Plenty of serialized shows that followed Lost asked big questions and never offered satisfactory answers. Some viewers would even include Lost in this category, although I was thinking of shows such as FlashForward, Invasion, and The Event.
Viewers might get the same vibe from NBC's Revolution (10 p.m. Monday), but with only the pilot to judge, it's too soon to know if the series will flail or fly.
The pilot itself turns out to be a pretty solid hour of television that offers reason to hope the episodes that follow will be as good. We won't know if that turns out to be true for a few months, of course, but Monday's premiere does an excellent job setting up the show's premise, and in several instances it defies TV norms with plot twists that viewers won't see coming.
The story begins on the day of a blackout that not only turns off electricity worldwide but also knocks out engines, causing cars to stop and airplanes to crash to earth. In these early scenes, viewers meet young Charlie Matheson and her parents (played by Tim Guinee and Elizabeth Mitchell). Charlie's father, Ben, seems to have some brief foreknowledge of the outage and tries to contact his brother, Miles (Billy Burke, Twilight), to warn him.
After the blackout hits, the story flash-forwards 15 years. Charlie is now a teenager, played by Tracy Spiridakos, who goes on a quest to save her brother, Danny (Graham Rogers), after he's kidnapped by Capt. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) on orders from a militia leader who has taken control of a portion of the United States.
Charlie -- who carries a bow and arrow, Hunger Games-style -- sets off to find her Uncle Miles in Chicago. Along the way she's almost raped, encounters a potential love interest (or is he?) named Nate (JD Pardo), and gets a lesson in the virtues of a high-tech paycheck from her father's friend, Aaron (Zak Orth), who gives Revolution some lighter moments.
"I had $80 million in the bank and I'd trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin," the former Google employee tells Charlie. "That's toilet paper -- what we used before shrubbery."
Revolution does a nice job of setting up this future, retro-technology world with several nods to our everyday life. Charlie keeps postcards of pristine cities stashed with a nonworking iPod in a Return of the Jedi lunchbox (after the blackout, cities get overgrown with vines and look like an episode of Life After People.) Her post-blackout village, which appears to be a cul-de-sac in a former subdivision, prominently features the shell of a Prius, which gets recycled as a planter.
What viewers might not get a good sense from the Revolution pilot is what the show will be on a week-to-week basis. The village concept is charming and at first it seems like it will be a cool way to explore a post-electricity society, but events transpire that send Charlie on her quest out of the village.
Once it becomes a road show, Revolution begins to feel like a safer, less-gruesome Walking Dead. Then the final scene in the pilot returns to the conspiracy-theory notion and getting answers to the questions: Why did everything stop working? Is it possible to get the lights turned back on?
Whether Revolution provides answers to these questions in a timely manner or falls into the same traps as past serialized genre shows remains to be seen. But the pilot, at least, sets up intriguing possibilities.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette.
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