Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp) is new to the Hamptons. She’s met some of her wealthy neighbors, has made a few new friends and seemingly blends into the town. But something is a little odd about a young girl living in a wealthy town all on her own, and the truth is that Emily isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. In fact, this was once her old neighborhood, until something bad happened that ruined her family and their reputation. Now Emily is back, and she’s returned to right some of those wrongs in the best way she knows how – with a vengeance. – ABC
83 out of 100
We were a little nervous about Revenge for a variety of reasons. One, because as good Catholics who actually did pay attention in class, the glorification of revenge itself is unseemly on its face. Second, we just weren’t sure if it was possible for the cute girl-next-door, Emily Van Camp, to effectively pull off this type of character and third, the premise of the “evil wealthy people” has been overplayed since the Greek tragedies. Well, we are pleased to say that those concerns were unwarranted… and that was after one episode.
For us, watching Revenge reminded us very much of watching Damages in that a dramatic event happens in the opening sequence of the pilot (or season premiere) and then we are told the story of the events that led up to the dramatic event as the series progresses. But, Revenge isn’t just about the events over the course of five months from the time Emily moves into the summer house in the Hamptons, it’s about the history that brought her there to begin with and we are smoothly introduced to those events and the targets for her retaliation through a series a flashbacks that effectively weave the tapestry of the story and develop the characters.
The problem with most shows that do this is that they can be a bit confusing and it scares audiences off because of the concern that if they miss an episode they’ll be completely lost. Revenge does not suffer from these issues. The producers seem to have gone out of their way to make the flashbacks that provide much of the exposition not only very easy to follow, but the characters themselves repeatedly refer to the events outside of the flashbacks just to make it that much easier. It all works very well.
This is an amazing cast of characters and actors. Any qualms we had about the notion of revenge itself over forgiveness is quickly quashed as we see how vile and narcissistic these people truly are and how they sociopathically destroyed (and continue to destroy) people’s lives to protect themselves with not only zero regard for their victims, but a sense of entitlement to this type of power. They are truly characters you love to hate. They are above morality and above the law and the writers have made a point to illustrate how this attitude is generational with the children of these socialites who engage in the same behavior, as well.
There’s an interesting scene where the teenage daughter of Victoria (Medeleine Stowe) and Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) goes into the local bar and grill and starts ordering cocktails with her friends and the owner’s younger son refuses to serve them because, of course, they can’t produce ID. Without batting an eye, she says, “Um… we left our ID’s at the beach, BUT… we have plenty of money.” Because, of course, having plenty of money means that not only don’t you have to follow the law, but you can also make other people break the law on your behalf as well. To further drive the point home, the kid tells the young lady, “Sorry, I’m not interested in your money,” to which she replies, “Are you interested in my phone number?” The lesson here is that when the rich and powerful want something and they can’t use money to influence people they’ll go after them at their weakest and most basic level.
And this is why you hate all of them because that little scene is a metaphor for all of these characters and you want all of them to get what’s coming to them and you can allow yourself this guilty pleasure of enjoying what we all at one time or another wished we could do. The best part is that not only does Emily not waste any time in surreptitiously tipping over the dominoes that these people have been unwittingly setting up against themselves for years, but she’s doing it in such a manner that she is having them do it to themselves and destroy their own lives in the process.
The complexities of all of these characters is very well-done. What makes our villains even more vile is that they of course wear the white hats and there are various shades of gray characters that we really don’t know which side they’ll ultimately choose. Our heroes are the least likely to be heroes and they too have their dark sides, as well, which may ultimately be their undoing, in particular Emily whose father’s final wish for her before he died was that she forgive these people for what they have done. Emily makes it very clear that she cannot honor that request and that, of course, like all Greek tragedies and Shakespearean melodramas, can only be a harbinger of bad things to come because make no mistake abut it, Revenge is a morality play and we’re all going to be taught a lesson, one way or another.
Revenge has a lot going for it. We had just a few minor quibbles about the slightly slow pace and the exaggerated and clichéd personalities of some of the characters, but overall, though, we really enjoyed it a lot and we’re hooked already. We only hope that this show’s serial nature, because it is so refined (OK… we’ll say it: dumbed down), actually clicks with general audiences and they give it the numbers it richly deserves.
You can watch new episodes of Revenge, here.