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Revolution’s New York Premiere Draws Big Crowd, Little Promise

NBC took the premise of its new drama Revolution quite literally when it screened the pilot Tuesday night for a New York audience. The high-concept series, from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams, is set outside of Chicago 15 years after the world’s power sources are mysteriously eliminated in one fell swoop.

The screening took place at New York City’s Pier 57, a large open warehouse perched on the Hudson River. A long line of hopeful audience members queued outside the door, while inside strings of grass, fake torches and open hatches created an overgrown, dystopian feel.

But the star of the show – and the literal translation of its premise – proved to be the numerous stationary bikes lining both sides of the seating area in the middle of the room. Riders in black-and-white Revolution shirts sweated profusely as they pumped the pedals, manually amassing energy for a generator that would power the screening of the pilot episode.

Star Tim Guinee, who plays Ben Matheson – he’s one of the few civilians who holds the key to the secret of the world’s lost energy sources — stood before the crowd for a brief introduction, admitting he signed on to the project because, “Every actor on the planet wants to work with the folks at Bad Robot.” Guinee was referring to Abrams’ production company, responsible for hit TV series like Alias, Lost and Fringe, as well as such major films as Super 8, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, but he was also excited to re-team with Jon Favreau (Guinee played Major Allen in Iron Man and Iron Man 2), who directed the Revolution pilot.

Perhaps calling upon the training he underwent at a survival school to prepare for the role, Guinee helmed one of the stationary bikes to contribute power to the evening’s premiere — a detail not lost on the audience, which applauded him every time he appeared on-screen.

The episode begins with a harried scene featuring the Chicago-based Matheson family — dad Ben, mom Rachel (Lost alum Elizabeth Mitchell) and their young children Charlie and Danny — preparing after Ben rushes into the house to announce an impending blackout. Ben calls his brother Miles (The Twilight Saga’s Billy Burke), an off-duty soldier in his car with a colleague, to warn him. Immediately thereafter, all the power in the city dies. This is without a doubt the most haunting moment in the episode: We see a wide shot of a highway filled with cars behind Miles quiet to a halt as the Chicago cityscape darkens building by building and planes noiselessly fall from the sky, exploding intermittently among the eerie silence.

We’re then treated to a post-blackout world 15 years later, where the Matheson patriarch and his kids live in a self-sufficient cul-de-sac outside the city (we learn that chaos, disease and widespread death reign within the urban landscapes, and most of the inhabitants have escaped to outlying areas). Members of the small communities have learned to hunt, create crop beds from old automobiles, practice herbal medicine and suffer the justice of the Monroe Republic, a regional militia that brands its recruits with an “M” on their wrists, and sends them to collect taxes from local townspeople.

Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is now a beautiful young woman, especially skilled in archery and smothered by her overprotective father and his new wife Maggie (Anna Lise Phillps), brought into the family in the wake of Rachel’s disappearance (and presumed death) into the wilds. Danny (Graham Rogers) suffers from asthma as well as an inflated sense of bravado when it comes to protecting his father from local militia head Captain Neville (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito). A harrowing turn of events at the hands of the militia sends the family away from its idyllic, protected outpost in search of Miles, unlocking hints of Ben’s secret along the way.

Despite the best efforts of Esposito, who valiantly attempts to appear menacing in his role as local justice dispenser, Spiridakos, emoting naivety and budding strength in her coming-of-age arc, and Burke, who’s charged with some pretty potent badassery, the show never quite elevates itself beyond Terra Nova-esque levels. While a few campy audience-pleasing one-liners are strewn about, the sets are quite obviously just that – the lighting is harsh, imparting a low-budget din to even the most CG-mocked post-blackout cityscapes, and the action directing — even at the hands of Favreau — is without much edge or many stakes (especially within its appropriate-for-TV guidelines). The building of mystique and convalescence of numerous plot lines overwhelms any chance at empathizing with the characters – we’re hardly given time to know them among the development frenzy. And it’s tough to imagine the premise carrying enough weight or intrigue beyond a few episodes.

With Abrams producing, it’s possible that Revolution could have legs. One episode certainly isn’t enough to judge by, but the effects, atmosphere and story already hint at a saga that may soon find itself grasping at straws.

Judge for yourself when Revolution premieres Monday, Sept. 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.


