It’s been five weeks since NBC introduced us to the post-apoc blackout drama Revolution and – dare I say it? Has the show finally hit its stride? This week our storylines collide, as our intrepid heroes finally catch up to Captain Neville and the Wandering Plotline, figure out that he’s seven kinds of crazy, and finally solve the mystery of No Name Nate! It’s train whistles, explosions and flashbacks in this week’s episode, “Soul Train.”
The episode begins with Captain Neville boxing. When none of his men want to give him a good smack (who would, crazy eyes?) he drags Danny into the act. Danny hauls off and gives him one good one; Neville then beats him to a bloody pulp. Hello, crazy impulse control problems. We knew you had ’em, Neville, but wow: there they are. This moment is also brought to you by Captain Neville’s turn at developing Flashback-itis (which we’ll cover later in the review).
Meanwhile, Charlie and Aaron are mourning over Maggie’s grave. Remember her, Miles? Nearly Charlie’s step-mom, British medic, died last episode? Well, Charlie remembers, but Miles seems intent on pushing on as fast as possible. and seems even sharper with Charlie than usual. They move on, but in the woods they hear something strange – a train whistle! They sneak up to an old rail yard with a sign: Noblesville. There’s a train waiting, while Captain Neville is harassing the conductor to get it ready to head to Philadelphia. He’s got to deliver his cargo.
Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Sebastian Monroe is back being a creeper all over Rachel Matheson. When she asks him to let Danny go, he refuses. He also practically drools all over her.
In Noblesville, the crew has gone into town to get a better look at the set-up. They find a place to stash No Name, who’s back to being locked up, and decide to scout around to see where Danny might be held. Neville’s actually got him stashed in a bank vault, while he spends his time waxing poetic about how he used to work for money he never saw. Danny tells him he’s sick of Neville’s games, while Neville seems to be sick of pretending to be a mentally stable individual.
Nora finds a store downtown marked with three hash marks in the glass of a window. Inside she meets Hutch, the only surviving member of the rebellion in town. His wife and every other member of his cell were killed off long ago. Nora tells him that she intends to blow up the train and needs his help.
Charlie is also going through town when she’s spotted by Captain Neville. He questions her identity, thinking that she looks suspicious, but she sells him on a flimsy story about checking on a cheating boyfriend. When she ignores Miles’ earlier warning about keeping her distance from Neville and instead follows him, Neville corners her in an alley at knifepoint. He’s going to kill her when Miles jumps in. The jig is up: Neville identifies them and Miles offers him a trade, Danny in exchange for No Name the Militia Boy. Neville refuses but there’s some recognition in his eyes – he knows No Name pretty well. Miles runs for it.
Back at the hideout, Aaron drops the necklace next to No Name’s cell and pretends it’s his wife’s old ugly piece of jewelry. He gets the necklace back as Nora shows up to explain the plan – she’s going to blow up the train. Meanwhile, on their way back, Charlie and Miles get into a fight (what else is new?) and he tells her if they don’t get Danny back, it’s because she got herself spotted by Neville. When WeepyCharlie asks what happened to the awesome uncle she remembered from her childhood, Miles answers that that guy is dead.
Neville seems to be losing it more and more; he moves Danny to a more secure location. Nora outlines her plan and Miles says they have to find Danny first. Charlie begs No Name to help them get Danny back, but when he refuses, Miles pulls his sword and No Name pulls some slick parkour-esque maneuvers while handcuffed to get away.
At Independence Hall, Philadelphia, one of Monroe’s guys informs him that the Plains Nation and the Georgia Federation have made an alliance because the rebellion makes people think Monroe is weak. Monroe moans about his lack of pre-war technology and eyes the map on the table. Things are getting dire, and he needs to solidify his power. In Noblesville, Nora hollows out a log and makes a homemade bomb. The men on the train will throw the log into the boiler to stoke the steam engine and the thing will blow sky high. Hutch talks about how his wife, who was a fighter, would be proud of what they’re doing. Nora sneaks the bomb onto the train, easy as you please. Across town, Charlie and Miles go to try the bank when they hear the train whistle. Warned by No Name of Miles and Charlie’s intentions, Neville’s pushed up the departure time. Our heroes run for the train.
In the station, Nora and Hutch watch the departure. When she sees Neville aboard, she reckons that the kid with him is Danny and remembers her promise to Miles. She tries to call off the mission but Hutch freaks out—he needs to do this for his wife—and stabs Nora! When Miles and Charlie get to the station, Nora tells them about the bomb and they take off on horseback after the train. Cue an awesome jump-from-horseback-onto-the-train moment. Miles goes after the bomb and reaches the boiler just as it’s being tossed in! He fights off a soldier and sticks his hand into the burning boiler to pull out the explosive just in time.
Meanwhile, Charlie gets to the car holding Danny. He sees her and jumps Neville while Charlie busts in. No Name grabs Charlie while Danny is secured by Neville. When Neville tells No Name to bring him Charlie, No Name chooses to toss her off the train instead; Miles sees her go and jumps off, too. Danny speeds away on the train with Neville – the mission was a bust.
The team recovers in a clearing. Nora is no worse for wear and nudges Miles to go talk to Charlie. While he tries to be nice about her memories of the past, Charlie has decided to toughen up like Miles advised, in the wake of their failure. She takes the lead and heads towards Philadelphia, the others following in tow.
The train arrives in Philly station and Neville disembarks with No Name. They’re met there by Janet, Neville’s wife (who we’ve seen in flashbacks). She embraces Neville and then No Name, who is really their son, Jason! Cue this week’s first reveal!
