Well, it’s official. Men with stubbly beards are back. They are the new swag. It’s called ‘swag’ these days – you can read that as ‘fashionable manhood’. It’s not quite up to the manly standards of Commander Riker, but it’s doing a bit better than the metrosexual standard we have suffered since the disappearance of Burt Reynolds, no disrespect to Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Daniel Craig and Jason Statham. We’re about up to 85% of the Mid 80s Winston Man who was about 85% of the Marlboro Man. So things are looking up, mostly – almost to the point at which I can watch prime-time television without having to suppress my gag reflex.
Now that I’m thinking about leading men for a hot minute, I think I can safely say that we have finally gotten rid of William Hurt, Chevy Chase and the rest of the boarding school boys club of actors which forced the careers of all the other actors, save the above, into weird corners of manhood where only actors like Danny Devito, Dennis Franz and Joe Pesci could have balls. But let me not get distracted.
The subject of discussion is JJ Abrams‘ new show Revolution. It has a fabulous premise and it needs to grow up really quickly. And it needs to start moving with some speed, or else it will be a terrible waste. I don’t know if Abrams is trying to back out of his reputation for shows that go in seven directions at once or what, because right now things are so damned ploddingly linear it’s practically Gilligan’s Island.
What have we got? We’ve got a semi-rebellious, semi-heroic, semi-motherly girl with a crossbow. She can be really good but she’s got nothing on Abrams’ other heroines. I guess he wanted to do young and Brave and all that Hunger Game flavor. Check. He’s got Giancarlo Esposito as a smiling borderline sociopathic military commander who actually cares about his cause. Good move. You’ve got uncle badass with deep secrets about the origin of the plague, which is this case is a suspension of the laws of physics such that electricity doesn’t work the way it used to. You’ve got dead dad, and presumed dead mom, and kidnapped asthsmatic baby brother as the emotional cellar for the heroine. Check. And you’ve got bearded fatboy ex-Googler semi-wastecase in the wasteland, and British babe with long braids, jeans and white shirts as hangers-on in the great Trek. There are boatloads of potentials here, BUT.
Here is yet another apocalypse where all of the cops, engineers, first-responders and Denzel Washingtons have just disappeared. The only rebels we recognize are women and slightly less than Mad Maxes. So basically all the rednecks (which lies deep in every American male psyche) have sold their souls to the evil, brutal and criminal Monroe Militia. Oh, didn’t I mention that? No women carrying guns or water for them. Just dudes with scars on their faces and/or pitiful souls.
So for the purposes of demoralizing macho, we have an excellent platform. She ain’t Laura Ingram, she’s a hunter, not a farmer. But she’s civilizing the wild frontier as are, I suspect, all of the women in this series so far, with nary a naughty wench to be seen. You see it’s all about family, because it’s all feudal now.
Here’s the crux. Deeper in the emotional celler of our heroine (named ‘Charlie’) is the drawdown scene where her mom fired on the man who threatened her toddler life in a hostage exchange for a little red wagon full of the family’s only food. Dad had the perverted thief in his sights, the thief said ‘I dare you’ and Dad couldn’t manage to fire. Mom, with an appropriate tear and shaky hands wound up doing the deed. One shot, one kill. Motherhood is a mutha!
There are swords. There are lots and lots of swords. For that alone this is a superb vehicle, but even though it trawls at 10pm, it definitely is on the PG-13 track. Which ought to be good considering the gratuitous depravity of most of the premium channels, but well… The first commercial break advertised Clinique. So that just about says it all, huh?
We are being patient for some good storytelling, but we have been warned.
I like the whole fuedal narrative, and there is no doubt that war and revolution are coming. Who’s your Leviathan is the entire subtext I’m reading into this, but I think there’s an opportunity here to be flagrantly wrong or right about some fundamental feminist and other social questions. And that, my dears, is what’s particularly enticing about this new dramatic world, if it can stand up and walk.