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Monday, October 29, 2012

Episode Review & Discussion: 'Sex and Drugs' 1x06

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Review by SpoilerTV


   Revolution episode 1.06, “Sex and Drugs” actually had very little of either. What it did have was another very finely crafted episode. Once again I was impressed by the writing of the episode and how wonderfully sewn together the various story threads were. Tonight’s episode was written by David Rambo and directed by Steve Boyum and both did a spectacular job.

   The episode begins with our small band in trouble as Nora’s stab wound has become infected and she is now dangerously ill, forcing them to appeal to Drexel who turns out to be a psychopathic drug and prostitute dealer who worked for Miles when he was the General of the Militia. Unfortunately, when Miles left the Militia, Drexel was also labeled a traitor, and he turned to growing poppies for heroin and prostituting young girls. Drexel is wonderfully played by Todd Stashwick. Stashwick imbues the character with enough manic energy to keep viewers on the edge of their seats as you’re never quite sure what he will do next. One of the things Revolution has done a good job of is creating complex characters like Drexel. It’s impossible to tell if he was always a psychopath or whether he became one after the blackout due to circumstances of having to survive or being betrayed by Miles and having the Militia turn on him.

   Neville arrives back at basecamp with Danny and hands him over to Sebastian. Sebastian tells Danny he is essentially his honored guest and apologizes for Ben’s death, saying Neville will be dealt with. It’s obvious Sebastian is simply trying to win Danny’s trust, and as soon as he leaves the room, Sebastian cuts off Neville’s apologies and tells him he’s promoting him to major and wants him to take over as head of Intelligence and Interrogations. Neville says that Julia will be happy to have him home more, but it seems that his homelife may not be trouble-free. Given what we know about Neville's backstory, it will be interesting to see what Julia makes of this new position. Neville's journey from the meek insurance salesman before the blackout his current role in the Militia has to have affected Julia's perception of him and their relationship, so I'm curious to see how that will play out. Aaron's story in this episode is also an interesting reflection of Neville's as Aaron moves from passive victim to active participant. Neville apparently embraced the violence, possibly through necessity, while Aaron is clearly still struggling against it. Neville’s relationship with Jason seems to be strained at the very least. He criticizes Jason’s report in front of Sebastian but Sebastian is able to learn from Jason about the pendant that Aaron has. When Sebastian tells Neville to send Strausser after the pendant, Jason is obviously worried about Charlie, and Neville is annoyed with him.

   The two characters to see the most attention and development in this episode were Aaron (Zak Orth) and Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos). Finally! A Charlie episode I liked! Like all psychopaths and bullies, Drexel unerringly hones in on the two weakest links, Charlie and Aaron. They are separated from Nora and Miles who are sent to the basement to see the doctor. Charlie goes to her room and luxuriates in a bath where she symbolically has something of a re-birth. She flashes back to losing her mother, father, and Maggie, emerging from the bath to sit naked on the bed and sift through her Star Wars box of keepsakes. She then starts ripping up the postcards she keeps to help remind her of the world before the blackout – a time of relative innocence and a symbol of hope for her. It's also a nice symbol of her trying to break away from her childhood.

   When Drexel insists that she has to be the one to go kill O’Halloran, Miles tries to protect her, but Charlie insists that she can do it. Miles and Aaron both insist that she shouldn’t do it, but Aaron, in particular, is appalled. The other men that Charlie killed were soldiers and these people are simply innocent. Charlie still insists that she can do it. Even when Drexel punches her for authenticity that he “roughs her up”, Charlie doesn’t cry, but hardens herself to the task at hand. However, when she is actually faced with seeing O’Halloran as a person – she first sees him playing with his grandson, she learns he was a policeman, and then she hears the story of how Drexel killed his daughter – Charlie begins to lose her resolve to kill him. She hesitates in killing him, momentarily losing the advantage and has to brain him unconscious with the kettle before attempting a killing blow. However, before she attempts to kill him, she apologizes. Boyum has some great cuts in this episode and flashing to commercial just as the blade descends, leaves the audience gasping for the seeming loss of Charlie’s innocence. Miles arrives in the nick of time, of course, and stops the blade from making the killing blow. I thought Tracy Spirikados did an excellent job in this episode. She was able to move away from pouty Charlie and start to explore a more mature Charlie who has to start to come to terms with the world that is really out there and to deal with the people in it. Her performance was more nuanced in this episode, and as a result, I felt a lot more sympathy for the character in it.

