After a second season which failed to live up to the expectations generated by the smart yet riotously preposterous first, this final episode – shown as a standalone in the UK, as half of a two-hour session in the US – felt like a conscious attempt to reset the clock, by getting rid of unpopular characters and storylines. So the absurd Initiative, international mega-criminals, doesn’t actually exist. But if it does – which it doesn’t – it’s actually Conrad who’s been behind everything. I haven’t yet thought through how much retconning this will require. The concept – creating terror and fear, and profiting from it, has been done before. (And is arguably being done right now, right in front of us.)
In other news, Declan’s (probably) dead; Aidan’s (possibly) dead; I’m assuming Padma is dead as well, notwithstanding the video which fingered Nolan – of all people – as a criminal mastermind. Victoria’s son is in the house, although as we haven’t actually seen his face yet it may be that the part is yet to be cast. And, of course, Emily did what she should have done two seasons ago and admitted her real identity to Jack, thus leaving us with – I’m guessing – a clear good-vs.-evil battle next season, with Conrad lining up against Emily/Amanda and Jack. I think. It was a little rushed.
There’s still much to be said for Revenge – it’s refreshing to watch a show which is actually prepared to kill off some of its characters, as opposed to putting them in the sort of apparent danger from which you know they’re going to escape. Emily and (I hope) Nolan apart, no-one’s entirely safe. This can backfire, of course; I thought there was a bit more life left in Fauxmanda.
On the other hand Padma probably won’t be missed, and turning Nolan into a lovesick puppy perhaps blunted the creativity which gave us cutting-edge devices like the NolPad. (Also to Revenge’s credit: having complained before about shows which refuse to even acknowledge the concept of bisexuality, Nolan’s is accepted without comment.) And right at the top of the list of implausibilities: as yet, no-one in the Grayson family has said “Isn’t it funny how it all started going wrong for us, and people started dying, when that Emily turned up next door? What gives?”
On which note we have to turn off our reveng-ines (© Nolan) and contemplate a second season which, in just about everyone’s estimation, wasn’t anything like as good as the first. To a certain extent Revenge was a victim of its own success: it could reasonably be argued that it would have been best as a thirteen-part series, with targets being red-crossed one by one. But viewers came in, advertisers close behind them, and all of a sudden you’ve go to work out how to make your basic plot last for much longer. The answer – more characters, more plot arcs, more arms and legs.
Revenge isn’t by any means the only show to have grappled with this problem, but perhaps because critics were always a bit sniffy about it in the first place (yes, the dreaded “guilty pleasure” thing, a concept with which I have no truck: like something or don’t like it, but don’t feel the need to punish yourself either way) the backlash was prolonged and protracted. And, for my money, disproportionate; season 2 wasn’t as good as season 1 for sure, but it really wasn’t as bad as some would have you believe. Anyway, creator and showrunner Mike Kelley has been edged out, with current exec producer Sunil Nayar taking over. (Assisted, intriguingly, by Gretchen Berg, who was a character in Heroes. Perhaps Sylar can be drafted in as well.)
But there’s no way Emily’s giving up now, and I’m not planning to either. Apparently we in the UK won’t see season 3 until the New Year, by which time we should have enough of an advance word to let us know whether the revenge-da is back on track.