TV Review: Revolution

Revolution, NBC’s dystopian adventure drama, premieres tonight at ten. It’s the latest in a long line of attempts to capitalize on the post-Lost market for genre TV. The path is fraught with peril; the past few years are littered with high concept sci-fi mystery stuff (The Event, Flash Forward, and Terra Nova being examples which spring to mind). Revolution has an impressive pedigree, with J.J. Abrams serving as an executive producer and Jon Favreau directing the pilot. But does Revolution have what it takes to become the next Lost? (Or at least the next Fringe?)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Revolution follows what remains of civilization fifteen years after a mysterious blackout causes the permanent loss of all electrical technology. People have adapted by forming small farming communities and militias (sort of like in Jericho, if we’re still talking bygone genre dramas). Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) dreams of seeing the world outside of her village, but when her father is murdered and her brother kidnapped by a militia captain (Giancarlo Esposito), she must find her uncle (Billy Burke), who may hold the key to what turned the lights off a decade and a half ago- and what can turn them back on.

It’s pretty exciting stuff, and the pilot has enough action and character bits to pique my interest. Though creator Eric Kripke is best known for his work on Supernatural, Revolution is very much of the Abrams/Lindelof school of thought: whether the premise and events are grounded and realistic are far less important than the emotions and character stories they allow to unfold. Beyond the physical implausibility of the blackout (which is momentarily addressed and then dismissed), the world seems to be in inconsistent states of decay, with cultural changes such as laws and republics springing up while rubble and overgrowth haven’t been cleared away. But the setting holds some interesting possibilities for world-building, and the swashbuckling, lawless atmosphere is energetic and fun.

The cast seems solid enough too. Spiridakos’ Charlie is sort of a Katniss-lite, though she’s a bit weepy in the premiere. Esposito is probably the stand-out, he brings a dark humor and intensity to a role that could’ve fallen flat otherwise. Zak Orth is fun as a former executive turned schoolteacher, and Burke is both personable and badass as Miles Matheson. Also, David Lyons (THE CAPE of NBC’s mercifully short-lived The Cape) makes an appearance, and it’s good to see him getting work again.

Ultimately time will tell if Revolution is a hit or a dud. There’s a lot of promise in this first episode, but I’ve grown increasingly wary of judging a show, especially a high-concept one like this, off of its premiere, since a number of them seem to wear out the novelty pretty quickly. There are a couple of good twists and reveals in the latter half, but I’d be perfectly fine if it stayed pretty high concept and didn’t get too esoteric. For now, though, Revolution is worth the watch on Mondays at 10.

RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

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