Many things happened this fall: there was a Superstorm, there was a Presidential election, and there was a CIA sex scandal. Perhaps most importantly, however, was the return of Revenge, that most guilty of TV pleasures that pulled off a near flawless freshman season. Ah yes: season 1. Those were the good days. Back then, Revenge was about steamy affairs, romantic duplicity, teenage goofiness, and campy slap-fights. Sure, the show tested its credibility when it introduced such silly conceits as Takeda, the shadowy mentor from the Far East. And sure, the stylized flashbacks were often a dreary bore that were entirely too serious for this nighttime soap. But hopefully the writers could see these weaknesses and course correct for the second season, right? Right?
Mmmmmmmnot so much. Season two of Revenge has fallen into the same trap that ensnared The OC, Desperate Housewives, and eventually Gossip Girl. It has introduced too many uninteresting characters, asked us to care about things that we never signed up for, and failed to make all the various subplots have any relevance to each other. If I never hear about The Initiative again, I’ll be happy. However, like Victoria Grayson enjoying a clambake, I know certain things just cannot happen.
Where to begin on this second season? I guess with Emily (née Amanda), who has preoccupied herself with not just taking down the Graysons, but Something Much Bigger. As in, Something Bigger Than You and Me. As in You Don’t Know What You’re Going Up Against. No, I’m not talking about Victoria’s Botox supplier. I am of course referring to the aforementioned INITIATIVE, a murky shadow organization that has no place in a nighttime soap like this. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if it has a place anywhere on TV (except maybe on House Hunters International — only because that would just be fascinating to see evil cabals working against indecisive homeowners).
The Initiative, you see, is who killed Emily’s dad. They’re also the ones behind that fateful plane crash — both the one twenty years ago and the one that presumably killed Lydia (RIP). Speaking of Lydia, do we know if she’s really dead? Because she was kind of my favorite character (behind Victoria, of course). I am placing a formal request to resurrect Lydia, if only to see her tossed yet again from the roof of a condo or tenement or mixed-use building.
Anyway, The Initiative is the big, bad guy this season, which is unfortunate because a) no one cares, and b) this show is not Homeland. We are not here to see conspiracies. We’re here to see bitches from the Hamptons slap each other and exchange passive-aggressive gifts (empty boxes, ideally). Like Downton Abbey, Revenge is a soap about polite people in polite society acting like beasts (although, acting like a beast on Downton Abbey really only constitutes adding an extra carrot to the split pea soup. Heavens!). We simply do not care about bringing down some organization, unless said organization backs a flower show and perhaps a champagne reception to follow.
Nevertheless, as the season opened, Emily was dead-set on getting to The Initiative (about as generic a name as the writers could have ever come up with), and that meant going back for extra training with Takeda and a new British bloke named Colin. I think his name is Colin. I honestly can’t remember because he’s so generic and annoying that I really don’t care. Look, if I wanted to watch an international espionage thriller, I’d tune to just about any show other than Revenge. (Again, House Hunters International.)
Anyhoo, during Emily’s rigorous and ridiculous training, she managed to nearly “unlock” a memory about her mom, further inspiring her to track down this lady of mystery and get some much needed answers. Answers to what? No one is really sure. BUT EMILY WANTS ANSWERS, AND WHEN SHE WANTS ANSWERS SHE GETS THEM (and/or dons a brunette wig with chunky bangs).
Enter Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has spent this season meandering around menacingly as Emily’s unstable mom, Kara (Kara? Really??). The actress does a great job of playing unhinged, and it’s always fun to see her bare her crooked smile of crazy, but this single, white female has really had nothing to do all season except lurk around in the shadows and sometimes wield a gun.
You see, Kara had fallen in love with Gordon Murphy, heretofore known merely as The White Haired Man. As we all remember from season one, The White Haired Man was the supreme badass who physically killed David Clarke, not to mention many others all in the name of the Initiative. In fact, we were meant to believe that he had downed the plane that Victoria had boarded en route to her testifying against Conrad and The Initiative.
