Video: The beginning of Revolution

NBC has released the pilot for its upcoming dystopian adventure serial by veteran genre filmmaker J.J. Abrams.

Revolution is the story of a world without power. 15 years after the world-wide blackout, a young woman sets out to rescue her brother from a band of mercenaries, and embroils herself in a mystery that she couldn’t have imagined even existed. No one know swhat made the lights go out, or so she’s been told for 15 years, but now it’s possible her late father had some idea of what happened on that fateful day.

The story is told in two places. Much like Abrams’ LOST, the present will be mixed with flashbacks depicting the preceeding events. If it’s anything like the now classic cast-away drama, each episode will answer one question while asking more.

To give viewers a taste of the nascent show, NBC has made the entire pilot available free online. You can watch it here. If you’re not sure you want to invest the 44 minutes, read my thoughts (below the video) first.

It looks great, with much better production values than I anticipated based on the promotional material. And, as an added bonus, the performances are fairly decent. I appreciate that the writers have started us right off with some lamp-shading of the physics problems presented by the basic premise of the show. Even the characters in the show know a world-wide blackout of all technology (not just the power grid, but everything, even basic combustion engines) is simply not possible. It shouldn’t have been able to happen, and it did, which gives us our first mystery, not just “Who done it?”, but “How is it even possible?”

That’s just the primary mystery, however. There is a lot more going on here, and even the first episode presents us with a lot of things to ask. I was frankly surprised at the infrequency of the flashbacks, but perhaps Abrams doesn’t want to draw too many connections to LOST, lest it be seen as a copy-cat of his own success. However, this could just be because it’s the first episode, and room was needed for other exposition.

As for the week-to-week story-line? It’s not always clear from a pilot like this, but the series seems like it will be a traveling fantasy adventure. The girl wants to go after her brother, and she has her party of adventurers in a very classic sense. The team is a fighter, a ranger, a medic, and a mage – or what passes for one in this setting. The parallels are too close to be accidental. This is an ‘adventuring party’ in the literary sense, and they are going to go adventuring. They will get in fights, save damsels, and explore dungeons in pursuit of the quest, growing in strength and knowledge along the way until they are powerful enough to defeat the warlord. It will be interesting to see what other parallels to classic fantasy narratives will be found along the way.

Are there some plot-holes, some inconsistencies? Absolutely. Are they part of the mystery or just poor writing? No way to know yet.

When I first heard about Revolution I was extremely skeptical that it could be pulled off on a TV budget, but if the pilot is any indication, it’s been pulled off well, and I’m looking forward to where they take the next few episodes. The direction that they take there will make or break this show, whatever the production values. Walking the fine line between revealing too much and too little is a challenge for a ‘big mystery’ show, but Abrams has done it well once before. Maybe he’s done it again.

Revolution premieres Monday, September 17 on NBC.