Revenge does the time-warp again with another all-flashback episode – this time jumping back six years to 2006. Does the narrative upheaval pay-off?
Let’s bitch it out…
In a word: no.
If you were less than fond of the last all-flashback episode –1×20 ‘Legacy’ – then ‘Lineage’ must have been nearly torturous. While I was enamoured with this format last season, I’m not sure that ‘Lineage’ is the episode that the series needs at this point in its second season. Considering that we’re only eight episodes into a season that seems to be engendering mixed feelings from viewers, ‘Lineage’ offers up (unnecessary?) backstories instead of doubling down on current events and it’s easy to see this as a misguided effort.
The issue with flashback episodes is that their entire function is to anticipate future events that we are already aware of. ‘Lineage’ is unique in this regard because two of the three big ‘reveals’ the episode showcases anticipate events we don’t know about. In fact Victoria’s (Madeleine Stowe) mother, and the threatening bribery at The Stowaway are completely new to us. Only Aiden’s (Barry Sloane) history with Emily (Emily VanCamp) and his mission to recover Colleen has been mentioned before. By episode’s end we know a bit more about various storylines, but whether or not you want to know more likely determined how much you enjoyed the episode.
The most successful of the batch – in my opinion – is Emily’s introduction to Aiden. The two first meet in some scummy Russian bar run by human trafficker Dmitri (Timothy V. Murphy). Emily is there on orders from Takeda (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) as some kind of side-project and Aiden is there…to make drinks? It essentially boils down to this – He: bartender. Her: wannabe girl of ill-repute, complete with skanky short cleavage tops and feathery white jackets. Shake in some Alias-style fireworks and voila! A B-movie revenge-of-the-week subplot is born.
The whole purpose of the flashback is to demonstrate how Emily is more or less responsible for getting Aiden into the REVENGE! business. Unfortunately after we figure that out approximately 5 minutes in, there’s basically nothing else to this plotline.
This leaves us with little to do but scoff at the objects of hilarity from 2006. Chief among the leftovers are Emily’s hooker-chic 2006 clothing line and the dumpy-generic bar (in Europe? In the US? Who knows?!) that looks like the daytime set of Hostel, which is kind of appropriate considering the human trafficking angle. Ultimately, though, it’s hard to disregard Takeda’s statement that Emily can return to her main mission after she’s finished with the “Dimitri cause”. When a character on the show suggests that a storyline is little more than a side-venture, it’s hard to consider it as anything worth investing in.
Which is more or less how I would describe the entire episode.
- The final big reveal is that Jack’s (Nick Weschler) father was being bullied in much the same way Jack is now by Kenny (JR Bourne), who happens to be the son or something of the original guy. You know what? Who cares? Answer: no one. Let’s just move on
- The “who knew/who cares?” theme similarly percolates in the other flashback storylines, notably the Thanksgiving spent at Grayson Manor with Victoria’s mother, Marion (the great, slightly boob-wrinkled Adrienne Barbeau). Is it cool to see Victoria pull a long-con on her gold-digging mom? Sure. Witty barbs and caustic dinners with the rich are always entertaining. But the whole affair has a “meh” air to it. So Victoria’s mom is an even bigger b*tch than she is. Okay. Does this make her a less hissable villain or excuse her actions in 2012? Not really
- So Marion convinces a young Victoria to take the blame for killing her lover and allows her to be pedo-touched by rich former husband Maxwell before tossing her out into the streets at age 15? And we’ve already learned that Emily’s mom, Kara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tried to drown her as a child. Is Revenge trying to corner the market on worst moms on TV (watch your back, Honey Boo-Boo, Kate Gosselin and Octomom!) At this point Faux (an unseen Margarita Levieva) is well on her way to being the best mom ever. Now that’s scary!
- The best thing about flashbacks? The show can’t find a way to de-age Declan (Connor Paolo) or Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) so they don’t appear! Huzzah for small miracles
- Also amusing: the amateurish attempt to de-age Daniel (Joshua Bowman) and Jack. Just mess up their hair, give them an atrocious movember mustache and have them wear polo shirts. ‘Cause that screams 2006
- Sammy the wonder dog returns! Aww, it’s nice to see one of the show’s best actors return for a cameo, isn’t it?
- Just in case we don’t understand how transitions and flashbacks work, Revenge helpfully reminds us when we travel back to 2012 by subtitling it Present Day. Good to know how intelligent they think we viewers are that we can’t figure that one out
- The other potentially vital piece of the episode: Nolan (Gabriel Mann) was closer to 6 than 0 on the Kinsey scale back in 2006 when he and gay-lovah Marco (E.J. Bonilla) parted ways over Emily’s $500 mill Nolcorp shares. Since Daniel is calling him up in 2012, it’s safe to say that Marco will be back to stir up some sh*t in the immediate future
- Finally, my favourite part of the episode: the moment we see Ashley (Ashley Madewke) nearly fall into the prostitution racket because her Art History degree isn’t cutting it and she needs to pay rent (there’s a comment to be made about Arts degrees, but I’ll leave that to someone who doesn’t have one. Le sigh). This has got to be the weirdest coincidence the show has done in a loooong time and I truly hope they revisit the idea that Em is responsible for Ashley being the gold-digging upstart she is now instead of some battered whore in a foreign country
- Emily (to Dmitri’s handler): “For $3000, how old do you want me to be?” How many times have we said that to strangers? Amirite?
- Victoria (kicking Marianne out of the house): “Goodbye mother, I have no doubt that you’ll land on your feet.” Oh, burn! B*tch went down!
What did you think of Revenge‘s second all-flashback episode? Did you also find the timing strange? Did you prefer Victoria’s battle of wills with her mom, or Em and Aiden’s first mission? Are you pro-gay Nolan or do you prefer him as a hetero-dandy in 2012? And who’s the better actor: Sammy or Declan? Hit the comments with your opinions
Revenges airs it’s Winter finale (“Get out – they’re covered in blood“) next Sunday at 9pm EST on ABC