Revenge – Recap: Man On Fire
Recap and review of Revenge – Season 4 Episode 13 – Abduction:
Revenge has long been the story of Emily and Victoria, and the show is always at its best when it focuses on that central dynamic. “Abduction” is the best Revenge of the season so far, largely because one of its defining aspects is the emotional journey of a woman who realizes that, in a way, she started all this.
Actually, I suppose you could say that by choosing to protect Daniel all those years ago, and selling David (James Tupper) down the river, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) DID set this all into motion, since David would never have been abducted by Malcolm Black (Tommy Flanagan) and Emily (Emily VanCamp) would never have started on her journey of revenge in the first place. As a result, maybe Daniel would still be alive. At the very least, Emily and Victoria wouldn’t have been abducted by Malcolm, who seems intent on making life hell for them, and for those they care about. I admit, I was surprised at the direction this story took, since I figured this would take on the qualities of an “escape thriller,” with Emily and Victoria coming up with some sort of escape plan resulting in a big action setpiece. While we did get that setpiece by the end of the hour, the story mostly reduced Emily and Victoria to damsels who need saving. And, believe it or not, it’s a narrative decision that mostly works. Having David team up with both Jack (Nick Wechsler) and Ben (Brian Hallisay), who now knows Emily’s secret, turns out to be an effective bit of storytelling. David has to use his tech skills to trick Malcolm into thinking his daughter is still alive, while Jack is able to subdue one of Malcolm’s henchmen and work with Ben to figure out where Emily and Victoria are being held. In short, they make a hell of a team, and that sort of effectiveness is much appreciated, since David and Jack, and even Ben, haven’t always been portrayed as the most competent men at what they do, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
Of course, by the end of the episode, the status quo is restored, as David outright fails to rescue Emily and Victoria at the prisoner exchange, as Malcolm only brought Victoria to the hand-off, leaving Emily behind as collateral. By using a temperature gun on the body in David’s van, Malcolm is quickly able to deduce that Kate was never alive to begin with. He shoots David in the leg and takes him prisoner, now intent on making him suffer by watching Emily and Victoria die. It brings us to what ends up being a pretty thrilling climax. Hell, it might have been a monumental bit of drama if this were a braver show. Granted, it would have been silly to actually expect the show to go through with killing Victoria. This isn’t Game of Thrones, after all. But Malcolm constantly putting off actually killing Emily or Victoria, despite all logic and reason, was just as silly. That said, it did result in a fairly moving moment, as Malcolm is about to stab Emily and throw her in an incinerator, but Victoria buys time by confessing to killing Kate. It’s a moment of rare self-awareness from Victoria, who, in a flashback to when she revealed the truth about Emily to Margaux (Karine Vanasse), admits that the choices she made resulted in Emily’s misery. Yes, Emily has put Victoria through hell, but Victoria seems to recognize that a lot of it has been on her. She owes Emily, so this is how she makes amends. She does this, even knowing that David had planned on staging her suicide, a point which Emily hatefully reveals to Victoria during their captivity early in the episode. So Victoria manages to keep Emily alive, and stalls for just enough time for Jack to come storming in, knocking out henchmen and giving Emily a window to start doing some ass-kicking of her own. It’s a pretty exhilarating sequence, all the more so once Malcolm takes Emily off-guard and drags her towards the incinerator. Moments before he’s about to toss her in, David gets hold of a gun and manages to shoot Malcolm full of holes, knocking him backward and into the incinerator himself. And like that, the threat of Malcolm Black has been subdued.
And in his place?
Well, I can only assume Margaux will take the mantle as the new villain of the season, as she vows to take Emily down, even enlisting the aid of a shady fixer. And if Margaux is the villain, I like that approach, since she’s actually fairly justified in wanting Emily taken out. She’s been wronged, and while her actions require her to target someone we like (Emily), she’s not exactly wrong to target her. And that’s what would make her a compelling villain. If nothing else, she makes for a more interesting villain than Louise’s mother, who shows up (for REAL this time!) with threats of cutting her daughter off from the money her late father left behind. Her solution? To marry Nolan! Yes, Louise is now Mrs. Ross, as a marriage allows Nolan (Gabriel Mann) to become her new conservator, giving him control over the money, and shutting Louise’s mother out. However, Louise’s mother has one last trick up her sleeve, saying that Louise will either restore control to her, or she’ll reveal the truth that those drugged pills were meant to help suppress: Louise killed her father. It’s an interesting twist, although this is another care where the story would be stronger if Louise were a better, or at least more sympathetic, character. All the work of making her sympathetic has been in the last two or three episodes, after a season that has largely depicted her as a minor villain, or at least someone who’s shady and more than a bit unhinged. Still, the storyline has potential, if for no other reason than for seeing how it’ll tie into everything else happening this season.
“Abduction” is the best episode of Revenge this season, telling a succinct, focused story that was thrilling and surprising, in its own right. It almost felt like a finale, honestly, particularly when Victoria tells David that they must go their separate ways so he and Amanda can start a life, and she can finally mourn her son in peace. It was almost cathartic, in a way, as there’s a certain closure here. This has been a fairly uneven season for Revenge, but as long as the show can manage to deliver tense episodes such as this, then I’ll gladly stick with it for however long it lasts.