The world’s greatest stories contain a basic core and a malleable surface, transcending temporal restraints so every new generation can find meaning on the new face of an old tale. These stories contain familiar echoes: a call to arms, a gauntlet of challenges, the hubristic stumble and a rise from the ashes. It is with these recognizable beats and magic changes that we are introduced to the image-driven, status-frenzied and unforgiving world of Revenge.
The set-up is quick, opening with a murder and a whirlwind introduction of a suspicious cast of socialites. Each character betrays just enough simple cues to help the audience divine basic, shadowy shapes, before flashing back five months to the arrival of Emily Thorne at her new home in the Hamptons.
“Emily” is, in fact, the vengeful alter ego of Amanda Clark, whose father was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Like Edmond Dantès before her, Emily represents a day of reckoning for the immoral social elite. She has a big bag of money, a penchant for complex social mischief that might leave Rube Goldburg scratching his head and a big red X for all the deserving bitches in town.
Will Emily’s plan for Revenge come to fruition? Will Queen Victoria’s ivory tower come crashing down? Will Rob Pattinson finally forgive Kristen Stewart?
Frankly, I usually only tolerate indulgent examinations of over-privileged people like this for periods of two hours or so, and that’s only because I know that some good-hearted, axe-wielding maniac in a mask will show up and put them out of my misery. Although the anti-heroism in Revenge is not on par with a Breaking Bad or a Dexter, there is a reasonable satisfaction of schadenfreude at play. Our ersatz heroine, injected into high society, acts as a poison to an idyllic world that we can at once drool over and demand be shut down. The battle hymn of the 99% Republic.
And that’s where I find the true joy of this show resides—in the simultaneous celebration and condemnation of money, status and power. Let’s take a wet-mouthed tour of the houses and locales that we, the common ilk of society, would never be able to afford. Let’s send one of our own, gifted with an endless supply of money, resources and a wit sharpened in society’s underbelly, to destroy the wealthy bastards that we hold in jealous contempt, using the only weapons that they truly fear.
Honestly, who cares if she has her own agenda? It’s fun to watch rich assholes squirm.
It’s impossible to miss the visual appeal of Revenge. Minus the soft hues and homey touches of the occasional daddy daydream, or the washed out colors and bad wigs in requisite expository flashbacks, most of this show is shot like a high-end catalog. Scenes open with impossibly appointed static shots of beautiful things draped skillfully throughout model homes. It’s as if every day is a sustained loop of the fifteen minutes following the excited cry of, “Driver, move that bus!”
The first few episodes are a slow-burn of character development, which is unfortunate given the cast of actors. Like the Hampton homes they occupy, these characters are indeed beautiful; but they don’t seem lived in. There are no real standout performances here, and every pretty face seems as if it could be replaced by the next without really missing a beat. But, saying that you watch a show like this for the acting is akin to saying you read Scientific American for the naked pictures.
ABC has successfully redressed The Count of Monte Cristo for the modern taste, much in the same way that a mother might drown their children’s vegetables in cheese to render the meal more palatable. The vitamins and nutrients therein are still present, though. And even if this new generation of revenge-seekers can’t find complete nourishment in its telling, it will keep the story alive long enough for its next iteration.
This release is in Dolby 5.1 surround, so you can really appreciate Madeleine Stowe’s shrill cattiness. Special features include a fake news report about Nolan Ross, a VIP tour of the Hamptons and a blooper reel that, unfortunately, does not include Jackie Chan.