by Matthew Thompson
As much as I hate to admit it, Revenge seems to have lost all its steam this season. It is hard to pinpoint where it started. The show has never been the same after its excellent first season. Seasons 2 and 3 were both dragged down by some complications in the main plot (like The Initiative) and terrible sideplots (like anything involving Declan or Charlotte). This latest season doesn’t suffer from these exact issues, but it has plenty of its own that have really hurt the show (Spoilers for Season 4 to follow!).
My big question coming into the fourth season was how it would handle David Clarke’s return. This seemed like the stupidest move Revenge could make. After having watched half a season with him in the mix, it isn’t nearly as disastrous as I originally thought it’d be. But it doesn’t seem worthwhile thus far either, so I’m not seeing the upside given that it messes with Emily’s motivation for the whole series. I don’t think James Tupper has been particularly good in the role which isn’t helping matters. While Revenge might not be a show one thinks of when looking for stellar performances, I feel a lot of the main cast actually does good work given the soapy nature of the program.
Another thing that hasn’t worked has been Malcolm Black. After lurking in the background for most of the season, an extremely bad man who will make a formidable opponent for Emily, David and the rest, he finally showed up only to be bested a few episodes later. The fact that they tried to make Black out to be an even better villain than Conrad prior to his arrival is laughable. Not only was he not as evil, he lacked the wit and presence that made Conrad such a great soap adversary. After Black’s exit, the latest episode teased Margaux as Emily’s rival going forward, something I personally can’t find myself excited for in the least bit. I’ve never really cared for Margaux though, so maybe Emily’s eventual takedown of her will at least be satisfying.
Outside of the main plot, things remain a mixed bag. Getting rid of Charlotte was a plus, but I can’t say the same for Daniel. With him and Conrad gone, the number of characters I actually enjoy watching on this show has dwindled and new characters haven’t helped to fill the void. I’ve mentioned how David has been a bust so far. I also have a really hard time caring about Louise’s family drama which at the moment seems really far divorced from the main proceedings.
It probably doesn’t help that these new characters have meant less of what I love about Revenge. Nolan spending so much time with Louise means less palling around with Emily. The Emily/Nolan relationship has consistently been the best part of the show for years, so less of a focus on it isn’t a good thing. The same could be said for Emily’s general revenging and rivalry with Victoria which has been muddled a bit with David’s injection into the plotline. I imagine both are attempts at keeping the series from growing stale, but I don’t think either has been successful.
That isn’t to say Revenge has been devoid of fun. When Emily and Victoria have had the chance to trade barbs, it’s still plenty entertaining. Nolan’s witty one-liners and unique style still shine regardless of who he’s spending the lion’s share of his time with. And despite my general indifference towards David’s return, I loved the scene where Emily first realized her father was alive. Emily VanCamp knocked that scene out of the park and it is one that really sticks with me from this season. Oh and Jack as a cop may be unintentionally hilarious in how out of nowhere it is, but at the same time seems like the kind of random move I can embrace on Revenge.
I’m not sure where Revenge goes from here. I’ve always thought this would have been a perfect candidate for the anthology-type series that have been growing in popularity lately. However much I would have missed seeing Emily VanCamp on my TV each week, it seemed like moving on to a new cast every year could have helped to avoid some of the creative failings in later seasons. I also wonder if the show wouldn’t have been better off if it had come to a close at the end of Season 3. With a few tweaks (leaving Conrad locked up, keeping David dead and giving Emily and Jack a happy ending of some kind), it could have been a nice way to end the series. But regardless of whether the show would have been better in a shorter run, I do care about the core characters here and still enjoy sitting down to watch them each week. I just wish it could get back on track for a stronger finish. With ratings continuing to dwindle and the show having flatlined creatively of late, the end could be right around the corner.