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Among the more ambitious new dramas headed to primetime this fall is Eric Kripke's and J.J. Abrams' Revolution, a post-apocalyptic story set in a world where all technology has blacked out. From the pilot episode of the series, the backdrop is set for an exciting story and an intriguing mystery. But will the series manage to live up to its potential? That remains to be seen.
Even without knowing the premise or the stars, the names Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and J.J. Abrams (Lost) set the bar high from the start. Those familiar with Supernatural know that family plays a key role in the series, which follows two brothers who battle demons and dark supernatural situations. And Abrams' Lost told the story of a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island. Revolution's set-up has vague similarities with both of those beloved series, in that it focuses on a family living in the aftermath of this world-changing event. The entire country is without power, which means no cars, computers, planes, phones or lights.
What sets Revolution apart from some other relatively recent post-apocalyptic TV shows (Jericho, The Walking Dead) is that, while the pilot begins with the sudden and disastrous blackout, it quickly jumps forward to years-later, taking us into the future where the post-blackout civilization is somewhat established. People are living simpler lives, farming and hunting for food and living in small village-like communities. Areas are governed by local militias, the cities are unsafe, as are the roads, where the threat of being robbed by bandits is one reason to travel in groups.
The story follows Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos), a young woman whose brother Danny (Graham Rogers) is kidnapped by Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), who's taking him to Monroe, the leader of the the area's militia. When her brother is taken, Charlie travels to Chicago to find her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a former U.S. Marine whom she hopes will be able to help her get her brother back. Miles is reluctant to get involved, preferring a low-key existence. But conflict appears to be inevitable from the start, and its evident from the first episode that we're seeing the start of a dangerous and exciting adventure.
The power-less backdrop offers numerous opportunities for Revolution, from the setting, which includes a lot of lush scenery, as everything is overgrown, with cars used as planters and an abandoned ferris wheel serving as a pretty piece of decoration in an otherwise overgrown wooded area. Guns are still used, but so are swords and crossbows. Everyone's improvising in the absence of power, and it makes for a couple of exciting fight sequences in the first episode.
Getting Danny back is where the story begins, but there's also the matter of why the power went out. That mystery is addressed more than once in the episode and may tie directly in with Danny's kidnapping. Unraveling the truth behind the blackout appears to be part of the overall plot of the show, and it could be the thing that drives the story forward, assuming they pace it the right way and they have an actual plan for how to let that story unfold.
Tracy Spiridakos does a fine job of portraying the beautiful and strong-willed Charlie. And as a fan of Giancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad and Once Upon a Time, I'm really excited to see more of him in Revolution. He comes off as a bad guy with a cool head in the first episode, but it's evident he has a boss to answer to, so it's hard to get a good read on what he's all about on a personal level. Meanwhile, Billy Burke, who offers some much-needed comic relief with his dry approach to Bella Swan's dad in the Twilight movies, pulls off the reluctant hero role of Miles really well. Like Esposito's Neville, Miles is something of a mystery, but he proves to be a capable fighter, and he may know something about the blackout, so it'll be interesting to see where his story goes.
Between Abrams and Kripke's involvement, the solid cast and the start of a suspense adventure, Revolution definitely has a lot going for it from the start. But there's always the chance that the plot will get lost as the story progresses, or the dynamic among the characters won't gel. Like Fox's short-lived drama Terra Nova, Revolution is set up in an interesting world where the usual rules of society and day-to-day life don't apply. That in itself should set Revolution up as one of the more interesting and unpredictable series debuting this season. But as Terra Nova proved, an exciting and interesting backdrop doesn't guaranty a winning show. So the jury's still out on Revolution, but I liked the premiere and will tune in for more in the hopes that the drama will live up to its potential.
Revolution premieres Monday, September 17 at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.