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Promising “Revolution” set to bow

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Texting a friend or loved one.  Watching television with the family.  Heating up dinner in the microwave.  In today’s society, nearly everything we do is revolved around the use of electricity.  So imagine the world suddenly experiencing a crippling and permanent blackout.  How would you function?  This is the set-up of the chilling prologue to NBC’s new series “Revolution.”  From executive producers J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau, “Revolution” is off to an entertaining and promising start.

Set fifteen years after the blackout, “Revolution” tells the story of Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson, a rebellious young woman who yearns for a life of normalcy.  After her father is killed and her brother Danny is kidnapped by the corrupt local militia, Charlie begins a journey with a former Google exec and her father’s girlfriend.  Their mission:  to rescue Danny and find Charlie’s uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a former military man who may be vital to saving Danny and helping them learn about the past in order to save the future.

While not without its flaws, the pilot for “Revolution” largely succeeds because of its strong production design and great direction.  Film director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) gives the pilot a distinctly cinematic feel, particularly in the show’s grim and surprisingly violent action sequences.  Favreau ratchets up the tension in these scenes, such as the fight resulting in the death of Charlie’s father, through the use of quick-paced editing and an ominous tone.  Along with Favreau’s direction, the pilot does a great job in establishing the visual look of the series, done through gritty cinematography and bleak, grass-infested sets.  The pilot additionally creates an intriguingly desolate vision of Chicago, riddled with water, beggars, and ivy-covered landmarks like Wrigley Field and O’Hare International Airport.

While “Revolution’s” direction is above-average, its script is merely adequate and straightforward.  Despite a compelling premise, series creator Eric Kripke’s script  evolves into a familiar story of someone embarking on a journey to potentially help save the world.  While interesting, this story archetype has the potential to wear thin.  Kripke’s script also does a mediocre job in developing several of its characters, namely Charlie, who at the onset is more of a Katniss Everdeen-clone than a unique character.  The pilot does show promise, however, thanks to several twists that work to set up future conflicts.

Along with its script, the cast of “Revolution” is a mixed-bag.  Newcomer Tracy Spiridakos does a solid job of capturing Charlie’s feisty nature, but struggles through her more dramatic scenes.  Tim Guinee gives a good performance in his brief role as Ben Matheson, while Graham Rogers is merely adequate as his impulsive son Danny.  Billed first in the credits, character actor Billy Burke acquits himself nicely as the pessimistic Miles, particularly handling his character’s unexpected physicality well.  The standout of the pilot is easily Giancarlo Esposito as corrupt militia Captain Tom Neville.  Infusing his underwritten role with traces of his Emmy-nominated performance as Gus Fring on  “Breaking Bad,” Esposito menaces with his unpredictability and effortless facial shifts.

Full of promise, “Revolution” is an entertaining and flawed new series improved by strong production values and the great Giancarlo Esposito.  Despite its generally mediocre writing and acting, NBC’s gritty and bleak science fiction drama is a show to watch out for this fall.  “Revolution” premieres on Monday, Sept.17 at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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