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10 February 2012 @ 05:53 pm
“Revenge” and why you should be watching it.  
I keep meaning to talk about Revenge, but I am just a flaily, squee-filled mess at the end of each episode, which makes it hard to plug it in an intelligent manner that it deserves.  Before I start a list of why this show is making everything else currently on TV seem drab in comparison, I offer the following disclaimer:

Dear World, I have a huge thing for revenge narratives, as long as they're being headed by women.  I have been obsessed with Medea since middle school, and my instant love for heroines willing to make the world PAY for what it did to them has never, ever lessened even a bit.  And the more I consume fiction where women are supposed to forgive, forget, move on, the more this love grows. Be it the “Roaring Rampage of Revenge” kind or the "Better Served Cold" type, from The Oresteia to Kill Bill, I have probably loved them all.

Revenge opens with the following Chinese proverb, “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”  This is a huge part of why I love revenge narratives, because um, HI WORLD, I have a thing for obsessive, self-destructive heroines.  I also have a thing for stoic heroines who keep their emotions and issues buried so deeply that you almost believe they don’t have any until everything threatens to come crashing down. And I love morally ambiguous older women in positions of power. This show gives me all of this with Bechdel passing and a pretty solid script.

Based loosely on Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Revenge updates this story and reimagines it with a woman as its protagonist. When she was a young girl, Amanda Clarke’s father was framed for a crime he didn’t commit, a conspiracy that a large number of people in the Hamptons seem to have been in on.  In the pilot, Amanda, now calling herself Emily Throne (and referred to as such by the rest of this review), returns to the Hamptons and starts working on making herself an important part of the community so she can take it apart from the inside.

Heading Emily’s list of people who need to be brought down is Victoria Grayson, the queen of the Hamtons’ social circle, the woman her father loved and who betrayed him. However, things aren’t as simple as Emily’s single-minded quest for vengeance has led her to believe, and this show does particularly well with developing multiple points of view and letting us see different sides to the story we initially get from Emily.

Stereotype-breaking complex characterization of morally ambiguous women is especially what makes me love this show. It pulls no punches in Emily’s hardcoreness, and even as I find myself surprised by the depths to which she's willing to sink, I find myself falling more and more in love with her, and just being FLAILY over her awesome, awesome BRAIN.  It’s taken Emily years to work her plan into perfection and as more and more of it unravels, it’s fascinating to see the layers being added to her characterization, even as she remains incredibly chilling and creepy in her pursuit.

And then there's Victoria Grayson, who, like Emily, maintains a horde of her own secrets, keeping a perfect façade in place as the decides the fate of others in the community and in her life.  She's wonderfully complex, manipulative and vulnerable in turns.  She is easily the most sympathetically developed character in the entire series, and I love how this show is spending so much time on developing the complexity of its primary antagonist. We don’t yet know the reasons for which Victoria did what she did, but we’ve been provided with enough information to find her sympathetic and to know that she had her reasons, which is quite a feat. Most importantly, this show is firmly focused on characterization as its primary concern, and while maintaining plot suspense is something it does very well, it never sacrifices characterization to service plot twists/suspense.

The way these two women manipulate their environments and the people around them -- the ones they're using for their own gains and especially the ones they love -- is ridiculously fun to watch.  They aren’t the only women in the show, or the only ones central to the arc, but they are, predictably, the ones most pertinent to my own interests. Emily, who has dedicated so much of her life to vengeance that she can’t do anything but finish what she started, and Victoria, who is wonderfully complex, sympathetic, and unwillingly to give up any of her power, are both being developed in complex, parallel arcs, and I can’t wait to see where their journeys lead.

So, in conclusion, WATCH THIS SHOW.
 
 
 
ellestra: wingedellestra on February 11th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
I love, love Revenge.

I love both Emily and Victoria. They also hit my personal preferences as I love stories manipulative characters and love even more when I can empathise with antagonist.

I also love that it has a pretty nice female supporting cast. I root for Amanda. I hope Ashley will get her big brake. I feel bad for Charlotte.

And I like most of the guys (especially Nolan but that's mostly because he's the only one who knows and can be a support, grounding and Watson to Emily) except Condrad who I just don't care about.

