Tuesday, October 04, 2011

On TV: A Strange World

The best new television show this fall features the following elements:

1) An alien world filled with danger.

2) Beautiful people with tortured pasts.

3) An ever-present threat from an autocratic society.

4) The absolute lack of dinosaurs.

That’s right—this fall’s best new TV show (so far) is ABC’s Revenge.  Set in the Hamptons, it features Emily VanCamp as the radiant and vengeful Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne, and the matriarchal and proud Madeleine Stowe as the primary antagonist, Victoria Grayson.  The set up is thus: Amanda’s dad was a financial wiz who got framed for providing dollars to support a terrorist organization that blew up an airplane.  Amanda grew up without her dad, but believed his innocence.  Dad leaves her notes and clues about who did him in, but begs her not to take revenge; she ignores him and goes about dismantling the lives of all the people who did her and her family wrong.

Stowe is chilling as “Queen Victoria,” the ruler and authority figure of her little world.  Sure, the men make the money, but everyone knows, from the very first minutes of the show, who the real power house is: it’s the Lady.  She is fiercely protective of her clan, and utterly nasty in exiling those who’ve wronged her.  But we see the cost of her power—she is estranged from everyone.  Despite how she rules them, it is a rulership of fear and pressure.

VanCamp’s Emily Thorne evokes Veronica Mars.  She is competent, driven, and a bit ruthless.  The people she’s doing in deserve their fate.  Emily is as chilling as Victoria, in her way—we are left wondering how much of her smile is façade, and how soon that façade will break.

It’s a delicious quandry to be in.

The writing is well done and feels authentic.  The people act like people instead of stupid plot devices.  The world is truly another world, as foreign to me as a jungle full of savage, grunting thunder-lizards.  (Victoria Grayson would rip those mealy-mouthed predators to shreds with a single disapproving glance.)  But nevertheless, it’s a satisfying weekly journey so far. 

If you’re looking for strong characters and an engaging plot, Revenge is a dish you’ll savor.

--Scott M. Roberts

Asst. Editor, IGMS

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