Recap and review of Revolution – Season 1 Episode 9 – Kashmir
Next week is the fall finale of Revolution, the last episode before the series takes a four-month break. In a sense, it’s easy to see, then, why “Kashmir” is such a listless episode. It’s meant as a table-setting episode, at best (setting us up for the final confrontation by reminding us of all the characters’ hold-ups, and also restating what’s at stake), and a placeholder, at worst. It’s relatively self-contained, which isn’t a new approach for Revolution, though it is something of a galling choice, given how so little of consequence actually happens. It’s a journey from point A to point B, with our group traveling through a set of train tunnels in West Chester to reach Philadelphia, and Monroe’s headquarters in Independence Hall, where Danny (Graham Rogers) is being held. Simple enough. But what follows doesn’t have that propulsive sense of energy that the better stories in the series have had. “Kashmir” is simply a road trip episode, hanging out with characters we mostly like, and getting a refresher on their motivations and internal conflicts. It really will take seeing next week’s episode to know whether this was a smart choice to make or not. I imagine if next week’s episode is as huge as it’s hyped up to be, then this episode will be viewed, in retrospect, as a welcome breather before the chaos ahead. If next week’s finale disappoints, however, I feel this episode will be looked upon even less favorably.
What works about “Kashmir” are the internal character beats. It can often comes across as cheap and tacky when a show uses hallucinations to illustrate the conflict within a character’s psyche. Worse, it sometimes can come across lazy. Plenty of shows have utilized this trope well, however, such as The Sopranos and, more recently, The Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire. Of particular interest, in this regard, is the often-tumultuous relationship between Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Miles (Billy Burke). Charlie doesn’t address Miles on familial terms, nor does she accord him any honorifics, simply calling him “Miles” as opposed to “Uncle Miles” or even just “Uncle.” Miles, for his part, maintains a cool distance with his niece, aiding her but never really embracing the concept of family to which she holds fast. Yes, he is doing this out of a sense of familial obligation, and it has been implied that Miles genuinely does care about the family remaining to him, but there’s still a wall between the two different conceptions of Miles, the pre-Blackout man who had a warmer attitude towards life, and the post-Blackout, post-Militia Miles, who has had the optimism burned off of him from years of morally-repugnant work. This disconnect drives much of the episode, at a thematic level, as Charlie and Miles prepare for what is to come, on the other side of the tunnel.
Miles makes an uneasy alliance with the rebels in order to secure Danny’s rescue, giving the rebels Monroe (David Lyons) in return. The company moves through the tunnels, Charlie steps on a mine, necessitating explosives/demolitions expert Nora (Daniella Alonso) defusing the mine, then giving Charlie the okay to move her foot off the trap. Once she does, however, a second mine underneath detonates as the group flees, causing part of the tunnel to collapse. With the entrance sealed off, the oxygen begins depleting from the tunnels, causing the torches to gradually flicker out, and, more importantly, causing each member of the group to suffer hallucinations. Aaron (Zak Orth) revisits his doubts and fear over his ability to protect the people he loves when a vision of his wife appears to him, which he struggles to ignore. Miles, meanwhile, has a Led Zeppelin-scored hallucination in which he has a face-to-face chat with Monroe. Earlier in the episode, Charlie asks Nora why Miles left the Militia, and Nora explains that though Monroe and Miles were best friends, they had a falling out that led to Miles making an assassination attempt against his former friend. Being unable to bring himself to pull the trigger, Miles retreated into obscurity. In his hallucination, Monroe confronts Miles with the fact of his perceived betrayal, with Miles justifying the act by arguing that Monroe had “gone too far”. Whether Miles is referring to a singular, specific act, or if he’s simply referring to Monroe’s overall descent into megalomania remains to be seen, but it’s a conflict made all the more interesting when hallucination Monroe suggests that Miles would probably rejoin the Militia if he asked him to. Given that this Monroe is a projection of Miles’s fractured psyche, there’s likely a fair bit of truth in his assessment.
