Revenge, Ep. 1.12, “Infamy”: First, Kill All the Writers…
Cléa Major: With the Tyler storyline wrapped up last week, “Infamy” marked a return to Revenge‘s trusty Ruined-Life-of-the-Week formula, in which we are introduced to the episode’s vengeance target early in the episode, their connection to David Clarke is explained through a series of flashbacks, and Emily devastates them most thoroughly by the end of the hour. Formulaic, yes, but the subject of this week’s life-ruining was exceptionally delightful. Roger Bart plays Mason Treadwell, a simpering and pompous writer of nonfiction, who published a juicy book about Clarke’s crime. In exchange for his packing the book with lies, the Graysons set him on the path to fame and fortune.
Emily vividly remembers Mason interviewing her as a child, promising to use his journalistic chops to get out the truth about her father’s innocence; she also remembers reading the book when it came out, and how it convinced her of her father’s guilt. It’s one of the more upsetting flashback sequences we’ve seen, featuring little Amanda tearfully setting the book down and burning a cherished picture of her father in a wastebasket. Much like her grudge against the evil therapist a few episodes ago, grown up Emily Thorne seems to feel particularly emotional about this target, which gives Emily Van Camp opportunities to flex her acting skills beyond her usual steely stoicism. In one scene, Emily has seemingly set Mason up to expose the truth about Clarke’s innocence, but instead he bows to Victoria’s influence by repeating the lies. Emily predicted the spinelessness, of course–it’s all according to her plan, yet some of her anger at the man’s weakness of character still plays out on her features.
Louis Godfrey: From the moment Mason Treadwell is introduced, he’s the embodiment of every writer’s self-loathing: arrogant, pretentious, effete, and crafter of just God-awful prose (prose which were not dissimilar from the voiceovers that bookend each episode). His appearance struck me as being explicitly modeled on Tom Wolfe, from the white-suit-and-paisley-dress-shirt getups, to the slobbering infatuation with the rich and powerful. He is a great creation because he is clearly the show’s writers exploring every writer’s favorite subject–other writers. There are all kinds of cheeky allusions sprinkled throughout the episode, my favorite being Mason making a pass at Nolan by showing off his typewriter, formerly owned by the great gay chronicler of the duality between public facades and personal corruption, John Cheever.
As for the significance of this act of vengeance for Emily, I totally agree with you. Previous marks helped ruin David Clarke and lock him away for the rest of his life, but Mason did something far worse: he made the world, including Emily, believe that he was guilty. I also thought it was fitting that when Emily did go after him, she didn’t ruin him socially or financially, but rather she destroyed his work – specifically his single copy of his cherished, incomplete memoirs – which was a much more crushing blow.
CM: Yes, and she did it in the most dramatic way possible, by using the manuscript to kickstart a little light arson, so that when he came back from an (awfully date-like) interview with Nolan, his home was a-blaze. We get to see Mason weeping on his knees as Nolan looks on with disgust, and it’s all deliciously satisfying.
But that’s not all: before Emily started the fire, she stole the interview tapes that Mason used to write his book on David Clarke. This leads to the bomb dropped at the very end of the episode, when Emily watches a tape of her father telling Mason that he can prove the truth of his affair with Victoria because he, rather than Conrad, is Charlotte Grayson’s father. Not at all surprising, but I appreciate the classically soapy twist, and maybe it will help Charlotte’s future screentime be less of a snoozefest.
As for the supporting characters, Daniel continues to offer up his services as a pawn to anyone in need of one; he’s particularly stupid this week, not even questioning Emily’s moral objection to living together before marriage–which is pretty weird when you consider that not only have they been having pre-marital sex on the regular, he’s also been crashing on her couch for quite a while now. Amanda and Jack’s relationship seems to get rocky when Amanda creates a rowdy atmosphere in his bar (including a makeout session with a girl, of course), but then he mans up and decides that if Amanda wants him to get more impulsive, maybe that’ll be good for him. It’s all kind of bittersweet, considering that I strongly suspect that Emily is setting Amanda up for a fall soon.
As for Nolan, he and Emily seem to be chummier than ever, as she’s treating him more and more like a friend and accomplice, rather than just a tool to use. One of my favorite bits of the episode was Nolan failing it up at the shooting range with her. Writers, take note: next week I want a lengthy montage of Emily teaching him how to use various kinds of weaponry.
LG: They may just oblige! And you left out the latest twist in Daniel’s pawn-hood–he can only access his trust (and thus help his mother take control of his father’s compan) when he turns 30, or, gasp, gets married! I don’t know where the lawyers on this show came from, but between that clause and the Grayson pre-nup being dissolved because of Victoria’s pregnancy-induced duress, it sounds like they are partners at the firm of Brontë, Brontë & Brontë. We know this is all heading towards Emily and Daniel’s engagement party, it just remains to be seen who will push Daniel into marriage first – Emily or Victoria.
As for the Charlotte revelation, it was about damn time. I can’t take another week of her and Declan doing the rich-girl/poor-boy thing. I don’t go to Revenge for insightful class critiques, but those scenes are just so tired.
And yes, Emily is definitely setting up Amanda to take the fall – she gave Amanda her lighter, coached her to show it off when she met with Mason, and then left the lighter at the scene after setting Mason’s house on fire. It is almost unbearably cruel how Emily manipulates Amanda, especially after their touching toast to “the girls of Cell Block D.” That said, the best laid plans never go as, um, planned in the Hamptons. Until next week…
Louis Godfrey and Cléa Major