Thursday, September 22, 2011


I love drama—and not the way TNT loves drama. I love backstabbing, boyfriend-stealing, baby-swapping, disease-faking drama. It's why I've watched "Days of Our Lives" since I was 15, and why at the age of 25 I still watch teen shows like "Pretty Little Liars" and "Gossip Girl." One element that these melodramas tend to have in common is a consistent thread of revenge. Think about it. There's always someone out to get someone else. And the best part is that they all tend to have creative revenge schemes. They don't settle for anything so archaic as murder or calling the police. They steal bipolar medication and drive you to commit suicide ("90210"). They blackmail you into revealing your best friend's adult lover ("Pretty Little Liars"). They force you to whore out your girlfriend so you can save your company ("Gossip Girl"). They even kidnap your husband, bribe a criminal to be surgically altered to look like him, take his place, and ruin your marriage ("Days of Our Lives"). Whatever the plot, it's always calculated and emotionally devastating. When one of these characters takes you down, you're not likely to get back up—until it's your turn for payback.

The CW's latest contribution to the melodrama genre is Sarah Michelle Gellar's "Ringer." As I said in my review last week, it falls short on the intrigue and plot development. The characters are barely interesting and I don't care enough about Siobhan or Bridget to make the series apart of my weekly must-see schedule. "Revenge," on the other hand, will have you asking two very important questions: How did she do that? and What does she plan on doing next? Those are the questions that should plague you once a revenge plot is revealed. You should both fear and support the vengeance-seeker. And whatever their reason for seeking revenge should merit the lengths they'll go to.

Revenge's raison d'etre is not only betrayal but treason. A group of Hamptons socialites colluded to frame hedgefund executive David Clarke (James Tupper from "Grey's Anatomy") for funding a terrorist attack on a U.S. plane. Having betrayed his country, he was sent to prison and his daughter Amanda (Emily VanCamp) was sent to a foster home. Life's circumstances led her to juvy and when she was released on her 18th birthday, Nolan (Gabriel Mann from "Mad Men"), a young tech wiz her father invested in told her that he died in prison, and left her a box of personal effects, as well as 49% of his billion dollar company. Instead of mourning her father's death and going off to burn through her inheritance the way any normal poor person would, she plotted a revenge so complex that it involves taking on a different personality, Emily Thorne, and reinserting herself into those socialites' lives, through their children, their marriages, their friendships, and their businesses. She's going to take everything they hold dear.

When I first saw that Emily VanCamp was the lead actress on this series, I had low expectations. I've never seen "Everwood," I never liked her on "Brothers & Sisters," and I didn't think she could ever top Leighton Meester's Blair Waldorf, Michelle Tratchenberg's Georgina Sparks, or Pretty Little Liars' A. I never thought she could believably channel her inner bitch to a volcanic degree, but apparently I was wrong. I actually think Ms. VanCamp almost missed her calling. She was born to be a villain, possessing an appearance of innocence that equips her with plausible deniability, and a coldness that allows her to reveal someone's adultery just as easily as if she were announcing the purchase of a new couch. She's like a Trojan Horse, and these yuppies won't know what hit him.

The supporting players are just as compelling. There's the Queen B Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe from 12 Monkeys), who had an affair with her father, was the mastermind of the plot against him, and is justifiably suspicious of the new girl in town. There's Victoria's son Daniel (Joshua Bowman from "Make It or Break It"), the ex-party boy that she's trying to seduce, possibly to marry him the way the opening flashforward suggests. There's Victoria's husband Conrad (Henry Czerny from "Falling Skies" and "The Tudors"), who got his assistant Lydia (Amber Valletta from Hitch and Transporter 2), who he is currently having an affair with, to corroborate his accusation against her father in court. There's Ashley Davenport ("The Beautiful: TBL"), a party planning assistant, who I believe she purposefully befriended while volunteering at The Met so that she can get all the gossip and get invited to all of the parties. There's Nolan, who turned into a well-dressed, two-faced, slimeball, and who's the only one who recognizes her when she comes back to town. And then there's the one guy the viewers wishes recognized her, her childhood friend Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler from "Roswell"), who is still so in love with her 20 years later that he named his boat after her and kept her dog. He's not only the son of a struggling restaurant owner, who gets sucked out of his plans to sail to Haiti and volunteer with the Red Cross and into selling his boat to Nolan to help his dad, he's also the prime suspect for who will murder Emily's future fiancé in five months.

My money is on Nolan though, who seems driven to a life of excess because of his unrequited love for her, and I also have a sneaking feeling that maybe that's not even Daniel since he was face down, but I'll play along, because I'm not really interested in the murder mystery. What'll have me coming back week after week are the unforeseeable steps in her intricate plan and the close calls she'll have every time someone thinks they know her. This week she ruined Victoria and Lydia's friendship, separated Conrad from Lydia by innocently inspiring Victoria to excommunicate her from the Hamptons, and drew a heavy blow to an already fragile marriage—and all of that could've been compromised if Nolan had outed her. It'll be a delicate dance, but I'm looking forward to the choreography.

No comments:

Post a Comment