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Throwback Thursday - Revenge - Pilot - Review: "This is Not a Story About Forgiveness"

Throwback Thursday, a weekly article in which we look back
at our favourite TV episodes from over the years.

Revenge premiered on ABC on September 21, 2011 in the very difficult Wednesday 10pm hour. When I first heard of this show, the first thing that attracted me was star Emily VanCamp, whom I loved in ABC's other show Brothers and Sisters. I recall the Pilot being made available to watch early, and so I did, and instantly fell in love with it. I thought it was an excellent pilot, but I was still worried about ratings, as well as whether the show could extend its premise.

My worries for both ceased not long after the show premiered with 10.02 million viewers and a 3.3/9 adults 18-49 rating. And the show managed to maintain high viewership as well as deliver a stellar first season - and so a legend was born. I think it's general knowledge amongst fans of Revenge that the first season was never surpassed in terms of quality, though people may have differing opinions on that and could present a case to argue otherwise. Personally? I loved season 3 for sheer entertainment value, even if the quality of the season as a whole isn't as good as season 1. Revenge may have lost its spark as it aged 4 seasons and 89 episodes, but I'm one of those who loved the show from beginning to end, without ever thinking "this show sucks now". It never sucked to me, ever.

So for my sixth Throwback Thursday (that's sixth, fifth!) review, I chose to review the very first episode almost five years after it premiered. Half a decade has passed since we were blessed by the television Gods with another delicious show to sink our teeth into, and now the show has been dead for a little over a year now, my affection for the greatness of this episode (and show) has only increased. While 'Pilot' was not my all-time favourite episode of Revenge, it's one that I could re-watch time and time again.


When I was a little girl, my understanding of revenge was as simple as the Sunday school proverbs it hid behind. Neat little morality slogans like, 'do unto others' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. But two wrongs can never make a right because; two wrongs can never equal each other. For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places, absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication... This is not a story about forgiveness.

While the entire picture of what happened before is not revealed to us, in 'Pilot', we are introduced to a woman who holds some dark secrets, but they are mainly secrets that belong to others. These people are on her hit-list, and we partly don't know why, but what's brilliant about the series premiere is that it makes you crave all the answers. In some regards, it's like wanting to know who A is in Pretty Little Liars (though fortunately for Revenge, the main mystery is not as double infinity as PLL is). I desperately want to follow this woman - who claims to be called Emily Thorne - while she embarks on her path to absolute mortal vindication, and the excitement of what could possibly happen in the Hamptons keeps you hooked from the first five minutes. And speaking of those opening minutes, we are welcome with a flash-forward, a gunshot, and a man falling over in the sand. An engagement party of Emily and Daniel is disrupted by Charlotte's screams, and the guests find a body on the beach, seemingly belonging to Daniel. Going back to five months before was a nice touch, and it was even more incentive to continue watching after the 'Pilot'.

David (from the letter): "All I ask is that you promise to do the one thing that's been so hard for me to do. Forgive."
Emily: "But that was a promise I couldn't keep."

It's not long before we get a bit more of the bigger picture when we are in the 'present day', where Emily has flashbacks to when she was a kid, and it's revealed that she's been there before, and her real name is Amanda Clarke. Her father was framed for giving money to terrorists that downed a plane years and years ago, and because of the false testimonies of several people, David Clarke was sent to jail where he eventually died. So, we begin Emily's wicked game, and it's one of the best aspects I love about this show is how cunning and clever she is when exacting her revenge. She does things in a more complex, smart way that, in the Pilot, forces Conrad to have a heart attack during an affair with Lydia Davis, and is sent to the hospital, and thus she plants the opportunity to reveal the affair to Conrad's wife, the Queen of the Hamptons, Victoria Grayson.

Victoria: "Don't let them see your weakness. It's the first thing they use against you."

Victoria Grayson - the woman we should all hate, for being the woman David loved, but was ultimately betrayed by. I think from this episode, by the end of it, I loved to hate her, but by the end of the series, I just plain loved her. She was a very bad person, but she was so wonderfully played by Madeleine Stowe that I just had to love her wickedness. The extent of her true betrayal isn't fully revealed, so what we witness in the Pilot is her absolute sass when banishing Lydia from the Hamptons, because she can do that, she can actually banish people. She does it in such a cold, cruel way that you just have to soak in how delicious the drama is. That Memorial Day 2011 party would ultimately be the turning point in everyone's lives, where the turn of the screw is slow but oh, so delicious. Your heart goes out to Lydia a little, whose life is totally destroyed in the very first episode due to Emily's plot of revenge, and with her takedown begins many takedowns, and it wouldn't be the last we see of Lydia either.

Daniel: "Don't let my mom rattle you. Intimidation is practically a sign of indearment with her."
Emily: "I'd hate to be on her bad side."
Daniel: "Yes you would."

