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Friday, January 3, 2014

'revenge' S1 DVD: 'Arrow' + 'Dallas' + 'Wolf of Wall Street' = Awesome

Product Details
A belated Christmas gift from ABC Studios in the form of review copies of the latest DVD sets of the ABC dramas "revenge," Scandal," and an uber-awesome Blu-ray set of "Once Upon A Time" prompted pulling "revenge' S1 off the shelf and watching all 22 episodes from that season over a few days. Reviews of the newer sets will follow over the next several months.

The timing of this "revenge" marathon is very timely aside from the connection with the newer sets. Seeing "one-percenters" enjoying the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" during a summer full of beautiful sunny days and gorgeous starry nights while real-world conditions consisted of frigid gray days and dark and stormy nights is as much of a valued escape as watching "The Love Boat" during similar winters 30 years ago.

Additionally, these extended viewing sessions affirmed the wisdom of deciding to watch this show (and the others that ABC is graciously providing) in these marathons, rather than even hoarding broadcast episodes on Tivo and watching them in smaller batches. "revenge" and its fellow programs easily pass the "one more" test even if that keeps you up past your bedtime.

The highly satisfying premise of 'revenge' is that 20-something Emily Thorne nee Amanda Clarke returns incognito to the Gold Coast region of the Hamptons to exact the titular retribution on the masters of the universe, their relatives, and the lackeys who sequentially framed her father David Clarke for financing a terrorist organization that was responsible for a devastating plane crash, had him jailed for that offense, and finally ensured his silence.

Emily VanCamp of the drama series "Brothers and Sisters" and "Everwood" plays Thorne.

Thorne is armed with a fortune, literally kick-ass fighting skills, a ton o' justified resentment, and the assistance of dot.com billionaire/tech. genius Nolan Ross. Gabriel Mann wonderfully portrays Ross as a David Bowie-esque Thin White Duke absent the cocaine use and Victorian-era formal attire. This quirky emo character would be a great guy with whom to engage in high-tech mischief.

Ross additionally is the focus of a  DVD special feature that has a reporter probing him about his life; time constraints requiring saving this one, as well as features on the Hamptons and the series' development, for later.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for the premiere season of "revenge" provides a good sense of the show's overall themes without any pesky spoilers.


The action gets going when Emily quickly becomes a Thorne in he side of investment firm head Conrad Grayson and his wife Victoria, played by Madeleine Stowe of "The Last of the Mohicans," on moving into the large beach house next to the estate known as Grayson Manor. This couple earns the top slot on Emily's list of enemies by masterminding the campaign against David.

Early episodes revolve around Emily handily dispensing apt justice to the person-of-interest of the week who contributed to her father's downfall; these stories include ruining the career of a politician who ignored direct proof of David's innocence and discrediting a psychiatrist who abused a confidence.

The middle episodes involve a murder trial that both proves the adage regarding the sins of the father and threatens the Graysons' public image. A memorable scene in a prison shower room involves brutality of a nature other than the expected variety.

The final episodes of Season One largely build on earlier events that lead to things spiraling out of control for many characters. An episode from this group departs from this theme by nicely depicting events that fill in some gaps. Seeing both previously departed characters reappear and watching others who subsequently have dramatic partings of the way interact cordially in these flashbacks make this episode one of the best.

The predicted cliffhangers in the series finale create great anticipation regarding watching S2 episodes over the long Martin Luther King Day holiday.

The most obvious parallel between "revenge" with the CW action-adventure series "Arrow" is that journals in which David lists those who done him wrong and their role in that injustice guides Emily just as strongly as the list o' bad guys that Oliver Queen's father prepares prompts the birth of the Green Archer and determines the first subjects of his wrath. Both series additionally have their own versions of the allegedly sinister Trilateral Commission.

A lesser connection is that Robbie Amell, who is the cousin of "Arrow" star Stephen Amell, appears in several "revenge" episodes as the the boyfriend of Grayson daughter Charlotte.

"revenge" has even more in common with the '80s version of prime-time soap "Dallas." Both series have wonderfully high levels of camp, depict lifestyles that most of can never hope to achieve, and include at least one betrayal and illicit roll in the hay. Both series further have the illegitimate child, chronic substance abuse, homicidal psychopaths, wrongful presumption regarding a death, and another character's return from the dead that are requisites of this genre.

Additionally, naming the upscale lodging establishment in "revenge" the South Fork Inn is a nice homage to "Dallas" by borrowing the name of the Ewing family ranch.

"revenge" also borrows from "Dallas'" companion series "Falcon Crest" by having a plane crash that is reminiscent of the accident in "Crest's" third-season finale. Two differences are that the "revenge" crash has much more symbolic value than the "Crest" accident and lacks any line that its nearly as memorable as "Hell, Denver; we're going down" from that "Crest" episode.

The common elements between "revenge" and the Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio film "The Wolf of Wall Street" relate to both the regular over-the-top parties that the masters of the financial industry universe host and the arrogance associated with that beyond-conspicuous consumption. Two differences are that the highly sophisticated Graysons never organize a dwarf-tossing contest or treat Grayson Global employees to literal orgies.

The bottom line is that "revenge's" appeal extends beyond watching uber-wealthy beautiful people engage in highly entertaining ruthless schemes. The vast majority of folks who have greatly suffered at the hands of co-workers, romantic partners, and others who maliciously harmed us for no good reason love the idea of dispensing very apt justice on those malfeasors.

Anyone with question or comments regarding "revenge" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.