Revenge, Season One (2011)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Writing characters that viewers will actually want to invite into their home on a weekly basis is a tricky business. Ideally, they are imperfect, but strive for self improvement. There is an oh-so-fine line between creating characters who are a little bit naughty and characters to root for, to laugh and cry with. Revenge took a stab at perfecting the former though even in its prism of enchanting darkness, I am not sure we should blindly buy into this scenario. 

Childhood memories are sunny days on the beach for Amanda Clarke. Hers was one anyone may envy. But that was before her father’s former business associates ruined him, before every one of his friends turned against David Clarke (James Tupper). Now, close to twenty years later, Amanda has disappeared. In her place steps Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp).

Wealthy beyond her years, Emily has an unlimited trust fund and is the must-know-new-girl summering at the Hamptons. Renting the elaborate summer home of the recently separated Lydia Davis (Amber Vallenta), Emily falls in love with the home, and despite Lydia’s claim she won’t let her ex sell, her life is ruined when she is caught having an affair with Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny). Married for 25 years to his wife, Victoria (Madeline Stowe), not only are the Grayson's one of the Hampton's most powerful families, Conrad is a successful businessman.

Following last summer’s tragic accident, Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman) has returned. His mother expects her beloved son to keep to his “agreement” (not to drink) while his father wants him to go into the family investment business. It isn’t until Daniel meets Emily that everything changes. What no one knows is that Emily is that forgotten little girl, Amanda, and she is out for revenge on everyone who wronged her father. The one snag in her otherwise perfect plan is Jack (Nick Wechsler), the boy she once loved.

Wow. That was my reaction after watching an entire six-block of episodes of this first season of ABC’s soapy nighttime drama in one sitting. My mother and I were glued to the television, and did not intend to watch more than two episodes, but – much to our shock – we continued to hit “play” after the credits rolled on each episode. The writing is clever as each plot twists and thickens prompting us to discuss where the show was going multiple times though that doesn’t mean this show is for everyone. From a story-telling perspective, this could have been brilliant, and in fact, in more outlets than one, it is. Based off of or perhaps I should say “inspired by” – and loosely at that, the Dumas classic tale of revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo, this Mike Kelley created show had so much going for it.

The first five to eight episodes are structured nearly exactly alike. They spotlight a victim for Emily to target, and along with her trusty red Sharpie marker, she “ruins” them. Amanda believed one thing all her life, only to reinvent herself as Emily when she learns through her father's legacy something very different. Speaking of the characters, there are times when I love the tense romanticism between Emily and Daniel to pieces, but I detest what they ultimately did to Daniel. (Not to mention the rumored season two developments.) There is one moment when we think Emily is about to forget everything and actually live her life but her vendetta has reached it no-turning-back phase by then. Also an interesting character is Nolan. Some fans ship he and Emily, but sorry, no. He is not the romantic match for her. They are better as friends with he being a kind of moral voice of reason, keeping her from reaching insanity.

To be honest, I will say that I found this show fantastically good, judging the mystery, this can hold its own and then some. If you are looking for a narrative that gives its audience warm, fuzzy characters, you'd best look elsewhere but in all other respects, this is a well executed show (especially its beginning). The cast likewise is fabulous and the actress cast as the young Amanda is a perfect choice. I have two people to thank (blame?) for my interest in this show (well… other than ABC’s promo) and they are my aunt and friend. For me, the show was worth seeing because I like a good mystery but I didn’t watch it blind to the misguided themes. I cannot recommend it easily because some Christian’s will likely not appreciate the subject material but if you don’t mind wading through the whole revenge plot, you might find it entertaining. In the end, there is no promise Emily will learn anything – and that is, unarguably a depressing prospect.

CONTENT: There are about half a dozen bedroom scenes [removal of clothing, movement beneath sheets] and passionate kissing. Two characters are bi-sexual, one is homosexual [there are three same sex kisses]. Plenty of references allude to extra-marital affairs [more than one]. There is some immodest clothing. One character is an alcoholic, another a drug addict. A main character is killed off, and four others are murdered. Other scenes involve hand-to-hand combat and people are roughed up [one man is beaten in prison]. Profanity is infrequent but there are a few instances of it. The show is rated TV14.


  1. My mum and and I didn't expect to be so hooked to it either! I don't normally watch these kind of shows, but it's so addictive! Have to agree with your last sentence though - that is kind of a depressing prospect.

    Great review! :)

  2. I think I am going to have to e-mail you about this show, because my thoughts would take up far too much of a comment.

    Suffice it to say, I found this a brilliant piece of television. It definitely has its flaws, and I have a hard time recommending it as well because a lot of the whole revenge theme. Still....I liked it.

    Oh goodness...where do I even start? I also hate what they did to Daniel's character by the end of the show (and yet on the other hand, it did make sense). I hope (and think) that they will keep Emily and Nolan as friends and only friends. It would be terrible if they changed that.

    Honestly, I cannot predict where this series will go. I mean, it has taken so many twists and turns. At least YOU could watch every episode back to back. I was left with my mouth open nearly every week.

    Okay, I will save the rest of my thoughts for an e-mail. And since my own copy of the DVD is on its way ( I just decided to buy it, since I know I will watch it again...would you?) I will do my review/thoughts as well

  3. Wow... I had no idea there was so much smut in this show! I didn't tune in when it started, then fell too far behind to consider catching up. Oh, well. =)

  4. Renu - oddly enough, my mom and I were captivated by this. It is BRILLIANT from a story-telling perspective in that it hooks you from the opening by starting with an event from the middle of the show and going back to the beginning. (I understand that will be S2's start also.)

    My only hope would be that Emily will learn a lesson and Kelley will take his talent and create a new structure for this show because seriously, can this premise go on for multiple seasons? I have my doubts BUT I think Kelley could make it work by tweaking where it is now into an equally riveting plot.

    I am so glad you dropped by, Renu!

    Ella - first off, I would love to chat (email) about our speculation and opinions on Revenge. So please do...

    Okay... this was BRILLIANT! No argument there. The morals are skewed and there is a desolate feeling that Em may not learn anything from all that she unleashed but I loved some of the relationships (i.e., Emily and Daniel and eventually, Emily and Nolan: he is her voice of reason, and she NEEDS that).

    I am so glad you detest what writer's did to Daniel also. I could take the scheming (because I think he did love Em and she had affection for him... not sure if she loved him though) but not the drinking. Viewers do need to see some good in the characters.

    "Honestly, I cannot predict where this series will go."

    Neither can I though that doesn't stop my mom and I from speculating. ;-) Watching the episodes back to back was great and though it will be awful, I'll watch S2 that way also. Believe me, there are lots of things I didn't even touch on in this review because it would have been WAY too long otherwise - as you'll note, I didn't even go into the Amanda/Jack/Emily dynamic or the fabulous finale.


    Yeah... I'd watch it again for sure. As a mystery, this is top-notch stuff. Oooh! Good: I was wondering where your review was. When it goes up, I'll link to it.

    Looking forward to your e-mail. :-)

    (PS: Just watched E1 of 'Once.' Is it okay if I *sequel* with delight!?)

    Charity - if there is one good thing about this show, there is very little profanity. I guess, writer's didn't want to overwhelm us. ;-D

    I thought this was excellent writing... the beginning was well done and it just grew from there. Some of the twists are predictable but some are not and I an SO anxious to read all the spoilers on S2 as it continues to build Emily's plot for revenge.

    Great thoughts everyone! Love your feedback and opinions - thank you again for sharing.


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