TV: Revenge

Revenge, on ABC, is my favorite new show this season.  It’s on Wednesday night, at 10 p.m.

The Plot: Emily Thorne has just moved into a beach house at the Hamptons. Just another rich young woman looking to have fun in the sun with fellow wealthy people, right?

Wrong. Seventeen years ago, Emily was Amanda Clarke, living with her beloved father in the Hamptons. At age nine, she watched as her father was wrongly arrested and convicted of treason. Amanda disappeared into the juvenile system. She is now Emily, and she has one purpose, one goal, one need: revenge on those who destroyed her father. To make that possible, she has returned to the Hamptons to seek her own form of justice from those who betrayed her father.

The Good: Amanda at nine was just young enough, and seventeen years just long enough, that no one recognizes Emily (or, as some online fans call her, Emanda.) (Don’t you love fans? Emanda.)

The concept is so simple — revenge. But so complex, because with each episode the viewer sees that this is no whim. Emily has been planning, manipulating, pulling strings, putting things into motion for years. It’s just now, this summer, that it is all coming together for her to step forward, to move to the Hamptons, to rent the same house she lived in as a child and tap the first of the many dominoes she set in motion years ago.

Of course, revenge is never quite so easy as it seems. There are . . . complications, shall I say? The pilot begins with a party at the end of summer for Emily and Daniel. Daniel is the son of the couple who framed her father, and just as that sinks in a shot rings out and Daniel collapses into the sand. Rewind to the day Emily rents the beach house. Already, so many mysteries.

Revenge is perfectly plotted with just enough mysteries to keep the viewer intrigued but not overwhelmed: who was involved in the plot against Emanda’s father? Who shot Daniel? The first few episodes are almost straightforward: a person who harmed her father is identified and Emily wrecks their life. She is no Dexter, there is no blood on her hands. She prefers to destroy people in ways where they have to live with the consequences, not escape in death. A few episodes in, the formula changes, and it seems like Emily’s plotting isn’t going the way she wants. Delicious!

Teen appeal? A few side characters are teens, and I confess, so far they are the least interesting and most annoying. However, Emily’s entire life is about invention, reinvention, and figuring out who one is. Isn’t that what teens wonder? Who will I be? What are my goals? What do I need to do to achieve those goals? These are all things Emily considered, and worked at, and now we watch what happens. Because revenge has been so part of her core, her focus, she also has to contend with questions now — is my path true? Do I have another possible life? Are my choices my own? Is revenge worth it?

Here’s another way to put it: Amanda is who Veronica Mars would have been, without the love and moral guidance of Keith Mars.


10 thoughts on “TV: Revenge

  1. I really enjoy this one, too. You have to think they’re trying to reach teens since that image is such a takeoff of the ubiquitous Girl in Big Dress book cover these days. I’ve been meaning to do a book display to highlight this trend. I suppose it’s some consolation that they still have their heads attached. Anyhow, it’s a fun show!


  2. HOORAY!! This is my favorite new show of the season. It’s what I wanted Ringer to be. I love the characters, the plot and how the story moves. It’s fantastic.


  3. It’s so good! Also my favorite of the new shows so far, although I haven’t seen any of Grimm or Once Upon a Time yet. I agree that the teenage characters are the least interesting in Revenge – I spend their scenes waiting to get back to the real story. Of the other new shows, Ringer and Person of Interest are ok; I like Pan Am pretty well. Dropped Prime Suspect after watching the pilot (I don’t want to be that angry about discrimination while watching an hour of tv every week – I’d rather save my ire for the real world). The Secret Circle is the only other new show that I’m really loving although it is occasionally a little scary for me.


  4. Lisa, now you’ve got me thinking about what books to tie in to readalikes, other than Monte Cristo, of course.

    Michelle, due to a recent DVR problem, I no longer have my past few esp of RINGER. not sure i care.

    Sarah, you will love it as much as we do!

    Jen B., give PRIME SUSPECT a second look. Ignore that first episode; Maria Bello’s character is more like, well, House as a cop. The discrimination got dialed down, focusing on alleged perks from an affair with someone higher up in the department, and there was a recent, amazingly awesome, i wish more men would follow suit slap down of the slutshaming aspect of it. It’s becoming one of my favorite shows; just one more shot. For THE SECRET CIRCLE, I’m way behind and have to figure out how to catch up w/o my DVR, but here’s the thing: based on the timeline, am I right that all their parents were teens when they had their kids?


  5. Alright – I’ll try Prime Suspect again – I think my boyfriend has been downloading/buying digital copies (not completely sure, but I think so) to watch on his own time, so I should be able to catch up that way.

    I hadn’t thought about how old the parents on The Secret Circle were when they had their kids. They all look 40ish to me (TV 40ish at least) which would make them young, but not teenagers neccesarily so it didn’t break my windshield (to borrow from the Printz blog). I went through a time when I read everything L. J. Smith had written, so part of my interest is from that, but mostly I think my TV tastes are pretty teenagerish still despite me being a ways from that age. I do know watching the show makes me want to reread the books, but they’re packed away in a box currently so I have to find them first!


  6. I am so utterly obsessed by this show. I think about it way more than I should and look forward to watching with an unexpected intensity. Also enjoying Person of Interest and didn’t hate Grimm, but this is the only new one that consumes me.


  7. You’re seriously my TV twin! I’m all about Revenge this season, which was completely unexpected. I’m also a Ringer fan, though Revenge is definitely more nuanced and developed. Ringer is just soapy goodness. I wanted to like Secret Circle, but after two episodes I didn’t care at all to watch more.


  8. Jen, let me know what you think about PRIME SUSPECT. It looks like CW shows are only on line, and I’m not a huge fan of watching tv on my laptop, so it’s going to be a pain catching up on SECRET CIRCLE and NIKITA.

    Karyn, maybe I better give PERSON OF INTEREST a try. I’m undecided about Grimm; right now it’s up against 2 shows I really like, so it’s going to be mainly on demand.

    Donna, tv twin powers, activate! I have to catch up on RINGER; my initial disappointment with it was I thought it would be more like REVENGE. Now that I see it more as an over the top MELROSE PLACE, I’ll give it a second try.


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