Hold onto your hats, it’s time for my first ever RE-REVIEW. And, if you’re an avid follower of my tweets, you can probably guess that it’s of the dark, mysterious show full of beautiful people called Revenge. Now, when I think back, I think, out of the 4 seasons that aired, that I watched half of 2, all of 3, and then got bored when it came to season 4. Disaster. So, during a period in which I should be fully focusing on my uni work, I thought “Hey! Let’s re-watch Revenge! From the very start!”. And thank god I did, because season 1 is absolute perfection. (Caution: spoilers ahead!)
So, the gist of the series is as follows: Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) comes to the Hamptons for the holidays and buys a gorgeous beach house next to the infamous Grayson Manor. The Grayson’s basically run the Hamptons, led by Queen Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and cheating husband Conrad (Henry Czerny), with prodigal children Daniel (Josh Bowman) and Charlotte (Christa B. Allen). There’s a reason Ems bought that beach house. It’s because her name isn’t Emily Thorne, but Amanda Clarke. The Grayson’s are the people who framed her father and robbed her of her childhood. And she wants revenge. So, with the help of the ever-so endearing Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann), that’s exactly what she sets out to do. Throw in Em’s childhood crush Jack (Nick Wechsler) and the girl who has taken on the name Amanda Clarke (Margarita Levieva) and you’ve got the makings for an extremely entertaining show.
As you’ll have noticed in basically all my review blog posts, I’m a sucker for characterisation done well. And there’s no lack of that in Revenge. With shows driven by the protagonist’s vengeance, you have to be completely on their side from the off, and the way in which Emily/Amanda is scripted and portrayed makes sure of that from the very first episode. She’s sly and manipulative, and you love her for it. But when we’re treated to a flashback, you get to see her vulnerable side, and all anti-heroes demand a vulnerable side so that, despite their misdeeds, you’re rooting for them. Revenge is an absolute masterclass in how to create an anti-hero. And, incidentally, it’s also a masterclass in how to create a straight-up despicable villain. I love a good villain, I always have. I like villains who have virtually no redeeming features, but I love villains who have chinks in their armour, who have weaknesses. And that’s exactly what we’re given with Conrad and Victoria Grayson. Personally, after season 1, I feel like Conrad is our main villain. I feel like his characterisation has been given more thought and time, in that I still don’t know how to feel about Victoria. Conrad is a scheming and devious man who says he does all these bad things for his family, and to save his family’s reputation, but in reality, he’s doing it to save his own ass. I mean, in episode 22, he brought down a damn plane with the mother of his children on just to save himself. Doing it for your family, Conrad? Are you sure? He can’t be redeemed, not now. But Victoria on the other hand, she’s still an enigma to me, even after 22 episodes. She was all willing to confess her part in the downing of flight 197 to prove David Clarke’s innocence, which is great. But then, she hates Em with a burning passion. And, as viewers, we are 100% on Em’s side through everything. So, even when we think Victoria is about to do the right thing, we still hate her. Confused? So am I. I hope season 2 sheds some more light on her character’s true motivations and expands her character arc because she’s an ace personality, really. She’s cool and calculating and, unlike Conrad, I do believe she does everything with her children in mind. Even if she did want Em and Daniel broken up.
Speaking of Daniel… I just can’t. Himself and Charlotte are nothing but nuisance characters. Spoilt rich kids who throw tantrums when they don’t get their own way. I just find myself sighing and tutting whenever they’re on-screen. I have no emotional investments in either of them and, honestly, I hope my memories about Daniel dying in season 4 are correct, because he’s an arse and I hate him. I kind of hope Charlotte goes the same way, too. She was never deserving of the lovely Declan.
