Revenge – Pilot Review

The concept:

  • Emily Thorne is young, beautiful and rich, she rents out a beach house in the Hamptons.
  • The Grayson family live next door and are extremely rich, powerful and fairly obnoxious.
  • Emily Thorne is also Amanda Clarke whose father worked for the Graysons and lived in the beach house until he was arrested and their lives were destroyed.
  • The Porter family run the financially troubled bar in town, Jack Porter and Amanda Clarke were childhood friends but he doesn’t recognise her.
  • Emily/Amanda is seeking revenge on the Grayson’s and their friends whom she believes betrayed her father.
  • The whole thing starts with a flashforward to three months in the future Emily Thorne is engaged to Daniel Grayson, the oldest son, but he is killed at their engagement party, seemingly shot by Jack.

I’ve spent longer trying to write that blurb than any other in recent memory. That’s not even everything that happened in the pilot, that’s really just what can be extracted from the two minute trailer! Fortunately it’s a lot harder to explain on paper than it seems when you’re actually watching. The pilot is phenomenally well put together, introducing a complicated back (and future) story and a lot of characters each presenting different faces to different groups. The flashes backwards and forward are used sparingly but reasonably well to deliver the exposition in a logical and straightforward way.

Everything about the production is fantastic – it’s well written, directed, cast and acted. It looks beautiful too – it’s nice to see a new location that’s not Miami or California and the windswept Hamptons looks fantastic. BUT, and it’s a really big but, for all that this is technical very well produced, I really didn’t like Revenge, because there is almost no one and no thing to actually like about it. These people are horrible, they’ve got more money than we can comprehend and they’re entirely concerned with petty bickering. The only sympathetic character in the whole thing is Jack Porter who has to give up his dream of joining the Red Cross in Haiti so that his dad’s bar doesn’t get repossessed. When you put that in the middle of the episode everything else is just ridiculous.

The central character of Emily/Amanda is particularly unsympathetic. The flashbacks show that she’s had a really difficult childhood, but they also explain how she ended up with a moderately immense fortune. Instead of embracing her chance at a new life and doing something productive, she’s obsessed with this hatred and desire to seek revenge destroying other people’s lives with gleeful malice. As the trailer says “this is not a story about forgiveness”, but this didn’t feel like juicy entertainment, it felt cruel and sad.

This is an extremely well put together 45 minutes of television, but I just didn’t like it. The trick of showing us where it’s all going to get to and then jumping back to see how it gets there is an old trick but a really solid one. I do find myself intrigued about how it’s all going to play out and how much of what we saw is what it seemed to be. But I just don’t want to spend time with these people who are all so petty, self-centred and filled with hate.

Other reviews – most of which disagree with me
CliqueClack – I am in love with Revenge. I’ll just put that out there right away. In the first hour, we got to know the large cast of characters, the back story, and Emily started her revenge plans without delay. Oh, and there was a murder … well, if he is actually dead. The show covered so much ground, but it never felt like too much as it was well-paced and written.
TV Fanatic – Revenge may not be for everyone. It could be too soapy for some, but I liked how unapologetic this show was about that. This is a continuing drama about sex, lies, greed and revenge. What more do you need to make entertaining TV?


4 thoughts on “Revenge – Pilot Review

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