Friday, June 27, 2014

"Make Them Dirty, Damnit!": The Used Future of Season 2 of NBC's 'Revolution'

It’s with Eric Kripke’s interview at 2013 San Diego Comic Con that viewers find themselves in-wait for the new directions of Revolution’s second season. There’s enough hints in Eric’s interview to make viewers think we’ll see a different future, or rather, what George Lucas created with the 1977 Star Wars, a “used future.” This could be the most important thing Kripke said, for he seems to suggest a direction for the show that, I, along with others, have wanted him to take. This is the process of world building, giving his characters a place to explore.

“I was like, ‘Make them dirty, goddammit! Why is everyone so clean?’ So far, I’m really excited about where we’re going.”

Eric’s insistence that the show looks different, “dirty,” in other words, hints at the new ideas at play in Season 2. To accomplish any type of meaningful change to a show’s wardrobe --  with an old, faded look, perhaps pre-industrial (there is no electricity to make things) or post-industrial (there is lots of scrap to use for things) -- means every item has a story. That doesn’t just mean clothes, or why a character wears them, but also set design. Why a town or building looks the way it does means time has taken place; and for the watchers of Revolution that means 15 years of events in a world transformed by the Blackout. It’s more than just the map the show used early on to explain what is left of the former-U.S.A. A “used future” within design and wardrobe tell viewers what’s happened within each region. To accomplish this, viewers can look forward to the design of the show making a dramatic change, and in a sense, becoming a new character.

When George Lucas made Star Wars in 1977, people entered a universe with a history. Things had taken place to make the universe appear the way it was; and Lucas purposely used design to support his narrative of a galactic civil war, saying “I wanted things in a room to look like they’d come from different parts of the Galaxy.” This is what cinema and design historians now call a “used future.”

Eric hints that he is taking the show in this direction. Actors looking “dirty” has a bigger meaning than just getting away from what he called the “Noxzema look.” He will use “dirty,” purposely, to build his world up and tell the story of Revolution. Important events seem to be happening now in the American West, east of the Mississippi. Expect the tropes of a more earth-toned West to come into play. In other words, this is the show’s “Tatooine” moment; but while the idea of “New Vegas” isn’t exactly Mos Eisley, it does have the visual appearance of a possible “hive of villainy.” And like all good storytellers, Eric is prepared to use New Vegas to show a dirty future -- a used future -- with each part from somewhere across the divided Americas.


The only question is geography: Is it really near Vegas, or is it the idea of “Vegas” -- the memory of Las Vegas before the Blackout? Perhaps this place is somewhere on the border of the Plains Nation, Texas and the Wastelands. Perhaps more importantly, is the power of imagination, and why someone would create a place called “New Vegas.” Eric seems to want to set the stage for a more mythic dimension to the show; and it’s with people’s imaginations of how things should be, that myths are formed. For a second we are getting a glimpse of Eric’s vision for Revolution.

“What is America? Who gets to decide what the future of America will be?”

With the obliteration of the eastern capitals, the stage seems set for the return of the President of the United States (POTUS). Eric has mentioned a group called the “Patriots” -- they’re a real thing, not just something Randall used to describe himself. They’re here, they’re back, and they’re going to rebuild the U.S. But what does that mean? We know their actions will affect the characters on the show; but which characters directly? Where will the drama of the Patriots be played out?

A good hint to the direction of the show and the role of the Patriots lays with the nuclear attack in the show. Given that Eric has hinted that Captain Neville and Jason will be in the ruins of the capitals of the eastern nations, it can be ascertained that the missiles hit their targets. The action of the show now appears to shift further west, into the American West, and characters are in news locations and regions. One is Texas.

But why were the western capitals spared, then? On one hand, from a narrative point-of-view, the “salutary neglect” passed onto the western regions could hint at the motives of the Patriots, or other forces on the show that influenced Randall’s choice to “nuke the east.” Is Texas, and the other nations, new players in the game of “revolution?”

With this idea, Eric is playing with powerful, American ideas, and perhaps, he’s ready to use the West as a “dirty theater” for more of the revelatory drama of the mysteries in the show. It’s not quite clear who staged the Blackout and who invented the Nanites. And Eric has said that the addition of nuclear fallout to the mechanics of the nanites would potentially alter the show -- and take the narrative into an entirely new direction. Fine.

With that, then, Eric is using the West as a staging area for new directions in the show; and by doing that, Eric is taking advantage of the idea of the American West, as an idea that resonates in the national consciousness. The West inhabits meanings of “progress” that is, sometimes mistakenly, used to explain the story of the U.S. What might the region, both in reality and in the imagination, have in store for the characters to reinvent themselves?

I get the feeling that one character who will take advantage of the ability to “reinvent” themselves is Sebastian Monroe. He’s almost as alone as Napoleon during his exile on St. Helena. He’s a fallen warlord, in every sense of the word, and when they fall, kingdoms fall too. What can he make of himself in the dirty, and wild West. More importantly, what will the West (and the nations untouched by the missiles) make out of Monroe?

“This is a really fascinating world and people would evolve in all sorts of interesting ways. We didn’t explore what I call the documentary elements of this world enough. So we’re really looking for story lines that give us that, too.”

Yes. 15 years of struggling for “power” means great things have taken place. Every piece of the design to suggest those changes has a story. How they’re arranged, however, will let Eric do what he does well as a storyteller: explain a mystery and develop relationships among people. This is why, in my opinion, the “dirty” vision he has for Season 2 will not be cosmetic in nature, as Eric is undergoing the process of true “world building.” Expect him to use the new direction in the design of the show as an explanatory tool for the story line. The “used future” of Revolution will mean new faces and new problems. What the “revolution” will look like is up to how Eric arranges each part of this ‘used, and very American, world.’

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