Revolution Review: Pilot

The pilot has been online for some time, but J.J. Abrams’ new post-apocalyptic show officially premiered last night.

Great visuals. Shame about the show.

Title: Revolution: “Pilot”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Eric Kripke

Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie
Billy Burke as Miles
Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie
Giancarlo Esposito as Capt. Tom Neville
Zak Orth as Aaron
Daniella Alonso as Nora
Tim Guinee as Ben
Graham Rogers as Danny
JD Pardo as Nate Walker
David Lyons as Bass
Maria Howell as Grace
Elizabeth Mitchell as Rachel
Shane Callahan as Jimmy

Full cast and crew information may be found here.


J.J. Abrams’ record with SF has been hit and miss, but he’s made money for the studios and networks, and they see him as someone who understands that SF stuff. So he was clearly the one to bet on when the networks decided to cash in on the post-apocalyptic/dystopian trend….

Oh, the premise of the show.

All power stops, suddenly and completely. This isn’t just the grid failing or oil reserves drying up. Electricity stops working. Batteries and internal combustion no longer function. Physics has gone crazy, says one character.

Fifteen years later, the militia of a temporary government near Chicago arrives at a small village, seeking a man who we know has some inside knowledge about what happened. When he dies, they take his son.

A Rag-tag Band of HeroesTM set out across a Hostile LandscapeTM to find the man’s brother and learn The TruthTM.

High Point

The show’s visual elements look great. We have many Life After Humans-style shots of deteriorating and overgrown buildings, and a great visit to a crumbling Chicago where a wild west ethos spills into the streets. People, doubtless, plant radishes and seed potatoes on the fifteenth green of a forgotten golf course and hunt elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of the Sears Tower.

The frequent fight sequences look pretty good, too. All of these elements, alas, require a better post-apocalyptic show.

Low Points

You can build a show on a premise that makes no scientific sense. The Walking Dead has succeeded by focusing on character and writing, and not devoting too much time addressing how an obviously fantastic situation came about.

Revolution is no Walking Dead. It features mediocre characters and writing, and the mystery behind What Happened has been pushed front and center. Okay, seriously. How can electricity, internal combustion, and batteries of all sorts stop functioning, but natural biochemical processes and guns still work? Not even Fringe‘s Walter could accomplish that. A writer like Robert Charles Wilson might make this fly scientifically. I have lost any faith that Abrams and company can pull it off. Indeed, I harbor serious doubts he even knows what’s on that Holy Grail USB.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 Post-apocalypse has been done to death, from The Last American and The City at the End of Things in the 1800s to Cold War nightmares and the recent explosion in post-apocalyptic, post-collapse literature. This show brings nothing new.

Effects: 6/6

Story: 4/6 The episode features a strong start, and then descends into predictable developments. Particularly eye-rolling is the ease with which our heroes immediately find the guy they’re seeking after they arrive in Chicago. I understand that they want to keep the show fast-paced, but this kind of pacing gives us little chance to appreciate the characters.

Acting: 4/6 Giancarlo Esposito does a good job as the sinister military leader. Many of the minor players distinguish themselves. Why is the main cast so lacking? They’re attractive but uninteresting.

Charlie, of course, is The Hunger Game‘s Katniss, if Katniss were a pouty underwear model. Maggie is our healer, but she and Charlie have issues, so we get conflict within the group. The kidnapped brother seems resourceful, but his role won’t be established until he rejoins the others. Uncle Myles has keen fighting skills and a connection to our enemy. Aaron, a nerdy guy surrounded by kickass fighters, recalls Xander, but he bears the Object of Importance, so he’s also akin to Frodo. Actually, his character shows the greatest potential to have some kind of interesting arc.

Emotional Response: 3/6

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 4/6 Pilots can be rough; the show may improve.

In total, “Revolution: Pilot” receives 27/42

Lingering Questions

1. If you were keeping a hotel building functioning after the apocalypse, wouldn’t you, at some point in fifteen years, move the shattered pillar that’s partially blocking staircase?

2. Aaron complains about the lack of toilet paper, but, looking at these actors. I can only assume shampoo, cosmetics, Laundromats, and hygiene products can still be found in abundance.

3. Dangnabit, why did Neville have to be an Insurance Adjuster in his pre-apocalyptic life? I’m trying to sell a novel right now where the wannabe Evil Overlord is an insurance adjuster.

4. I’m kind of curious as to why the Fellowship of the USB are keeping the secret to reviving the power from others, but I doubt I’ll watch long enough to learn.

6 replies on “Revolution Review: Pilot”

  1. “They’re attractive but uninteresting.”

    And that’s about sums it up. It’s supposedly a post apocalyptic world out there, so surely it ought to be other other way around? I think you were a little over generous with the originality score too – flashbacks, mysterious global cataclysm, some kind of conspiracy and an almost certain lack of a pre-planned story arc? Sounds like the bastard child of Lost and Flash Forward. :)

    I’m also going to give it a couple more episodes in case the pilot is just rough around the edges, as is often the case, but I’m not really expecting to be watching episode #4.

  2. Seriously. In fifteen years you wouldn’t have the level of overgrowth shown in the “After Humans” shots. You would clean up the fallen pillars, which, more than likely, wouldn’t have fallen in the first place. Cities would still function as a place of shelter. Obviously there would have been a lot of death due to food shortages, which would be the biggest challenge. You would build fences around your food. Gunpowder would not be so dear. People know how to make it, and know how to make bullets.
    And the acting…it’s as if the actors themselves can’t believe the piece of shit they’re acting out. J.J. Abrams is NOT the shit.
    A lot of retread memes. I will give it another episode or two. I would bet the network pulls it about then. Even Terra Nova was better.

  3. Seriously? Was someone reading a certain series by Chalker? It is *so* easy to poke all manner of holes in the premise that I don’t think even brilliant character development, production, effects, and acting all combined could allow be suspend my disbelief. I mean, seriously, if gunpowder still works, the physics behind internal combustion must still be functional, for instance. If batteries don’t work, how the blazes are biochemical processes working? Or how is the sun still shining, for that matter?

    The only way this works at all is if everyone suddenly work up in the Matrix and the Matrix suddenly got rewritten. No doubt we’ll soon see a cat walk by twice and guys called Smith turn up.

    Maybe I’ll give this a watch out of morbid curiosity.

  4. The physics leaves a bit to be desired, but I’m hopeful that will be explained. It’s obvious that there are ways around it, as shown at the end. Given the progression of the blackout as shown from space, it started near NYC and spread from there, so the odds of it being natural are low.

    Batteries may not work because they ran out years ago or because they relied on other things (charging, etc) that no longer work for one reason or another. Or perhaps there is some sort of suppression field that’s not only actively suppressing electrical grids but also causing rapid plant growth.

    The amount of overgrowth and flooding did seem a bit excessive, and some things seemed a bit too easy or obvious. I’ll give it a bit longer, but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it.

    My money is on a global warming “cure” gone bad.

    Or maybe Dr. Doofenshmirtz finally made an -inator that worked.

    • The Ultimate Nullifier from Marvel Comics, clearly. That would explain the origin in NYC.

      I tried to hold back, because it is a pilot, but, as I said, the problems go deeper than bad physics. I liked Avengers, and Iron Man and Hulk, among others, present real problems if you apply real-world science to them (Thor gets a dispensation, because I don’t know what the rules are for godlike beings from other dimensions).

      If next week’s ep doesn’t grab me, I doubt I’ll watch another.

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