Written By: Mike Kelley
Draft Date: January 25, 2011
Oh, how I wish American networks were in the business of limited-run scripted summer television. Because this script, in my opinion, would be a perfect piece of summer entertainment for 13 episodes. And then it would be done and we would clamor for more except there was no more because it told its story, it told it in a concise-yet-twisty way, and then it got out before becoming convoluted.
Sadly, The Revenge has been developed for the fall season and as a continuing series. And so I shudder to think of what may or may not come to pass, should it secure a series pickup. But I know I will be watching.
Emily Thorne is engaged to Daniel Grayson and Daniel's massively wealthy parents are hosting a (beyond) lavish engagement part for the two of them as the closing event of the "season" in the Hamptons. Summer is ending.
As is Daniel's life.
That's where our story begins. And then we flashback to several different time periods, though much of the action of the pilot takes place during Memorial Day weekend, when Emily and Daniel first met. We discover many things about Emily, whose name used to be Amanda Clarke. Her father used to work at the company of Conrad Grayson, Daniel's father, and he was made into a patsy (she believes and thus we must, as well) and eventually put to death for laundering money into a terrorist organization (pre-9/11) that was responsible for killing hundreds of Americans.
Emily is out for revenge against all of the people responsible for ruining her life, and killing her father. Who are these conspirators? We don't know, exactly. But Emily is using the considerable fortune left to her from an investment her father made to rent a house at the Hamptons this summer and carry out her revenge.
Was Emily responsible for killing Daniel? There are clues, in the opening, that point to "maybe"... at least as soon as we learn her motives. During the opening of the script, however, I bumped on this being another show about rich people and lavish parties and love affairs. Then Daniel died and, suddenly, it was possible to care.
Unlike the pilot of Ringer, another series that gets a kick-start with a wealthy person's demise in the Hamptons and employs a flashback device... we never return to the "present" established in the opening, at least not in the pilot. And that, my friends, is something I believe will be a problem. Certainly for the casual viewer, but also potentially for the series' ongoing story. When will we return to Labor Day weekend and the engagement party? Episode 13? If the show is successful, not until the finale of a 22-episode first season? How fast do we get there, what does it mean in Emily's grand scheme, was it even a part of her scheme, what's next? I don't know. I want to know. Just as I want to know if there's anything more to the serie, beyond further exploring the conspiracy and Emily continuing to exact her revenge. Over and over and over again.
I'm sure things will go awry and spin out of control / in unexpected directions (for instance, even in the pilot, Emily begins to genuinely like Daniel... so she may not have killed him, or at least we are being led to believe that, or if she did, it was out of necessity for her greater scheme and not at all something she was happy to do).
It's odd to be so conflicted. Because I do genuinely like this pilot. It's an interesting update of the Count of Monte Cristo. It doesn't seem like every season will be a fresh start, like, say, 24 (a new terrorist attack / conspiracy to thwart every season) or AMC's The Killing (a new murder every season) and I'm just not sure I have the patience for seasons and seasons of conspiracy. Prison Break, for instance, petered out pretty quickly after the initial prison break at the end of season one (yes, it had three more seasons, but I certainly didn't stick with it).
Which is why, to repeat my opening to this review... I wish American networks were in the business of limited-run scripted summer television. I'd watch this for 13 episodes. Hell, I probably will watch it for longer than that (as I'm certain there is still plenty of stuff to be played beyond Daniel's death, per my questions above). But all shows like this hit a point where they either spin their wheels or completely derail. And, dammit, I don't want this to derail or get stretched out to the point I'm not interested any longer.
Goodness, that seems so fatalistic.
Let's talk a few more details of the pilot.
Emily has been planning this thing for years, since her father's death in 2003. And she's quite capable of fitting in and disrupting the lives of the Hamptons' social elite. She takes down Conrad's wife's best friend, Lydia, without her fingerprints on it at all, merely pressing the right buttons to have Victoria, Conrad's wife and Daniels' mother, excommunicate Lydia from the Hamptons. Oh, the problems of the wealthy...
Daniel has a younger sister, 17-year old Charlotte. Turns out that Kevin and Victoria were sleeping together about 17-18 years ago. So, two guesses on who Charlotte's dad is (not that any doubts are cast on her parentage in the pilot... I'm just prognosticating, here).
There is an upstairs/downstairs component to the show. The upstairs, of course, are the Graysons and the rest of the Hamptons' elite. Then there are the Porters, a working class family who run a nautical-themed bar. There's Carl, the patriarch, Abby, his wife who we see once and never hear from, Ben, a do-gooder who is the same age as Emily and about to head to Haiti to help (a bit belatedly) with earthquake relief, and Declain, 17, a troublemaker who is dating Charlotte Grayson. They also have an old dog, Jake, who used to belong to Amanda many years ago... and who knows Emily and Amanda are the same.