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Monday, October 8, 2012

Episode Review: "The Plague Dogs" 1x04

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Review by SpoilerTV

   The twists keep coming on Revolution, and the series had its first major death this week. This episode of Revolution really felt like the show was hitting its stride. I’m starting to really want to know what’s coming and the pacing of the major story arcs is excellent. The use of flashbacks was particularly well done in this episode. “The Plague Dogs” owes that pacing to writer Anne Cofell Saunders and director Felix Alcala.There are some great parallel scenes and well chosen shots to frame them.

   The episode begins in medias res with Charlie being pursued and captured by a militia soldier. It’s quickly revealed that she’s only acting as bait so Nora and Miles can capture the soldier for news about Danny who, it turns out, is barely a day away at this point. We then cut to Maggie and Aaron who are waiting for the others at the rendezvous point. Maggie is worried.

   We then cut to the first of a number of flashbacks which take up the theme of this episode. The flashbacks centered on mothers this week, and what mothers were willing to do for their kids. Fathers also played a part in the episode though, as families were once again front and center.

   The Maggie flashbacks were particularly poignant. I hadn’t really had a chance to grow very close to the character except to instinctively like her cool competence and to feel a knee jerk reaction to how badly Charlie treated her. The flashbacks made me very sad that we lost this character – it felt like it was much too soon. The first flashback shows Maggie skypeing with her kids. She’s in Seattle getting ready to go out somewhere, and the kids are home in England with their Nanny, wanting Mom to read them some Wizard of Oz when the power goes out. The last thing she says to her kids is “No.” And then the lights go out... and Maggie is thrust into an alternate universe that is devoid of color – or at least has no power. Not surprisingly, her final contact with them increases her guilt at being separated from them.The other flashbacks show how hard she tried to get back to them, walking all the way across the continent and then up and down the Eastern seaboard with no luck at finding a ship. We also learn in this flashback that there are no ships left and why. Either the militia took them or they were destroyed for firewood. The time it takes her to do this and then to wander back to Wisconsin where she finally loses hope and is about to kill herself when Ben finds her, is illustrated by the fact that Charlie is older when Maggie first meets them.

   Perhaps my favorite scene from this episode is Maggie very calmly informing everyone that she has severed an artery and is bleeding out. Anna Lise Phillips gives an excellent performance in this episode, and I’m going to miss the contribution she could have made going forward. Of course, it’s also going to be more difficult for our other survivors without having a doctor at hand in this harsh landscape where tetanus and rabies are death sentences. As she’s dying, despite everyone’s efforts to save her, we see that she still has her copy of The Wizard of Oz. She never truly stopped wishing to go home even though she found a new family in her own version of Oz. Sadly, it takes Maggie’s death for Charlie to realize that she should have been nicer to Maggie. Charlie’s lament that “Everybody leaves me” is echoed in Rachel’s flashbacks.

   We finally get to see at least part of the reason Rachel left and ended up in Sebastian’s custody. The first flashback shows Charlie begging her mother not to leave them and Rachel explaining that she’ll only be gone for a few months. Ben says they need supplies. It’s completely unclear whether Ben knows where she is actually going. That scene ends with a view of Rachel walking away without looking back – seemingly strong and determined to execute her task. The episode revisits this scene later in the episode when it’s revealed that Rachel actually left to meet Miles. The scene intimates that Rachel has made some sort of sacrifice in responding to Miles. Most effectively, we see what this sacrifice has cost Rachel when we are shown the end of the previous scene but from a different angle. This time we see Rachel’s face twisted with emotion, trying not to cry, as she walks away from her family: we see the pain this separation has cost her. The present scenes with Rachel see her being tortured by Sergeant Strauss after she has refused to answer Sebastian’s questions about Ben. It’s unclear whether she doesn’t know the answers or whether she is resisting telling him. He wants to know what Ben was working on when the lights went out, why he was working for the Department of Defense, how he knew the lights were going to go out. Rachel denies knowing more than that he was a simple Algebra teacher. It certainly seems like Rachel has been subjected to torture before, but it seems like the one thing that may cause her to break is bringing her son into the picture. The episode ends with Sebastian threatening to torture Danny when he arrives. The juxtaposition of Sebastian asking “what kind of mother are you” over the shot of her walking away from her young family, her face twisted with emotion was very powerful.

   The episode also examines the strong bond between fathers and children. When Danny and Neville are trapped during the twister (another Wizard of Oz moment!), and the building collapses on Neville, he plays on Danny’s bond with Ben. He asks him what Ben would think of Danny if he just abandons Neville to die. The fact that Danny does save him, goes to prove how wrong Neville was when he said that he was just like Ben. Neville of course proceeds to cuff Danny as soon as he’s free.

   The dog-psycho who captures Charlie has apparently gone crazy as a result of losing his daughter. He tells Charlie that his job was to keep Lyla safe, and he failed to do so. Even though they’d stockpiled medicine, weapons, and supplies, looters captured them and took all their supplies. His daughter died from tetanus after stepping on a nail, and because they’d lost all their medicine he wasn’t able to save her. He is drawn to Charlie because she reminds him of his daughter who was also naive and trusting. Charlie tries to say that people aren’t like the looters as a rule, but he tells her that people have always been like that. Here again we see the theme of people being pushed into doing things they couldn’t imagine by a set of circumstances that seem to give them no choice but to kill or be killed, to take from those that have in order to survive and to keep their own families safe. In the end, Miles and Nate are able to save Charlie by killing the dog-psycho. But the fragility of life in this new and brutal landscape is made clear by both Lyla and Maggie’s deaths.

   I’m enjoying watching Miles’ character develop. He is still resisting getting close to Charlie. He tells Nora that he’s going to leave because even though Charlie is his family, it ‘doesn’t make her his responsibility.’ It takes Maggie to convince him otherwise. However, she presents it so that it’s not doing Charlie any favors. She tells Miles to let Charlie save his life the way Charlie, Danny, and Ben saved hers. It feels much more realistic for Miles to be this conflicted about being reunited with his family, especially now in light of the final scene when Rachel turns herself in to him. I can’t wait to see how this story thread plays out and what happened after that meeting. The Miles we saw last week was determined to be reunited with his family. The Miles in the pilot was hiding from and wanted nothing to do with his family. Is it just a sense of guilt that is keeping Miles from getting close? Does he fear rejection or worse from them?

   This episode opened up a number of questions. Danny is the one to suggest that they need to take cover from the storm and Neville listens to him over his own man who assured him they can make it to the main camp within an hour if they just keep going. Danny asks him if he can’t feel the “shift in the weather.” I was immediately wondering if this meant Danny had some extra sense here. When Neville recaptures Danny, he says to him he had to because “You’re important, kid. More important than you even know.” Anybody else wondering if this importance is more than just using Danny as leverage to get Rachel to talk? I was also wondering about Aaron not wanting to tell the others about the power coming on at Grace’s. Is it just because he doesn’t trust Miles? Or is there more here too? I like that we are getting almost as many questions answered as are asked in each episode.

   What did you think of “The Plague Dogs”? What worked for you and what didn’t? Are you warming up to the characters? Any theories on why the power went out? Sound off in the comments below and don't forget to Rate the Episode!