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Thursday, October 3, 2013

I "Fear" REVENGE May Disappoint

Article first published as I "Fear" REVENGE May Disappoint on TheTVKing.

Many fans of ABC's Revenge were hoping for a season premiere that picked up right where last spring's finale left off, given the crucial point at which it ends. Tonight's first episode of the third season, though, entitled "Fear," begins months later, leaving viewers to jump back in headfirst and catch up you go.

"Fear" begins, as the other two seasons of Revenge have, with a flash forward to a tragedy. This time, we see Emily (Emily VanCamp) in a wedding dress, shot, falling into the water. Given that Emily is the main character, it is unlikely that her death will be coming anytime this season. So, it's not only a weird tease, but also not a particularly scary one. Also, one has to wonder if the shooting is Emily's plan to fake her death and escape marriage to Daniel, something she clearly has no desire to go through with, despite setting a date.

Just because Emily won't die doesn't mean she can't be hurt. Emily and Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) continue their dance, smiling and pretending to play nice, while secretly plotting one another's take down. This is definitely the driving force of the show, and the scenes the two ladies share, are always a high point of any installment. Emily seems to have the upper hand for now, engaged to Daniel (Joshua Bowman) and forcing the whole Grayson clan back together for a beginning-of-summer party.

Looks can be deceiving, and even if Emily is in the lead, she may not maintain it. She has Nolan (Gabriel Mann) on her side again, now that he's out of jail, but he refuses to use his technical skills, relying on old-fashioned methods instead. And Jack (Nick Wechsler) now knows who Emily is, but instead of teaming up with her, blames Emily for his brother's and love's deaths, considering them collateral damage in Emily's fight. So she's not in her strongest stance.

Jack's position, something highly speculated about during the hiatus, is likely to be the point of contention most fans have trouble accepting. He's a good guy and we want to see Emily, the protagonist of Revenge on the right side, too. Instead, by having Jack paint Emily in a negative light, the show risks turning viewers against its main character unless Jack can be won over, too, or Emily abandons her task, which would kill the premise of the series.

Expectation that Revenge can write itself out of this corner is not wholly optimistic, as the story has made some stretches before, but I think it'll work out OK. I applaud them for giving Jack this very authentic reaction, and Emily's equally believable confusion and sorrow at it. This is well-handled character development, and the more of this was can get from the show, the better.

The Graysons are not exactly in top fighting form, either. Conrad (Henry Czerny) is told by a doctor he has Huntington's disease, a fatal, degenerative illness, like Thirteen had in House. This is all a plot by Emily, he's not actually sick, but it throws the family into disarray. Let's hope for Emily's sake it keeps them as such, rather than uniting them against her.

There are some allies to the Graysons, too, some intentional, some not. Ashley (Ashley Madekwe) makes a move against Emily, but is knocked down by Emily, discrediting Ashley and having Victoria send her packing. And Aiden (Barry Sloane) is offering his services to Victoria. So the tables could turn quickly.

Victoria is distracted from the feud by the arrival of her son, Patrick (Justin Hartley, Smallville). She genuinely enjoys his company, which keeps her away from the fighting. But then he decides to return to the city, setting her off. Is she really this petty? If her children don't wish to stay under her roof full-time and obey her every wish, she goes off on them? It isn't quite in keeping with the character, unless Victoria just feels so betrayed and abandoned by everyone else that Patrick is her last life raft, and even his leaving temporarily is enough to shatter her fragile psyche.

The unintended result of Victoria's obsession with Patrick is that her daughter, Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), feels rejected, and goes on the offensive against Patrick. Charlotte has been tame and a side-lines player through much of the show's run. If Patrick's presence spurs her to take a more active role in the machinations of the show, this means a new player has entered the fold, and that can throw all the old rules out the window.

I actually like "Fear" because of the calculated way it unfolds, giving us a piece at a time of the story-already-in-progress, and moving the players around the chessboard in not-always predictable ways. Perhaps this reset, ditching the mistakes of last year, will get it back on track.

Revenge airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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