Reviews

REVOLUTION: “Ties That Bind”

With the exception of Miles and Monroe (and to a larger extent, Rachel and Ben) we’ve cycled through most everyone’s back-story on Revolution so far, learning where they were and who they were prior to the blackout. This week, we were treated to a glimpse of Nora’s history as we explored her relationship with younger sister Mia and why she might have such a close (and complicated) relationship with Miles.

Just after the blackout, the Milita raided Nora’s house, killing her mother while the girls managed to escape by hiding under the bed. Ever the careful big sister, Nora hid their mother’s death from Mia as they traveled to their father’s beach house. They found refuge there…but not their dad (who, to this day, is still missing.) For some of Revolution’s characters, there exists a simple back-story where we’re curious about what happened on a larger scale but it’s not so pressing that we can’t wait a few episodes (or even another full season) to see it explored. But Nora doesn’t fall into that category, and it seems like we barely skimmed the surface on her past history. How did her and her sister get separated in the first place? Is her dad really dead? Or is he in hiding, possibly captured somewhere like Rachel? Did she have some sort of secret affair with Miles? Or was there something more to the relationship that made it more complicated? In a group where most of the characters’ personalities have felt somewhat benign, Nora has always been the more interesting and complex player and I was glad to finally see her take center stage.

Nora’s story was simple, but it was rooted in very real conflict (both sisters lying to each other at different periods of time in order to protect each other) which is perhaps why this episode as a whole worked for me despite the fact that in terms of “meatier” back-story, there wasn’t much to work with. Ultimately, putting the focus on Nora and sidelining Charlie (and by default Miles and Aaron) allowed some of the show’s repeated plotlines to take a backseat which was, in a sense, refreshing. It also allowed us as viewers to understand why Nora has been so sympathetic to Charlie’s plight – she’s not the only one who knows what it’s like to protect a family member, and what it’s like to lose them.

In the present day, Nora and her sister are reunited when the group runs into a band of Milita members including that of Strausser (David Meunier), the only man Miles has apparently ever feared. On the surface, Strausser didn’t seem too different from other villains we’ve encountered so far – same cold stare, same simple “black-and-white” characterization. But what sold me on Strausser more than other adversaries so far (and what made me believe that he did have some history with Miles) was his ruthless nature and the quiet threats that implied you didn’t want to come close to messing with him. It doesn’t hurt that in addition to his looks, Meunier easily sells the idea of being so hardcore that you understand he’s not just here to play a cartoonish villain.

While it’s easy to dismiss characters as “black” or “white” by their actions or chosen sides, Revolution likes to deal a lot more with shades of grey where its players are concerned and I found that the dynamic between Nora and Mia was not unlike the one we’ve been seeing between Rachel and Danny. One could argue that Mia was a traitor for turning on her sister and her friends, stealing the necklace for Strausser and setting them up for an ambush. But in Mia’s eyes, her actions weren’t made to be evil: she was simply keeping up her end of the bargain so that Strausser would allow her and Nora to escape. In the same way, one could argue that Rachel was a traitor for abandoning her children and then seemingly handing herself over to the Milita. But in Rachel’s eyes, her actions weren’t because didn’t care about her family: she was simply trying to protect them in what she believed was the best way possible.

Nora aside, the highlights of “Ties That Bind” for me were the smaller scenes that centered on the B-plot – namely, Neville and Julia’s relationship and Monroe’s growing anxiety over the extent of his control over the Milita. It’s interesting how when the show started, we were introduced to Neville as the “Big Bad,” the leader whom everyone feared and the one that rendered all the control. But after spending a few episodes with Monroe, it’s clear that there’s only one person that’s really in charge of the Milita – and we also see that despite Neville’s steely demeanor, he’s not so tough when standing in front of his boss. His Achilles heel is still his family, and at times, he’s still hampered by the meek part of his personality that haunted him for so long…which is what makes his interactions with Julia all the more interesting. Coming to Neville and claiming she has inside information about the estranged son of one of Monroe’s soldiers being involved in the Resistance, she hopes that she can get her husband to level with Monroe about sparing their son’s life in exchange for tipping him off and getting back in his good graces.

The play is successful and later in the hour, Julia approaches Neville and presents him with the idea of taking the Milita and running it on his own terms. Thus far, we’ve only seen Julia through the eyes of a flashback but in present day, it seems that she’s got some grey in her as well – and a few tricks up her own sleeve. I wouldn’t, in fact, be surprised if the goal of getting her husband into a power position is so that she can exploit it for herself (Kripke had initially mentioned that we would be seeing a bit of how “a submissive woman transformed into Lady Macbeth” and certainly, outfitting the actress in red and giving her a power-hungry, quietly threatening speech left no greater comparison to be made.) The possibility of this conflict coming into play actually points the show in a direction that I think could be extremely interesting, as we’ve come to the point where I personally enjoy being in Philadelphia more than I do any other place on this show (regardless of their screen time, Mitchell, Lyons, Raver and Esposito deliver consistently week after week.) Therefore, I’m excited by the prospect that we might get some real conflict between Neville and Monroe outside of a state room, as well as some possible action from Rachel and Julia. Or maybe I’m just too excited at the thought of the two wives rising up against the Milita for a Revolution of their own (hey, it’s not out of the question – anything can happen!)

Final Thoughts:

  • Given the show’s fondness for throwing famous literary and pop culture references into episodes, I’m quite sure it was intentional that Monroe’s possession of the pendant was almost a distinct parallel to that of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. After getting his hands on the magical ring for the first time, Boromir finds himself transfixed by its power and notes that “it is a strange fate we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.” Given what we learned about the power of the pendants and how together they may be enough to literally power a massive attack, the words may have very well been uttered by Monroe himself as he examined his prize. As a whole, the moment was small, but one I fully appreciated and enjoyed.
  • What exactly was Grace looking at when the episode ended? It seemed to be a room full of electricity, possibly some sort of reactor. Nonetheless, it certainly looked like something that could act as a weapon, just as Miles figured. This all harkens back to last week with Rachel asking Ben if he ever considered what would happen if his invention that seemed so useful was ever exploited. I’m still holding onto my X-Files-ish idea that the government is somehow involved in this entire scheme, and I suppose in the coming episodes we’ll find out just how ruthless the Milita plan to be in their quest to get the power back on.
  • It was refreshing seeing Elizabeth Mitchell’s face for about 45 seconds at the end of the episode, and I’d be a lot more upset about her under usage on this show if last week’s hour hadn’t been so Rachel-centric. Still, with only two episodes left before a four-month hiatus and much to explore with her character (and a possible Charlie/Rachel reunion looming on the horizon), I hope we get to bring her back to the forefront soon.

What did you think of last night’s episode? Sound off below!

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