Thursday, September 27, 2012

PFD Television Review: Post-Apocalyptic Revolution Version

I watched the pilot for the series “Revolution”.  I think it is still available to view free on Hulu.  I’m debating as to whether or not I like it. 

There are intriguing elements, at least in the initial effort.  I am reminded a little of S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series, a faint touch of the classic Lucifer’s Hammer, a bit of The Postman, and, oddly enough, Mel Gibson’s revolutionary war piece, The Patriot, but I’m not particularly impressed with the way the pieces are woven together.  And I could not help wondering, as I watched, What would Joss Whedon do with this? 

The premise is that electricity, including batteries, has ceased to work, at least in the entire Western Hemisphere, possibly and most reasonably (not that “reason” applies in television) world-wide.  Cars won’t run – which makes no sense because a very similar reaction, the explosion of gunpowder in a firearm does work.  I suppose one could argue that if electricity were suppressed, you couldn't have a spark jump the gap.  What about diesels?  What about steam engines?  The people seem to be able to start regular fires easily enough.  Some of the characters have black powder muzzle-loading weapons.  I suppose that is because they are relatively low-tech in terms of the steel quality needed.  My grandfather was a blacksmith and could supposedly build a muzzleloader and rifle the barrel.  Useable black powder is a fairly simple chemical compound of sulfur and nitrates and can be manufactured under primitive conditions.  Primers or caps are not so easy, but there are always flintlocks. Sparks?

(I know, I know, stop picking it apart.  It's television, and it is, after all, just as realistic as that show about the gay guys in drag buying shoes in New York.

One of the characters has a modern smokeless, auto-loading handgun – likely an artifact from before the electricity went out.  There is possibly a limited supply of pre-change ammunition to which some have access.  We are told that having a firearm, modern or primitive, is a “hanging offense” for those who are not part of the ruling power’s "militia".  

By the way, "militia" is misused here as it often is.  These units are the standing armies of the warlords.  They are not militias raised from the population of males of military age.  They are supported by taxes -- mostly a percentage of the crops and stock, apparently -- taken from those living in the area under a given warlord's control. 

While teaching children, a character says that physics no longer functions as expected.  I believe his exact quote was that physics went wild.  If that were the case, it went wild in a pretty convenient fashion.  There is a way to get around the failure of electric current using a computer thumb-drive that looks like a locket.  In the opening scene, we see the father of the main protagonist desperately dumping files from a laptop to the thumb-drive.  This quickly becomes the main vector of the plot.  We also learn that this locket is not the only one – that there are other people around who can get electric current to flow again. 

Aside from the ragged logic of the plot, the characters are about what one would expect from a basic action-adventure show.  There’s not a lot of development in the pilot.  Heroes are reluctant.  All the women are strong, and all the men are good-looking – OK, not the amazingly-still-overweight-after-fifteen-years-of-subsistence former Google executive, but most of the rest.  For the women, cosmetics and shampoo seem to still be generally available.  Which is good.  One thing I did like was that they did not have the female protagonist unrealistically kicking male butt in bare-knuckle brawls – not yet, at least.  I like the bows and crossbows and edged weapons, of course.  Archery has picked up in interest in the aftermath of The Hunger Games.  We’re all for that. 

So far I would say I’m neutral on "Revolution".  It’s not a horrifically bad show.  It is not a stunning achievement, either.  Apparently an overall arc of the story is going to be about people who want to restore the good old U.S. of A via a revolution against the warlord-controlled regional "republics".  That might help, but I am skeptical.  The odds are that it will be ham-fistedly mishandled and make a mediocre show much worse.  I ask again, Where is Joss Whedon when you really need him?  Off making an Avengers movie that I am never, most likely, going to see.  It's sad. 

You are not going to learn much in the way of survival skills, real-world preparations, or tactics while watching.  I have my doubts about it lasting very long, but while it does, if it happens to be on, you might find it entertaining.   


  1. I like a good post-apocalyptic story as much as the next guy, maybe more. But you gotta make the science believable. Is that too much to ask? Maybe there is a continuous solar flare or something. That sort of stuff kills it for me.

    Just the other night my wife and I are watching an episode of "Breaking Bad" and a gun dealer is holding up a "Nickel plated brass, hollow point.." something or other. The only problem is, it's brass colored. Well it looked that way to me. It kills the mood, man. I'll wait for your next review of "Revolution". Thanks for doing the heavy lifting for us.

  2. Guns on TV are hilarious. Books, too. There are probably a lot of reasons to hate Dan Brown, but I actually feel sorry for him. My daughter was staying with us a few years back and picked up Brown's first book about computer encryption and the government scanning emails and stuff. She thought it was good, but she reads stuff like John Grisham. Anyway, she told me I'd like it.

    It was quickly apparent that Brown knew nothing about computers. Then he had a bad guy shoot a person in a Catholic church during Mass with a silenced handgun. Nobody noticed. Worse yet, it was the classic "silenced" revolver. So he knows nothing about guns or computers.

    I think Brown was an English Lit instructor or professor at some small college, but that first book -- I haven't read any of his others -- was pretty poorly written apart from the purely annoying stuff. I was surprised at how weak it was.