Right folks, I've given it three episodes now, and my tentative "Revenge is kind of awesome, right?" has transformed into "This show is awesome."
ABC did a great job with creative publicity. They released the pilot script for free on Amazon, along with a link to watch the first episode. As you may imagine, the written screenplay beat the filmed version in pacing and in logic, but it succeeded in creating a relationship between the viewer and the writer. With the reassurance that the writers are competent, we are forgiving of teething problems.
Not that there were too many teething problems. The opener was overly expository, but that's typical of a pilot. The premise is simple: a group of wealthier-than-thou Hamptonites falsely accused David Clarke of masterminding a terror plot, and he went to his death. His daughter learns of his innocence and hatches a plan for the steady destruction of everyone responsible for his false imprisonment. Goodbye Amanda Clarke, hello Emily Thorne.
Essentially, it's the Count of Monte Cristo, modernized and gender-flipped. And who doesn't want to see a wronged woman destroy people who earned their money through chicanery and exploitation?
It's the perfect show for our era: hardly anyone will feel sorry to see these Hamptonites go down, and Emily Thorne's revenge plots are seriously intricate. She's spent a decade creating a new identity, all the better to fit in with this bizarro Hampton world.
Revenge is predictable in the best way: it knows what people want to see, and doesn't stray far.
The second episode impressed me for its fidelity to The Count of Monte Cristo. She demolishes one traitor by manipulating the stock market, just as Edmond Dantes defeats the treacherous Danglars.
But three episodes in, I'm very impressed at how the writers have expanded their simple premise and found drama in the very human interactions of these awful people.
The woman Emily has it most in for, her father's betraying lover, is just as paranoid as Emily is devious. She's always two steps ahead for her own protection, and it's fascinating to see these two cold-bloods interact.
The third episode impressed me with its willingness to suggest that revenge is not the only way. We are firmly on Emily's side, the show makes no pretense at humanizing her opponents, but there is always collateral damage. And the tension of the show depends on how we feel about those people who might lose their livelihoods, or even their lives, along the way.
THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Look at that pretty man. I may have loved him since I was 15 (for the record, yes, I still miss Roswell). His character so far may be defined as "the plot thickens." He knew Amanda in childhood, and he still nurses a crush on her. So everytime he bumps into Emily Thorne, the sparks fly like mad, but he doesn't know why, and she certainly isn't telling. So far he hasn't had any impact on her manic quest for REEEVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENGE but I expect that will change.
Mark as: DEFINITE COMPLICATION
Nolan is the Logan Echolls of Revenge. He has his own reasons for wanting revenge, and to add menace to mystery, he's very bored. For all intents and purposes, he's the Gatsby to this bunch of East-Eggers, and unluckily for him, he doesn't fit in with the townies either. Gabriel Mann plays him with just the right amount of mystery.
Mark as: VERY DANGEROUS WHEN CROSSED
For the first couple of episodes, I thought Daniel Grayson was just the requisite pretty boy and a means for Amanda's revenge. But in the third, we learn that he's a lot more complicated than he seemed initially, and more than that, he's become a really good guy after his youthful indiscretions. Amanda's plan necessarily involves destroying Daniel, and I'm very curious to see how far she's willing to go.
Mark as: THE LAMB IN THE LION'S CAGE