Revolution, Season 2, Episode 1: “Born in the U.S.A.”
Written by Eric Kripke
Directed by Steve Boyum
Airs Wednesdays at 8 pm (ET) on NBC
Revolution begins its second season in far more promising fashion than it ended its first. As the power ticked back on, the show’s central conceit seemed to evaporate. Thankfully, if we can take Aaron’s word for it, the power is now off for good, and the show is all the stronger for it. This was a completely necessary reset for the show: the Monroe Republic is no more, there’s no grand desire among the core group to restore power, and everyone’s getting back to pre-Surge reality without helicopters and armored cars causing carnage. Monroe’s a bare-knuckle boxer, Charlie seems to be finding herself, the Nevilles are searching for Julia, and everyone else is camped up in a remote Texas stronghold. It’s almost as if the first season never happened, other than the relationships forged between the cast. We hear nothing of the late Danny, for instance.
On a technical level, “Born in The U.S.A.” looks and sounds terrific. There are some gorgeous shots here—the swooping crane shot of Miles in the field and the dancing fireflies spring to mind. The use of music is sublime too, with “Crazy Train” and “Tom Sawyer” (both by non-American bands, hawk-eared viewers may note) ringing timelessly. The one piece of dry, pitch-black humour mentions a 50-something David Schwimmer acting as a marionette and performing classic Friends episodes. It’s a hilarious, almost-throwaway moment, but one which is so very important in establishing this world and the town of New Vegas as a hedonistic haven in the darkness.
There’s one key problem—there’s no overarching direction for the show. Charlie does have a clear goal at the minute, to kill Monroe, but the rest of the gang in Texas are fending off bandits. Neville swearing revenge on the United States government for (apparently) killing his wife is a decent hook, and Giancarlo Esposito expertly wielding an open blade will surely stir glorious, horrible memories among Breaking Bad fans, but none of it feels grand enough to compel viewers to keep watching for the long-term.
That said, there’s just enough mysteries set up to pique interest. We’re left intrigued by the mysterious fireflies and what the crew did to shut down power forever. We want to know the who, what, and why of Miles’ blood-stained hut inferno. Aaron’s death seems fitting, the computer expert who’s inherent usefulness was snuffed out with the machines suffering a moderately shocking death. Yet he spluttered back into life, reborn amid the weird science culture the show’s created over the last dozen or so episodes. “Born in the U.S.A.” is a solid reintroduction to this world, setting up new drama and puzzles well enough to shake off the shackles of a humdrum first season. There’s a great energy and potential back in this show. Now all we need to see is the 100-year-old Siegfried and Roy performing in New Vegas.