Revenge – Recap: Mourning Son
Recap and review of Revenge – Season 4 Episode 11 – Epitaph:
Revenge delivered a surprisingly poignant hour of television tonight with “Epitaph,” a sendoff for the character of Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman), who didn’t always have the biggest effect on the story in life, but whose death could have lasting resonance.
For the most part, my issue with Daniel this season has been in how his story has always seemed ancillary to the A-plot of Emily (Emily VanCamp) reuniting with her father (James Tupper), and the implications that reunion holds. Yet Daniel’s death has galvanized action, setting a grenade into the center of the relationship between David Clarke and Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe). A mutual hatred develops between Victoria and David, an animosity that has apparently been hidden just beneath the surface. Victoria indirectly blames David for Daniel’s death, since he essentially gave his life to protect Emily. But beyond that, Victoria resents David for the lie she’s forced to tell. Because Malcolm Black will have each and every one of them tortured and killed if he finds out they had a hand in the death of his daughter, David must ditch Kate’s body while Emily tells the police that she shot Daniel in self-defense after he attacked her in a blinding rage. In essence, Daniel is vilified despite being a hero, yet it’s out of grim necessity. It’s an interesting inversion of the redemption trope, since Daniel’s sacrifice will remain a secret, and whatever progress he made as a human being in those last days are largely overshadowed by the falsified circumstances of his final moments.
This creates an interesting arc for Victoria, as she both mourns Daniel and vilifies him for the good of the loved ones left behind, including Charlotte. She even keeps up the lie to an incredulous Margaux (Karine Vanasse), who can’t believe Victoria is siding with Emily’s version of events. For her part, Margaux vows to make it her life’s work to bring Emily down, yet I get the sense we should fear Margaux far less than Victoria, since I’m sure there’s likely some kind of proverb out there about the fury of a mother scorned. Yet it’s not in her anger that Victoria is most compelling, but in her grief. This is arguably Stowe’s best episode in the entire series, from the moment in which she discovers Daniel’s body, through to her mournful flashbacks while holding the suit he is to be buried in. It’s an utterly gutwrenching performance, speaking to the depth of the grief Victoria feels, and the weight of her regret at not being a better mother to Daniel.
The episode allows us to see Victoria work through the stages of her grief, until she achieves a certain stoicism at the funeral that is both touching and heartbreaking. She and Daniel never had the greatest relationship, but he was still her son. And Stowe’s performance makes it evident how much it’s tearing at Victoria to have to lie about Daniel in death. Even in her confrontation with David early in the episode, she fiercely defends the memory of Daniel as a good person, stating that he gave his life for Emily. She goes on to say that she no longer wants to be a prisoner to David’s lies, and while she’s justified in her rant, David is right on the money in responding that he was a prisoner for twenty years because of Victoria’s lies (he also has a point in saying he actually CAN understand what it’s like to lose a child — or at least think he had, since it’s not like he knew that the Amanda that died wasn’t actually his daughter). This argument hints at the larger issue brewing between the two, as David shockingly reveals to Emily that his plan since coming back has been to kill Victoria. If he’d had his way, David explains, it would be Victoria’s funeral they’d have been attending, not Daniel’s. However, now that this has happened, and Malcolm Black is a looming threat, he isn’t sure what his next move will be. Yet it’s interesting all the same, since father and daughter are now pretty much aligned on their goals.
However, the best scene of the episode ends up centering on how Emily processes Daniel’s death. After being interrogated about the incident by Ben (Brian Hallisay), Emily tries to sell the lie that Daniel beat her nearly to death before she was able to shoot him in self-defense. Jack (Nick Wechsler) is understandably concerned about Emily’s ability to sell such an obvious lie, since she already nearly gave it all up on the initial interview at the scene of the crime. But when Ben grills Emily on why she didn’t fight back (since Daniel had no other wounds but the gunshots that killed him), Emily sells the lie by mixing in some truth: she felt, in some ways, that she deserved some measure of punishment for having ruined Daniel’s life. She admits to having married him for the wrong reasons, and that despite all the scar tissue and bad attitude, Daniel was a good guy, deep down. Emily seems to surprise herself with how much her candidness is affecting her, as she wipes away tears recalling how much she’s hurt Daniel over the years. It’s a lovely moment from Emily VanCamp, and the flashbacks later to their courtship illustrates the magnitude of the person they’ve all lost. But there isn’t a whole lot of time for grieving, since Malcolm Black (Tommy Flanagan) himself has found his way to the Hamptons, and he’s looking for his daughter. And he’ll do anything to keep his identity a secret, going as far as to stab Alvarez (Nestor Serrano) and pull him into his car before driving off. If the stories about Malcolm Black are true, Alvarez is in for a loooooong night.
“Epitaph” was a fitting send-off for Daniel Grayson, a character who managed to be more than the sum of his parts. This season, at least, he’s managed to catalyze the split between Victoria and David by bringing their feud out into the open, while also forcing Emily to become introspective about her effect on the people she’s encountered on this revenge mission. It’s a deceptively simple story, but it’s well-told. And it suggests more tension to come for the back half of Season 4.