Monday, November 12, 2012

Episode Review & Discussion: 1x08 "Ties That Bind"



   Tonight’s episode of Revolution, “Ties That Bind”, continued to explore the theme of family. Once again, I really liked the exploration of what it means to be a family, and how the show explored it in several time frames and storylines. The show is also using that theme to illustrate what holds us together as a society, and I’m looking forward to seeing that play out further. Lots of action kept this episode moving, but I did have a few quibbles about some of the story elements.

   The episode focused on Nora, and her backstory was the focus of the flashbacks in the episode. She is, like Charlie, the big sister who stepped up to look after her younger sibling. This goes some way to explaining why Nora has bonded with Charlie and her mission to save Danny. I was really struck – again – by the parallels of these storylines with Kripke’s previous show, Supernatural. That show centers around two brothers, and one brother is charged by his father with looking after the younger one. It’s interesting to see that dynamic played out in this new context, however. In the case of Nora and Mia, they were completely dependent upon each other with one parent dead and the other presumably so. Unlike the brothers in Supernatural, who were very young and had their father to raise them, Nora and Mia are a bit older but completely alone. A quick shout out to the young actors playing young Nora and young Mia who were excellent. And a shout out to casting for finding two actors so believable as young versions of the older actors. We see Nora and Mia in the final flashback vow to look after each other, but obviously, at some point they lose touch. We don’t get to see them move from Texas to the Republic or how they got involved with the Militia – with Nora ending up with the Rebels and Mia bounty-hunting for the Militia, but that may be some backstory they are holding back for later.

   One of the weak links in this story was that I was pretty sure right from the start that Mia was working with Strausser. There were also hints in the dialogue – which were a bit more subtle. At first Mia suggests going to California to get away from Strausser and the Republic, but soon after that she tells Nora that she spent the last year in Texas finding their father, and eventually convinces her to go to Texas. Nora is reluctant to break her promise to Charlie, but Charlie releases her because Mia is her family. This was a nice moment for Charlie in the episode, and shows some character development on her part. She’s still desperate to rescue Danny but is starting to also see the bigger picture for those around her. We also see that there is more between Miles and Nora to be revealed when she kisses him goodbye. It will be interesting to see if they will simply agree to ignore that kiss now that Nora is back with the group.

   In the end, Nora is betrayed by Mia. Nora tells Mia that she would never have lied to her the way Mia lied to her. Mia responds that Nora lied about their mother’s death. In a sense, they were both trying to protect each other. Nora didn’t want to traumatize her young sister about their mother’s death, and Mia was trying to save her sister from Strausser. However, had Mia been honest, a better solution could have been found. In the end, Mia is not happy that Nora is going to choose her friends over her own sister. But Nora’s bonds of loyalty are stronger with her friends at this point.

   Meanwhile, the storyline at the Monroe base camp is also centered around family and loyalty. Neville finds his guards beating Jason and goes to Monroe to find out why. Monroe is strategizing with Colonel Faber who seems to have become closer to him than Neville is. Monroe tells Neville that Jason was caught bribing a stable boy for information on Strausser’s mission. Neville blames the indiscretion on Jason’s weakness for a pretty face – Charlie’s. Monroe is concerned about where Jason’s loyalty lies and is going to have him sent to fight in California. Monroe points out that he could easily have him killed for treason. Neville is fuming but feels helpless to do anything. Julia, however, seems determined to do anything she needs to do to protect her family. Kim Raver is doing a wonderful job as Julia. She was wonderfully creepy as the woman behind the man in this episode. She seems very meek and Stepford wife on the outside but is obviously no stranger to behind the scenes machinations. She feeds Neville the information that leads to Faber being tortured and his son being killed for treason. She also gently grooms Neville for a takeover, soothingly telling him that Sebastian isn’t the man he was and is paranoid and irrational. When she tells Neville that he underestimates himself and could be the man to fill Monroe’s shoes, I immediately thought of Lady Macbeth. I can’t wait to see Raver and Giancarlo Esposito play that out!

   We got very little of Charlie or Rachel in this episode. Monroe does present Rachel with the pendant and tells her she now has everything she needs, but we don’t have much more to go on from this week to draw any further conclusions about what Rachel may be up to than we did last week. We ended with Randall taking Grace to show her the location of the pendants. Wherever they are – it may be an old missile silo? – they have power and multiple banks of working computers that have tracked Ben’s pendant to Philadelphia.There also seem to be pendants elsewhere as well.

   David Meunier continues to do a wonderful job as Sergeant Strausser. His psychopathic soldier is understated and chilling. I loved his declaration that maybe he wasn’t sick but maybe society was before the blackout. Certainly, the show makes us reconsider what is crazy and what society does to us even as it looks at what happens to society when we lose that structure. What are the ties that bind us together then. Is it family or is it loyalty to someone or something else?

   Perhaps my favorite scene in tonight’s episode was the scene between Miles and Strausser. Billy Burke is doing a phenomenal job building this character and adding layers to him. He is one of those actors who can convey a lot of emotion with very little effort. The banter and then the fight between Miles and Strausser was a terrific scene. The episode tonight was written by David Rambo and Melissa Glenn and was directed by Guy Bee. Bee is no stranger to action and delivered great action sequences in addition to the emotional punches. I particularly liked the first flashback which was tightly framed to convey the claustrophobia of the kids under the bed and then Nora’s horror at finding her mother.

   I did say that I was, however, going to quibble about some of tonight’s episode. So much of the scripts and storylines are so intricately crafted, they need to take more time to smooth out the logic. Their escape from the bridge under a hail of bullet fire was ridiculous – someone would have had to have been shot. Ditto, the scene where Miles, Aaron, and Charlie are pinned down. When Strausser is tracking them – in the dark! – he finds something that causes him to stop. Yet as soon as he steps off the road, this legend of a tracker, completely misses them hiding mere feet away. Granted, it may have been part of the plan to simply catch them later, but it seems hard to believe that Strausser wouldn't have taken them earlier if he could have. And then they gallop off again in the dark – there’s no way they would have been able to see anything. Finally, they spend entirely too much time looking for a bridge or ferry when they manage to swim across pretty easily in the end.

   It’s been brought to my attention that we have a mere two episodes left until we are dropped for hiatus: November 26 is the last episode until March 25th. Does this seem like a good idea to anybody? It seems a shame to lose all the momentum the show has built up... On a brighter note, next week’s episode “Kashmir” will see a lifelong dream of Eric Kripke fulfilled when the music of Led Zepplin is featured.

   What did you think of this week’s episode? Looking forward to some Zepp for next week? Who’s shaping up to be your favorite character? Let me know in the comments below.