characters, Charlie and Miles Matheson, are well-acted and have immediate tension and chemistry. The idea of people from different walks of life coming together to form a united family is often used but it’s an appealing device that audiences will enjoy watching. The story line of Danny reminds me of the first (and second) season of 24 where Jack Bauer’s daughter is captured and we follow her quest for freedom. I really hope the producers know exactly where they are going with this story line because it could get really aggravating in a hurry.

As for the look and feel of the show, the outdoor locations such as the waterfall was captivating however the indoor locations didn’t feel lived in and was obviously a soundstage. For a world supposedly thrown into chaos, many things looked very orderly and sterile. The director of any pilot episode sets the tone or blueprint for the look of the series. Unfortunately, Jon Favreau played it safe; it was directed competently but there weren’t any interesting choices, just your basic nuts and bolts network television show. If Revolution was on a cable network like Showtime or FX, it probably would have been a lot grittier and darker.

This episode needed some more zesty dialogue and to reinforce it’s not the world we are familiar with. We needed more lines like, “Google? That’s a computer thing right?” to help the audience differentiate and invest in this world.

Overall, the pilot is a promising start to this series despite its flaws. I will probably give it a couple of more episodes to see what direction they are going to take and if it will improve. Do you want to know the true fate of Charlie’s mom (played by Elizabeth Mitchell)? Do you care about the connection between Miles and Monroe? Do you want to know why the blackout occurred? Is there an underground organization that holds the key to restoring technology? Do you want to see Team Charlie & Miles save the world? If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of these questions then Revolution might have a chance to be a breakout hit.

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