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Revolution: Swords Instead of Lightsabers

on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 00:00

The NBC drama Revolution is a contemporary narrative with a setting reminiscent of the past. The storyline is relatively simple—the electricity that runs our everyday lives is suddenly “shut off” without explanation, and remains off for the next fifteen years. The United States government falls as anarchy rules the land until small bands of militias divide the country into their own private fiefdoms. With limited supplies of both guns and bullets, the right to bear arms is quickly abandoned for most citizens, who must rely on knives and swords for protection instead. Not that there is much protection against the Monroe Republic that controls the American Northeast as their president and commanding officer, General Sebastian Monroe, rules with an iron fist.

Although Revolution takes place a mere fifteen years into the future of what used to be the United States of America, the NBC drama draws heavily from another narrative set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” The Star Wars Saga of George Lucas likewise contains a modern society that still relies on the old ways of the Jedi for protection against the more advanced blasters of the times. The Galactic Empire, meanwhile, is ruled with a similar iron fist by Empire Palpatine, a Dark Sith who thinks nothing of destroying his enemies and keeping his subjects in line by any means necessary. And just like Star Wars, Revolution is populated with heroes and villains facing each other with swords instead of lightsabers as they battle for the future of mankind.

The original Star Wars trilogy in effect begins with Luke Skywalker, a young Tatooine farmboy who yearns for adventure beyond his sand-riddled home world. In the pilot episode of Revolution, it is Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson who has similar dreams. “It’s not all like that,” she tells her father when he explains the dangers of leaving the little compound the family has established in the middle of nowhere. “There’s other towns like ours, right? Other people?” It is the same argument that Luke makes to his Uncle Owen, with Ben Matheson offering a similar reply as well. “Trust me, there is nothing worth seeing,” he tells his daughter. “Not anymore.”

Unknowing to Charlie Matheson, both her mother and father played a key role in the disaster that struck the world while she was still a young age. General Monroe suspects this as well, and sends members of his militia to take Ben Matheson into custody. A fight ensues, however, leaving Ben Matheson mortally wounded and his son Danny taken away in his place. When faced with capture by the Empire in the opening moments of Star Wars: A New Hope, Princess Leia Organa entrusts the blueprints of the Death Star in the droid R2D2. Ben Matheson, meanwhile, entrusts Aaron Pitman—former “Wizard of Google” and often the comic relief of Revolution—with a pendant flashdrive capable of restoring electricity.

Ben Matheson also directs his daughter Charlie to find his brother Miles for help in rescuing young Danny Matheson. Miles Matheson is the Revolution equivalent of Han Solo, with a little Obi-Wan Kenobi thrown in as well. It turns out that he and Sebastian Monroe were best friends since childhood, and Miles Matheson was once in charge of the formidable Monroe Militia that wreaked havoc upon its citizens. “Yes, Charlie, I killed fathers and sons and husbands,” he tells his niece. Although Matheson was the driving force behind the creation of the Monroe Republic when he saw firsthand how far society had degenerated into chaos and anarchy, eventually he reached the conclusion that Sebastian Monroe had gone too far in his thirst for power and abandoned his “scoundrel” ways for the solitary life of a Chicago bartender.

Just as Han Solo was initially reluctant to help Luke Skywalker rescue Princess Leia aboard the Death Star, Miles Matheson is also unwilling to assist with the rescue of Danny Matheson. Like the classic Jedi of Star Wars, however, Miles Matheson is able to best a larger military force with only his sword and is soon swayed by Charlie Matheson to Philadelphia, the capital of the Monroe Republic. He first insists on finding former love interest Nora Clayton, however, only to discover that she is now part of the Rebels who want to see the return of the Old Republic known as the United States of America.

“You’re really serious about this?” Miles Matheson asks Nora Clayton. “Full on rebel now? It’s not like you to fight for a lost cause. You really think you and your Rebel pals are going to bring back the United States? They’re going to butcher you.” Han Solo made a similar comment to Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars Trilogy.

Revolution does not always hide its Star Wars roots. During the episode “The Children’s Crusade,” in which Miles Matheson, Charlie Matheson, Nora Clayton and Aaron Pitman help rescue the leader of a group of orphans, a small rag-tag band of kids tag along with them. “Awesome,” Pitman remarks. “Like a pack of hairless Ewoks.” In the episode “Ghosts,” meanwhile, the local Rebel camp is referred to as Echo Base, which was the name of the Rebel Alliance’s secret enclave on the planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. And just as Chewbacca grumbled aloud about whether it was a wise idea for Han Solo to seek refuge with Lando Calrissian, Nora Clayton likewise questions the wisdom of Miles Matheson seeking former colleague Jim Hudson for assistance. “If you can find him, and if he doesn’t try to kill you,” she says, to which Matheson replies, “Oh, I can find him. Not sure about the second part.”

Then there’s General Sebastian Monroe, the Darth Vader of Revolution. He and Miles Matheson shared an Anakin Skywalker/Obi Wan Kenobi-like relationship when the lights went out as they attempted to bring order to the anarchy left in the aftermath. Both were eventually turned to the Dark Side amidst the backdrop of the Republic they built together, but Matheson was able to break away after a failed assassination attempt in which he could not bring himself to kill Monroe. Miles Matheson and Sebastian again meet face-to-face in the episode “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” but instead of immediately having Matheson put to death, Monroe forgives his former friend and offers him the chance to again “rule the galaxy together.” Matheson refuses the offer, escapes with his life and officially joins the Rebels instead, just as Han Solo eventually becomes a part of the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars.

Revolution may not take place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but it does contain the same assortment of heroes, villains, anti-heroes and damsels in distress who are actually more than capable of taking care of themselves. The NBC drama likewise has its fair share of swashbuckling moments and daring escapades, and while it might not be as epic as the big-screen Star Wars of George Lucas, it is an entertaining contemporary companion piece nonetheless.

Anthony Letizia (April 30, 2013)

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