Revolution Tackles The Onus of Masculinity When Neville And Matheson Meet
By Alex Cranz
I was reluctant to continue recapping Revolution after last week. Killing off the BAMF doctor raised my hackles. Her death felt so perfunctory–her flashbacks far too brazen an attempt at making me feel something to actually get me to care. I found myself watching the episode and failing to find adequate words to describe the tale of a mother who fell victim to depression then took up a surrogate family. There was such a profound hopelessness to her story and the episode around it seemed to do little but wallow in the pathos and show as the wide-eyed insanity this new world had created.
Then I watched “Soul Train,” Giancarlo Esposito’s first big hour and all those misgivings disappeared.
I won’t lie. Kim Raver showing up as his wife who is sweet and pragmatic in the past and…slightly off in the present but rocking a knockout red dress had something to do with it. I’ve always enjoyed Raver but her stint on Grey’s Anatomy ran about two seasons too long and did everything it could to destroy the good will I had for the actress (and the show). Seeing her play a more villainous character, and working with one of my all time favorite actors gets my “joy found in television” motor revving.
And that’s just her as a supporting character! This hour is very much about Esposito’s Captain Neville a man seething with barely contained rage in both the past and present. The blackout may have darkened the streets of this apocalyptic future but its illuminated its various character’s mettle. Some turned to depression after the blackout. Some failed. Neville…Neville is a survivor. And a sociopath just waiting for that switch to be flipped. Civilization was turned off and the darkness he kept within was turned on.
It’s immediately clear why Esposito landed the Neville role. He balances the meek family man with the ultraviolent sociopath and roots out the core of the man in only a few brief scenes. There’s this code of conduct often forced upon men. They most be “strong,” and hardy and one guy must always be better than the others. Men are told to strive to be alpha dog or they’re just not good enough.
In the past Neville wasn’t an alpha dog and that knowledge weighed on him heavily. We see he had a wife and child he loved but he was slapped around at work by a younger boss and his next door neighbor wouldn’t even entertain a conversation with him. His only outlet were violent confrontations with his punching bag.
Then the world shifted and the rules of civilization fell away and Neville found his niche in life and he forced his new philosophy onto his son who grew up to be the irritating militia man Charlie and her gang finally took prisoner last week.
It wasn’t a particularly big surprise they were related. What was a surprise is the barely concealed contempt they have for one another and the very, very awkward family reunion at the train station at the end of the episode. I know we’re supposed to be rooting for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo–I mean Charlie and her uncle, but there’s something extraordinarily compelling about the family that found such power post-blackout and clearly at a cost to their ethics.
However we should hop back to Charlie and her uncle. We’re four episodes in and they’re still waffling on characterization. I get it. Uncle Miles is a devilish rogue with a dark past and an uncanny skill with a machete. He’s fun to watch and fun to root for when he isn’t being purposely dickish. His concern for his family, and his mission, seems to fluctuate at any given point in the day and it never feels like a real man wrestling with new duties as much as writers forcing him into whatever hole they need him to fit.
Charlie, on the other hand, fluctuates between the kickass heroine who makes eye contact with her brother on the train or takes on a militia with a wrist gun and feels almost superheroic and the girl who trails Neville into an abandoned part of town incredibly stupidly. Again it doesn’t feel like a girl learning to be a hero. It feels like a character split in two and compelled less by strong characterization and more by a writer’s pen.
And that shouldn’t be the case. The show has already shown that characters can evolve. Aaron went from goofy and kind of clever in the pilot to a bumbling idiot this week! And Nora finally had one of the most honest moments on the show when she put Charlie’s brother ahead of the rebellion and got stabbed for her trouble. It was an honest and natural progression for the character–as honest as Neville’s from insurance adjuster to monster.
They’re proof that the show can do good. Perhaps the show is just too busy world-building right now to focus on strong characterizations. This week we got our first steam train. Which means steam power. Which means this is a post-apocalyptic steampunk show and that the little medallions that create electricity bring mother flippin’ magic into this world. It’s an incredibly roundabout way to ease an audience into a high fantasy setting but I’m not complaining. This is one point of the show Eric Kripke and company are doing right and I can’t wait to see how it progresses.
- No sign of Grace this week. Word is she’ll be back around episode 7 or 8.
- Kim Raver is signed on as a guest star for multiple episodes this season. Let’s cross our fingers she becomes a regular cast member and doesn’t end up dead. If she ends up dead I will be so irritated.
- Charlie seeing her brother through the door of the train was the first genuine gut punch of emotion the show has done. Would have been nice if the siblings had timed their attack better. Like maybe let her start working on the door before you go tackling dudes?
- Matheson and Monroe continue to have their sexually charged tête-à-tête where they glare intensely at one another and Monroe gets what he wants while Matheson worries about her family. Looking forward to seeing her story expand and her reunion with the son she hasn’t seen in nearly fifteen years.
- Steampunk and magic man. That’s just wild.
- Next Week: We learn where Rachel’s been and Charlie and company look for medicine to help Nora’s gut wound.