That said, Miles doesn’t seem to be the best judge of character, as his rebel contact turns on the group, revealing himself to be a secret militaman who’d once met Miles during his time as Commanding General of the Monroe Militia. Miles didn’t recognize the man, being only one in a sea of faces, both comrade and victim alike, and while Miles has left that Militia life behind (or at least, he believes he has), the man admits to having idolized Miles in his earlier days. However, his former reverence for Miles doesn’t stop him from attempting to take him captive. A fire fight breaks out near the exit tunnel (with the gang thankfully being reunited with oxygen!), and Charlie gets hit in the crossfire.
Once Miles has taken care of the traitor, he rushes over to his unconscious niece, trying to will her awake. The audience might not have the strongest attachment to Charlie, but the fact remains that she’s the closest thing this show has to a symbol of innocence, if not necessarily a more innocent time. In that sense, she also represents hope, the “light” in the dark that will light the path, as the show’s opening so cheesily declares each week. Charlie’s hallucination, while unconscious, is of her father, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), and I had to admit to chuckling a bit when Charlie “wakes up at home” and believes that the last eight episodes (from her father being shot, to Danny being taken, to her journey with Miles and company) has all been a dream. “It was so real…,” Charlie says, confusedly, and Tracy Spiridakos, God bless her, does the best she can with the inherent silliness of that moment. Yet, ignoring any perceived silliness, the fantasy represents a significant break with reality that, ironically, brings Charlie closer to accepting the truth of her situation, and the world in which she lives. It’s telling that Charlie’s interactions with her father center around him needing her more than she needs him. It’s Ben who asks Charlie not to leave, and Ben who nurtures a peaceful, domestic atmosphere, away from all the running-and-gunning. This serves as equal parts temptation to stay, and motivation to leave, get Danny back, and find some semblance of normalcy again. When Charlie embraces her father for the last time, there’s a sense of growth, that she acknowledges how much easier it would be to stay, but accepting that being an adult often means you have to take the harder path in life if you want the greatest reward. I can certainly appreciate how Charlie has developed, as she hasn’t discarded her innocence and optimism, but there is a bit of a weathered edge to her now that wasn’t there before. She awakens, having heard her uncle’s calls through her dream, and it feels like Charlie and Miles have developed, if not kinship, then a significant bond to one another.
The other big plot of the episode sees Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell), still in captivity in Monroe’s compound, being forced to work on an amplification device for the pendants, which we learn have a range of roughly ten feet, hence the need to amplify the signal, since Monroe can’t exactly stand next to the tanks with the pendant in hand when he wants his men to use them. Unfortunately for Rachel, however, Monroe brings Rachel’s former colleague Dr. Brad Jaffe (Connor O’Farrell), whom she had inadvertently sold out in “The Children’s Crusade” two weeks ago, to double-check her work. Jaffe, upon investigation, reports that Rachel isn’t building an amplifier, she’s building a bomb. Her deception revealed, Monroe intends to kill Rachel for daring to think she could destroy his base of operations and abscond with Danny amid the chaos. He orders her imprisoned to await her likely execution, rationalizing that he no longer needs her now that he has Dr. Jaffe. In desperation, Rachel grabs a screwdriver and stabs Dr. Jaffe, tearfully apologizing to him in what appears to be an unfortunate running theme in their relationship, and then turns to Monroe and says, “I guess you still need me.” Not too shabby, Mrs. Matheson. Well-played.
Really, this is all a game of chess, with the pieces moving around the board, as Miles, Charlie and company are just outside Philadelphia and poised to embark on a rescue. None of them seem to know that Rachel is alive, thinking that they’re only rescuing Danny. All these elements coming together in the finale should be huge, given all the different face-to-face confrontations that could set the narrative on fire. The finale will ultimately judge whether it was a smart move to have such a glacially-paced episode (by Revolution’s standards) to set it up, but I feel like the decision will ultimately prove to have been wise, especially if the finale delivers at the level the previews suggest (a risky assumption, but one I feel safe making, nonetheless). As for “Kashmir”, the episode is mostly worth it for the glimpses into our characters’ psyches, and in seeing how their relationships develop, so that this group feels more like a familial unit, and less like a motley crew of RPG adventurer stereotypes. I’ll be back next Monday for the last Revolution of 2012. Should be exciting.