Another episode of Revolution, another terrible plan by Charlie. Is it fair to call all of Charlie’s plans terrible? Maybe not. She does, after all, succeed a lot of the time. But these instances seem more about dumb luck and convenient last-minute rescues than actual ingenuity. I’m just saying, in a real postapocalyptic world, survival of the fittest would have taken her out a few episodes back. Charlie has the least to offer the group — lacking Miles’s agility, Nora’s explosives training, and Aaron’s intelligence. But alas, Revolution is stubbornly sticking with Charlie, and we all must suffer accordingly.
“The Children’s Crusade” gives Charlie another noble cause when she notices a boy roughly her brother’s age being carted off by the militia. Soon after, the group stumbles on a gaggle of child actors living under a bridge. They are essentially “the Lost Boys,” and just in case you didn’t make the connection, Revolution goes ahead and names their leader Peter. Peter is the boy Charlie saw, which means her new pet cause is returning him safely to his brother Michael and the rest of his gang.
I don’t actually mind these weekly missions, because there’s only so much Revolution can do with the ongoing story of trying to rescue Danny. My problem is with Charlie’s inconsistent characterization — in one episode, she’ll stop at nothing to find her brother, and in the next, she’s distracted by a few filthy street urchins. Sure, Peter is about Danny’s age, but other than that, there’s no real reason to divert their quest. It’s even harder to buy Miles going along with the plan, whether or not his guilty conscience is acting up. Suddenly, Miles’s single-mindedness is gone, and he defers control to the dumbest member of the group. Remember, the first rule of putting someone else in charge is making sure that person isn’t Charlie.
For once, the episode does better with the Monroe story line, as it offers up some Rachel scenes that help remind us why we fell in love with Elizabeth Mitchell on Lost. (It doesn’t hurt that Danny only pops up briefly.) On a show with very few likable characters and too many mediocre performances, it’s a real joy to watch Mitchell actually act. Now that Monroe knows about the pendants, he’s rounding up the scientists who were responsible (however inadvertently) for the global blackout. That means reuniting Rachel with Dr. Brad Jaffe.
It also means flashbacks! Rachel’s trip down memory lane isn’t nearly as arduous as Aaron’s was last week, but it’s not much more enlightening either. We’re promised the big reveal — the source of the global blackout — and what we get is a sort of half-assed explanation that in trying to create a cheap, sustainable source of energy, some scientists accidentally created magic pendants that made energy go away. Sure. As Rachel says when Monroe later presses her about it, “What difference does it make as long as I can turn the lights back in?” So, yeah, screw it. Scientific error. Government interference. Magic pendants. You get the idea.
In the present, Brad isn’t thrilled to see Rachel, because Monroe’s goons have been torturing him for weeks, and he’s a little testy. Also, the mere fact that Monroe knows about the pendants means Rachel didn’t do a great job of keeping her mouth shut. This is where Mitchell really shines: You can see how tortured she is over betraying her friends’ trust in order to save her son from harm. When Monroe brings in Brad’s daughter and threatens to kill her for answers, Rachel crumbles further. Mitchell plays that internal conflict so well — we never really see that in any of the other characters. Even Miles, who went from brutal Militia leader to noble father figure.
Speaking of Miles, he’s still letting Charlie call the shots for whatever reason. She wants to infiltrate Monroe’s floating conscription facility — where boys and girls are branded with the letter M and turned into baddies. Again, Charlie’s plan is incalculably stupid, but she reasons that if they can’t get Danny back, at least they can do some good. That’s assuming, of course, they don’t all die terribly trying to rescue Peter, which is obviously the more likely outcome.
To its credit, “The Children’s Crusade” punishes Charlie for her dumb plan: Once on the boat, she screws up the rescue plot and ends up branded with the M for “Monroe” or possibly “makes poor decisions.” I’m no sadist — I don’t want to see any of these people suffer. But now Charlie can wear that M as her personal mark of Cain, a permanent reminder of what happens when you needlessly try to do good for other people. (This is a postapocalyptic world, guys. We’re not here to make friends.) With some swordfighting and a little bit of fairy dust, the crusaders do rescue Peter. But that actually has everything to do with the deus ex pendant.
Yep, Aaron’s necklace picks the perfect moment to light up the sky, thereby providing the necessary distraction to knock out the Militia men and flee the conscription facility. Of course, that also alerts Miles to the existence of the pendant, which is the kind of thing you definitely want to keep under wraps. Miles’s initial reaction is to kill it with fire — a hasty but somewhat reasonable solution. Little does he know there are eleven others just waiting to undo the blackout. Gotta catch ‘em all!
As a stand-alone episode, “The Children’s Crusade” surely isn’t Revolution’s finest hour. It’s mostly just more of the same, but at least there are hints of something more there. If the series could play to its strengths — Elizabeth Mitchell, Giancarlo Esposito, the swordplay — it wouldn’t be such a slog. Of course, that would mean getting rid of those elements that continue to drag the series down. Would anyone really mind if Charlie got shipped off to Never Never Land?