One of my favourite things on television ever.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: X-men:  Monetprozacpark on February 12th, 2012 06:32 am (UTC)
I love manipulative women *so* much. Well, men too, but fiction generally fails at giving me morally ambiguous men where part of their ambiguity does not include assholery towards women of a sexist nature, sigh. But fiction that's aware of difference POVs is always such a delight, and given, um, some other stuff on this season that's not doing nearly as well with their female antagonist, I am more grateful than ever for Victoria.

And yeah, I kind of really love Nolan, too, which is unusual for me. Even so, it baffles me that a large part of the fandom thinks of it as The Nolan Show. I mean, he's interesting, yes, BUT! Victoria! Emily! <3

ellestra: telamonellestra on February 14th, 2012 06:08 am (UTC)
Manipulative characters, especially morally ambiguous manipulative women are my favourite thing ever (more addictive then chocolate). I also tend to fall in love with shows/books/stories that give me complex villains with their own relatable motivations. It doesn't mean I have to like them but I just connect much better when I understand them. Evil evil out of evilness sake doesn't do it for me.

I avoid fandom for this show because I don't want them to make me hate Nolan (I expected to hate him after the first episode but now I really appreciate him being there to support Emily). However, I wouldn't be surprised to learn fandom is all about Nolan/Jack (it's almost canon - great excuse to erase all the lead female characters the show is actually about).
tigerpetals (Gabriela V.)tigerpetals on February 15th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
I have started doing the same -avoiding fandom- because the one place I did go was overboard with Nolan -in my opinion- and with frequent complaints about how horrible Emily is and she should be nicer to him to make her a better character.
Taisisterjune on February 11th, 2012 04:29 am (UTC)
I've been wanting to check this drama out but I was turned off a bit by all the white people (but thats pretty much how most US tv is. I guess asia has spoiled me for dramas with nothing but POC in it) and also i thought it looked grim and formulaic. but i do love dark complex women like umpteen amounts. So I do wanna watch this but I honestly dont know where I'd watch it at this point. since all the download links on the usual sites are down. and i dont know where i can watch it streaming for free. torrents is an option but not a very good one for the earliest episodes. If you've got any suggestions I'd love to hear them. (I'm having a similar problem with New Girl which was also recced to me by my feminist friends and my sister and I cant really find a way to watch it)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Bollywood:  Fanaaprozacpark on February 12th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, unfortunately, race is one of those things that pretty much every show is going to fail at. It makes me feel like a hypocrite for complaining about slashers settling for fiction with only men while I am settling for fiction with only white people. Sigh. But it's either that or virtually no American fiction at all.

I shall get back to you on how to get "Revenge." I am planning a group watch for it,so I shall find resources sooner rather than later. I will share, of course.:)
entertaining in a disturbing way: Emily is the sum of her memorieslyssie on February 11th, 2012 04:46 am (UTC)
IT IS SO AWESOME.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Revenge:  Emily & Victoriaprozacpark on February 12th, 2012 06:37 am (UTC)
IT MAKES ME SO FLAILY! <3 We need more tv like this where the awesome women FORCE me to shut the critical part of my brain off and I can just squee in delight.
Megan: Revenge - You don't mess with Emandamfirefly10 on February 11th, 2012 07:32 am (UTC)
Ugh, I love this show. I love how complicated all of these women are, even minor characters like faux!Manda and Ashley. They're all so awesome and they all have their own complex motivations and it's just fantastic to see a show deal with female characters on this kind of level and also have it be SO MUCH FUN!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: The Inside: Rebecca - workingprozacpark on February 12th, 2012 06:39 am (UTC)
THIS, yes. I love how Amanda and Ashley, while minor compared to Emily and Victoria, are just as well developed with three-dimensional layers and solid motivation that makes them feel like CHARACTERS and not placeholders that fiction so often tends to reduce secondary female characters to. <3
Patricia: st. annabelle/kelly. otp.lafemmedarla on February 12th, 2012 05:10 am (UTC)
I love LOVE Revenge so much!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.prozacpark on February 12th, 2012 06:42 am (UTC)
It is the best thing ever! <3
Good grief, it's a running gaglady_ganesh on February 12th, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
I love this show so much. All the twists and turns seem so organic and yet they still manage to shock! and surprise!
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.: Revenge:  Emily & Victoriaprozacpark on February 13th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC)
THIS. It reminds me of early Vampire Diaries with how it made all the soap-ish level plot drama and pace seem so organic to the story itself. It's just so awesome. <3