TV Series Review
Let's be honest: The idea of exacting revenge on someone has probably entered the minds of even the best of us. Maybe you thought briefly about tailgating the guy who cut you off on the freeway—just to prove that you can be overassertive too. Or maybe you thought about sending a picture of your new, better-looking boyfriend to your ex. Or maybe you bitterly remember a great line you wrote in one of your TV reviews that your editor cut out for no good reason, and you thought about putting shaving cream in his computer keyboard so when he typed the cream would squirt through the keys and mess up his desk and maybe if you're lucky even ruin his watch and …
… That is exactly how Amanda Clarke feels when she's released from juvenile detention and finds out that her wrongly imprisoned father died in his dingy cell. But while we all might choke back our baser instincts, choosing not to "accidentally" spill hot coffee all over that rude man sitting at table 12, Amanda has no intention of doing so. Instead she dedicates her life to ruining the lives of everyone who ruined hers.
To do it, she's concocts the most devious, confusing and ludicrous plan ever. No longer is she Amanda Clarke, but Emily Thorne, a wealthy socialite who sashays to the Hamptons, ostensibly to hang out with all the other wealthy socialites. But when she's alone, she all but rubs her hands and cackles menacingly as she plots to take down those who had a hand in framing her father. Her end game? To use any means necessary—arson, theft, illegal surveillance, duplicitous romance—to destroy the lives of the biggest baddies of them all: Conrad and Victoria Grayson.
She's a schemer, this one—as is everyone around her. And that makes Revenge feel quite convoluted. The fact that the real Emily Thorne is occasionally in the Hamptons too—masquerading, naturally, as Amanda Clarke—doesn't help.
Revenge is so byzantine, in fact, that it makes the 13-year run of Dallas look like a straightforward docudrama. ABC even felt the need to air an hour-long recap show three-quarters of the way through the first season to piece together all the stray plot points for bewildered viewers. Consider: Emily/Amanda is currently in cahoots with a guy named Nolan Ross, who is both a business magnate and computer hacker, and who for a while was the gay lover of Tyler, a supposed one-time Harvard roommate of Daniel Grayson, Emily's current fiancé—only Tyler hadn't been to Harvard for at least a year and holds Daniel at gunpoint, threatening to tell him everything he knows about Emily, right before shadowy Japanese CEO Satoshi Takeda guns him down, framing Daniel and Jack (Amanda's childhood friend) so his old protégé Emily can get back to the business of revenge.
Um, in the interest of time, perhaps it's best to simply report that plotting and pretending and revenging gets people killed. And poisoned. And framed. And arrested. Their houses get burned to the ground—literally and figuratively. We see pole dances and lap dances and gay kisses and sultry rolls in the hay. We hear folks swear.
Revenge is clearly not a show about how to be a better person. It's vindictive wish-fulfillment, a chance to hang out with the rich and famous, and then laugh at their hubris when they fall. And yet there's a moral of sorts—even though it's explicitly ignored by Emily and everyone else: Forgiveness is the way to go.
Before Emily gets her revenge machine fully tuned and whirring, she receives a note from her father—a note that implores her to set down the knives and, yes, turn the other cheek.
"All I ask is that you promise to do the one thing that has been so hard for me to do," he writes. "Forgive."
She refuses, but the lesson lingers. And it's perhaps inadvertently driven home by some of the things she says: "Vengeance always comes at a price, and those who deserve to suffer most aren't the only ones who pay. … I've learned that in the pursuit of revenge, collateral damage cannot be avoided. Some truths must be buried in the service of greater ones."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson; Emily VanCamp as Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke; Gabriel Mann as Nolan Ross; Henry Czerny as Conrad Grayson; Ashley Madekwe as Ashley Davenport; Nick Wechsler as Jack Porter; Joshua Bowman as Daniel Grayson; Connor Paolo as Declan Porter; Christa B. Allen as Charlotte Grayson