Revolution, Season 1, Episode 5: “Soul Train”
Written by Paul Grellong
Directed by Jon Cassar
Airs Mondays at 10 pm (ET) on NBC
The strongest episode yet of Revolution isn’t perfect, yet it walks the line between action and exposition more deftly than its predecessors. The action is exciting and engaging, the story moves forward at a solid pace, and the acting kicks up a notch or two with Giancarlo Esposito, who’s given a chance to shine. The train sequence is the clear standout, bringing a thrilling conclusion to the episode as Charlie and Miles attempt to recover Danny. The bomb plot device aside (it achieves nothing other than keeping Miles away from the youngsters’ battle with Tom Neville), it is a strong piece of action-driven television. Jon Cassar was behind many of the strongest episodes of 24 and brings fellow alum Kim Raver along to play Tom Neville’s wife. Her scenes give us one of the episode’s major revelations, with Nate turning out to actually be Neville’s son, Jason. Discovering just how many magic, power-providing pendants are out there gives us a clear direction for the next few episodes.
The flashback scenes are more similar to those seen in Lost than any episode so far, providing an effective backdrop to Neville’s aggression. A mind-numbing ordinary lifestyle driving a man to his darker true self is a well-worn trope, though Esposito plays the abrupt evolution of Neville well and the events make perfect sense given what we see of his background. The Lost ties are further strengthened with the guest appearance of Jeff Fahey as a rebel living close to the Militia train yard. His abrupt departure from his argument with Nora raises questions as to whether we will see him again, with his attack on his fellow rebel making it more difficult for him to continue fighting alongside her. We finally see an on-screen encounter between Neville and Miles (Billy Burke) and it is glorious, if too brief. The major battle is smartly being saved for a ways down the road, but goodness is it fun to see Esposito and Burke verbally, if not physically, spar for the first time.
That’s not to say there are not still problems. Hooking the main plot thread on recovering Danny is weak since he’s not all that significant or sympathetic within the broader narrative. Nora’s sudden change of heart about blowing up the train doesn’t play naturally. For the third time in two episodes, a restrained prisoner is allowed to escape his predicament with relative ease. The man-on-woman violence is almost becoming an unfortunate trend, with Nora becoming the show’s second female stab victim in as many episodes. Her injury is not as severe as that of Maggie, though it underlines the male dominance of the world which these people inhabit.
The gender balance is, at this point, askew. Charlie is forever being told what to do by Miles and has a habit of screwing almost everything up when left to her own devices. She’s drawn as the show’s weakest link; she hinders more than she helps, despite her strong-headed approach to retrieving her brother. Her mother is of course captive, and severe errors in judgement on the part of Nora leave her wounded and of reduced value to the group.
Still, at least if an unscrupulous individual tries to restrain one of the women again, she should have no trouble in escaping.