There are many beginnings of relationships in this episode, including that of Daniel and Emily. Her move of spilling her drink, while not the most intellectual of her sly moves, was still rather effective, which is really telling of Daniel's character - either he was really stupid for falling for her 'act', or he was just desperate for some beautiful female attention. Either way, Emily sets her claws into Daniel in a bid to get closer to the Grayson family, and I did kinda ship them in the early days, even if I knew Emily was just playing him. I ended up hating Daniel around season 2 and into season 3, but then season 4 came around and, I dunno, I just felt him come alive again, and his chemistry with Emily was back on track (partly because they hated each other, but love also ran deep, showing their complexities). Funny that I thought he redeemed himself just before he died - I guess he paid the ultimate price. But in the Pilot, their flirtatious banter and romantic prospects were very early days, and it was exciting to see how Emily would end up playing him. Also, I loved Joshua Bowman from Make It or Break It, so I took a liking to him pretty early on.

Emily: "You shouldn't be here."
Nolan: "That makes two of us."

But of course my favourite pairing is Emily and Nolan - they are the ultimate best friends. When I think of best friend goals, this is what I picture. From the beginning, we see that Nolan knows Emily's secret, and he has had an involvement with Emily and her father for years. He's also the one to give Emily the infinity box, and from that gesture alone we see exactly what kind of connection he will have with Emily in the series going forward. There is a lot to love about Nolan too, his general way of moving and speaking and how he presents himself in a scene is highly entertaining. His friendship with Emily is not an easy one, and instantly he's on her bad side and he ends up having to prove himself to her, because trust does not come easily to Emily Thorne. But he manages it, and he ends up becoming the most valuable ally to her. I genuinely believe Emily wouldn't have been able to achieve all of the revenge she exacted over the 4 seasons without him, so the chemistry between the pair was fantastic, and rooted from this pilot.

When deception cuts this deep, someone has to pay. My father's chance to bring justice to the truly guilty was stolen from him. His only option was to forgive. I have others. They say vengeance is a dish best served cold but, sometimes it's as warm as a bowl of soup. My father died an innocent man, betrayed by the woman he loved. When everything you love has been stolen from you. Sometimes all you have left is revenge. Like I said, this is not a story about forgiveness.


The pilot introduced us to the crazy and wonderful world of Emily Thorne and her story of revenge. The pilot had everything it needed to begin the series right - including a very interesting mystery in -wink- Daniel's shooting - and it set the marvellous stage to a truly delicious premiere season. It was beautifully written by series creator Mike Kelley, and from it we learn a lot about morality and the definition of revenge. Emily's wicked takedown of Lydia by using her affair with Grayson to rattle the Queen Victoria was a cunning, evil move that presents us a conflicting protagonist - she does wicked things for the right reasons, so should we really be on her side, or become mortified by her actions? I choose the former, where I am instantly on Emily's side due to Emily VanCamp's captivating allure, and she becomes the character we root for to succeed in her revenge. The series gets more complicated as it goes on, where we end up falling in love with other characters - like Victoria and Daniel - and thus we sometimes hope that maybe there'll be a happy ending for some of them.

But as we learn, this is not a story about forgiveness, and so the twisted path to getting revenge on the Grayson family and those who convicted her father provides us with the ultimate drama that carried many Revenge fans from 2011 to 2015 in four wonderful years. I miss this show, a lot, and I can call it one of my all-time favourite dramas. I look forward to revisiting the Hamptons with Emily Thorne.

What was your favourite episode of Revenge? Let me know your thoughts on the show, and the featured episode, in the comments below!



My first Throwback Thursday from October 2014. Check out the game-changing third season finale, All Hell Breaks Loose, that spelled the end of a Charmed One and seemingly destroyed the Charmed legacy forever. Rest in peace, Prue Halliwell. The power of three will set us free. Blessed be.


Perhaps the most beautifully written episode of television ever, The Body is hailed as a classic and is among some of the cast and crew's favourite episodes of all-time. My second Throwback Thursday and it's an episode that requires us to get the tissues out.


My third Throwback Thursday included all five disaster episodes on the show, including Bang, Something's Coming, City On Fire, Boom Crunch and Down the Block There's a Riot. Take a walk down Wisteria Lane as we reflect on those five infamous episodes.


My fourth Throwback Thursday was of the much-missed show The Secret Circle. I covered the series finale of the show, 'Family', as well as taking a look back at the first season as a whole. This wasn't a perfect show in the least but it still holds a special place in the hearts of its many fans.


My fifth Throwback Thursday was of the CBS supernatural drama Ghost Whisperer, where Melinda Gordon can see and talk to ghosts. She helps them to cross over into the light, and in my featured episodes, she deals with the biggest calamity to happen in Grandview in the double-episode season one finale.


My sixth Throwback Thursday was the ABC drama Revenge, where I take a look back at the episode that started it all - the Pilot. In it, we are welcomed to the Hamptons by the narrating Emily Thorne, who plots wicked schemes to bring down the sinners who wronged her father. The show premiered with this episode in 2011, and ended in 2015.

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of the 'Abyssal Sanctuary' series. Gavin joined SpoilerTV in August 2014 and reviews 2 Broke Girls, Devious Maids, Mistresses, Pretty Little Liars, Salem, Scream Queens and Sleepy Hollow. Gavin will write previews for Empire and Shadowhunters, and backs-up Once Upon a Time, Reign, Scandal and Supergirl. Gavin also writes special anniversary articles, most recently for Charmed. You can contact him at
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