Turns out that Gordon was something of a hired gun, and he had been working with Victoria to keep her hidden away in a log cabin. He was going to get something out of the deal — money, I assume. Quite frankly, it’s hard for me to remember given all the plot twists and murky developments since the season began. All that does matter is that Victoria double crossed Gordon, accused him of abducting and torturing her (LIES! She abducted herself! Conrad was the torturer! But not really!), and then somewhere along the way, Colin killed Gordon in order to protect Emily. Or something like that. Why was Colin protecting Emily? Oh, because they used to be LOVAHS when they were training to be ninja assassins (but the asshole pretended like he was injured once and then beat her in game, and that was like SO not cool).
Anyhoo, no one really knew that Gordon was dead, and Kara was all “Where my boo at?” And so she emerged from the shadows (with a little help from Colin, who managed to find her at a nearby motel by accident). Another reason why Kara surfaced again? The birth of her first grandson. FAKE grandson, that is.
Yes, Shhhamanda is back, and in case you didn’t remember, she was preggers. With Jack’s baby? Nope. Emily told her it was someone else’s. Aww. Sadface for Amanda. But guess what? It really was Jack’s. Emily was just being a super bitch by telling her otherwise. But don’t worry, Emily eventually ‘fessed up that the boy was truly Jack’s spawn, and if I could tell you why all this mattered, I would.
Here’s what I do know: Victoria threw Amanda (née Emily) a passive-aggressive baby shower (the best kind) in order to acquire some sort of fake journal or something from Amanda. So much has happened people — the little details are impossible to remember. Nevertheless, the baby shower went super sour — as these things do — and eventually Victoria and Shhamanda wound up bickering high up on the balcony overlooking the entryway of the Grayson Manor. Amanda had something in her hands — I think a record stating that Victoria had visited Kara at a mental hospital back in the day — and before we knew it, voices were raised, words said, and in one heart-stopping moment, Victoria lunged for the incriminating papers. Amanda, wobbly on her sure-to-be swollen cankles, lost her balance and promptly toppled over the railing (turns out that without a crowbar, her survival instincts are rather poor). Like Lee Remick in The Omen, Amanda went splat on the floor and was quickly rushed to the hospital. There, she fell into a light-to-no coma while her baby boy was born. At no time, however, did anyone accuse Victoria of trying to commit murder (surprising, considering all the alleged media attention this family gets).
Well, the birth of this hideous child brought Kara out of the woodwork, which meant we were able to enjoy several inconsequential scenes of Emily chatting with her mom and realizing that hey, this woman be crazy. There was also a bizarre twist that had Kara staying with the Graysons, which made no real sense. But then again, Victoria is the same woman who harbored an amnesia-riddled, wheelchair-bound Lydia in season one; so who’s to say that she’d turn away her ex-lover’s ex-wife? Part of me thinks Victoria’s just testing these women to see if they’ll leave a thank you note afterwards.
Anyway, realizing that Kara really wasn’t worth keeping around, Emily finally decided to ship her off, but if there’s one thing we know about crazies on Revenge, they just hate getting on airplanes. First there was Tyler, then there was Victoria, and now Kara, who decided last minute to hang out in the Hamptons. Why? Well, first, she’s crazy. Second, she was under the impression that Conrad had killed her LOVAH Gordon (thanks to Emily who conveniently framed him as usual). Anyway, Kara wanted her own revenge, and so she lined up Victoria and Conrad, aimed a gun at their heads, and then… BLOOP! Nothing. Colin barged into the room, stuffed Kara’s face with chloroform, and sent her off to Colorado for good.
As of press time, it looks like we’re done with Kara. This is probably for the best (although, what a waste of JJL).
You may notice that I’ve spent paragraphs talking about shady coverups, Amanda, Kara, Colin, and Gordon, and yet you’ve heard nary a word about the rest of the cast. Therein lies the problem. Everyone else has been relegated to the sidelines of this silly farce. Sweet, stupid Daniel — once a central figure in Emily’s plans — barely has any screen time anymore. When he does pop up, it’s to yell at his mom for lying to him, which is usually followed by him yelling at his dad for lying to him, which is then followed by him pledging his loyalty to his mom, which is followed by him drinking whiskey, which is followed by him telling his dad he’ll be loyal to him from now. And repeat.
