Comic-Con 2012: “Revolution” review

Maybe J.J. Abrams has been watching too many episodes of Life After People, or reading Alan Weisman’s landmark book The World Without Us. Not that I’m complaining, nor will viewers, I imagine, once his latest TV venture, Revolution, hits the small screen.

Taking place 15 years after a worldwide blackout deprived humanity of all use of electricity — no iPhones, no TVs, no lights, not even any batteries — the leftover population is struggling to make a new civilization by living in pre-20th century conditions. Goat herders and corn growers now line the streets of Chicago, and holistic healers are all of a sudden medical experts.

Our way into the society is a family living in a small village, where the father seems to have some important knowledge of why the blackout occurred. But when a local militia — led by the fierce Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) arrives, the father is killed in a struggle and his son, Danny (Graham Rogers), is taken. This prompts the sister, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), to set out with her father’s girlfriend, Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), and a family friend, Aaron (Zak Orth) to find her long-lost uncle Miles (Billy Burke).

If you can get past small annoyances like how, despite the haggard conditions the world finds itself in, everyone still seems to have time to apply TV-worthy makeup, Revolution is a fun ride. Abrams is an expert at building an enthralling mythology (Fringe, Lost) that manages to stay mysterious without seemingly breaking its own rules. Add to that the fun everyone has with references to things like Google (“That was a computer thing, right?”), and it’s also a relatively smart show. Burke doesn’t seem to fit the role of a badass killer, but when the time comes and he has to take on a garrison of militia troops all on his own, he’s convincing.

Revolution shares a lot in common thematically with last year’s big-budget extravaganza Terra Nova. But while that show lost its way after the pilot, Revolution seems to have a better idea of where it’s going. That, and a much more assured sense of fun. Spiridakos also surprises as a pretty good actress, handling the dramatic parts well while also looking pretty. There’s a lot more I want to know about these characters, especially Esposito’s heavy, who could very well prove to have more depth than just a cartoonish villain.

Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed the pilot, and sets a pretty high standard, so hopefully this Revolution won’t be one we’ll want to pull the plug on after a few more episodes.