Friday, November 2, 2012

Revolution on NBC - how can such a good show be so bad?

"Revolution", a television show set post-apocalypse, is so enjoyable.

And sometimes it's even enjoyable for the right reasons. But it's also so, so terrible . . . though only in two ways.

First, why is it good? Well, it's got a fun premise: what happens to the world if everything electrical suddenly stops working? No computers, no powered farm equipment or transportation or medical devices or anything like that, at all, ever. Disaster. Our society is dependent on these things, and so chaos follows.

Another of the good choices the series made was to set the show about 15 years post-apocalypse. This means we get to skip the really gory and depressing part of the story, where millions and millions of people starve and/or kill each other, and we take up the narrative when things have more or less stabilized.

Another of the good choices was casting Billy Burke (a.k.a "Mustache Dad" from the terrible Twilight series) as one of the main characters. He does a great job playing the world-weary, reluctant hero. Every time he's on the screen, I'm having fun watching the show.

And the best thing the show has done has been to handle its backstory well. They use flashbacks to tell some of what happened in the first few days/months/years post-apocalypse, and they interweave the flashbacks with the current-time narrative in ways that illuminate why the characters are they people they are today. I don't want to get too spoiler-y, but my favorite backstory flashback showed the moment that changed one character enough that he eventually formed a military dictatorship, and it was enlightening and believable and NOT what (or, rather, WHO) I had expected, and I just loved it.

The bad? Well . . . mostly, it's Charlie, the petulant, unreasonable and unreasoning main character. The phrase "too stupid to live" was invented for fictional characters like her. Moments after a gang of thugs attack her and her friends, she's found arguing that her friends shouldn't think the worst of humanity. If her uncle (the aforementioned awesome Billy Burke) saves her life, she yells at him for being too violent. If her uncle shows mercy, she yells at him for being too soft. Nothing any of her friends - all of whom are risking their lives to help her on her mission to save her brother - do is good enough for her. She's pouty and perfect and they all just have to deal.

And . . . the thing is, you could have a character like this and use her well. Self-righteous teenagers are pretty common in real life, after all. But instead of letting her be disillusioned and learn from it, or court disaster and learn wisdom, or anything like that, the narrative seems to insist that we admire her for her pluck.

And, argh. I just can't.

So I watch the show, enjoying its far-fetched premise and rooting for all the secondary characters, and hoping against hope that the writers fix the heroine.

Oh - I said there were two things wrong with the show. The second is that some of the plot twists and setting elements strain my credulity. Where are the characters getting all these new, clean clothes? How is our intrepid band finding food? If society has completely fallen apart, why haven't all of the hard-won women's rights completely disappeared, or at least been significantly damaged? Sans birth control, why aren't there a lot more toddlers running around?

But they address enough of the problems their apocalypse poses that I can pretend to ignore the gaps they missed. I'd like something a bit more consistent, but the show's interesting enough that I'm going to watch it despite the things they've missed.

If you do watch it, I recommend starting at the beginning, and not with the latest episode, because it's not really episodic - the plot builds on previous revelations. Also, because the latest episode was probably my least favorite. ;)  

But, again, only watch it if you're enough of a spec fic fan that you'll enjoy the story despite the frustrations. Because the frustrations? They abound.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Bailey said...

Thanks for putting your finger on what was bothering me. We've been distractedly watching Revolution in renovation-haze so I wasn't paying enough attention, but you said it!

Jessica Snell said...

Thanks, Bailey! Glad I'm not the only one out here enjoying/being-driven-mad-by this show! :D