For those wondering how Daniel’s been faring since his jailtime stint and engagement to Emily, I’d say quite well. He’s since shacked up with the preeminent eyebrows of Sagaponack. I speak, of course, of Ashley, who continues to linger on the fringes of every episode doing nothing but telling people they look beautiful and that there’s someone on the phone. I had high hopes for her this time around, especially given that she was to become Conrad’s little mole, but aside from a few tattle-tale moments, she’s really been useless. We’re meant to believe she’s about to make some sort of powerful impression, but as far as we can tell, her biggest move seems to have been dragging Daniel to the sidelines of the show with her.
Meanwhile, Charlotte enjoyed an amusing storyling early in the season involving her being trapped in rehab. Don’t worry though: she got out. And then she bonded with Amanda. And then she fell in love with Declan again. And that’s about it.
As for Declan, he’s knee deep in quite possibly the most tangental and irrelevant subplot yet. He decided to rob a guy’s house with a new friend because “Yo, I need da money for college! FUGGEDABBOUTIT!!!” Well, wouldn’t you know it? The robbery went wrong, and even worse, he dropped his license at the crime scene when he was trying to escape. OY VEY.
First of all, you IDIOT, why did you bring your ID to commit a crime? Second of all, how did you lose it? Did you think that mid-robbery was the best time to rearrange your wallet? Third of all, do you plan on getting on your high horse about “the rich folks” now that you’ve proven yourself to be nothing more than a rosé-toting, baseball-stealing thug in your own right?
Well, Declan got caught, but turns out the guy who caught him was reasonable and wasn’t going to turn him into the cops. That’s partly because the guy, named Kenny, was in on it all along (wha whaaaa????? I still don’t care) and apparently this was all a ploy to take over the stupid bar, which has fallen on hard times (here’s a tip to retain customers: STOP PLAYING DREARY INDIE ROCK). Anyway, the shady Kenny happily agreed to take over as co-owner of the bar to help the Super Porter Bros. pay back their debt. But he’s already being a jerk, shooing away loyal distributors and vendors. What an asshole.
But wait! Kenny’s actually good. It’s his BROTHER Nate who’s the asshole now. Yes, as of the most recent episode, we now have yet another person to add onto the subplot — a subplot that has yet to be minimally interesting or affect anything else on this show. Honestly, the only redeeming quality about this entire saga is listening to Kenny’s deep voice. It’s like a more alluring version of the Men’s Warehouse guy.
As for Jack, he now has abs; so that’s nice. And he’s just as clueless about everything going on around him as usual. That’s about it.
Finally, we have Nolan. The producers probably realized that he serves no purpose other than to help Emily; so they’ve given him both a back story (a dad who he thought never loved him but SECRETLY DID!) and a new buddy named Padma. This plucky Indian lass is supposed to be the CFO of Nolcorp, which would be believable if for one moment we could trust that she could perform simple arithmetic. Upon her arrival on the show, I instinctively felt she was part of the Initiative, especially given her nosy ways and highly motivated desire to lurk into Nolan’s records. In fact, thanks to Padma poking around, she alerted human puppy dog Daniel to the fact that Grayson Global might actually have a controlling share in Nolcorp. This info not only was enough to cost Nolan his fortune but also to give Daniel the sort of ammo he’d need in order to oust Conrad at the head of Grayson Global. Why we’re supposed to care is beyond me.
Of course, the most noteworthy development with Padma has been that she has now gotten all romantic with Nolan. Yes, Nolan Ross. The token gay character of the show. Without ever really addressing the fact that he full on had sex with Tyler last season, the producers happily had Nolan fall in love with Padma, which I suppose could happen if we’re to believe that Nolie is bi. But that’s as likely as Victoria ordering season one of Moesha on Netflix. (Memo to writers: I would love a scene of Victoria watching Moesha).
So that’s more or less where we are with the season. The producers definitely need to get back to Hamptons frivolity. No more international conspiracies. What do you think about the second season? Still on board? Or are you just bored?