February 16, 2012

Road To Nowhere

I know a lot of people loved last night's Revenge but it was wholly underwhelming for me and it leaves me wondering if I expect too much from this show.

I watch a lot of TV and many of the shows that I watch now or have watched in the past have set a high bar for telling a complicated story. Some of them have no idea where they're going but they execute the journey so well that, at least for a while, it doesn't matter where we end up because the joy was in getting there (Alias is a great example of this); while others start each journey with a specific destination in mind and meticulously craft every stop along the way which makes for a satisfying sense of completeness in the end (Buffy, The Vampire Diaries, and particularly the first season of Veronica Mars all spring to mind in this category).

When Revenge premiered with a murder I thought for sure the show was in the latter category - when you kick the whole thing off with a bang that tells us what happens in the future, surely you have to know what will transpire to get us there, right? But then the writers admitted to changing the plan mid-stream and I held out hope that they'd manage to move into the former category and piece everything together in a seamless and exciting enough way that I wouldn't care that they'd apparently turned off the GPS and just started driving around the plot aimlessly. Unfortunately for me, if last night's episode was any indication, they no longer know where they want to go or how best to enjoy a meandering journey to nowhere.

It seems as though they originally intended for Daniel to be murdered on the beach and as the show got rolling and the audience liked Daniel and thought Josh Bowman was dreamy the writers decided they couldn't kill off a popular character. But they'd painted themselves into a corner in the premiere - they had to kill someone, it had to be a man and he had to be mistaken for Daniel on the dark beach, and we had to already know who it was so it would be "shocking." Oh yeah, and it couldn't be anyone we saw at the party in the pilot. That literally only left them with one option - they had to kill Tyler. Of course, they'd already sent him to a mental hospital for the criminally insane so they busted him out and brought him back to the Hamptons for 20 minutes so he could be killed off.

That's just...lazy. I understand that sometimes a show realizes after they've started filming that the actor they hired to play the dead guy is pretty great, and it's a real bummer, but no one ever made quality entertainment running their TV show like a junior class election. It can't be a popularity contest. All the shows I named before that I thought spun a complicated narrative into really great entertainment, wrote people off the show no matter how well-liked the actor or character were because that's what the story called for. Alias killed Francie and sent Will into witness protection; Buffy killed Joyce and Tara and gave Oz the boot; Veronica Mars killed Meg. The Revenge story just would have been better if they killed Daniel rather than a character we'd already gotten rid of anyway.

There were certainly things I enjoyed last night and I'm not saying that the show has entirely lost me. Nolan is still a great character and the more he gets to do, the more embroiled he gets in the scheming, the happier I am. And surely I'll never stop loving what a huge Emily/Jack 'shipper he is. Speaking of Jack, I like where they're taking him. It's nice that he's got something to do, something to be suspicious of, something to get angry about. I don't even mind Amanda sticking around if she's there to do more than wear short shorts, thrust her boobs in my face, and be annoying (I'm sure she'll still do all of those things but if she does something useful or interesting at the same time, I'll have an easier time overlooking it). The acting is still good and the camp is still fun but, to really over-use the metaphor I've already exhausted, they need to do some fancy steering and get this car back on the road to somewhere quick because right now it looks a lot more like they're doing drunken donuts on the football field and that's not a show I'm likely to stick around for (see also: Desperate Housewives).

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