   The actor that delivered my favorite performance of the episode, however, was Zak Orth. This episode filled in a lot of Aaron’s backstory and also showed his own loss of innocence and a kind of redemption and rebirth for him as well. The flashbacks to the blackout and following year were centered on Aaron. Is anyone else suddenly wary of the flashbacks centering on one of the characters we’ve come to care about since Maggie died? I know I was suddenly very worried about Aaron, especially when Strausser was sent after him to get the pendant – and now that is a worry going forward. That said, the flashbacks helped to provide some great context for the present storyline. We see Aaron and his wife drinking champagne in a limo on the way to their private jet to head off for a romantic weekend when the blackout strikes. Flash forward two months, and Aaron and his wife are not adapting well to their new situation. Wife has contracted dysentery and is in a bad way because of drinking tainted water. They manage to join a group lead by Sean. The next flashback shows them eight months after the blackout being attacked and Sean having to step in to save them as Aaron is simply beat up by the attackers. These leads to Aaron despairing that he can’t do anything to help his wife anymore: he can’t hunt, can’t keep her safe, can’t even build a fire. His wife tries to tell him he’s the only thing that matters to her, but he determines to leave her, so in the night he does the cowardly thing and leaves her his wedding ring and a note telling her she’s better off without him. I’m betting right here that we are going to see his wife again at some point...

   In the present storyline, Aaron really came into his own in this episode and was able to be the courageous one to save the others, not once but twice. Aaron insists that Miles go after Charlie to stop her from losing her innocence entirely and doing something he knows she’ll regret because he really knows her because he has known her since she was a small child. He tells Miles to go after her because she is his family, but he also acknowledges that he’s her family too, once again underscoring Kripke’s continuing focus on the theme of what it takes and means to be “family.” Aaron breaking up his own family by leaving his wife is balanced at the end of the episode by the reuniting of Nora, Charlie, Miles and Aaron and by the reuniting of Rachel and Danny.

   Aaron is also finally able to stand up to and thwart the bully, Drexel. The duel scene is simply a tour de force by Orth. Aaron tells Nora that he’s not going to shoot her and absolves her from guilt by telling her that he wants her to shoot him. Nora, of course, refuses and simply can’t shoot Aaron. This time, Aaron much more meaningfully sacrifices himself to save someone else. Once again, Boyum uses the dramatic cut just after Aaron shoots himself. I have to say that I hadn’t heard that Orth was being written off, so I was looking for a twist, but so soon after Maggie’s death, I was gasping just a little bit.... However, Aaron is ironically saved by his flask and more than that kills Drexel and manages to gain the upper hand on Drexel’s men, freeing both himself and Nora. Personally, I’d love to see more of Stashwick as Drexel and as we didn’t see a lifeless corpse, I’m hoping he may rise from the dead – or not so dead – like all good fictional psychopaths.

   It was nice to see some new facets to our characters in this episode. The action was also once again tightly orchestrated. I love getting to see Billy Burke eat up the scenery during Miles’ fight scenes as he breaks out of Drexel’s and then breaks into the O’Halloran encampment. The hour, once more flew by for me with that great mix of action, flashbacks, and our characters’ current plight. I’m looking forward to next week, and it looks from the previews like we may be starting to get some answers already about why the power went out and what the real significance of the pendants is.

What did you think of the episode? Are you looking forward to next week? Let me know in the comments below and don't forget to rate the Episode "The Children's Crusade".