Recap and review of Revenge – Season 2 Episode 11 – Sabotage
Remember when the big love triangle on Revenge was between Emily (Emily VanCamp), Daniel (Josh Bowman) and Jack (Nick Wechsler)?
Yeah, me either.
Which is not to say that there isn’t mileage to be gotten out of substituting Aiden (Barry Sloane) for Jack in that equation. But for all the bitching I do about the storyline involving the Porters from week-to-week, Jack still feels like a realer, more lived-in character than Aiden…well, until recently. He’s still not a favorite of mine or anything, but I can see why Aiden is a part of the series now, and I can more readily see what he contributes. What initially made Revenge such a good time was the twisted sense of adventure, coupled with the capers and the heist movie atmosphere behind Emily’s “revenge of the week”, and Aiden is one of the catalysts behind the series returning to that conception. He provides Emily with a more physical, active partner-in-crime than Nolan (Gabriel Mann), who still helps them to craft their elaborate schemes. There’s something weirdly exhilarating about the trio standing over a tablet while Nolan explains the plan, the three of them conspiring like some twisted version of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. That’s why “Sabotage” is more fun than it is a drag, as it feels like the series getting back to the basics that made it a hit in the first place. If nothing else, the episode gives way to one of the most absurdly complex, over-the-top schemes Emily and co. have yet attempted, and the fact that it mostly goes off without a hitch only makes it more of a blast.
The big scheme is a bit of theater for the benefit of the Initiative’s Helen Crowley (Wendy Crewson). Aiden has revealed to Emily that Crowley has contacted him, and so they come up with a plan to win him Helen’s trust. To this end, they trick Helen into believing that some secret, shadowy cabal is after her, and take it a step further by having Emily and Nolan “abduct” she and Aiden, tying them up and threatening Helen with violence (cleverly disguising her voice with a modulator). Then, as if trying to direct the next Bourne movie, the plot escalates to where Aiden “escapes” and subdues his and Helen’s captors, stopping her from unmasking the “unconscious” Emily and leading her away to safety while Nolan gives chase, for show. Helen appears to have bought the scheme, and is galvanized into action, believing that the Initiative is being threatened by an outside force, and bringing Aiden into her confidence. It’s one of those sequences that would be ridiculous if the audience wasn’t in on the joke, yet it works because the show lets the audience participate, in a way, by putting them in a position of power over the seemingly-omniscient Helen Crowley, and basically letting them join in the fun at her expense. I love when the show gets self-aware about itself, and this was one of those sequences that was able to couple that sentiment with sly action and story progression.
I’m still iffy, however, on the burgeoning love triangle I mentioned up top, and I feel it’s mostly due to my tendency to read way too much into things. Emily is getting closer to Daniel after he bids a million dollars on her in a charity date auction, and Aiden gets bent out of shape about having kissed Daniel in front of him last week. Simple enough. Yet there are things I dislike about the triangle, even while there are things I do like about it. What I like: the fact that Aiden and Daniel are both equally viable options in a way that Jack never really was, for Emily. At least not at this stage of the game. The love triangle between Emily, Daniel, and Jack didn’t work because we knew that, in order for Emily to be with Jack, she would either have to be with him while continuing to lie about who she really was (and balance that lie with her obvious affection towards him) or reveal her true identity outright. And we knew she was unlikely to do either. Had the triangle been attempted in a later season, it might have been viable, but it was too early in the series to believe that Emily, as we knew her then, would compromise her entire mission in such a fashion. Yet here, she could believably be with Aiden or she could believably be with Daniel, and have neither choice be out of character for Emily, as we know her, although choosing Aiden might make things a little more difficult for her revenge scheme, as Daniel was always her best in-road into the Grayson family. However, it’s still a palpable love triangle with considerable dramatic heft. What I disliked: Aiden’s sense of entitlement felt a bit forced, and I’m not sure that it’s the wisest thing in the world to write Aiden to be so territorial, especially when he’s being presented as an ally to our main protagonist, and someone whom we’re ostensibly expected to trust. This wouldn’t be a problem if we had some tangible sense of who Aiden is, but he’s been such an ill-defined character, until only recently, that making him this combative and possessive could make it hard to form any meaningful sense of attachment to him. Of course, he does have a considerable fanbase online already, so the idea that people could form an attachment to the character, as he is now, isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Especially when he’s pulling off such an admirable James Bond.
Following all the shadowy business tricking Helen Crowley, there’s the least surprising plot twist in the history of plot twists: Padma (Dilshad Vadsaria) isn’t what she says she is. More importantly, she’s a mole for the Initiative, reporting to Helen Crowley directly. She successfully turns Nolan against Marco (E.J. Bonilla), though it’s not like he needed much prodding in that regard, convincing Nolan that his CFO revealed a secretive project to Daniel through an encrypted email. Marco insists that Nolan is making a mistake by dismissing him, yet Marco came off as such a detestable figure that it’s hard to read him as anything other than duplicitous and self-serving. That said, it’ll suck to see Nolan get his heart wrecked again, to say nothing of what Padma will likely do to his finances and his projects, going forward.
As for the Graysons, both Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and Conrad (Henry Czerny) have very different storylines this week. Victoria snuggles up to a wealthy man named Jason (Dylan Walsh), as a means to further her end of helping Daniel and creating trouble for the Initiative. Meanwhile, Conrad is gets into a war of words with Amanda (Margarita Levieva), who enlists the help of Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) in getting Conrad to use his connections to help Jack out. He rails against her for getting Charlotte involved in all her drama, while Amanda reiterates that Victoria had publicly welcomed her into their family. Though it would be all well and good if Conrad’s change had been motivated by an earnest desire to help Charlotte’s sister out of a bind, we know that isn’t really the case, and this is what leads to one of the more surprising developments of the episode: Conrad is running for office. He gets Jack’s bail reduced, perhaps as a means of boosting his political prospects, with Ashley (Ashley Madekwe) as his partner-in-crime on the project. Conrad getting involved in politics is intriguing, even if it springs off of a plot that isn’t: namely, the trouble with the Ryan brothers. Declan (Connor Paolo) attempts to get them to back off. Later, Amanda does the same, going as far as to reach for a gun in her purse after threatening one of the Ryans. While Jack eventually gets out of prison, for now, it’s not without explaining to Declan, off-screen, the truth of why the Ryans are doing this to them. I’m grossly overexaggerating how bad this plot is, as it’s really not anything that’s going to sink the show (even if the flashforward from the premiere suggests that it’s going to sink The Amanda), but it often derails the momentum of any episode unfortunate enough to feature it. That said, it did the least damage this week, since it was more substantially roped into the larger plot of the Hamptons. And even though he can certainly be hateable, Conrad really does make everything more interesting.
“Sabotage” is simply a solid, fun episode of Revenge. We learn plenty that will carry us forward, as the different storylines start to heat up, whether it’s a love triangle, a revenge plot, a betrayal, or a political run. The series is spinning so many plates at once that I often worry about how they’ll carry it off. But this is a show that rarely lets me down. I hope it maintains that tradition.