I don't know how Revenge does it. Even the flashback episodes raise more questions than they answer. At this point in the season, virtually every character is set up to be either a revenger or a revengee, and we're still no closer to learning the truth about the mysteries surrounding the Initiative or how Emily plans to destroy the Graysons. The biggest questions I have after this trip back to Thanksgiving 2006 are: which prison full of stock television villains emptied itself to populate this episode, and why didn't they split up and hide out on a wider variety of shows?
Like everyone else on this show, Victoria's terrible mother taught her everything she needed to know about hardening the heart and plotting slow, methodical destruction. Thankfully, Grayson Thanksgiving 2006 gave the public the revenge plot Emily didn't provide this week. Now that we can add Victoria to the list of women this show has sent away to an institution, her treatment of Emily is particularly sinister. Is there any female on this show that hasn't been sent away? I'd say that I wish there were just one completely sane woman on Revenge, but then it wouldn't be a soap opera.
Back to Victoria and her mother. Their whole final showdown was almost too Mildred Pierce, but it was so campy that it actually worked. It's too bad that Victoria and Emily are sworn enemies, because they would make a great team. Forcing your child to take a murder rap for you after you've berated her for years over her looks and your own insecurity is pretty terrible, but the more reasons Victoria has for being so damaged, the less fun it is to anticipate her downfall. If she's another victim of circumstance and bad upbringing rather than an ice-cold villainess, she might still be redeemed, and then where will we go for our weekly fix of beautiful women staring darkly into mirrors?
Speaking of villains, which set of bad guys was sillier, the Russians or the Goodfellas? It has to be the Russians, if only because everyone knows that Albanians are now the go-to human trafficking accented goons. Did Taken teach us nothing? Perhaps Liam Neeson could take a side job as a visiting professor at revenge camp. Emily's trip to the underworld of Eastern European-led prostitution rings was actually a nice touch, and a good way to finally explain Aiden's background. It was also a nice surprise to see that he and Emily didn't meet while they were training, although Takeda really should have given her a little bit more information about her mission. It would have been easier to just recruit Aiden to the revenge academy directly.
I'd hoped that Ashley's origins would be more exciting and intrigue-filled than "struggling grad student is forced to turn tricks," but she's never been the most interesting character, so I suppose I can let it slide, especially since her current relationship with Daniel makes a lot more sense now. He's a frustrated artist, she has a worthless MFA in art history; I'm sure she could help Daniel finally move past his sadness at not pursuing creative writing in college.
Speaking of Daniel's aborted career as a bard, the scene where Conrad reads Daniel's poem to Victoria is one of those moments where it would have been better to leave the poetry out. If Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip taught the world anything, it's that you never, ever show the supposedly brilliant art that everyone is talking about. It never lives up to the hype. I've said it before, and I have to say it again: Poor Daniel. This boy has always been doomed. Poetry? No professor would encourage a kid to become a poet, not even a kid as rich as Daniel. Conrad probably burned all those poems because it was as close as he could get to setting his son's tuition money on fire.
The secret history of Nolan's CFO-phobia was easily the best part of Revenge's trip into history. He and Marco established a more believable relationship over the course of their one romantic Thanksgiving scene together than he and Padma have after several episodes. Why does he have to like girls again? His entanglements with men are far more enjoyable to watch. That said, it was genuinely sad to see his loyalty to Emily cost him his lover, and it adds a whole new level to Daniel's impending takeover of his company. Now that Daniel is bringing Marco back into the fold, I look forward to an epic showdown of some sort, one that I hope takes the form of a corporate accounting competition.
The less said about the Hamptons gangster invasion of the mid-aughts, the better, I think. I love Jack, and I have even come around on Declan, but the Porter family gets the short end of the narrative stick whenever their storylines don't involve being collateral damage in the Graysons' scheming. Kenny's Johnny Walker Blue shout out at the end of the episode means he must be connected somehow to the late, unlamented dude whose body Jack's father disposes of, but it's hard to care much how or why he's only now coming for his own revenge. Perhaps he and his shady brother are graduates of the mob's own revenge training camp. Also, and maybe I'm being too picky, but couldn't there have been at least one stabbing? There are far more knives in use at Thanksgiving than there are guns. You can't carve a turkey with a gun. I never thought I'd say this, but bring back Amanda and Charlotte!
Back in 2012, safe from all-purpose Russian goons and protection racket thugs, Emily and Aiden are finally able to share some quality time together (apparently the revenge business follows the same holiday schedule as most U.S. companies), which means that we can expect a shocking twist to tear them apart at some point during the next episode. Their scenes were quite sweet, at least until the very end when Emily's line about "a journey with no end" brought everything to a screeching halt. The writers could have used a lighter touch on the "revenge is a vicious cycle that will continue for generations if you let it" theme this week, but without the usual narration, they had to fit the cringe-inducing lines in somewhere.
It seems like the next big plot developments are going to involve Nolan, and that Daniel's plan to take over NolCorp will lead him uncomfortably close to the truth about Emily, but this is Revenge, so literally anything could happen. Maybe next week's episode will be a flash-forward narrated by the ghost of Christmas future?
Previously: The Next Chapter Begins