  • DebbyS

    Having only the few pictures to go by, I’d say the future looks nice, what with make up and hairdressers for the woman in the cast and nice tough clothing, including boots, for the men (and a low-cut blouse for the woman).  They seem to be quite self sufficient, fresh faced and in good physical shape, not victims of a lack of healthy (or any) food or medicines to ward off even simple illnesses (I’m glad they have herbs). I hope the idea of run-away nuclear power plants is addressed, as without power to pump cooling water through them, such plants can go Fukushima — or would have gone boom within the first days of the “15 years later”. But it’s free entertainment and I really like Fringe.

  • Blah

    “With Abrams producing, it’s possible that Revolution could have legs.”

    Really? Even though he’ll have little to no creative input on the show past the first episode (much like Lost and Fringe), you mention him as a reason why it could have legs and not Eric Kripke, the guy who is actually running the show, whose work on Supernatural should be what would make a person say “it’s possible this could have legs?” Silly.

  • Emma Ross

    All post-apocalyptic shows should pretty much look like “Fallout” in my opinion. From what I’ve seen, the cast all look a little too clean and healthy, like they just stepped out of a salon.

    A grittier show would be better than this glossy crap. Something like a modern-day “Deadwood” where everyone looks unkempt, grubby and exhausted.

  • darthtigris

    Welcome to journalism in the 21 century.

  • darthtigris

    Never ceases to amaze me how eager people are to hate the new sci-fi shows every single season.  Particular when said hate comes from one of the key demographics for these genre shows.

  • Yeqon

    I don’t get it? Unless they explain why nothing with power works I don’t think I can even watch the show since it is a impossible scenario. The premise alone makes me feel too stupid to be believable. I mean if riding a bike works to power a generator why wouldn’t Hoover Dam continue to produce power? 

  • Critical Thought

    Nuclear power plants don’t go BOOM. They can’t. They will literally never explode. That is not how they work. That is not how physics works. That is not how reality works.

  • Joshua

    Whose the dentist in this post apocalyptic future? Their teeth are too nice to be post apocalyptic teeth.

  • sandwich eater

    Maybe when there are some sci-fi shows that look like they could actually be good and don’t have a “low-budget din… without edge or stakes” (from the review) then we’ll actually be excited for a new “sci-fi” show. (I put sci-fi in quotes because until the inevitable technobabble explanation for why the power doesn’t work, the show is fantasy to me.)

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    They just leak radiation into the sky, where it contaminates the water, which condenses and falls back to Earth as rain, which seeps into the ground (and groundwater tables that feed wells) as well as lakes, streams, etc., contaminating them and anything grown using them, effectively sickening and killing anything that feeds or drinks from those sources.
    Much better than a nuclear explosion, eh?

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    Hydroelectric, wind turbine, and fossil-fuel generators should function.
    Anything battery-powered should still work.
    And, anything using human or animal muscle (like bikes) should work fine.
    My impression is that some sort of energy-dampening field is in place, and that the pendants can neutralize it in small areas, as shown in the last scene with the computer functioning (and another computer responding).
    For whatever reason, it doesn’t affect bio-electric (human/animal) generation or everybody would be dead.
    (I know, it’s not really logical, but nobody’s come up with a better explanation AFAIK.)

  •!/ David R. Schmitt

    I was going to skip it anyways, I can’t commit to another 20+ episode show even though I’m losing Fringe and Community this year.  Arrow is the only long series I’m adding on a trial basis.

  • RunnerX13

    Show was all right, but falls into too many pit falls
    that I expected from broadcast.  Everyone is just a little to neat and
    clean looking.  I assume that was just bravado when Esposito said he spent
    weeks wading through dirt and mud looking for Matheson, when his
    clothing were spotless.  And apparently, finding a Matheson brother is
    quite easy, because it took Charlie about
    24 hours.  Also, by the look of Nate’s buzzed hair, he clearly has access
    to electricity. 

  • kalorama

    @Critical Thought: 
    That’s true, but the very premise of the show is based on the idea that the understood laws of physics and reality no longer apply. If that weren’t the case then there’d be nothing stopping them from getting the power plants and engines and whatnot back working after the blackout. But something about the fundamental laws of physics were altered by whatever caused the blackout.