Post-apocalyptic drama requires its own set of rules, and in “Revolution’s” case, plenty of willing suspension of disbelief. Set in a dangerous, near-lawless world 15 years after all power suddenly stopped, the J.J. Abrams-produced series deals with a lingering conspiracy and battle for survival. Aside from marveling at how good everyone looks long after cosmetics companies ceased operations, viewers must buy into the serialized drama and savor the action, which includes a crossbow (a lot of that going around) and samurai sword. “Revolution” certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and despite some admirable qualities, its struggle to survive could be formidable.
In terms of more prosaic history, “Revolution” occupies a timeslot where another big-idea NBC drama, “The Event,” discovered just how difficult sustaining such a premise can be, though CBS’ “Jericho” might be the closer parallel. The show opens in the present, with Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) frantically rallying his family and warning, “It’s all gonna turn off … and it will never ever turn back on!”
“It” turns out to be electricity, leaving stalled cars, useless houses and a dilapidated Wrigley Field in its wake. Flash forward (another two little words producers might like to forget), and Ben’s young daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is now grown and adept with said crossbow. When militia forces led by the ruthless Capt. Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) invade their idyllic commune and seize her brother (Graham Rogers), Charlie is dispatched to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a world-weary sort who will, of course, reluctantly join her — and whose handiness in a fight is demonstrated in a wild skirmish yielding an almost absurd body count.
Created by “Supernatural’s” Eric Kripke, the series does provide plenty of moving parts, at times feeling like a mashup of old shows and movies. The deep cast includes Zak Orth as Aaron, a tech millionaire whose money is useless in this post-gizmo world, providing welcome comic relief; and landing Esposito feels like a coup after his memorable work on “Breaking Bad.”
The ability to flash back and learn more about what transpired in the intervening years creates ample dramatic possibilities. That said, for every arresting image, there’s a lot of wandering around in the overgrown woods, and reason for skepticism as to whether audiences will patiently stick with the show — or for that matter, sample it following “The Voice” — without the writers filling in the mythology before grass begins growing over that, too.
Strictly from a critical standpoint, “Revolution’s” twists, mysteries and characters merit another look, which is about all a network can ask from such a pilot.
Even so, without quickly establishing a clearer blueprint concerning where the series is heading, there’s the nagging danger viewers will feel free to let the “Revolution” happen without them.