The season premiere of Revenge was stuffed with the sort of twists and turns fans of the show have come to expect, but it was also, to appropriate one of Nolan's best quips of the night, only "vaguely revengey," at least until the last minutes. It's difficult to know how to feel about this. On the one hand, Emily did crush a lot of people during the first season, so she's probably earned the right to take a break from avenging her father's death in order to investigate her mother's disappearance. On the other hand, Conrad and Victoria Grayson are still out there, being evil and ruining the lives of anyone unfortunate enough to love them. Don't lose focus, Emily!
So where were we? Victoria is presumed dead in a plane crash, Amanda has just returned and is pregnant with Jack's baby, Daniel and Ashley seem headed for a hookup, Charlotte ODs and Emily learns that her mother is alive. Nothing important happened to Declan. Nothing too complicated or difficult to untangle there, so I'm sure everyone will be happy and healthy and communicating well when we check back in.
Let's start at the beginning, on Labor Day weekend, with the wreck of the Amanda and the body we're supposed to think is Jack's but obviously isn't. His compass! His family photo! An arm that looks like it belongs to an old man! It's nice to see the writers call back to the pilot by doing another flash-forward to a dead body, but usually you want to wait a few years before repeating a particular plot twist.
Once we see where the summer ends, we flash back to where it begins, which for Emily is tied to a post in the ocean off a Japanese island, trying to remember things about her mother. Some people go on diets or go to fitness boot camp to be ready for summer at the beach; Emily Thorne takes a few weeks at her special revenge boot camp. We also get to see Takeda and a revenge camp trainee named Aiden, although neither of them has much to do but to criticize Emily for not killing the White-Haired Man when she had the chance.
Since we all know that Emily is headed back to the Hamptons, she has to rally her trusty sidekick Nolan, who by the looks of his boxing moves could join Emily in battle in addition to installing and operating nautically themed hidden cameras. When you think about just how many times Nolan got beat up last season, it's not surprising that he'd take up boxing. It also makes sense that he'd sell his house, but you'd think a billionaire genius would have a better plan for his summer than crashing at the home of his retribution-obsessed friend in exchange for some light hacking and surveillance work. Considering the way she spit out, "don't get too comfortable," Emily seemed to think the same thing.
Once Nolan put his luggage in the guest room, it was off to the hospital where her mother had been in the psychiatric ward to try and gather intelligence. Not only does Emily manage to find her mother's old room and discover a piece of arm restraint with her family's infinity symbol on it (a truly creepy thing to take as a keepsake), but Nolan finds Emily's mother's medical file and visitation logs. Lo and behold, both Emily's father and Victoria visited just before David Clarke's arrest.What does it all mean? Hopefully not more flashbacks to the hospital; the lighting and camera angles made those scenes downright nightmarish.
As Nolan and Emily settle into a routine of morning coffee and evening jaunts to abandoned mental hospitals, Jack's relationship with Amanda seems as destined for a wreck as his boat, no matter how determined he is to stay for the sake of the baby. The bearded Porter gets to spend a lot of time brooding on his boat, contemplating how much he hates his life, which is exactly where you want to be emotionally a month before your child is born. Declan, who got a haircut and instantly became more sympathetic and interesting, spends the episode scolding Jack for being irresponsible, which is the sort of lecture that would have been more useful before Amanda got pregnant, but better late than never.
No matter how hard Jack tries to deny it, he's still in love with Emily, which means another year of longing gazes and handwringing by Emily over how to untangle all of her lies without ruining her carefully crafted plans. Like any women locked in a toxic friendship, Emily and Amanda jump straight to testing each other's weak points within seconds of being reunited. It's hard to believe that Amanda would be smart enough for Takeda to enlist for Emily's cause but wouldn't have anticipated Emily's "Jack, have you considered that your girlfriend might be a big slut?" gambit. Unless questioning a baby's paternity is part of godmother tradition, in which case Emily's just getting started on her duties a little early.
Back on the fancy side of the tracks, Daniel and Conrad face off next door over Daniel's trust fund. Conrad sounded like he was auditioning for Game of Thrones when he says to Daniel, "You pledged allegiance to me." Grayson Manor is as big as a castle, and Conrad is quite the murderous despot, but saying things like that to someone you actually need something from isn't a great tactic. If that's his approach to business, it's no surprise that Grayson Global needs a capital infusion so badly.
As Daniel drinks scotch, sleeps with Ashley and broods, Charlotte is finishing up a stint in rehab and acting like a totally different person than the petulant mean girl of last season. Charlotte always seemed like she should be a more interesting character, so it's nice to see her getting to do something besides fight with her parents. It's also nice to see her interact with Emily again, especially when Charlotte whispers the location of Victoria's hideout just before she gets hauled back to rehab for failing a drug test.
There must be some sort of manual for evil rich people, How to Have Your Enemies and Inconvenient Relatives Committed, because Victoria and Conrad share a deep love of locking up women. First there was Emily's mother, then Emily and now Charlotte. Poor thing. She had to spend all of last season being insufferable, and now her own father is trying to have her declared mentally incompetent and then steal her inheritance. I want Emily to send one of her fellow revenge ninjas into the rehab center to recruit her half-sister to the cause. The revenge industry seems to have a serious gender parity problem.
Victoria may not have had a hand in Charlotte's current plight, but she's still scheming and plotting from her Witness Protection hideaway. It seems like the lynchpin of a major federal terrorism case wouldn't be allowed to tell her drug-addicted daughter her location, but it doesn't really matter, because Victoria is alive and has shed all the humanity she acquired in the last few episodes of last season. Emily leaves Victoria's cabin after forging an uneasy alliance to rescue Charlotte from her father's plans but returns later to plant a camera. The Clam Cam is responsible for the episode's most shocking revelation: Victoria orders the White-Haired Man to eliminate Emily.
After so many revelations and reversals of fortune, what does it all mean, and where do things go from here? Luckily no one is wasting time getting Victoria back into the mix, which means next week will include several thousand more withering glances and at least one promise of total destruction. Some things I want to know: Is Victoria really evil, or is she playing yet another angle beyond her current alliance with the man who killed her lover? Does it even matter? Will we ever learn about the inner workings Takeda's revenge training camp? How can Emily juggle romantic tension with Daniel, Jack and Aiden and still find time to fight Victoria? Where has Amanda's mother been for the past 20 years? Why does every actor look shinier and fancier than they did last season? Why did they use such a wimpy cover of "Hey Hey, My My?" The questions go on and on. Here's hoping the show has some answers to go along with all this intrigue and reprisal.