Recap and review of Revenge – Season 2 Episode 10 – Winter Premiere – Power
The second season of Revenge has been something of a mixed bag, in many respects. For every element that added something to each episode, there were at least two that detracted to its flow and its interest. Yet the show, as a whole, still succeeded as a narrative due to the strength of the characters at its center. Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) is still magnetically engaging, and while Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) has taken a bit of a backseat for much of the season, she’s still one of the most compelling figures on the show. Even characters who seemed one-dimensional in the past have been given a surprising infusion of nuance, particularly the Grayson men, Daniel (Josh Bowman) and Conrad (Henry Czerny). This helps in giving the show the kind of momentum it needs to carry through the second half of this season. “Power” is a solid episode that returns the show to form, eschewing much of what didn’t really work about the first half of the season, although one telltale plot refuses to go away. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
For the most part, “Power” is a solid episode for how it sticks to the basics of the narrative: in one of the most heartening developments of the series this season, Emily is back to straight-up revenging, red pen and all. In this scenario, it’s a crooked judge named Robert Barnes, who dismissed evidence of a tainted jury in David Clarke’s trial so that he could have a high-profile case on his trial record. Barnes is in line for a promotion to the US Supreme Court, and so Emily takes advantage of his friendship with the Graysons to get within proximity of his wife, in order to guilt trip her with a letter written to Amanda Clarke, detailing her husband’s ills. The ploy works, Barnes’s wife takes the podium, and reveals her husband’s treachery to the world. In procedural parlance, this is the resolution to the “case of the week”, an investigation carried out to its conclusion by a clever detective figure, in this case Emily Thorne.
Yet this isn’t the full extent of her scheming for the week. Emily and Victoria have a frank discussion about Daniel on the veranda, and it’s like two old battle axes discussing old wars without actually discussing anything related to war at all. It’s what I love about Emily and Victoria’s interactions. They have passive-aggression down pat, with how they smile and play nice with one another, as they often have mutual goals. In this instance, Victoria is intent on getting Daniel and Emily back together, it would seem, as she comes right out and tells Emily that Daniel is still in love with her. The two women agree to work together, for the moment, and it’s Emily who comes up with the scheme to fake a breakup with Aiden (Barry Sloane) so that Daniel will step back into her life. The ploy, which involves Aiden and Emily staging a huge shouting match in a restaurant where Daniel is eating, works like a charm. Daniel believes Emily is available, and it isn’t much longer before he’s all but asking for them to start shacking up again. And so the plot thickens…
Of course, no one appreciates a “fake up” more than Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann, who I still can’t believe is 40 years old), who is having some issues of his own. He former lover/CFO Marco is trying to get back into his life, apologizing for how he acted in the past. Nolan has no interest in hearing all that, as he’s claimed to have fallen for someone else, presumably Padma. However, Nolan has more on his plate than just Marco. Daniel, in his singular-minded desire to find money and other assets in the Grayson Global accounts, gives Nolan complete access to the Grayson intranet, with the task of finding all the money he can. While Nolan is happy to oblige, Daniel is growing more ambitious in his refusal to be pushed out by his father. To this end, Daniel has taken meetings with Helen Crowley of the Americon Initiative, the shadowy consortium that is likely behind every bad thing that ever happened on this show, yet whom we still know distressingly little about. I have to say that I liked the show better before they started implying a broader conspiracy, but I think I’m finally turning the corner on the Initiative, as I see the purpose they serve in the story: providing a singular, unified villain under which all of the chaos of the series can organize. Providing a steady antagonist will serve the show well, particularly if the Initiative proves as compelling as the negotiable, yet vaguely sinister Helen Crowley.
As for what nearly sinks this episode like The Amanda, we have the Porters. I like Jack (Nick Wechsler), I really do. I might even like Declan (Connor Paolo) if you ask me when I’m in the right mood. But I just can’t take this interminable business with the Ryan brothers who are essentially holding their bar hostage. Declan finds cocaine stashed in a sack of coffee beans in the storage room, and Jack utilizes a contact within the police force, an old buddy from high school, to set up an impromptu sting that will bust the Ryan brothers and free the Porters from their menacing ways. Yet the Ryans turn the table on the Porters, stashing the cocaine in The Amanda, which leads to Declan getting busted instead…at least before Jack offers to take the rap. Ten episodes in, and I just can’t get behind anything having to do with the Porters, outside of Jack serving as a vague, distant notion of what a perfect life might be like. She’d probably be wrong in that fantasy, but it’s amusing to me to think that Jack is the one that got away, for her, as I actually imagine Nick Wechsler and Emily VanCamp would have pretty decent chemistry if it ever turned romantic for the characters. But that’s for somewhere down the road. Or not at all.
Revenge is growing more confident in its storytelling approach this season, and that’s a good thing, for the most part. While the business with Jack and Declan continues to sag, the writers are no longer treating the Initiative as anywhere near as vague as they once had been treated. The Initiative has a face and an agenda, and its presence is being felt more from week-to-week, giving a palpable sense of tension and menace, even dread. We might not be entirely sure what they want, beyond controlling whoever’s in control of Grayson Global, but the mere threat of their presence is enough to catalyze the story. If nothing else, they’re going to be creating tension between Emily and Aiden, as Helen Crowley reveals to Aiden that they have his sister, still alive, and that she’s their leverage against him. I suppose we can now expect Emily and Aiden to be pit against one another at some point, as we’re already getting the jealous lover narrative from Aiden, as he isn’t really cottoning to the idea of Emily being with Daniel again. Not really. It should provide some more tension as the show goes forward. As for now, “Power” illustrates exactly that, the shifts in the balance of power, and the lack of equality in its application. It’s an ongoing theme of the series: power is a tenuous thing, lost as easily as it’s gained.