Friday, January 6, 2012

Revenge is under "Duress"

     In "Duress," the return of ABC's Revenge, Nolan (Gabriel Mann) and Emily (Emily VanCamp) make a disturbing discovery about Tyler (Ashton Holmes). Learning he is mentally unstable, they call his brother in to treat him. But it's too late, as Tyler stabs Nolan, and holds a gun and Emily and the others at Daniel's (Joshua Bowman) birthday celebration. In the meantime, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) encounters some unexpected bumps in the road to her divorce from Conrad (Henry Czerny) as they fight over custody of Charlotte (Christa B. Allen).

     ABC needs to stop spoiling things. Not only is Tyler's gun wielding scene shown in the opening of "Duress," but it is also revealed in the preview that aired after the fall finale. Plus, several juicy tidbits that should be left as surprises are shown in next week's look ahead, including why Daniel might propose so soon to Emily. It actually hurts the series. Rather than sparking interest, it gives things away. And please, why have Tyler point the gun at Emily so much? Everyone knows she's going to live. It would be far more interesting if he points it at, say, Amanda (Margarita Levieva, How to Make It in America), who wasn't shown in the future events of the "Pilot."

     Note: for ease, I am referring to the revenge-driven character as Emily and her juvie cohort as Amanda. Yes, their names are actually the other way around, but it's simpler to use the names the characters usually go by.

     Complaints about spoilers is a sign at how gripping Revenge is. It is quickly becoming ABC's new primetime soap, a staple of the network, and one in need of replacement since Desperate Housewives will make its final bow at the end of the season. Revenge so far has not quite lived up to the early days of that last big hit, possibly partly because of the smaller ensemble. Sometimes it ventures a little near CW territory, with the contrived romances and added drama. However, for the most part, Revenge is succeeding, and creating a story that will be intrigue-worthy for at least a few seasons.

     Tyler's complete breakdown in "Duress" is delightful. Finally getting off of his meds, he becomes the unstable individual he has been trying to hide all along. It also is time for him to leave, as he has been distracting from the main plot of Emily trying to bring down the Graysons, which needs to be gotten back to as the wedding date, glimpsed in the "Pilot," rapidly approaches. He is a good side trip to take up a portion of the season, but now that he's been played out, it's time for him to move on.

     Amanda, on the other hand, will continue to be a thorn in Emily's side, possibly for some time to come. Her presence is the biggest threat to Emily's mission. While Amanda's relationship with Jack (Nick Wechsler) is kind of a low blow, it is mostly a distraction, as Emily is single-minded enough to keep from unfurling over her feelings for Jack. But that doesn't mean Amanda won't slip, most likely in front of Jack, and let on that she's not, in fact, Amanda Clarke. Given that Amanda is already proving herself not the sharpest tool in the box, unlike Emily, and Victoria seems suspicious, it probably won't be a long wait until Amanda blow Emily's cover. But that could just be the beginning of open warfare, not an end to the entire scheme, and thus, an exciting twist to look forward to!

     How much emotion does Emily still have left after everything that has happened to her? She makes an apology to Nolan this week that, while beating around the bush a little, comes off as sincere. At first, Emily doesn't want Nolan's help. Now she's relying on it. Is Emily motivated to repair her friendship with him merely to help her complete her goal, as he has become a valuable asset? Or does she care about the man who refuses to go away, and who has made himself as much an instrument of revenge as any in Emily's arsenal? The series plays Emily close enough to the vest that it's impossible to tell.

     The battle over Charlotte in "Duress" is a curious one. Despite Victoria's private confessions about not wanting Charlotte, she does really seem to care. It's a credit to Stowe that she can capture these layers in a highly manipulative, mostly unlikable character. Yet, the fight for custody over Charlotte does seem genuine, not a tactic. Might Victoria have had a change of heart? Certainly she's not just going after Charlotte because Conrad wants her. It also should make Charlotte feel valued in a way she has not been, which the girl might use to her advantage, as she clearly possesses shades of her mother within. Which makes Charlotte an unpredictable wild card in the series of unfolding events, as Charlotte's wants could easily get in the way of anyone else's plans.

     Watch Revenge, a highly satisfying guilty pleasure drama, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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     Please click here to catch up with streaming episodes of Revenge.

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