Speaking of the lovely Declan… He and his brother deserve a paragraph all of their own. In a show about the filthy rich, characters like Declan and Jack are completely necessary. We’re made to sympathise with them and their money woes from the start because, let’s face it, we can all relate. There’s more Jacks than Victorias watching this show. And when their father died, well… This show is very cruel to the Porter boys, let’s put it that way (Sammy the dog then dies, plus I remember Declan and fake Amanda dying in season 2… Poor Jack). Honestly, I feel like we wouldn’t have experienced half the vulnerability we did from Emily if it weren’t for the inclusion of Jack. He and Sammy were all she had to remind her of her past, and how happy she used to be. So when Jack starts to become unintentionally involved in her revenge plan, things go awry. Emily’s feelings for Jack are basically a catalyst for disaster, but that’s why you root for them. When its hinted at that Em actually has developed real feelings for Daniel (who she’s pretending to be in love with in order to infiltrate the Grayson family), you’re annoyed. You’re mad, because all you want is for her and Jack to be together. Basically, to cut a long ramble short:
Picture this: a young Amanda Clarke comes to the Hamptons to holiday with her father, and to see her best friend, Jack Porter. A cute image, right? Now picture this: years later, Amanda returns to the Hamptons with a new identity, only to discover that one true love Jack, now extremely sexy (you’ll soon discover i’ve got a serious crush), is still in the Hamptons and still clearly holding a torch for Amanda, given that he’s named his boat after her. But, of course, she can’t tell Jack who she is. It’ll ruin her plan. She can’t let her real feelings get in the way of her revenge plan, plus she’s having to play the committed girlfriend to Daniel. It’s messy and it’s frustrating, and all you want is for Emily to tell Jack who she is and for them to run off and be happy together. But come on. That was never going to happen. Throw in a fake Amanda Clarke (she and Em have basically switched identities) and things get even worse. Alas, Jack falls for fake Amanda and Em is powerless to stop it. Heart breaking stuff. So, if you fancy yelling “EMILY, JUST TELL HIM WHO YOU ARE” at your screen for 22 episodes, watch season 1. It’s a masterpiece. And don’t even mention Emily and Jack’s final meeting in episode 22. She’s finished with Daniel, she’s all ready to tell Jack the truth, but BAM, fake Amanda is back and, dun dun dun, she’s pregnant. Now, while it’s obvious that Jack would rather be with Ems, he’s not that kind of guy. For once, you want him to be an arsehole. You want him to be selfish. But hey, what are the writers to do, Jack Porter is their only good guy.
The only fault with this series? It does get confusing. Especially if you don’t understand business talk. There’s so many different elements to the David Clarke story, and Emily just keeps uncovering new things. It’s a lot to keep up with. You hear a name being mentioned and find yourself thinking “wait, who’s that again?”. Certain characters’ motivations are quite mystifying, too. I’ve already mentioned the trouble I have understanding Victoria, and I still to this day, 7 episodes after his death, cannot understand Tyler’s motivation in anything he did. He was… Jealous? He wanted to… Infiltrate Grayson Global? Who knows. Honestly, by the time he died, I was past caring, he was just irritating.
Of course, I can’t possibly write a re-review without discussing how beneficial it was to actually watch the first damn season before jumping in. Maybe I started getting bored with it because I didn’t get to see just what the Graysons had inflicted on Em and her father, as this was mostly detailed in season 1. I didn’t root for her and Jack because I didn’t know the true extent of their history. I didn’t hate Conrad Grayson because I didn’t realise how much of a snake he was. If you’re going to get on board with a show like Revenge, you have to be in for all 4 seasons, otherwise you’ll be lost. Motivations won’t be clear for one; when I started watching season 2, I had no idea why Nolan was helping Em take down the Graysons. Season 1 cleared that up for me. I had no idea just how annoying fake Amanda was, and why Em had such a problem with her relationship with Jack. Again, season 1 cleared that up for me. Basically, you’ve got to be in for the long haul, which is the mistake I made first time around.
On the whole, Revenge is great, but you’ve gotta be able to keep up. Lots of characters, lots going on, lots of intertwining stories. But the acting is ace, the scripting is ace, and it’s very nice to see Emily VanCamp playing a character who isn’t randomly forced into a relationship with Captain America. If you’ve ever got a spare… 3 weeks? Jump into Revenge and see it through until the very end, I don’t think you’ll regret it.