September 05, 2012

TV: Revolution (NBC, Mon 10)

First episode currently available for preview online; premieres September 17.

Revolution comes from J.J. Abrams, which means there's an elaborate backstory to be doled out in little pieces, with a cliffhanger or a plot twist to be dropped at the end of each episode. Given Abrams' track record, it's anyone's guess as to whether the mythology will be compelling enough to hold our attention in the long run, but his shows are usually good for one entertaining season.

We open in the present day, or something close to it. Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) arrives home one evening, looking a bit frantic, and tells his wife Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) that "it's about to happen." He makes a panicked phone call to his brother Miles (Billy Burke), a Marine in South Carolina, and tells him "it's going to go out." The conversation is interrupted by a blackout.

But not just any blackout, mind you. This one takes out electricity, car engines, computers, even batteries -- and they don't come back on. Cut to opening credits and jump forward fifteen years, and the Mathesons are now living in a peaceful little village a few miles outside of Chicago. Their quiet day is interrupted by the arrival of soldiers from the militia of General Monroe, led by Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), who have been searching for the Matheson brothers, and announce that they are taking Ben into custody.

All hell breaks loose, and when it's over, the village is forced to send a search party to Chicago to find Miles. The party is not the usual group of Manly Men we'd expect from this sort of show; instead, it's Ben's 19-year-old daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), the middle-aged town doctor (a woman whose name I never caught), and roly-poly ex-computer geek Aaron (Zak Orth).

There are a lot of mysteries established in the first episode. Do the Matheson brothers know something about what caused the blackout, and maybe even how to end it? Who is General Monroe, and what's his connection to the Mathesons? What's the mysterious pendant that Ben gives to Aaron, saying that it must be kept out of Monroe's hands at all cost?

And in the last five minutes, we get the answer (or at least a piece of it) to one of the questions, and a handful of new plot twists and questions to keep us occupied, and to suggest that there's more to the blackout than meets the eye.

The show will probably fall apart in the second season in a crash the likes of which we haven't seen since Heroes, but there are a lot of fine actors involved (even if you don't recognize some of those names, the faces will probably be familiar), and I've no doubt that they're going into it with at least enough plot figured out to keep it fun for the first season.

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