The second reveal comes when Danny is unloaded from the train. From an upstairs window, Monroe shows Rachel her son. She breaks down and sketches the necklace and tells Monroe that she and her husband both worked on the project. “If you want to turn the power back on, it starts with these pendants. There are twelve of them.” And that’s where we leave off for this week....
This week on Flashback Theater, we get a chance to see what Captain Tom Neville was like before the end of the world. In his pre-blackout life, Neville was an insurance adjustor who tried to do nice things for people (like helping folk who didn’t have coverage cover smoke damage to their house). He gets fired for his trouble. Back at home, his neighbor throws a raucous party late into the night but Neville’s too chicken to stand up to him. He goes inside to see his son (playing with an awesome Optimus Prime figure) and heads down to the basement to box before dinner – seems that’s the way that super uptight Neville deals with his problems. His son comes down and he lets the boy take a swing, but warns him never to hit people. The kid hits the bag and – bam, the power goes out.
The next flashback is six weeks later. The neighborhood’s gotten pretty rough and Janet is arguing that they should leave when someone breaks in downstairs. It’s Rob the Nasty Neighbor and he tries to kill Neville in front of his son, Jason! Neville instead beats him to death with his bare hands in front of Janet and the boy. Cue the transformation of Tom Neville, wishy-washy insurance adjustor into Captain Neville, slightly psycho apocalypse survivor.
The last flashback at the end of the episode was a surprise, and it belonged to No Name... I mean, Jason. Jason is looking at his father, who promises to teach him how to use a knife and a gun – because if he’s scared or weak, he’ll die. If that doesn’t set the tone for their relationship, I don’t know what would.
What Worked This Week:
Finally, an episode that felt cohesive and filled with tension. There was very little this week that didn’t work for me. In “Soul Train,” the two divergent plotlines caught up to one another and there was real tension throughout the whole episode – would they free Danny? Would Nora blow up the train? Would Neville snap his brainpan and just murder everyone? It was impossible to know, and that was the best part of the whole thing. Equally interesting was the little inch of growth from Charlie, who moved from doe-eyed apocalyptic Mary Sue to an evolving, hardening survivor of the collapse of society, at least somewhat. It was good to see her and Miles getting into their issues in a manner that had some emotional depth, and to see Miles lose the argument.
Equally as engaging was Nora’s whole storyline: the hardened revolutionary still couldn’t give up Danny’s life when push came to shove, and stood by her principles even though it got her stabbed. Nora’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on the show.
Speaking of favorite characters: hello, Captain Neville! It’s about time that an episode featured the amazing Giancarlo Esposito in all his glory, and between the flashback scenes and Neville’s descent into tense violence, the episode felt like a tribute to the character we’ve all been waiting to explore. The reveal that tied No Name to Neville redeemed the younger character as being relevant to the plot, and kept me interested in what they’re going to do with him (despite how light his performance has been so far). Kim Raver was also a breath of fresh air as Janet, Neville’s wife, and I hope to see more of their dynamic in the future.
What Didn’t Work:
With the episode focusing on Neville this week, it seemed like Miles fell away into the background and I was all right with that. But there were some ham-fisted moments intended to drive the plot along (“Of course! Why didn’t I think of the bank vault before!”) that were wince-worthy. Equally wince-worthy was the hard switch Charlie made at the end to “hardened” girl of the world. I get that the stage is set for her to evolve a little bit, but the whole scene felt uncomfortable and eye-roll inducing, as it was played. A moment of real character development shouldn’t feel like a high school girl’s temper tantrum – unless that was what the writers were going for?
The absence of Aaron in this episode was terribly annoying, as I missed his snarky commentary. Also annoying was the continued absence of No Name/Jason as a real character. He has yet to develop into anything beyond courageous eye candy, and that mystery is less intriguing to me than irritating. Still, maybe now we get to see more of his family in Philadelphia and the repercussions of his rescue of Charlie. The set-up of a love connection between Neville’s son and Charlie makes for a nice twist, but it’s really all in what you do with it from here....
1) Neville will crack while back in Philadelphia and No Name will go over to the good guys. C’mon, that one’s practically written on the posters.
2) Randall is a member of some bad-guy organization determined to steal the twelve pendants to control the power. Does he work for one of the other governments? Is he a rebel? Or just a psycho?
3) Aaron will hold onto Maggie’s iPhone in an attempt to continue product placement.
What I’m Looking Forward To:
1) The heroes reaching Philadelphia: the anticipation for their confrontation with Monroe is starting to build and I’m excited to see them explore the Philadelphia space. The city looks almost normally, contemporarily modern, and that interests me.
2) Monroe making out with Rachel: When she said “You have me,” he practically jumped her right there! It’s so obviously a reverse Stockholm situation going on between the two of them and with Danny in his grasp, he’s got Rachel right in the palm of his hands. Of course, Rachel has to get away from him and soon, before this creepy obsession gets handsy.
3) Rebellion everywhere and more to come: I’d love to see more rebellion cells, more organized rebellion. If there’s one thing I can get behind, it’s a nice revolutionary group in this series that isn’t disorganized, untrained or kind of a little too zealously devoted (like Hutch). Nora’s got me interested, now I want to see more.
“Give me one Black Hawk chopper. What would they do, throw rocks at it? No, they’d kneel and bow like the Mayas before the Spanish. And I’d still cut their guts out.” - Monroe about the Plains Nation and Georgia Federation alliance
“That uncle you knew when you were little. Not dead. I just can’t be him right now. Because I’m going to have to kill Monroe. I’m going to have to walk to Philly and kill my best friend.” - Miles to Charlie
It’s two weeks to the next episode, in which Nora needs medicine (and Charlie’s got to get in a dress in order to negotiate for it) in “Sex and Drugs.” Join me again in two weeks!
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com.