At this point, Revenge is basically two shows. We have Emily’s adventures in global conspiracy, multinational corporate espionage and romance, and we have Jack Porter’s descent into mediocre mid-’90s indie crime-drama hell. I love what happened this week in the former, but if the writers can’t figure out how to make the latter less clichéd as the wreck of the Amanda approaches, I worry for the whole endeavor.
Let’s start with the less than satisfying plot twists. Surprise! Kenny and Nate Ryan are bad guys out for – wait for it – Revenge! I know. Our minds are blown by this piece of stunning news that was in no way foreshadowed by every shot they’ve ever been in. A show built around shocking revelations and reversals of fortune should probably avoid scenes where mysterious characters are framed menacingly in church entries and on docks swirling with wispy fog. It’s been obvious since Kenny first appeared that his interest in the Stowaway was related to some dark secret, but last week’s flashback to the murder of papa Joe Ryan didn’t make his evil motives any more compelling. Nearly killing the guy responsible for the murder didn’t do it either.
The Ryan brothers’ shadiness has been so obvious, in fact, that I have to wonder if maybe Jack’s financial situation is so dire that he can’t afford the internet. Who doesn’t take the time to do a simple Google search on a potential business partner? The information Nolan dug up didn’t seem like anything hidden all that far down the tubes. Running a bar doesn’t preclude a man from possessing basic online research skills.
Now that Jack has to protect his family and his father’s friends from the Brothers Payback, it’s even harder to see how his relationship with Emily can continue, even as a friendship. Every time she and Amanda see one another, Amanda reasonably points out that revenge cannot lead to happiness, and Emily leaves abruptly to continue on her quest. The gulf between her old life as Amanda Clarke and her connection with Jack keeps growing wider, and the newly resurgent Initiative will leave Emily with even less time to wonder about the life that might have been. It would be nice to think that Amanda is smart enough to see that she and Jack are in danger, and that she would go to Emily for help.
Of course, this is Revenge, so it’s also possible to look at the plight of the Porters as the very, very low rent version of what has been unfolding at Grayson Manor. I might hate the plot itself, but Jack’s situation and the Graysons’ relationship with the Initiative have a nice sort of symmetry. Why should the one percent be the only people who have professional dealings with shady characters who want to murder them? I guess it was only a matter of time. Kill or be killed, either literally or metaphorically, is more or less the definition of capitalism, right?
The one genuinely moving part of the Jack and Amanda part of the show was the christening. No good gangster story is complete without a christening scene (thank you, Francis Ford Coppola), but it did highlight just how disconnected from anything resembling normal life Emily has become. She and Aiden may never be able to escape their training and their mission, but they can find some measure of comfort in being able to be honest with one another. It’s refreshing to see Emily be totally honest with someone she considers to be her equal; Nolan and Amanda may know her true identity, but they’re too often tools to be used in the course of her plan rather than actual allies.
They may be mixing revenge business with pleasure, but Emily and Aiden have enough going on that they deserve a few quiet moments. The final machinations behind Daniel’s ascent to CEO of Grayson Global had everything I have come to expect from this show. There were almost too many unexpected reversals too keep track of, and everyone dispatched with the important exposition at some sort of skeet shooting party. It seems shocking that there hasn’t been another opportunity for Victoria to take aim and fire at real targets while making icy, threatening comments to her guests. Is this the last we’ll see of Ashley, or will she make an appearance several episodes from now like her late boyfriend Tyler? I really hated seeing her agree to prostitute herself in order to win the vote of Important Board Member Salvador Grobet. She’s never been the most interesting part of the show, but she didn’t really deserve to be pimped out by Victoria in her twisted attempt to protect Daniel from the Initiative. That she and Conrad managed to agree to put their mutual hatred aside for the sake of their son and Victoria’s phone call at the end of the episode makes me think that a lot of very uncomfortable alliances are about to be made.
Thanks to Aiden, Daniel is still very much in the sights of our favorite shadowy cabal run by yet another terrifying woman, although now that he’s single he’s already pining after Emily once more. He’ll be so busy running a company, getting to know his new terrorist overlords, and continuing the cold-blooded corporate tricks he pulled out of his designer suit, he might not have time for love. He does have time for a little revenge of his own, which is how I choose to look at his move to keep Aiden off the Grayson board. He must assume that he wants the extra time to hang out with Emily.
Daniel’s most effective cruel, power play was on Nolan, who continues to have all the best quips in the face of certain doom. As Mr. Ross put it himself, “Sacrificial lamb, reporting for the slaughter.” It’s bad enough to have to work with an ex, but to have to rehire Marco in order to keep him from falsely accusing Nolan of improperly keeping money from Amanda Clarke will add an extra layer of awkward to staff meetings. I’m sure Nolan’s plan to keep Daniel and his company from profiting from the still warm corpse of NolCorp will be brilliant. He’s been hanging out with Emily long enough that he must have picked up at least a few revenge tricks. I’m sure he could convince Aiden to give him some extra pointers too; Emily would probably ask him to hack into some government database as a trade.
So what did we learn this week? We learned never to trust brothers with Irish names who like to make threats, that Victoria likes to slut-shame women who sleep with her husband, that Nolan seems to have terrible taste in men, and revenge ninjas tend to not lead very happy lives. I almost forgot one: the Initiative is about to get very cozy with Daniel, and its headquarters seem to be located in a bunker furnished with cast-off props from The Prisoner and lit like the bottom of an ocean. No wonder they want to destroy the world; how else are they going to get out of their underground lair?
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