We’re far enough into Revolution’s first season to know one thing for certain – this show is never going to be great. The best we can hope for now is something stupid in a fun way, or fun in a stupid way. I’ve modified my expectations accordingly: in order to be successful, Revolution need only keep me entertained for an hour. I no longer expect cohesive storytelling or well-developed characters, but I at least need to be engaged. “Ties That Bind” couldn’t even do that.
At this point, it’s honestly tough to be disappointed by Revolution, a series that still has some potential but squanders more and more of it on a weekly basis. “Ties That Bind,” however, was the weakest outing yet. On the plus side, we’ve answered the question of, “How low can you go?” By default, next week’s episode should almost certainly be an improvement.
“Ties That Bind” pits the good guys against Sargeant Strausser, one of Monroe’s most effective (and sadistic) men. Like every other character on this show, Strausser is roughly sketched – we’re supposed to dread him but he’s still mostly just “that guy from Justified.” Anyway, Strausser has Nora’s sister Mia, and the gang has to rescue her, because if they rescued a total stranger last week, they can’t pass up saving a family member without looking like jerks.
Strausser is willing to exchange Mia for the necklace and Miles. Hilariously, Miles’s response to this is to try smashing the magical pendant, because destroying his one piece of leverage is a sensible idea. One of the things that frustrates me most about Revolution is how little thought any of the characters put into their plans: These people act without thinking and it gets them into trouble basically all the time. It’s hard to believe they could survive a trip to the supermarket, let alone a postapocalyptic dystopia.
Nora sets off a couple explosions – stuff going boom is honestly the high point of the episode – and the group is easily able to rescue Mia. (Almost too easily!) Mia thinks they’re nuts for wanting to rescue Danny in Philadelphia, because it’s pretty much a suicide mission. With this group, she’s not wrong. Mia tells Nora that she’s found their father and he’s in Texas, which Mia thinks should take priority over the whole “rescuing someone else’s brother” thing. And for once, Texas looks like a more attractive option than Philadelphia.
While all of this is going on in the present, we’re treated to flashbacks that are weak even by Revolution standards. That’s because in addition to meaningless content, they’re plagued by the gravest sin of them all – bad child actors. After the blackout, young Nora takes care of Mia, protecting her from a brutal home invasion and keeping their mother’s death a secret. When Nora and Mia make it to their father’s house, Nora is forced to admit the truth. There’s no reason for any of this, except maybe to explain why Mia has a stupid grudge against Nora. When you were kids, your sister lied to you about your mom being horribly murdered. Yeah, what a monster.
But yes, Mia does betray Nora, and while she uses the “you lied to me first” excuse as justification, she swears she never really had a choice. A bounty hunter, Mia has been working for Strausser, and she was ordered to secure Miles and the necklace in exchange for her and Nora’s freedom. Nora is appropriately pissed and runs off, telling Mia not to follow her. She returns to stop Strausser, who apparently didn’t realize that Nora is super noble and incapable of abandoning her friends in their time of need.
Nora arrives just in time and manages to save everyone. Alas, there is no swordfighting. The team escapes – again, without much trouble – although they do have to jump into a rather intimidating river. This isn’t the first time Revolution has felt as though it’s spinning its wheels, but there’s something particularly egregious about “Ties That Bind.” It’s an episode in which a couple forgettable fights can’t distract from the fact that nothing is happening. Aside from Nora’s new trust issues with her sister, we’re right back where we started. OK, minus the necklace, which Mia was able to snag from Aaron and deliver to Strausser.
Oh, and there’s a whole bit about Neville and Monroe. Monroe beats the crap out of Jason for trying to find Charlie, then threatens to send him off to the wastelands of California. (It’s not so bad, guys. You can make right turns on red lights!) Neville’s wife Julia ends up saving the day by shifting the blame to someone else entirely – turns out Col. Faber’s son is a rebel. Monroe executes the young man along with his rebel friends and proceeds to have Faber beaten within an inch of his life. All’s well that ends well!
To be fair, the drama within the Militia is more interesting than anything that’s going on with Miles, Charlie, Nora, or Aaron. It’s still not all that compelling, but at least it seems to be going in some sort of direction. Near the end of the episode, Julia suggests that Monroe is no longer fit to lead, potentially setting up a coup by Neville. I care only insofar as this would give Giancarlo Esposito more to do, but it’s nice to see Julia stepping up her game. There are interesting parallels between Julia and Rachel, two women who sacrifice friends in order to save their sons.
Speaking of, Rachel now has to figure out whether to help Monroe activate his magical pendant or to find a quick way out of Philadelphia. The latter seems next to impossible, especially if she wants to keep Danny at her side. I’m interested in Rachel’s conflict and the moral ambiguity of her position, but I’m not convinced Revolution will find a way to pull this off. Just when I think the show is about to get interesting, it starts spinning in circles. That’s not the kind of revolution we’ve been promised.