This post contains spoilers, and, again, apologies for the late review. Sick, busy, and other adjectives can come off as sort of vague excuses, so just accept my sincere regrets, and please continue on!
After a holiday hiatus that felt too long thanks to an episode that bored us to death, the freshman hit that’s addictive as anything Revenge has finally returned! We’ve seen all the ads in which Tyler whips out a gun on the main cast of characters, and from that, we have the sheer fear of one of the select few possibly dying. But, is Tyler’s descent into madness one worth reliving over and over again, or is it a over hyped disaster? Let’s find out as we break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of the mid-season premiere “Duress”.
THE GOOD: It’s the mid-season finale that should have been – Before 2011 ended, Revenge left us with an otherwise horrible mid-season finale. It was incredibly boring, and quite honestly, the only interesting part that had everyone on the edge of their seats was the promo for this episode. With all the insane occurances tonight, especially due to Tyler, the suspense is definitely heightened, and there’s never really a loss on interest on the part of the viewer. Furthermore, with the episode’s final stretch, it perfectly closes up the first half of the season, and gives everyone a satisfying enough ending that could have easily been aired before the holiday hiatus. Regardless of ABC’s decision to not air it as such, it makes for one kick ass mid-season premiere.
S**t Hits the fan – Most of the drama so far in Revenge has dealt with Emily making her father’s conspirators miserable and the petty drama of the clashing egos and relationships within the Hamptons. We’ve seen people killed here and there, but we’ve never seen any of the main characters’ lives in real jeopardy…until now. When Tyler decides to go off the rails bats**t crazy, anyone is in danger. Anything could happen, and that’s one of the most exciting things about the episode. Any secret up to this point, and any small tidbit that these characters had concealed, was ready to become this mad man’s weapon. Everything has a heightened sense of danger, everything feels on edge, and it feels like nearly anything can go done, especially Tyler’s own death. Though it doesn’t come to that, we see the titans of the beach clash in epic ways, whether it be verbally, or through sheer fright or confrontation.
Ashton Holmes is extraordinary – Let’s not sugarcoat things: a good villain is a damn hard thing to find. Heroes are plentiful, and the audience respects them, but a performance from an actor who can terrify the audience in devilishly great ways is a rare breed. For most of the season, Tyler was douchey, a little squirmy bug, and the show’s biggest rat. Once he’s off the pills, Ashton Holmes kicks up the unrevealed crazy a huge step, and makes his character of Tyler one to never forget. Though Madeleine Stowe is the queen of Revenge, Holmes gave easily one of the most memorable performances I have seen on television in quite some time during “Duress”.
Heart is added to the Nolan/Emily friendship – Last time we left our hero and her lackey Nolan, the two weren’t on the best of terms. From episode’s beginning, Emily goes over to apolgize, and the two rekindle their relationship. But, if it was anything in the past, this wouldn’t have been so special. This episode was incredibly different. In a brilliant change of pace, Emily VanCamp changes her approach in her character, and most likely the character herself changes as well, this time around. “Emanda” is usually very straight forward, very angry, and very agressive. Here, we see her finally accepting Nolan’s help, and with that comes a more personal, comfortable approach. For the first time, she seems like a normal human being, and through that humanity is where the relationship truly succeeds. She’s happier around Nolan, even through the tone in her voice, and seeing this side of her, being sincere, emotional, and truly open for the first time. Realizing how big that is for that character, it adds a great amount of heart to their friendship…to the point where I believed at the end, when Emily walked up to Nolan as they watched Tyler enter the police car, I thought she was going to place her head on his shoulder in comfort. Yes: major character development, indeed.
The divorce gets interesting – Though it’s just begun, all the divorce talk last episode was incredibly boring. This time, however, is different. Between the pre-nup switcheroo (further increasing the theory that Charlotte could be Emily’s half-sister), the reveal of just how much information Emily gave Victoria’s now-attorney (showing him the whole damn infinity box), the storyline showcased plenty of interesting highlights. Actually, it’s rare when I audibly gasp during a television show, and when it was revealed that Victoria wanted sole custody of Charlotte, I did just that. We’ve seen the Charlotte/Conrad relationship extremely increase, and with that is a good amount of heart. So, when it’s revealed that the key asset the two would be fighting over was their only daughter, it adds plenty of intrigue, while also throwing the audience a major reason to root for Conrad.
THE BAD: The “Soap Opera” side really comes out - The whole “Tyler is actually not just a gay con man, but a sociopath who takes meds for it and he’s conveniently run out” plot device was a bit out there, but still enough to be believable in some ways. And while he’s extremely hostile and irritable, it was hard to believe that he was so whacked out of his mind, he didn’t notice Emily sneaking Frank’s wallet into his pocked from two inches in front of him. The guy almost discovered that damn infinity box, and uncovered various videos and blackmail, yet he can’t tell when someone right in front of him has her hand in his pocket? Also, who else saw that technology plot twist coming? It was nice for them to have a track on Tyler for most of the entire episode, but as soon as he “left” you knew he was going to return sooner or later.
Predictable direction due to opening scene in pilot - Perhaps the biggest problem I felt about the episode is that the inevitable gunshot moment felt a bit quick overall, and once you start to think about the pilot’s opening scene, feels a bit underwhelming. Granted, when Tyler pulls out the gun and starts playing “Truth or Die”, it’s a truly shocking moment. But, it’s great that he basically let’s everyone off, killing no one, and leaving only an empty threat with a weapon that had no ammo. There is a moment in which you feel like Tyler could very much shoot someone (I know it sounds horrible, but I was actually hoping for Fauxmanda…or real Emily…Jack’s girlfriend. Seriously, the monikers in this show just keep confusing), but you then recall everyone who was in that Labor Day sequence, and it starts to narrow down to the point where it becomes clear that Tyler is just spouting words that will most likely never deliver, which is exactly what happens. For a moment that was so built up for over a month, and for one that was the centerpiece of the mid-season premiere, it just felt a bit disappointing in that aspect.
THE UGLY: That birthday scene is too damn short – Going along with being the whole “centerpiece” deal of the mid-season premiere, the moment was incredibly built up, only to be sold, packaged, and delivered in a matter of three short minutes. You would think that small things would come about as Tyler played around with the socialites, eventually leading up to that big Conrad question, or that he would at least shoot one person, but instead, we just get his brother showing up, a tackling, and the cops all in just a few minutes. Is it disappointing? Yes. But, thank god Ashton Holmes’ performance is so incredibly memorable, that lack-of-payoff doesn’t stick out quite as much.
FAVORITE QUOTES: ”For my 21st, she hired the cast of Cirque du Soleil to perform. Subtlety is not her strong suit when it comes to parties.” – Daniel
“It does appear that you despicable people are starting to rub off on me.” – Tyler
“I googled friendship on the interwebs. Apparently when you have a fight with a friend you’re suppose to apologize.” – Emily
FINAL VERDICT: Overall, “Duress” is a very appropriate title for the episode, as the threat of Tyler easily forced the best out of the series so far. While there were a good amount of problems, it let us see the true side of the drama, how inticing it can be when it’s pushed to its limits, how emotional the characters are when they let down their guard and begin to accept their respective friendships, and how incredible the performances can be when they demands the very best from the actor. It’s definitely one of the tentpole episodes of the first season (most likely to be referred to in the future as “when Tyler went crazy and pulled the gun on everyone”), and while it can be disappointing and a bit sluggish in some aspects, it can also be very extraordinary.
4.5 out of 5