Last fall, as many of my favorite TV series came to an end, I reverted to my usual skeptic attitude toward the new shows that debuted. Generally, I favor ABC’s lineup, because let’s be honest, Disney throws so much money at its programming that most are bound to at least keep some interest. After being pleasantly surprised at “Once Upon a Time’s” combination of drama, action and fairytale stories, I decided to grit my teeth and dive into “Revenge.” I loved the first season. It had everything: intrigue, action and well-developed characters. But after only three episodes of the second season, I’m done.
While often described as a guilty pleasure, “Revenge” had a lot going for it. Premiering last September, the pilot episode set the show for a season of success. Emily Thorn (Emily VanCamp, “Brothers and Sisters”) creates a cloud of mystery around her engagement to the handsome, rich Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman, “Make it or Break it”) as she mingles with guests at her engagement party. A scheming mother, Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe, “Raines”), threatens Emily during the celebration, but only just before a gunshot rings out, and Daniel is found on the beach covered in blood. Flash back to months before and the promise of an exciting conclusion, “Revenge” combines a well-structured plot, enticing character development and enough craziness to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. While the finale was a bit dry, “Revenge” left the audience with plenty of unanswered questions, along with some deep investment.
But as season two starts off trying to use the same formula as season one, everything falls flat. “Revenge” promises a torn-apart body on Jack’s boat with divers excavating the wreck. That’s it. Where’s the drama? Where are the other characters, and how have they changed because of this? Why should I care? It’s probably not Jack, just like how the person shot in season one wasn’t Daniel. Unlike successful uses of recycled plot structures – see “Hangover 2” – “Revenge” is too invested in trying to the connect dots in a mystery to do something formulaic.
On top of structural dullness, “Revenge” has gotten flat-out boring. The focus of events has shifted from Emily and Nolan’s joint venture to Amanda and Jack’s tumultuous, snooze-worthy relationship, as well as the Graysons’ dizzying back-and-forth loyalties and hatred toward each other. It’s tiring and dull. Then, we have Emily dealing with a poorly introduced new lover and looking for her mother, who turns out to be alive and in love with the “white-haired man” who tried to kill Emily. Come on, this is just silly. I honestly don’t care how this is going to be explained – it’s all just too damn weird and soap opera-y. “Revenge” has fallen into the pitfall of using relationships as a crutch for its entire presentation when it could be doing so much better.
The show’s focus on relationships used to be about power struggles, and now it’s just about who’s angry with whom this week. Emily was using Daniel to get closer to the Graysons and ended up having feelings for him, but not enough to completely deter her from her mission. This is what the viewers tuned in for, not just another lovey-dovey drama. I watch “Grey’s Anatomy” for that, not “Revenge.” I would say, “give me back what I watched for,” but it’s honestly too late. “Revenge” has exhausted me to the point of giving up.
What’s really sad about the drop in quality of “Revenge” is how it took a seemingly boring premise of family drama and turned it into so much more. The series title Emily is working toward has all but been forgotten under the drama and frankly boring conspiracies and watching her get her revenge was the whole reason I watched the show.
Thankfully, the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Shonda Rhimes, has blessed us with another high-tension season of “Scandal.” So, I recommend to anyone that likes “The West Wing,” “Lost” or “Grey’s” to stop waiting for “Revenge” to get off its ass and become interesting and switch to a better show.