REVOLUTION: “Soul Train”

“Soul Train” was an episode that was toggled between setting up major character exposition and giving us some action-packed adventure that we’ve gotten used to seeing on this show. Though not quite as strong as last week’s in terms of emotional resonance, it was an episode that (for the most part) worked, largely because of the strength of Giancarlo Esposito’s amazing acting and Elizabeth Mitchell’s ability to ground important scenes with subtle yet poignant emotions.

In an argument between Charlie and Miles, the young girl berates her uncle by calling him out on his harsh attitude and telling him, “you never used to be like this.” It’s a response that sums up a lot of what the consequences of the blackout meant for people of the world, and it was also part of the larger theme of an hour that gave us insight into one of the show’s most interesting characters: Captain Tom Neville. In the past few weeks, we haven’t really gotten much insight into Neville’s character but with the show being in its early stages and the knowledge that a plan to delve into his past was in the works, I never openly expressed frustration with that fact. “Soul Train” finally removed the smoke screen shrouding “the man behind the curtain,” showing us Neville’s life as it existed before and right after the blackout, when he was a mild-mannered insurance agent so quiet and meek he could barely ask the young teenager next door to turn down his music much less admit to his wife Julia (the always wonderful Kim Raver) that he had gotten fired. To see Neville go from someone who was quiet and non-violent to someone who essentially became a killing machine is the kind of transformation that can only come from someone being forced out of their comfort zone. We come to see that Neville’s harsh demeanor and malicious ways were born out of the need to protect the most important thing in his life – his family – and interestingly, it’s the exact same adaptation that Rachel was forced to make when she chose to put her family first. Esposito (whose history of giving nuanced and quietly impressive performances makes him a standout among the cast) was one of the highlights of this episode and it was refreshing to finally get an hour that focused on his story.

In Neville’s past, it’s revealed that a looter (his next door neighbor, Rob) breaks into his house six weeks after the blackout. Neville is at attacked at first and once provoked, eventually fights back, unleashing his pent-up frustration and anger on something more than just a punching bag – much to the chagrin of his wife and son, who view the entire brawl firsthand. It’s interesting to me that we’re shown their first glimpse into the beginning of Neville’s descent into darkness, which makes me curious as to how much do they really know about what he really does. Given the way Julia embraced her husband upon his return to Philadelphia and his obvious relaxed smile, it seems as though she’s unaware of the havoc her husband is spreading across the world 15 years later – or perhaps she does know, and is just entirely good at faking her emotions. Eric Kripke has revealed that this episode was essentially a set-up for Raver’s storyline and that we’ll be seeing more of her character’s background in the coming weeks, so I’m excited to see where this story ends up.

It remains interesting to me how Revolution is choosing to reveal their big hints and mysteries. Given the fact that the show has only been on the air for a little over a month, we’ve actually been clued in to quite a bit of knowledge concerning character relationships as well as the overall blackout mystery itself, which is helping us to build a better relationship with the characters. Along those lines, we’ve been teased for weeks with the fact that “Nate” is not really Nate and in one of the more interesting reveals of the night, we found out that “Nate” is actually Jason – Neville’s son all grown up. It was a twist that suddenly put a character that had almost become non-existent to me back on the map, and I’m throwing kudos to the writers because I honestly didn’t see it coming. Certainly, this changes much about his motivations and his previous actions, and we at least now have an understanding of why he probably saved Charlie in the pilot and why he was tracking the group in the first place.

In the present day, the main storyline centered on Charlie and her crew as they attempted to put Maggie’s death behind them and catch up with Neville. Eventually happening upon the town of Noblesville, they figure out that Neville is commandeering a steam locomotive that will take his team to Philadelphia. While Charlie and Miles attempt to do some recon in order to rescue Danny, Nora goes on a mission of her own – enlisting the help of an old Resistance friend, Hutch (LOST’s Jeff Fahey) in her plan to blow up the train with a homemade bomb (I enjoy the specific pop culture references being dropped on this show: this week’s throwback to popular series “Starsky and Hutch” and of course, Miles’ reference to Stephen King’s The Stand a few weeks ago.) Unfortunately, both are unsuccessful with their missions as Charlie gets herself captured by Neville while Nora plants the bomb on the train only to realize that Danny is on board. For all their differences, it seems both Nora and Charlie are on the same wavelength of acting out irrationally, though at least Nora’s resistance background helps her to be a little more confident in her plans.

Though the train takes off with the bomb intact, Miles and Charlie manage to catch up with it in what I considered to be a pretty impressive scene for network television. Revolution certainly doesn’t play around with the fact that they’re a big show, and the fact that they go out of their way to keep up the quality of action with weekly sequences such as bomb explosions and sword fights is particularly notable.

While I was personally hoping for a mother-son reunion with Danny in this episode, seeing Rachel’s reaction to getting a glimpse of her son for the first time in 15 years almost made up for it. And with maybe seven minutes of total screen time, Mitchell managed to completely hook us into Rachel’s emotions simply by letting her face do the talking – something that she does better at than any other actor I know. Rachel, as usual, remains our weekly puzzle – though we have now figured out that whatever Monroe wants is what she was working on with Ben. Indeed, after being broken down, she confirms that the two were working together on a pendant (such as the one we’ve seen Aaron carrying.) There are 12 such pendants that were made, and all of them together could very well be the start to turning the power back on.

Final Thoughts:

  • If anyone caught it, the book that Hutch pulled out when Nora walked into his store was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I made a note simply because it seemed interesting they would specifically linger on that specific work, and because I know that in a JJ Abrams show, nothing is ever placed somewhere without having a larger purpose. Sure enough, there was a reason that we focused on that particular book as it’s the one where Harry goes on a journey to retrieve the seven horcruxes Voldemort created in order to save the world.
  • Did anyone else get emotional all over again when the group buried Maggie and then left her pack tied around her cross? I said it last week, but I’m really going to miss Anna Lise Phillips and this episode proved just how much she really added to the dynamic of the group when she was around.
  • We now know that there are 12 pendants and between Grace, Aaron and Randall we’ve seen at least three of them. But how did Grace come to own her pendant, and does Rachel know where the others are? Does Miles know about any of them? Essentially how much did Ben tell his wife and family about where these supposed pendants were hidden before the power went out? For sure, these are questions for future episodes, and I’m hoping we’ll get some of them answered as the season progresses.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Share your thoughts!

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