Television has been setting dramas in post-apocalyptic landscapes almost as long as in hospitals. (Florida, naturally, has been a proud participant. Way back in 1960, the much-honored Playhouse 90 did an adaptation of Pat Frank’s novel Alas, Babylon about a band of survivors near Orlando trying to rebuild civilization after a nuclear war. And no, smart guy, they didn’t all have white gloves and big ears.) The pace has picked up in recent years with shows like The Walking Dead (zombie uprising), Falling Skies (space-alien invasion) and Jericho all gleefully tap-dancing on the world’s grave.
Revolution seems less inspired (or, to use the technical TV term, stolen from) any of those shows than from The Hunger Games, which takes place in a similar quasi-medieval landscape where crossbows and battleaxes have become the high-tech weapon of choice. There’s also an echo of a 1945 short story by science fiction writer Frederic Brown titled The Waverlies, in which a horde of electricity-eating microbes invade the earth and leave it literally powerless.
A similar catastrophe strikes the world in Revolution. “Physics went insane,” recalls one survivor, and everything went off. But that’s where the similarities end. In Brown’s story, the result is a placidly agrarian America without junk food or junk culture where everybody eats better, exercises more and lives longer. The countryside in Revolution, by contrast, is bleak and lawless, marauded equally by bandits and warlord militias.
It’s after one of those militias kills her father and kidnaps her brother that teenage archer Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos, of the American version of Being Human), sets off on a quest to find a long-lost uncle. When her companions wonder why, she can only shrug: “All my dad ever said about him is that he’s good at killing.” This being a J.J. Abrams production, it scarcely counts as a spoiler to say that there’s a conspiracy afoot and the massive power-outage that ruined the earth was anything but accidental.
Abrams’ sci-fi shows nearly always run off the rails into a weedy thicket of time travel and parallel universes. (Someday somebody will make a doomsday show about the worldwide migraine triggered on by the last season of Lost.) But that usually takes a couple of years, and in the meantime, Revolution is big, bold and brassy adventure, a cowboys-and-Indians story for end times. Pull up a chair and thrust your imagination across time and space to a world in which there are no Kardashians or Octomoms. This post-apocalyptic stuff may not be as bad as it sounds.