Episode Title: "The Plague Dogs"
Writer: Anne Cofell Saunders
Director: Felix Alcala
“Revolution” has quickly become one of NBC’s biggest fall hits and it received an early pickup for a full season. I’m happy to see some signs of life at NBC, as their resurgence can only help the broadcast TV industry.
I just wish “Revolution” was a good show. But it isn’t… at least not yet.
There are full spoilers ahead for "The Plague Dogs," so if you haven’t seen it, you should probably wait before reading this.
As promised by NBC’s promo department, a major-ish character met their end on this week’s episode of “Revolution.” And the victim was Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), the surrogate mother figure to our leading character, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos).
If I had to guess which of the main cast members were expendable, I would have said Aaron (Zak Orth) and Danny (Graham Rogers). Danny has been more of a MacGuffin than a character and up to this point he has only existed as someone for Charlie and her uncle, Miles (Billy Burke) to find and save. Aside from some awkward exposition and poor comic relief moments, Aaron is pretty useless.
Maggie wasn’t the obvious choice because her character hadn’t been adequately developed and her fractured relationship with Charlie was never given a chance to come together. The writer of this episode, Anne Cofell Saunders attempts to address those points by cramming all of that into a single hour of television
"The Plague Dogs" was designed to make the audience care for Maggie and make us feel for her. But a shock death is no substitute for heart. If the creative team wanted us to take the loss of Maggie hard then that process should have started before this week’s episode. Maggie should have been given more time before her unceremoniously fast exit.
The thing is, this could have worked. There is something inherently compelling about the idea of a mother so desperate to see her children that she’ll literally walk across the country just for the chance to find passage to her home in another country. Anna Lise Phillips’ performance didn’t quite pull it off, but I was at least starting to warm up to Maggie. Her best moment came when she met Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee).
One of the greatest weaknesses of “Revolution” is that the show has no subtlety. When it comes time to address Charlie and Maggie’s relationship, it’s done through horrible on-the-nose dialog. And because the reconciliation between them was accelerated to conclude within this episode, it didn’t feel like an earned moment.
To top it off, Maggie’s death comes under some of the silliest circumstances in recent TV memory. Somewhere along the way to rescue Danny, Miles and company are attacked by a pack of vicious dogs led by a deranged mad man. This same man ends up stabbing Maggie in her leg as retaliation for killing one of his dogs. And while it initially looks like one of those TV injuries that could have been easily survivable, the injury ends up costing Maggie her life.
The mad man even develops an attraction to Charlie after kidnapping her in perhaps the episode’s most ridiculous moments. This guy even leaves Charlie in a crossbow deathtrap while Miles and Nate Walker (J. D. Pardo) put aside their differences to save Charlie. “Not Nate” still hasn’t given up his real name and he seems oddly forgiving after Charlie left him trapped for two days. He must be really attracted to her.
Speaking of Charlie, I think that this is the third or fourth time that she’s needed someone to save her in just the first four episodes. That’s not a good way to way to build her up into a competent heroine. Especially when she’s supposed to be the lead character as well.
As for her brother, Danny, he spends the bulk of the episode trapped with Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) in a shelter during a massive storm. Aside from Danny’s uncanny ability to escape and quickly get recaptured, he doesn’t seem to have much character depth. Neville’s speech convinces Danny to save his life; which was probably meant to cement Danny’s moral standing. Instead he just looks foolish for not taking advantage of a chance to get away for good.
Until now, Neville had been my favorite character on “Revolution.” But he’s become such a cartoon character over the last few weeks that not even Esposito’s performance can make him compelling anymore.
Even so, Esposito is much better suited to play the villain than David Lyons is. Lyons’ Monroe exudes none of the menace needed to convey the gravity of his threats against Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell); the mother of Charlie and Danny. After Rachel is supposedly tortured, she looks remarkably calm without any apparent blood on her body or clothes. Did Monroe’s man torture her or perform a routine dental checkup?
The last straw is that we see Rachel abandon Ben and her children before turning herself into Monroe’s militia… as represented by her brother-in-law, Miles. Billy Burke looked so ridiculous in that outfit that I couldn’t stop laughing… which probably wasn’t the intent of the scene.
This ending raises a few problematic questions. If Miles was a part of the plan to remove Rachel from her family, then why did Ben send Charlie to find Miles in order to retrieve Danny? And if Monroe has had Rachel prisoner for the better part of a decade, then why is he only starting to torture her now?
I’d like to believe that writing Maggie out of the show was done with an eye towards strengthening “Revolution” and dealing with its dramatic shortcomings. But I am not convinced that the writers realize that it isn’t working.