The first few minutes of "Revolution" depict a cold, modern world technology. There is a toddler playing around with a tablet device and a young girl is zoned out watching Looney Tunes on an HDTV. The mother tells the young girl that grandma is on her mobile phone, but she is too engaged with Bugs Bunny taking on a Gremlin. Suddenly, dad bursts through the door and the wife instantly knows what’s going on by the look of his face: the end of days. Within minutes, the power is out, cars go dead and planes fall from the sky. It’s not clear exactly what happened, but anything that requires any sort of electric power on Earth is now dead.
15 years later, humans have learned to cope somewhat in a technology-free society. They haven’t quite learned how to recover every surrounding artifact or trim the grass, but they manage to grow their own food and build their own tools. The TV girl, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos), and the tablet toddler, Danny Matheson (Graham Rogers), have grown up and are quite self-sufficient in this new world. It’s amazing despite having lost their mother and Charlie’s asthma. Of course, it wouldn’t be a post-apocalyptic society without cutthroat militia running the show, known as the Monroe Republic. The Matheson kids are soon orphans when their dad is murdered in a scuffle with a militia group headed by Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito). The militia decides to take Danny since the man they wanted, their dad, is now dead. Charlie won’t stand for this and sets off to rescue him with the help of a doctor, Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), and a former Google executive, Aaron (Zak Orth). Though Aaron seems quite cowardly, he plays a big role in that Mr. Matheson had entrusted him with a special locket/USB drive that may hold the key to restoring power.
As the group passes through Chicago, they run across a kind-hearted militia soldier, Nate Walker (J. D. Pardo), and Charlie’s uncle, Miles Matheson (Billy Burke), who runs a tavern. Despite being a former US Marine Corps sergeant with some useful knowledge about the Monroe Republic and the blackout, Miles chooses to spend his time drinking the days away. That is until the militia comes knocking at his door in which case he’s ready for a rousing sword/gun fight. Meanwhile, Danny attempts to escape and ends up making an ally he doesn’t even know about. The episode ends revealing some small secrets about the Republic’s leader and that there may be an underground technology group working against them.
For a pilot episode that’s not the usual chunky two hours were used to for epic science fiction shows, it proceeds at a thrilling pace. The show wastes little time basking in the despair and beauty of a post-apocalyptic society and dives straight into an adventurous tale of a family seeking revenge on a cruel tyrant.
That’s not to say there aren’t some impressive visual shots of decaying cities, but they do a better job acting as establishing shots rather than sweeping long shots. The characters may take a few more episodes to warm up to, considering how many there are, but there is enough backstory and conflict to keep each of them interesting. The crowning achievement of this episode, though, would have to be the brilliant action sequence in Miles’ pad. It’s an exciting brawl involving guns, swords, arrows, crossbows and daggers all within one room.
"Revolution" has all the elements to be a thrilling sci-fi/adventure with its tight writing, detailed characters and delightful action. The whole idea of all the power going out is a pretty big ‘what-if’ premise and the reveal may not be satisfying once it comes along, but the scenario it weaves is certainly entertaining.
The most appealing element to me so far was the characters of Charlie and Danny, two kids who mostly grew up in a world devoid of tech. When we first see them as teenagers, they break into an abandoned RV to scavenge for valuables. Charlie spots a freezer and has a flashback to the night of the blackout when she ate the last ice cream she’d ever taste. Little moments of examination like that are what made the pilot so interesting.
Even with all the special effects, lavish sets and kick-butt fight scenes, it still has the decency to tell a compelling story that doesn’t doddle in whimsy or scale. This is how science fiction on network television should be made.