Revenge – Recap: Malcolm in the Middle
Recap and review of Revenge – Season 4 Episode 12 – Madness:
Revenge took an interesting turn this week, in that it took on the appearance of a story that is winding down. Realistically, I’m not sure how much longer Revenge can realistically elongate the feud between Emily (Emily VanCamp) and Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) without a definitive end for one of them, but “Madness” gains much of its drama from making it appear that this feud is nearing its end. Something’s gotta give between these two, and Daniel’s death may just be the catalyst for the final showdown.
Of course, before that time comes, they’ll have to figure out a way to escape the clutches of Malcolm Black (Tommy Flanagan), who takes both Emily and Victoria hostage at the end of the episode, after eavesdropping on an angry conversation between the two outside a lighthouse. In short, Black learns the truth about Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke…as well as the truth about the death of his daughter, Kate Taylor. This is bad enough, but it’s made considerably worse by Jack (Nick Wechsler) turning in David’s anti-Malcolm Black flash drive and getting him arrested on charges that, unfortunately, don’t stick. David (James Tupper) realizes that all Jack has done is poke the dragon, and now Malcolm Black is going to breathe fire on each and every one of them. And it looks like he’s going to start by torturing Emily and Victoria, which…well, it won’t be fun. For them, anyway. It might make for good television for us viewers, since Emily and Victoria being forced to work together tends to make for a more dynamic hour of drama. I guess we’ll see next week. Until then, “Madness” makes for a pretty fun episode, if only because the focus shifts in such a way that we finally get some idea of how the ancillary characters in this show are supposed to fit into the larger narrative.
Case in point, we learn that Louise (Elena Satine) isn’t really crazy after all. Rather, she’s simply been drugged all these years with tainted Xanax by her brother, Lyman (played by Canadian Idol finalist Sebastian Pigott, in a moment that had me doing the biggest double-take of all-time). Lyman has a political career and the adoration of his family, in ways that Louise will never experience herself. His motive is to continue controlling Louise’s inheritance, since she won’t be able to claim any of it if she’s judged unfit. For his part, Lyman denies ever drugging his sister in the first place, and while he tries to lay the Southern charm on thick enough to make him suspicious, I’m wondering if he might not be telling the truth. Louise has been played as someone with hints of deviousness that go beyond whatever fears and hallucinations the drugs were causing her to have. For example, she slept with Daniel simply to get at Victoria, and she has a criminal record that appears to predate her drugging, which should give some idea of just what we’re working with when it comes to Louise. Here, she ends up snapping at a restaurant, shouting at a vision of her mother, and generally creating a scene. It just seems like there’s way more to Louise than her simply being drugged by a sketchy brother. That said, I do enjoy the budding friendship between Louise and Nolan (Gabriel Mann), who seems unmoored with Emily to be his partner-in-crime. It’s not necessarily that he’s looking for a replacement, but rather that he’s looking for a sort of stability. His friendship with Louise is the closest thing to normal he’s had in months, and even then, it’s not really all that stable. And yet, here we are.
The plot does get fairly complicated though, due to all the fallout of Daniel’s death. For example, Margaux (Karine Vanasse) is unable to let go of Daniel’s innocence, insisting that Emily’s version of events is not the way things happened, even though Ben (Brian Hallisay) has no interest in reopening the case (due in part to his fondness for Emily, but also due to him believing her take on what happened. After all, there isn’t really any evidence that contradicts her version of what happened). However, when Margaux collapses in a stress-induced fainting spell, Victoria visits her in the hospital and tells her the truth about Daniel…and about Emily Thorne. And because this is Revenge, Ben is eavesdropping just outside the door, hearing the entire thing. He now knows Emily Thorne isn’t the innocent dove he seems to think she is, and is more than capable of some pretty vicious acts. It remains to be seen just what Ben — or Margaux, for that matter — will do with this information, but I’m convinced that the more people know about Emily, the more potential for chaos exists. And that means more potential for explosive drama, which I’m all about, since Revenge isn’t a Downton Abbey-type soap that can subtly, quietly take its time in getting where it’s going.
I am kind of intrigued that Emily ultimately talks her father out of killing Victoria. David’s plan of making it look like the suicide of a distressed, bereaved mother makes sense. But then, so does Emily’s rationale for letting her live, as Victoria is at her lowest point, and now is the time to let her suffer. There’s also a certain idealistic quality in Emily thinking she’s finally going to get her happy ending with her father. They both resolve to finally leave the Hamptons and find a quiet place where they can simply be together again, yet we know there are too many loose ends for them to actually make a clean break. Malcolm Black is still out there, and despite David’s best attempts to lure Malcolm into a trap of sorts (by claiming to be holding Kate hostage), Jack’s involvement prevents things from going to plan. Now that Malcolm has Victoria and Emily, he essentially holds all the cards. And that makes Malcolm Black a far more interesting villain than he was already, considering he has this malevolent way of carrying himself, like he expects the world to unfurl at his feet. The flashbacks depicting David’s captivity, where Malcolm not only shows him pictures of “Amanda” as a stripper, but also threatens to murder Amanda unless David kills a fellow captive, are chilling. And David’s certainty, in the present, that little can be done to stop Malcolm once he’s been released from jail is sobering. Malcolm Black is a scorched earth-sort of bad guy, intent on destroying everyone and leaving nothing behind. He’s an imposing figure, and I like the shot of adrenaline he’s injected into the season. Having a clear-cut, unrepentant villain like Malcolm in the middle of all this removes much of the ambiguity of the goal, which gives the narrative focus. The main characters must be united in taking down Malcolm Black if they’re going to be successful at all, and that sort of unifying force has been badly needed this season. I’ll be interested to see how this all comes together next week, with Emily and Victoria in a dangerous position, united against a common enemy. “Madness” was a good setup for getting us to that point, and it was certainly intense in its own right, making for a worthwhile hour of TV.