Revolution is back and the season opener, “Born in the USA,” was written by Eric Kripke and directed by Steve Boyum. I was expecting Kripke to start off the season and the shout out to Bruce Springsteen’s iconic song is classic signature Kripke. Boyum does his usual great job with a lot of action, exposition, and emotion. It was an action-packed hour that sets the stage nicely for season two. I have to say that I found all the characters a lot more interesting and sympathetic than last year. The opening credit flashed between the words “Evolution” and “Revolution,” and I think that is going to play out as we see that all of our characters have evolved and perhaps there are hints of other evolutions too.
The episode begins with a great re-cap of the first season and the final few moments from the first season finale. The action then jumps from Aaron (Zac Orth) desperately trying to turn the power back off and stop the bombs to six months later somewhere in the Plains Nation with Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) alone in a bar. A quick shout out to the obviously chosen Kripke music in this episode. If you’re like me, you recognized the song the band was playing in the bar but couldn’t quite place it. Probably because you’d never heard Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train ever played quite like that. Of course, it’s a perfect song to start the episode and the season off with. Certainly, many of our characters are fighting their own crazy demons. Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), Miles (Billy Burke), Tom (Giancarlo Esposito), Monroe (David Lyons), and Charlie are all fighting the guilt associated with the fall out (literally) from the events of the first season finale. The song itself (check out the song and lyrics here) speaks to the crazy train of society where people need to learn to put love ahead of hate and pull together instead of treating each other like foes. This episode certainly deals with the various factions that now make up the USA – the USA that everyone was born in – just like Springsteen sang about.
The second song reference is made as the first is still playing when the bartender relates to Charlie that when “the Surge” hit the jukebox suddenly blared to life with Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On. He describes it as “the voice of God.” Everyone knows that Kripke regards Zepplin in just that way... But more to the point, our characters are all on a quest of sorts – several of them literally such as Charlie, Monroe, Tom and Jason (JD Pardo). Charlie’s quest is to avenge her brother by killing Monroe. Monroe seems to be attempting to slay his own demons. Tom and Jason are searching for Julia (Kim Raver). Charlie has a new maturity about her that Spiridakos plays really well. She seems more self-assured, but also less cocky than last season – I’m already liking the character more.
Part of what kept the episode moving in a fairly heavily expositional episode was the number of cuts between the various storylines. We get the final real rock anthem shout out as we enter the town of Willoughby, Texas with Miles. In this instance a single guitar player is belting out Rush’s Tom Sawyer – an especially apt anthem for Miles. He is a warrior and he’s not tied to any government – just as the song lyrics point out (check out the song and lyrics here) – and this is underscored by his returning to Willoughby covered in blood. He’s also an outsider in Willoughby as underscored by no one even knowing his real name as they all call him Stu.
We learn in flashback that Miles brought Rachel to Willoughby to be reunited with her father Gene (Stephen Collins) after the Tower because she was borderline catatonic over the guilt she felt. Collins was terrific right off the bat. He plays the loving, protective father, and he’s also clearly got a will of iron. He warns Miles off and lets him know that he knows there was something between Rachel and Miles in the past. He also paints a picture of Rachel’s past when she had a penchant for always attracting the wrong guy. We’re also introduced to Aaron’s new girlfriend Cynthia (Jessica Collins) and the local sheriff Mason (Adam Beach). Beach didn’t have much to do in the episode, but I hope we’ll get to see a lot more of him because he is a terrific actor. I already love the chemistry between Collins and Orth. Aaron seems to have weathered the events better than most and has settled in to life in town with Cynthia teaching school again. He still has a pendant though and is distressed by one of his students coming down with polio. He’s clearly conflicted about the power staying off. It was great to see him rise to the occasion and try to fight off Cynthia’s attackers – Aaron the coward appears to be long gone.
Charlie follows the lead the bartender gave her to New Vegas. David Schwimmer is apparently still alive and doing stand up in New Vegas! Great gag. In another tent, Charlie finds Monroe fighting under the alias of Jimmy King. He tells the girl he’s picked up that getting beaten up every night is better than his last job. It feels a lot like he is doing penance for the bad things he’s done. Lyons does such a great job playing Monroe, I’m hoping he’s going to be redeemed for us this season, so I can root for him. Charlie bribes a bookie to get a private audience with Monroe, but just as she shoots to kill him, he is kidnapped by the mysterious stranger we’ve been watching lurk in the shadows. This is actually “Adam” played by Patrick Heusinger. Charlie is left to follow after him and his accomplice.
Meanwhile, Tom and Jason have come to a dead end. Tom becomes despondent and is about to kill himself when Jason bursts in on him. Esposito delivers another amazing performance. Pardo holds his own as Jason asks his father, “You’re going to check out now? Like a little bitch?” When shaming his father doesn’t work, he slaps him, but it’s the tall ship that arrives just at that moment that provides Tom with a reason to live. The ship marks the arrival of Justine Allenford (Nicole Ari Parker) leading the returning United States forces and spreading the news of the return of the President from his exile in Cuba. She tells the crowd that Monroe and Foster were responsible for the bombs as US troops hand out food to the hungry survivors in the background. Afterwards, Jason finds his father cleaning himself up and remarks that he looks better. Tom tells his son that a “Man just needs a purpose.” Tom and Jason both know that Allenford is lying about who released the nuclear weapons and Tom has realized just how suspicious that she should turn up with troops and food at just such a time and accuse two people she can be pretty sure are dead. Tom blames them for Julia’s death and like Charlie is set on having revenge. He tells Jason, “I’m going to rip them apart from the inside.” We’re clearly meant to be pulling for Tom this season and the US forces are one of the new bad guys. I was a bit disappointed to get such a clear view of Tom’s motivation and intentions when it was so great watching him and trying to guess what he was up to last season.
Back in Texas, another big bad is introduced in the guise of Titus Andover (Matt Hill). Miles attempts to leave Willoughby and Rachel, but stumbles across an attack on a farmstead by some warrior clan members and returns to warn the town. He warns the sheriff, who has already sent for reinforcements from the Rangers in Austin. Mason and Miles are taken captive and presented to Titus. Hill has less than a minute of screen time, and completely creeped me out as he smiled, offered the captive sweet tea and welcomed them to his family. I will say my immediate reaction was that he completely reminded me of the Governor in The Walking Dead. Completely crazy and completely two-faced, masking his sadism behind a mask of civility. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with him.
During the episode, we saw fireflies massing together three times. Aaron mentions this to Rachel and she tries to brush it off, but Aaron refers to cicadas and starlings acting in similar bizarre ways and also makes an oblique reference to other weird things that happened the night the bombs dropped and the “crazy things” that have happened to them. I have to admit that when Aaron appeared to have been killed in the attack, I yelled some not nice things at my television, and I may even have been heard to mutter if you kill Aaron, I’m not going to keep watching... So, when the fireflies came back as Cynthia and Rachel kept vigil and suddenly Aaron appeared to gasp back to life, I was very happy. Clearly, this is more of the “crazy things” that are going to need to be explained this season. I have to wonder if this is going to be tied to the nanytes. Will it have something to do with the nuclear bombs being detonated or simply the role that Rachel and company have played? Or maybe this is just some new supernatural type element?
I thought this episode was a great kick off to the season. I really hope that we don’t have to wait until the finale to see another episode penned by Kripke, but I suspect we will. I’m already liking this season better. What do you think of the new big bads? Do you like how the characters have evolved? Do you like having several simultaneous and ongoing storylines or would you prefer to keep the action more centralized? I can’t wait for next week – what about you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.