Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams, and Eric Kripke Turn Out the Lights with Their Ambitious ‘Revolution’

By  · Published on September 18th, 2012

Editors’ note: Hey! TV stuff! With Revolution premiering on NBC this very evening, why not journey back with us to our own world without power – way back in July when we wrote about the show’s pilot episode as part of our Comic-Con coverage. This feature was originally published on July 16, 2012.

NBC’s new television series Revolution was everywhere at this year’s Comic-Con, from a giant skin covering the side of the Hilton Hotel (a skin that was unavoidable if you happened to be near the San Diego Convention Center and you happened to have your eyes even slightly open) to a large scale set piece stationed in the middle of the hullabaloo of the Gaslamp District, so it’s not shocking that the series’ panel and pilot premiere was positively packed.

The original series is a good fit for the ‘con – a new hour-long drama that takes place in a world without electricity and populated by people just trying to survive, people trying to seize (metaphorical) power, and people trying to figure out why the lights went out (and the planes went down and the cars stopped working and the water stopped running). Creator Eric Kripke is a known name to a niche audience of TV fans – he also created beloved long-running series Supernatural – but it’s the more marquee names that Revolution might be trading on to lure in fans for the show. Both J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau are executive producers on the project (along with Kripke, Bryan Burk, and Dieter Ismagil) and Favreau directed the series’ pilot episode (and, presumably, will direct more).

Favs himself introduced the panel and the pilot, joking that the audience was actually sitting in for the Iron Man 3 panel (if only!), and his sort of tone and humor is all over the first episode of the series. Opening before the blackout, the series introduces us to Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), his wife and kids, and his seemingly ne’er do well brother, Miles (Billy Burke) – and then the power goes out and we’re tossed fifteen years into the future, a future without power and, admittedly, without much hope.

What Revolution really has to recommend it is a very solid premise and a very clear sense of world-building. The future world that Kripke and company have imagined sets the human race back about four hundred years, living the sort of life that colonial Americans would have lived. Loosely assembled around a cul de sac, the Mathesons and their neighbors bond together, grow crops, hunt, and seem oddly resigned to their “new” life. Of course, there is a personal mystery at the heart of Revolution – it’s established early on that Ben is involved with the blackout in some capacity, and even Miles (who is now cut off from his family and living in Chicago) has at least a vague idea of what happened and how it could be reversed. There’s also the question of the silver necklace that Ben slips to neighbor Aaron (Zak Orth) before he’s seized by the local militia early in the episode.

Oh, and the militia. Of course Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring!) leads it at Captain Neville, and he pulls off the sort of sneering evil fans of Breaking Bad will recognize. But Neville isn’t the guy, he just works for the guy, so when he rides in to town to seize Ben (and ultimately ends up with Ben’s son, Danny, played by Graham Rogers), we know that someone else is pulling the strings. That’s not the surprise – but what is the shock of Revolution is that Kripke doesn’t balk at revealing some big stuff, and quickly.

During the panel’s post-screening Q&A session, Kripke vowed that the mythology of his series would move along quickly, explaining established elements before zinging into creating more. And he wasn’t lying – the pilot episode not only introduces us to the world of Revolution, it also throws out big stuff that could be drawn out for episodes upon episodes and subsequently gives out what feel like hard-won “answers” – like teasing a character who sounds like our primary villain (Monroe, the leader of the militia) and then revealing his identity before the first episode even wraps up, or explaining at least some of the possibilities of Ben’s necklace before the first forty-fives minutes have ticked by. LOST, this is not.

But the series needs to find some sort of cohesion in its characters – Guinee, Esposito, and Burke are all fine in their roles, and Ben’s daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is a stand-out – but there’s something too fast and too much about this first episode. Intriguing? Yes, but Kripke and company need to make sure that their audience actually care about the people at the heart of the story, not just the world they live in and how fast it can move along. If they can nail that, Revolution could be a big winner.

To that end, the final version of the series will feature Elizabeth Mitchell as Rachel Matheson, the mother of Charlie and Danny and former wife of Ben. Mitchell replaces Andrea Roth, who played the role in this pilot, a role that is told in flashbacks, as we soon learn that Rachel is gone – while Ben says she left the community with the implication that she’s dead, and Charlie herself tells Miles that she is deceased, the implication seems to be that she might not be. That’s a nice secret and a nice tease, and one that it would behoove Revolution to hold out on.

Revolution premieres on September 17 on NBC. Take a look below at a brand-new video just released by NBC which features Favreau, Abrams, and Kripke talking about the project, along with a look at the show itself (including some of the most impressive imagery from the first episode).

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