Being a chubby white guy with long hair and a beard, I know my appearance evokes certain stereotypes. No, I’m not in a metal band. I make and listen to hip-hop mostly. I don’t know who’s got the herb anymore, and yes, I know I look like your friend or ex-boyfriend. However, if the assumption exists that I’m not usually a fan of daytime or nighttime soap operas, the assuming entity would be entirely correct. Apparently, I had a void that only Revenge could fill, but, before watching, I just thought it was a gas pocket.I speak of my unaffectionate love for Revenge, ABC’s “Extremely Wealthy vs. Regular Wealthy” demolition derby of social standards. Backstabbers welcome.
Ensemble dramas are usually difficult to summarize succinctly, but Revenge is fairly simple at its core. Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) is a troubled woman whose father, David (James Tupper), was killed in prison after being falsely accused and convicted for involvement in a terrorist attack. Amanda uses the false name Emily Thorne to blaze her way through the Hamptons, upending the lives of the Grayson family, who are responsible for David’s fate. As popularity-hoarder Victoria Grayson, Madeline Stowe stoically bounces between suspicious and accepting of Emily, as Victoria’s family and public life split into shards and slivers. This is one of the strongest televised female-to-female antagonisms I’ve seen in years, despite there being very little active hostility between the two. It’s all about putting a bitch in her place, whether she knows it or not.
With the technological aid of seemingly ageless software bazillionaire Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann), a close friend of David Clarke, Emily sinks her teeth into all aspects of the Graysons’ lives. She learns of and exploits the infidelities Victoria and husband Conrad (Henry Czemy) keep, all while starting her own relationship with their son Daniel (Josh Bowman). Complicating this courtship are her genuine feelings for bar-owner and childhood friend Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler) and his dog, which used to be her dog. (For a clue on how Jack’s nostalgic mind works, notice his boat is named “Amanda.”) As a side note, Jack’s brother Declan (Connor Paolo) and Charlotte Grayson (Christa E. Allen) also begin dating, further drawing out the differences between the upper and lower communal crusts. Other characters whose impacts are plentiful (and best kept secret) are Lydia (Amber Valetta), Victoria’s BFF, and Tyler (Ashton Holmes), Daniel’s po’ boy Harvard roommate.
While the season starts out as a quasi-procedural, adhering to “Emily screws over so-and-so” plotlines, the characters and their connections are soon fleshed out and all stakes are raised. Far from subtle, Revenge isn’t as over-the-top as I prefer for this genre, but I love that it’s one of the more contextually dark series on the air. Lives and legacies are being ruined, and since the Clarkes’ history is only seen in flashback, we’re forced to rely on Emily’s emotional output to decide where we as viewers stand. Certainly, Victoria played a large part in the degradation of Emily’s life, but what is the story behind Victoria’s decision, and should her entire family have to suffer because of it? Do our mistakes, large as they may be, make us monsters, or is that opinion one only the beholder should have? Granted these questions are mostly answered during dinner parties and ritzy galas that probably cost more than everything I’ll ever own several times over. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, as they say.
Speaking of those parties, I was dumbfounded to learn on the eight-minute feature “At Home in the Hamptons” that almost every location shown on the show is just a set. All of the huge houses and lush garden areas (plus Statue of Liberty ice sculptures) exist in a giant soundstage, with blue sky backgrounds rendered in CGI. It’s both admirable and depressing at the same time.
Though no other extra was as surprising, there is still a good assortment on this five-disc set. “Road Map to Revenge” is your run-of-the-mill look behind the scenes. We also get to meet the cast and creator Mike Kelley. Kelley discusses his love of revenge as a starting off point for storytelling. Everyone loves the idea of the Hamptons’ exclusivity. The bookend to this feature is a lone commentary track for the pilot, where Kelley and VanCamp discuss the actors and the scenes without bogging things down with details or depth. I found it made me crave more. The “Bloopers” extra, for all its cast’s gaffes and goofs, did not make me want more outtakes from this virtually laugh-free series. These characters provoke a yearning for a feature that showcases cast meltdowns of Christian Bale proportions.
A strange, but ultimately fruitful, feature is the “Interview with Nolan Ross,” which I assume was culled from the reporting done around the time of the Grayson’s 25th wedding anniversary. Labeled as “not meant to air,” the chat brings up two interesting points. One, Nolan sidesteps questions about his sexuality. Two, he apparently stole some of the ideas that started up his software company. This information is what causes Nolan to get pissy and end the interview.
These last three, I can do without. There are more than thirty of the most non-essential deleted scenes I’ve seen in a while, but the silver lining is most were under a minute long. “Haute Hamptons: Femme Fatale Fashion” is eight minutes of costume designers talking about fitting outfits to the cast, mostly VanCamp and Stowe. Finally, there are two music videos: the theme, “For You,” by Angus and Julia Stone, and “Distance,” from Christina Perri, which aired during the recap episode. There’s nothing terrible about the songs or videos; I just wasn’t excited by them.
Because repeat viewings of Revenge aren’t the most rewarding, this DVD set is better suited for new viewers who don’t mind paying hefty prices. Pretend I’m your friend that I look like and trust me.
Length: 924 min.
Release Date: 08/21/2012
Starring: Emily VanCamp, Madeline Stowe, Nick Wechsler, Gabriel Mann
Directed by:Sanford Bookstaver, Matt Earl Beesley, Kenneth Fink
Written by:Mike Kelley, Jay Beattie, Dan Dworkin, Joe Fazzio, Nikki Toscano