From creator Eric Kripke and omnipresent executive producer JJ Abrams comes a new dramatic sci-fi/survivalist series entitled Revolution, premiering September 17 on NBC. For those who aren't familiar with the premise, imagine it's an average night at home: your kids are zoning out in front of the television while you're chatting or texting away on your cell phone or surfing the internet. Maybe you're listening to your iPod or going for a drive. Suddenly, everything stops working. Your house goes dark, all electrical devices shut off, your car screeches to a halt, and if you're unlucky enough to be in an airplane, you're about to die.
This is the concept behind Revolution and it is established effectively from the beginning. The first couple of minutes convey the feeling of such a monumental event, as pilot director Jon Favreau—working from Kripke's script—goes out of his way to show how reliant our society is on technology. This is a bit heavy-handed, but it's not untrue or exaggerated by any means. The younger generation is seemingly born with a cell phone in hand and would be lost without technology. It would have been interesting to see teenagers reacting to the sudden absence of social media and how they would handle losing it, but surprisingly the show skips ahead 15 years to continue its story. However, the fast-forward works in Revolution's favor as we see how society has tried to rebuild itself.
In numerous movies, video games, and TV shows, we have seen society collapse and crumble amidst extraordinary circumstances. Massive climate change, meteors crashing from space, nuclear warfare, worldwide pandemic, plagues of flesh-eating zombies - we've seen them all wreak havoc on this little blue planet we call home. Much like the short-lived CBS post-apocalyptic drama Jericho, Revolution would rather focus on how the human race evolved in the years following the disaster. But unlike Jericho, Revolution is grittier and more realistic, not afraid to spill some blood and get a little nasty. There is a near-rape attempt foiled by poisoned whiskey that ends with the would-be rapists spitting up blood, and the two main battle scenes are surprisingly violent for network television. While there is a focus on family, it isn't of the "Hallmark Movie of the Week" variety that Jericho often depicted. Having lost both parents and seeing her brother taken prisoner by the militia, Charlotte "Charlie" Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) tracks down an uncle she has never met to help rescue her brother, but also because she is desperate for family and a reason to keep going.
The small "villages" of people living in their old neighborhoods, swordfights and crossbows factoring heavily in combat, and the overarching Republic government that collects taxes and controls its own militia gives Revolution a neo-medieval flavor, reminiscent of HBO's Game of Thrones. The survivalist aspect of the show is handled well in the pilot episode, reminding me of the atmosphere of AMC's The Walking Dead, just without any zombies. The human drama is the heart of the show, and seeing Charlie's collection of postcards from the "old world" and the flashbacks of her last tub of ice cream as a kid makes you think of the things you'd miss. In addition, there's enough mystery surrounding the cause of the blackout and the flashdrives that can apparently restore electricity to keep viewers plugged in to find out the answers. The premiere episode of Revolution is a rare case of a program that lives up to the hype.
FINAL GRADE: B+