‘Revolution’ Episode 5 review: ‘Soul Train’

Billy Burke as Miles Matheson and Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Tom Neville in “Revolution.” Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

“Revolution” Soul Train
Season 1 Episode 5
Creator: Eric Kripke
Writer: Paul Grellong
Director: Jon Cassar

“Revolution” finally picks up steam.

Has “Revolution” found a dedicated audience at last? Since its respectable premiere in September, the sci-fi TV drama from creator Eric Kripke had received slipping ratings for each of its following three episodes. However, Monday night’s episode “Soul Train” made a positive gain in ratings this week, jumping to a 3.4 adults 18-49 rating with 8.8 million viewers.

This is excellent news for NBC, who must be thrilled to be able to claim that the network has also won the first three weeks of the broadcast season in the adult demographic.

Viewers also have something to rejoice about. This week’s tight-paced action-packed episode wove together several loose plot threads into a cohesive pattern, and for the first time “Revolution” seems to be finally heading somewhere interesting instead of just spinning its wheels. (At least until the last five minutes, anyway.)

One really annoying ongoing question finally gets answered in this episode. Alternative forms of power do still exist; in fact we see that the Militia has commandeered a working steam engine to haul troops and the captive Danny (Graham Rogers) to Monroe headquarters in Philadelphia.

“Surprise was our only advantage and you threw it away.”

The steam train also provides a very tempting target for the resistance. Nora (Daniella Alonso) locates a local rebel leader and together they decide to blow up the train with a carefully planted bomb, while Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Miles (Billy Burke) hunt for Danny. But Charlie, who is as clueless at recon as she is at keeping her emotions under wraps, is almost immediately spotted and captured by the menacing Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito).

It’s all “knives-to-throats” in this episode! Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie and Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Neville. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

I’m surprised that Miles sent Charlie off on recon when she is obviously so very terrible at being inconspicuous. He has to rescue his niece again, but gets to enjoy some playful banter with Neville before he and Charlie make their escape.

Best laid plans and all that.

The train (and bomb) starts off ahead of schedule and a tense race ensues with Charlie and Miles hoping to get Danny off of the train before it goes boom. Cue the horses, a daring leap aboard the moving train, some more knives-to-throats action, and eventually we get a sort of fight between Neville and Danny, which Charlie joins.

Graham Rogers as Danny in “Revolution.” Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

Hold your horses here! Wouldn’t it have made more tactical sense to have Miles the experienced Marine go off to locate and rescue Danny, while sending Charlie to find the bomb and/or just stop the train?

Miles fights the engineer and chucks the bomb and himself off the train. Meanwhile, Nate (JD Pardo) suddenly pops mid-fight up and grabs Charlie, whom Neville orders eliminated. Instead, Nate disobeys this order and tosses Charlie off the train to safety. Neville is not happy, but doesn’t shoot Nate, as I would have done had I been a vicious, remorseless killer whose orders were disobeyed. That can only mean one thing: Nate must be Neville’s son.

Miles (Billy Burke) jumps from the moving train. Credit: NBC

(I had hoped that either Danny would be rescued or Charlie would be captured allowing the dynamic of the show to evolve a little, but it seems not. We are still in “rescue Danny” mode, which is exactly where we were at the end of episode one!)

Giancarlo Esposito as Tom Neville and Kim Raver as his wife Julia post-blackout. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

Villains are always more interesting than heroes, so it’s surprising that it’s taking an excessively long time to flesh out our villains in “Revolution.” It’s good that Giancarlo Esposito as Neville finally gets a hefty dose of screen time here, and his back-story seems to be by far the best one. While everyone else’s story seems to center on what they’ve lost, Neville’s story is all about what he gained.

“How many times have we had a conversation like this?”

A nebbish in life pre-blackout, Neville was fired from his job for being too softhearted (!) on the day the power went out. The only outlet for his frustration and disappointment was his basement punching bag.

