It's slick, it's darkish, and it's soapy, but in a good way, much like "Desperate Housewives" in its first season. "Revenge" seemed like a one-note concept, a young woman bent on exacting, well, revenge, for something left unsaid in the lead-in hype. Yawn-inducing posters had the lead, Emily VanCamp, standing in a gorgeous and foreboding dress, looking as though someone told her to be vengeful.
And yet, I'm hooked. "Revenge" is the first new drama to grab me, intriguing enough to have me keeping my season pass for next week. The reason it works is strong writing and good planning.
Many shows employ the overused technique where we start in the climax of the action and then go back some amount of time. While "Breaking Bad," used the technique well, "Ringer" used it to hide structural flaws. A story like "Revenge" is exactly where it works because the background is integral to the plot, and the ending at the beginning leaves room at both ends - the past and the future - for plot development.
The writing on "Revenge" is surprisingly good, offering great characterization without relying on the cliches that happen when trying to establish people quickly. While the privileged residents of the Hamptons could easily have been drawn in broad strokes, we've gotten an idea of each individual's motivations, what drove them in the past, what continues to drive them, and for a show about an overarching desire, motivation is paramount.
Yes, protagonist Emily's planned-out schemes work out with a kind of seamlessness that would never occur in real life, where, if you tried to set the manipulation in motion like an enormous Rube Goldberg contraption made of humans, you'd only get so far as the second transfer before the whole thing fell apart.
But this show is not real life. And that, perhaps, is the reason that it works. In a climate where bad people seem to get away with the most atrocious things, and many of those bad people have the kind of wealth most of us can only imagine on days when the Power Ball jackpot rolls over, a breezy escape to a place where the people who deserve what's coming to them will get theirs is entertaining. Even if we find out, inevitably, that even the evil are more complicated than they seem, and the good are not entirely good.
It is a nighttime soap, after all.
The show's only real problem is the length of time the arc can take, because revenge is built into the title of the show. If the character relents, or completes her mission, it's difficult to see where the story could go.
But that's one of the pluses of this surprise attention-grabber. While the concept and the title make you think that it would all be painfully predictable, they've created something different, something engaging, and something definitely worth watching in a crowded fall schedule. Besides, would want Emily after you for not watching? She doesn't seem to be able to let things go.
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