Recap and review of Revenge – Season 2 Episode 8 – Lineage
Tonight’s “Lineage” isn’t the first time Revenge has tackled a flashback episode. Last season’s “Legacy”, the 20th episode of a 22-episode season, also gave us a window into our characters’ pasts. However, unlike “Lineage”, “Legacy” didn’t tell us much of anything we didn’t already know. In a sense, it was a toothless episode, made all the more confounding by its placement at the end of the season. However, “Lineage” serves as a character study that not only provides us with origins for these characters, but also fleshes out their motivations in the present. In particular, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) is immediately a more tragic figure than she previously had been, owing to the ABC Sunday night standard of the villainess who is revealed to have been indirectly made that way by her mother. We meet Victoria’s mother, Marion (Adrienne Barbeau), after she’s invited to the Grayson family Thanksgiving dinner in 2006 by would-be poet Daniel (Josh Bowman). Though it seems like a good-natured gesture on Daniel’s part, it eventually comes out that he’s been used by his parents as part of a revenge scheme of Victoria’s own. But that’s hardly all there is to the episode, as we discover the origin of Emily (Emily VanCamp) and Aiden’s (Barry Sloane) relationship. The episode is a mixed bag, in some respects, but overall, there’s way more to like in “Lineage” than one would expect from an episode made up almost entirely of things that are already in our characters’ rear view mirror.
The A-plot of “Lineage” is arguably Victoria’s artful bit of revenging against a mother who routinely put the men in her life ahead of her own daughter. Adrienne Barbeau infuses Marion with a cynical quality that’s well-represented in Victoria, as we’ve known her. It doesn’t, however, make Marion any less deserving of what she receives. In flashbacks, we learn that Marion held a grudge against then-fifteen year-old Victoria for what she perceived as Victoria’s attempts to steal away the men in her life. Marion is lonely, but her motives in pursuing her many relationships are financial, as the money from her late husband’s estate has all but run out, and she’s a woman who needs to be provided for. So it stands to reason that she’d flip out on one of her boyfriend’s for trying to break things off, although it doesn’t necessarily stand to reason that she would then shoot the guy (then again, this being a soap, maybe it does). Marion ropes young Victoria into the crime by having her shoot the man’s corpse, and then take the wrap for the killing, arguing self-defense from a would-be lecher. The argument works, and Victoria gets off with a brief sentence to a psychiatric facility.
Though it’s not exactly juvy, the psych ward does draw more substantial parallels between Victoria and Emily in how their formative years involved time in “the system”, honing their understanding of the human psyche, an understanding that would serve them well once free. Of course, the irony in Victoria’s case is that her mother’s coldness is what ultimately made it so easy for her to plan her Thanksgiving downfall. Marion is responsible, then, for not only her daughter’s emotional torment, but her own as well. As we discover, Marion’s latest prospective husband is a man she met on a cruise ship, and he acts as her date to the awkward family reunion that acts as the centerpiece of the episode. However, it’s little more than dinner theater for Conrad (Henry Czerny) and Victoria, who reveals her mother’s sordid past, causing the man to rise up in a huff, breaking things off with Marion, and storm out of the Grayson household, vowing never to see her again. It was all a part of Victoria’s own complicated revenge plot, from casting the man, to placing him on the cruise ship and arranging the meeting, to using Daniel to invite Marion to dinner so that their whole macabre play could unfold. It’s ridiculous if you think about it for any length of time, but often Revenge benefits from the conceit that just about any plot will work if you have money. And the Graysons certainly have enough money to plant an actor on a boat.
As for Emily, her plans are a bit trickier. She’s attempting to infiltrate a sex trafficking ring, where she meets Ashley (Ashley Madekwe), who’s taken to prostitution since her MFA in Art History isn’t doing a thing for her in the real world, and hey, she has to make rent, you know? It all plays out like the premise of a Cinemax softcore porno circa 1996. Emily, from behind a closed door, offers Ashley money to help her get the information she needs, and Ashley agrees to text the information to the number provided with the wad of cash Emily’s given her. Whether “present day” Ashley knows that Emily was her benefactor is anyone’s guess, but at least we now know a little bit more about Ashley than nothing at all.