It was the blackout and resulting lawless environment that gave him the freedom to finally stand up for himself. When his thieving next-door neighbor broke into his house, all of Neville’s pent up frustrations poured out in a vicious frenzy, and he beat the man to death with his wife and son watching. This is not a man who is going to give up a hard won taste of power very easily.

Kim Raver as Julia Neville in episode 5 of “Revolution.” Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

At this point, Neville’s family history is far more entertaining than Charlie’s. In the present, when we see the Captain’s wife (Kim Raver) in that red dress striding forward to welcome her husband home, I was left wondering if there isn’t a touch of Lady Macbeth in Mrs. N. Only time will tell.

Blaise Atkinson as Young Jason. Credit: NBC

As for the surprise reveal that Nate is actually Jason, Neville’s son? The actor cast as young Jason is certainly a dead ringer for the grown up Nate. Another win for the casting agents!

Just before the credits Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) spies her son Danny being dragged to headquarters and finally caves in to General Monroe’s pressure to tell him what she knows. We learn there are 12 power amulets in existence. (Discover all 12 and win a prize! So where is the corresponding MacDonald’s peel-and-stick MacGuffin game in the real world, then?)

Things that didn’t work in this episode:

  • Charlie is still crying in every episode. Enough of that, already. Man up, girl.
  • Charlie needs more than a few lessons from Uncle Miles in surveillance.
  • Charlie has to be rescued TWICE by big, strong men. So tired of this!
  • Look, all the things that didn’t work mention Charlie. I don’t know if it’s the writers or the actress, but something isn’t working with her character and needs to be fixed pronto.

Things that did work in this episode:

  • Steam power! Loved the train. Glad they didn’t blow it up in the end.
  • One small step forward for women: female militia members are finally spotted in the background.
  • We discover that the Monroe Republic is just one of several republics in existence, with the Georgia Federation to the south and the Plains Nation to the west. It helps to not feel so alone anymore.

My take: I’d venture to say that this episode is where “Revolution” really should have been by episode three. In my opinion it would have been far better for viewers to have been dropped into the middle of things and not have had to sit through all of the slow as molasses set-up of those first four episodes. Viewers could grasp the mythology of the power blackout simply from the opening credits; they didn’t need four whole episodes to get the idea.

Sci-Fi fans crave action, not exposition, and it follows that less reliance on spelling everything out can only help “Revolution.” This week’s “show me, don’t tell me” approach with flashbacks focusing on the transformation of Neville from mild-mannered insurance adjuster to sadistic militia captain hit just the right balance.


2 Responses to ‘Revolution’ Episode 5 review: ‘Soul Train’

  1. R Smith says:

    I was disappointed after “Plague Dogs,” but “Soul Train” did enough to keep me going. Your point on Neville’s gain (rather than loss) makes me think he’s done more than just adapt to the post-blackout world–some people, like him and his wife, might even prefer it to what they knew before.

    The backstories in general are growing on me. I love when we’re six weeks after the blackout, or eight months, etc.; I’m almost more interested in characters’ immediate responses to the blackout, and how they adjusted in the weeks and months that followed or got caught up in power struggles, than I am in what’s going on 15 years later. Guess that’d be a different show, though. 🙂

    You said in an earlier review you’d be interested to see how maps and mapping become important to the story. Don’t we see more maps in “Soul Train” than any other episode? Is that a cartographer’s shop where Nora finds the local rebel leader?

    • Yes, I was thrilled to see both maps and a train in this episode!

      It certainly could have been a cartographer’s shop, I wasn’t paying close enough attention. All I saw was the fellow printing up “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, since he held the title page up very clearly for the camera, Interesting choice since that novel deals with living in a corrupt society and the search for the Horcruxes (just MacGuffins, really) just like Revolution’s power amulets.

      Frankly, I find the flashbacks far more interesting that the present day story. The present day plot is so clearly laid out for us (the hunt for Danny, Charlie’s coming of age, Miles’ redemption, the overthrow of the evil Monroe, etc.) whereas the flashbacks always show us something new.

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