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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Revenge delicious guilty pleasure

     In the "Pilot" of ABC's new drama, Revenge, Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp, Brothers & Sisters) rents a summer home in the Hamptons. But Emily's real name is Amanda Clarke, and she's not there to vacation. She is on a mission to get even with the people that ruined her father, David's (James Tupper, Mercy, Grey's Anatomy), life, framing him for serious crimes. Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe, Raines) is the woman David loved, and seems to be Emily's biggest foe. This episode is interspersed with scenes from the past, and from the future at Emily's engagement party to Victoria's son, Daniel (Joshua Bowman, Make It or Break It), who is murdered.

     There is a lot going on in the Revenge "Pilot," so please forgive me if it's hard to keep everything straight after a mere one episode. That's actually to the show's credit, as a large playground has been created, and there is plenty to keep viewers interested. VanCamp capably leads a fairly talented cast, and her character's specific motivations are kept shrouded in mystery. Perhaps there are people she wants to take out, and others that will be spared her wrath. She already has a good start, getting a woman ostrasized from society by the end of the first episode. But this is all still up in the air to viewers.

     "Pilot" opens with a quote about revenge, and there's an apt point to be had. No one can take revenge without it costing them something dear, as well. This is likely why David warns Emily to just forgive the people that ruined him, rather than seek justice. But David also secures a way for Emily to be well off, so she has the means to do what she wants. And who can blame her for her dark actions, given the circumstances? She had no home or parents around to raise her properly for half of her child hood. Who wouldn't be angry?

     The cast includes Gossip Girl's Connor Paolo as a tough-talking jerk and Henry Czerny (The Tudors) as Victoria's cheating husband. Czerny does the same thing he has been so good at in the past, while Paolo's abrupt turn around is still murky on whether it works or not. Only time will tell.

     Revenge is a guilty pleasure series because it's soap opera drama. There will convoluted twists, and many of the characters are larger than life. But the quality of acting is good, and the performers commit fully to their vibrant characters, making the pay off something many people will find worth watching. As such, Revenge actually does a decent job of setting up a cool story.

     That being said, there is still the "ABC-tone" to the show, where danger is glamorized, rather than being threatening. The same element can be seen in plenty of others shows on the network, but it's why Revenge will only ever be a guilty pleasure, rather than a truly dark, disturbing, affecting tale. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does make the series lean a little more towards pulp fiction that high brow.

     Watch Revenge Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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