Revenge with Emily VanCamp: Episode 1 Reviewed – Could this be the new Dynasty?

by Matt D

I feel that it’s smart for the UK channels to start airing new American shows after it has been announced if they’ve been picked up for a second series or not. In E4’s case I think they’ve learned their lesson from putting the ill-fate Charlie’s Angels re-make on too early and are now leaving it till May to air their new bunch of imports such as last week’s Apartment 23, the upcoming Suburgatory and Revenge which starts tonight on E4 all of which have been renewed for a second series.

The opening voice-over tells us that, ‘this isn’t a story of forgiveness,’ which we’d already kind of realised from the title however we pick this point up almost straight away when the first noise heard in the show is a gunshot killing off one of the main characters even before the opening credits. The person who has been shot is Daniel Grayson, which is unfortunate considering that it has happened during his engagement party to the young lady delivering the voice-over, our protagonist Emily Thorne. Through reading the looks on the characters’ faces we can see that they don’t all trust each other as much as they profess and as Emily is the one hell-bent on revenge she is the obvious candidate to have been the one to pull the trigger in the first place. However her motives for wanting to get back at the Graysons are only revealed after this incident as the story backtracks to five months prior to the opening scene.

Our setting is The Hamptons a glamorous beach location in New York in which the rich and powerful spend their summers, a sort of American Eastbourne you might say, so a lot of them have holiday homes which they stay in during this period. It is into this world that Emily comes after she rents the beach house belonging to one of the couples who aren’t staying this summer after the husband cheated on his wife. It is then we discover that Emily used to stay in this house as a child and also that her name isn’t Emily but Amanda and her life was turned upside down after her father was arrested and imprisoned supposedly after being set-up by the Graysons. Through further video and diary documentation we discover that Victoria and Conrad set up Amanda’s father David, so it looked like he’d been giving money to terrorists in order for them to fund plots such as the blowing up of planes. In actuality it was to destroy David after Conrad discovered that he and Victoria were carrying out an affair so he enlisted David’s secretary Lydia to also give false evidence, so now Amanda has three victims to plot against. Lydia’s downfall is quite easily manageable as Amanda has found out that she is having an affair with Conrad however she goes about exposing this in the most ridiculous way, after putting a small amount of poison in Conrad’s food thus exposing he and his mistress’ illicit meeting at a hotel. When Victoria finds out about this she exiles Lydia from The Hamptons and puts her beach house on the market, which incidentally is the one Amanda/Emily is staying in.

After getting one up on Lydia, Amanda’s next plan seems to be to ensnare Daniel Grayson which she starts to do after purposely spilling a drink on him to get his attention. Daniel seems like a nice-but-dim chap who is trying to rebuild his life after almost going to jail for drink-driving. He is now at college and also has the most perfect teeth of the whole cast. To assist her, Amanda also has a friend Ashley, who she met when they were both volunteering at The Met. Essentially Ashley is there to provide exposition but also for us British viewers it’s a bit of a treat as she’s an English girl herself and therefore keeps mentioning that if she loses her job she’ll have to go back to Croydon like it’s some kind of prisoner-of-war camp.

Amanda’s plan may seem fairly fool proof however there are a few road-blocks the first being that technological guru Nolan Ross holidays at The Hamptons and is able to identify Emily as Amanda. It seems that Amanda’s father believed in Nolan’s business when no-one else did, so when it really took off David became part share-holder with this role than transferred to his daughter when he died. It is Nolan who meets Amanda when she comes out of juvenile detention, at this point sporting a rather ill-fitting Goth-style black wig, to give her the money and inform her that her father wasn’t the villain that everybody made him out to be. Certainly in the first episode Amanda knocks back Nolan’s offer of help meaning that he could easily reveal her identity however I have feeling that they will start to pair up later in the series as both are presented as outcasts from the community. Nolan is presented as sort of the ‘new money’ guy that everybody is disgusted by and there’s more than a little bit of Mark Zuckerberg in actor Gabriel Mann’s performance.

Amanda’s second problem is that her old dog Sam is somehow still alive, almost twenty years since they last stayed at The Hamptons, who is now being looked after by Amanda’s childhood sweetheart Jack Porter. To me it’s a miracle that Sam is still jumping around as much as he is but the fact he remembers his old mistress is amazing because surely he would’ve at least developed some sort of dementia by now. Though the flashbacks lead us to believe that Jack and Amanda only met when they were very young he seems to have become so obsessed by her that he’s named a boat after her one that he has to sell to Nolan to save his father’s bar. The Porter family represent a different side of life at The Hamptons, with their nautical bar appealing to locals and holiday-makers alike they are the more grizzly characters in the story. Jack’s brother Declan also seems to have his own romantic subplot in which he falls for the Grayson daughter Charlotte in a sort of Romeo and Juliet style love story, just without the double murder although this being Revenge there may be some room for some more deaths.

Revenge is utterly silly stuff but it is well-made soapy fluff and has camp value to rival a Dallas or a Dynasty thanks to two strong female leads. As Emily/Amanda, Emily Van Camp is a great leading lady as she is both incredibly beautiful and able to narrate the ludicrous plot with a straight face. She makes this girl someone we feel sorry for and someone who want to be able to get one over on these rich and powerful snobs who had her father imprisoned for deigning to fall in love with the lady of the manor. Van Camp’s main asset is the fact that she can change her facial expressions very easily from a look of concern to the devious smile she also employs when one of her plans has succeeded. However the queen of facial expressions is undoubtedly Madeline Stowe, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Victoria Grayson, able to kill her rivals with an evil glare from 100 paces. Victoria is the Alexis Carrington of the piece somebody who owns enough pieces of valuable artwork that she can just auction one of at will but one who doesn’t forgive readily which makes her the ideal match for our heroine. The set-makers have even given the Grayson manor its very own staircase in order for Victoria to appear at the top of it every time somebody enters her house. Stowe though doesn’t make Victoria a clear-cut bitch instead making her show remorse at her actions towards Amanda’s father as well as her look of betrayal when she finds out her husband as be cheating on her with her so-called best friend. One of the main problems I had with this first episode was that there was so much plot to get through that there wasn’t a lot of time to get to know the supporting characters as I mentioned earlier Ashley was one of the casualties of this with only techno-geek Nolan being the other character outside of Victoria or Amanda to make any kind of impression.

As I previously stated it was a good idea to wait until May to put this on, because we now know that it will be returning for a second series however it also works as Revenge fits in perfectly to the summer schedules. As much as I love my Nordic noir, I think look at Sarah Lund’s sweaters over the summmer months would make me feel too wintery whereas the sumptuous settings of Revenge are perfect for these long summer nights. Almost every other scene features a body of water of a beach with somebody walking along it in reflection or youngsters using it to take a raunchy midnight dip. Apart from the location the other thing that is ridiculously beautiful is the cast led by the stunning Van Camp a lot of them find it hard to keep their clothes on which in particular applies to Christa B Allen as Charlotte Grayson who spends the majority of her time on screen in a bikini. When they’re fully-clothed the characters still look great with the constant use of chartiy functions used as an excuse for all the women to wear expensive dresses and for Conrad Grayson to wear a fetching white suit jacket. Though Revenge may be completely barmy it is also very addictive, lovely to look at and acted in the style in which it was intended to be presented. Anybody who was a fan of Desperate Housewives and is sad that it’s ending can look no further than this show to be a more than adequate alternative and I would advise anybody who’s after a show that isn’t taxing but still has a good story to check out Revenge when it comes to E4 tonight at 9pm.

Have you watched Revenge? What did you think of it? Leave Your Comments Below.