Review of Revolution: The Importance of Characters AND Setting

Revolution (TV Series) title card - Courtesy of WikipediaSo I was watching NBC’s newest attempt to rekindle the fire that Lost was able to ignite in the populace. This attempt is Revolution, and for those that don’t know about it, the gist is that the world fifteen years ago had something occur that stopped all electronics. So, as usually occurs when people lose their comfort, shit hits the fan — the only problem is that the fan isn’t working so the amount of shit isn’t scattered.

So, fifteen years go by and what’s up now? Well, they have militias and farm lands and ambiguous morality – a recipe for a post-apocalyptic tale, right?

Well, I’ll be honest, the setting is fascinating. I’ve seen this basic idea done in books before but seeing it on screen really was a treat. And it’s one that I think NBC has pulled off well. The idea behind the show is solid and they make a pretty picture! So, top marks there.

However, where Revolution falls short is in the character department. I generally enjoy most of the side characters. I might not have taken the time to know their names but I think the robust-bearded-(Not)Google-Founder is great! I loved the British-born-now-stuck-with-the-Yankees healer. The Uncle with the checkered past? Jawesome! And then you have the ‘villains’ who are growing on me and showing they are beyond the basic twirling mustache motif.

But then we get to the main character. She’s named Charlie and the only reason I know this is because everyone is constantly yelling out her name because she’s done something annoying. You see, though Charlie has been in this post-apocalyptic setting for fifteen years, she spends each and every episode looking through the lens of a person who is like the people of today. It feels like she doesn’t remember the days after the Black Out (the day the lights went out). Her morality is my morality. Her behavior is my behavior. Clearly she is the character the audience is supposed to see themselves through.

And I can’t stand it!

Let’s look to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Now while it has its flaws, there is one thing I can say about the show: They have amazing characters. Rick, the de facto main character, is the ‘every man’ for the audience. And it works because his exposure to the undead world is happening at the same time as the audience. When Rick wakes up in the show, the audience is right there with him and we are able to watch how he evolves. Heck, we evolve with him. We start to see why he does bad things because ‘heck, I saw what happened when he let that last guy go!’

Charlie in Revolution doesn’t have that. She has no reason to be so doe-eyed and innocent other than her dad sheltering her, which I just don’t buy.

This is a trend that I am seeing in young adult books and television series. They bring in the main protagonist that is the collective sum of their readers’ (or audiences’) experience and just drop them into a setting. It’s like their lives until this part of the story was a completely blank slate.

That is not how real characters grow.

Look at our roleplaying games here on Fandible. In our Warhammer games, we’ve all used the setting to create fairly dark characters. Why? Because that’s what the setting does to people. In Unhollowed (My new favorite!), we have characters with a mixed bag of morality — a morality that was created by their own setting and situation.

When making a character, you need to think long and hard about what the character has gone through. Very rarely does a person become a good person just because they want to be good. Morality, typically, is taught either by parents, teachers, peers, or even situations. A good person can be raised by bad people, but there needs to be an explanation -why- they are good. What motivated them to think differently? Why did they chose another way?

Revolution has a lot of these characters that do this. Many of them are ambiguous in the morality department and with the way they talk, I sort of get why they are. However, Charlie is just your 2012 teenager. Which annoys me.

Characters don’t just drop out of the sky into a setting.

Unless you’re Arthur Knight from King Arthur and the Knights of Justice. Then you can beat evil with your football playing might.


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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

1 comment on “Review of Revolution: The Importance of Characters AND Setting

  1. Honeybear says:

    I know this sounds harsh but I really have to wonder is she just a bad actor?

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