Better yet, we know more about Aiden, who joins the cast of characters on revenge missions in this episode. He’s after the gangsters in charge of the trafficking ring in an attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of his older sister, who was kidnapped and taken into the trade. His mission is to find her if she’s alive, and avenge her if she’s dead. Emily, however, can’t allow this to happen, since she needs the man-in-charge alive, as he apparently has information about Flight 197, illustrating that this is a relatively small world after all. The plot is boilerplate Revenge, with all the elements we’ve come to expect from the show: Emily Thorne in ostentatious dresses, brief fight sequences, stand-offs at gunpoint, secret identities, and saucy one-liners. However, this story also helps integrate Aiden into the show more fully. I’ve never made it a secret that I’ve found him to be an unnecessary addition to the series, but at least this episode linked him to Emily in a more serious way, revealing that she was the reason he joined Takeda’s revenge academy, or whatever he’s calling it. Essentially, Emily brought Aiden into the “journey without end”, and has helped make him into the man he is in the present. Whether that’s a man she can trust or not remains to be seen, but I do have to question the wisdom of showing him her private revenge box (totally not a euphemism, I swear).
As for the other developments, we learn that Nolan (Gabriel Mann) once had a dalliance with his CFO, a young man named Marco, who discovered the Cayman Islands account Nolan set up for Emily as a promise to David Clarke. The money, totaling roughly half a billion dollars, is gone, and Nolan has no choice to explain that it’s money he’s set up to provide for the daughter of a convicted terrorist – a terrorist he just so happens to think is innocent. Marco, disgusted because moral superiority was all the rage in 2006, resigns. In the present day, however, we see Marco getting a call from Daniel Grayson, who has a business proposal regarding NolCorp. If Marco reveals what he knows about Nolan’s link to David Clarke, that could lead Daniel down the rabbit hole to Amanda. The real one. I doubt he’ll take the news that he nearly become son-in-law to a convicted terrorist very well.
And then there’s the Porters, about whom I struggle to care from week-to-week; and this, despite the fact that I genuinely do enjoy Nick Wechsler as an actor and wish they would give Jack Porter something better to do than whatever it is he’s doing now. Turns out that Kenny the Grifter is running a revenge scheme of his own (because who isn’t? And also, because there’s nothing in a fiction series that more revenging won’t fix). Kenny believes that Jack’s late father was responsible for killing his own father, a small-time hood hitting up local businesses on behalf of a mobster demanding protection money. Mr. Porter didn’t commit the crime (it was his friend, whose little girl was put in the hospital by the man’s thugs), but his gun was used in the killing, and more often than not, that’s all that matters. It’s an awfully-contrived storyline, and I’m still struggling to see how any of it relates to the larger story of the season, other than that somebody needs to wind up at the bottom of the ocean with The Amanda before it’s all said and done.
All that said, however, “Lineage” still succeeds by keeping tightly focused on character, and on developing certain thematic arcs that have played out across the series. While the parallels between Victoria and Emily have become less frequent and less overt over time, the characters still function as vague mirror images of each another. If nothing else, both women represent the neverending cycle of revenge, “a journey without end”. It’s a process that is always recapitulating, and finding new ways to continue without its agents realizing they’re contributing to its continuation. That will never not be interesting, to me, though I could see how this type of introspective storytelling wouldn’t necessarily work for some viewers, since so much of it is subtext, which doesn’t always light up the screen. However, I still feel “Lineage” has done a solid job setting the table for next week’s winter finale. See you there.
One last note: I’d like to apologize for the lateness of this review. I had the review up nearly three hours ago, then came back onto the site and realized it wasn’t up. Turns out, in my haste, I must have forgot to actually hit “Publish” after writing the review, and just decided to click off to another page without thinking. This is the only explanation I could possibly think of for why it wasn’t up there when I’d just written the thing. So yes, long story short, all this holiday revelry has rendered me moronic in ways I never thought possible. I wrote the review all over again, and I hope that, although it’s late, you all still might have gotten the chance to read it. If nothing else, I hope you’ll be back next week, where I promise my brain will actually be functioning at its regular capacity.