Recap and review of Revenge – Season 2 Episode 6 – Illusion
Revenge has thrown down the gauntlet where scheming is concerned. Emily (Emily VanCamp) has played her share of chess before, but her machinations this week are positively inspired. There’s something to be said for getting the groom at a sham wedding arrested at the sham reception by framing him for a murder he didn’t commit. It’s a small miracle that the plot didn’t unravel spectacularly mere moments after it was conceived. Emily has come quite a long way, and has really grown into this whole “revenging” thing. In that sense, the title “Illusion” tells us all we need to know about our little schemer. The persona she presents to the world, an illusion in itself, is as intricate as it is ephemeral, and it seems she’s going to have to do a lot more work towards its upkeep if Mason Treadwell (Roger Bart) has anything to say about it.
As always in the Hamptons, it’s a big-ass party, with Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and Conrad (Henry Czerny) tying the knot once more. Conrad claims that he wants it to be an intimate affair of only a hundred or so guests, but he goes out of his way to invite Aiden (Barry Sloane), who asks if he can invite a date, and we all know good and well who he plans on taking with, though not even I was expecting Emily to look as stunning as she did. Holy hell, Emily VanCamp is lovely beyond what could reasonably be expected of network television. So it’s really no surprise that Daniel (Josh Bowman) tosses out the possibility of their getting back together, and Emily stringing those hopes along, though whether it’s toward some mysterious scheme-based purpose or out of the realization that she can never have Jack now, remains to be seen. Besides, she doesn’t really have time to think of romance when she’s taken dead bodies out of the freezer to stage a fake crime scene.
Gordon Murphy (James Morrison), who Emily learned was the husband of her mother, Kara (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is unaccounted for by the public, at large. And so she enacts a scheme in which Amanda (Margarita Levieva) approaches Mason Treadwell with information concerning the business relationship between Murphy and Conrad. Mason naturally sets out to investigate at Murphy’s home, where he discovers the planted corpse, along with cufflinks implicating Conrad in Murphy’s murder. Conrad is arrested, but is able to secure his bail by making a deal with the Americon Initiative, which has been looming in the background of everything so far this season. Though I’m incredibly leery of the introduction of an overarching mythology, via some vague, shadowy organization, I’m intrigued to see how the Initiative fits into the overall story being told, particularly since we have so many disparate elements at play.
For instance, we have:
-Emily’s attempts to bring down the Graysons and avenge her father’s imprisonment and murder.
-That Kenny Ryan guy’s attempts to turn the Porters to embrace lawbreaking, for some reason.
-Padma (Dilshad Vadsaria), who seems to have an agenda of her own, making an inquiry into David Clarke’s employment records.
-Aiden’s attempts to keep Emily on track towards revenge, a motive I don’t buy for one second.
-What Kara intends to do with her suspicion that the Graysons killed both her husbands (David and Gordon).
-The financial status of Nolan’s company.
-Daniel’s ambitions, and his relationship with Ashley (Ashley Madekwe), who has social aspirations of her own.
-Jack and Amanda’s wedding.
There’s a LOT going on in any one episode, much less an episode with a scheme as complex as this one. “Illusion” also provides the revelation of Mason Treadwell seemingly piecing together that Emily Thorne = Amanda Clarke, all off of Victoria telling Mason that Emily Thorne spent time in a juvenile detention center. The mind reels at where the story could go from here: does he blackmail Emily? Does Emily finally get her hands dirty and kill someone herself? Does she get someone else to do it? Or does she make some kind of deal with Treadwell to keep his mouth shut? We’ll more than likely get out answer next week, but it should be a fun seven days of theorizing.
As for the outlying plots, it’s really, really hard to give even half a damn about the Porters. Jack (Nick Wechsler) is a perfectly fine chap and all, but it’s hard to see how anything he does is important. He’s there simply to act as a MacGuffin, an object for Amanda to swoon over and give her a sense of purpose, a light at the end of the tunnel. Between Jack and her newborn son, Amanda can actually say she has a family now, as she does throughout the episode, particularly when she tells Emily that if Mason Treadwell threatens “my family” again, she’s going to handle things her way. Jack, for his part, decides to take a more substantial step towards making an honest woman out of Amanda, proposing to her aboard The Amanda in a moment that’s cloyingly sweet, but still works due to our investment in Jack’s happiness (because Sad-Sack Jack benefits nobody, whereas at least Lovably Gullible, Do The Right Thing Jack is pleasant to be around). Looks like we have another wedding on tap, and Declan (Connor Paolo) and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) look to be getting back together, but you’d probably have to pay me upwards of six figures to get me to care about that particular development.
All the pieces are set, and it’s only a matter of time now before the game changes in a more substantial way. “Illusion” is a decent episode of Revenge, and is worth it for Emily’s bravura frame-up job. However, there’s still more problems present than solutions evident, from the lack of Nolan screentime, to his burgeoning irrelevance in light of Aiden taking his spot as Emily’s right-hand man. I’m also having a hard time finding Aiden terribly compelling at all, but he’s slowly getting there by showing initiative independent of his partnership with Emily. But it still relies on the plot flying around in too many different directions to keep focused. I certainly trust that these narrative threads are going somewhere. I just don’t trust that it’s going to be soon. That said, the fact that we’re not being spoon-fed answers right away shows a certain trust in the audience to keep track of a broad, expansive story arc, far more so than last season, which was very much about instant gratification, in some respects. I’m definitely looking forward to next week, and discovering what Mason Treadwell plans to do with his knowledge about Emily.