Recap and review for Revenge – Season 2 Episode 9 – Winter Finale – Revelations
With its winter finale, Revenge has upped the ante in a pretty big way by affecting a wholesale reorientation of one of its cleanest characters (relative to the scheming, that is. The man’s past is a littered as a city alleyway). The ascension of Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman) as the new Conrad, a rich, powerful, ruthless corporate mogul with the slick sheen of high-born menace, is pretty remarkable when you consider what a relatively doe-eyed innocent Daniel was last season. However, this change isn’t just the accomplishment of writer Ted Sullivan, whose script gives Daniel the onus to show real fire – nor is it solely the accomplishment of director Kenneth Fink, who casts Daniel in shadow and frames him in the dark, extravagantly sterile scenery of corporate decadence. It’s mostly the accomplishment of Josh Bowman, who really chews into the role and plays Daniel as a burgeoning villain. Never once does he communicate the sense that Daniel is in over his head. And why should he? Daniel doesn’t believe he is. He thinks he’s got everything under control. And, for the most part, he does. Whether it’s using Nolan’s ex-CFO Marco to give him the leverage to attain majority ownership of Nolcorp, or whether it’s Daniel blackmailing a key board member to influence the board in making him CEO of Grayson Global, Daniel handles everything with cool certainty. Well, everything except his love life. But this is a new Daniel we’re dealing with here. One that’s not going to be writing any poems anytime soon.
Though Daniel is ostensibly in control for much of the episode, he’s mainly a pawn between two different, scheming pairs. On one side, his parents, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and Conrad (Henry Czerny), who are attempting to keep the board from ousting Conrad and naming Daniel his replacement as the head of Grayson Global out of a desire to keep him safe from the Americon Initiative, who want to have unfettered access to whoever’s running the company. On the other side, Emily (Emily VanCamp) and Aiden (Barry Sloane), who want Daniel to ascend to power as part of a complicated scheme that I’m not entirely sure about, just yet. Indeed, much of what Emily and Aiden are up to seems to have no immediate relevance to Emily’s overarching revenge plot, and really, much of the revenging seems to be Nolan’s (Gabriel Mann) to do, as he makes amends with Marco (E.J. Bonilla) and ropes Padma (Dilshad Vadsaria) into an as-yet undisclosed plot to bring down Grayson Global from the inside, now that NolCorp is a subsidiary of the corporation. Perhaps Emily will work through Nolan, in that regard.
However, there are other ways in which Daniel is manipulated. Emily has Nolan send Victoria a video of Conrad and Ashley (Ashley Madekwe) having sex, which not only brings out Victoria’s acerbic attitude toward Conrad, it also heightens their paranoia, as they believe the video is the work of the Initiative. Meanwhile, Aiden works to get back into Daniel’s good graces by turning him against Ashley – chiefly by revealing his parents’ plot to have Ashley sleep with the key board member in order to ensure his vote for Conrad when the board convenes to decide who will run Grayson Global. Daniel storms into the hotel room, and while Ashley tries to cover up the nature of the meeting, Daniel is full of vitriol, telling her that she disgusts him, and then taking a picture with his phone to use as leverage against the board member to guarantee his vote. It’s hard not to feel bad for Ashley, given that she seems to earnestly love Daniel, and we only just learned last week just how long she’s been made to use her body in order to get by. It’s a strangely layered approach that helps us get a better grip on what had, up to this point, been a fairly two-dimensional character, in much the same way Daniel was before tonight, spewing venom all the way through. Just the way Bowman delivers his lines feels like a completely different character and, in many ways, a different actor. Not that Bowman is bad, but he hasn’t really had a whole lot to do that would show his range. It’s heartening to see that he can carry it off with such skill. This Daniel arc is a very welcome change of pace for the character, as he’s more relevant to the overall story now than he has been since the Tyler shooting last season.
This all culminates in Daniel attaining control of Grayson Global, and it’s hard to know at this point what Emily’s endgame is, but it’s at least more interesting than what Jack (Nick Wechsler), Declan (Connor Paolo), and Amanda (Margarita Levieva) are up to, for the most part. It’s baby Carl’s christening ceremony, and while Amanda is thrown by how longingly Emily looks at Jack, the subplot is mostly a furthering of Kenny (J.R. Bourne) and Nate’s (Michael Trucco) revenge plot of their own against the Porters, for the murder of their father. They still believe that Jack and Declan’s father was responsible for the killing, failing to realize that it was family friend Matt Duncan (Jonathan Adams) who committed the crime in retaliation for violence against his young daughter, using Mr. Porter’s gun. Matt warns Jack against getting involved with the Ryan brothers, and if Nolan’s background search on the brothers (which turns up their criminal records and prison history) didn’t convince him they were dangerous, a bruised and bloodied Kenny, on the docks by the Amanda, certainly would have. Matt comes clean, Jack discovers the old gun under a plank on The Amanda, and the story finally seems to be picking up, although I still don’t see what it has to do with the scheming in the Hamptons – that said, I can certainly appreciate the kind of revenge density of the Hamptons, where multiple parties have their own revenge plots going on all at the same time.
As the episode winds to a close, Emily and Aiden seek solace in one another, as Emily has come to realize just how lonely she is (after seeing Jack in a state of complete happiness with Amanda), and I still find it hard to completely trust the guy, though that’s more from my own hangups about the character than about anything Aiden’s actually done to get us to distrust him. Emily gets a phone call from Victoria that night with concerns about Daniel, but asks to reschedule their talk upon realizing that Emily has company. Emily seems to recognize the leverage she has against Victoria (hell, she says as much), but if this show has taught us anything about revenging, it’s that it’s not so much about having a weapon against someone, so much as how you use it. That seems to be the Americon Initiative’s big question, regarding Daniel, as they appear to have a valuable resource at their disposal (Grayson Global), but with a young, possibly naive, incredibly powerful new CEO at its head. As Daniel enjoys a late night drink and observes an unusual clock on his mantle, we see video of this moment from the Initiative’s hidden camera perspective, just as they put the fate of Daniel to a vote. I can appreciate that the Initiative is a shadowy organization, but actually have them meeting in an impossibly dark, shadowy room seemed a bit heavy-handed. But then, this is a soap opera in the purest, most exceptional sense of the term.
“Revelations” sets several plots in motion for the return in January, from Nolan having a more active role in the scheming, to the possibility that Daniel will become the show’s new villain (although he keeps his old pictures of Emily, only moments after deleting every Ashley picture from his hard drive – I guess rich Hamptonites get over breakups the same as everyone else). There’s also that pesky question of whose body winds up at the bottom of the ocean with The Amanda. We have a month to speculate, and I imagine the story probably won’t resemble any of our predictions. Not that being wrong has ever stopped me from predicting before. However, I’m not going to do it right now, because I honestly don’t even have the first idea of where this all could go. That’s exciting, to me. It’s also one of Revenge’s key strengths: its unpredictability; and the fact that, once a secret is revealed, you tend to notice how all the pieces were there to have solved it yourself. I hope Revenge keeps in that rewarding tradition, as not many soaps tend to go in that direction. The show thinks highly of it’s audience – enough not to dumb it down for them. And I can certainly appreciate that approach. If nothing else, I never thought I’d be this into a hostile corporate takeover.