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TV Review: Everyone Shines in Revenge’s “Struggle”

By on March 17, 2014
(ABC/Danny Feld)
JUSTIN HARTLEY AS PATRICK

(ABC/Danny Feld) JUSTIN HARTLEY AS PATRICK

Though the title of this week’s Revenge instalment may have been “Struggle,” the hour was resplendent with seamless narratives.

Allowing its principle characters to shine throughout, “Struggle” resolved several of the scrummy conundrums left dangling by “Payback” and set the stage for ample intrigue to keep us on the edge of our seats through Spring.

Though mid-season hiatus allows for nail-biting cliff-hangers, it can also prove challenging in regard to plot continuity for viewers. Key elements and small but significant details have a way of disintegrating without a smidgen of reinforcement over a seven week period. Last week’s episode fell victim to exactly that. In pleasing comparison, Revenge’s fifteenth episode, “Struggle” was an engaging, satisfying, and hopeful hour of entertainment.

Though there were several noteworthy scenes in this week’s episode, most impressive were three central threads featuring the struggles of the following pairs: Jack and Stevie, Aiden and Emily, and Victoria and Patrick. Behind the scenes and undergirding it all, Nolan Ross, was the voice of reason and compassion throughout.

“Payback” left us with our mouths agape when Stevie Grayson revealed she was Jack Porter’s biological mother. In “Struggle” the maternity mystery unfolded effortlessly and to a very satisfying end. An alcoholic Stevie Grayson (Gail O’Grady) and tavern-owner Carl Porter Sr. were lovers when Jack (Nick Wechsler) was conceived. When, after a week as the mother of a newborn, Stevie knew she was an unfit mother, she left Jack with Carl Sr. and his wife, and then disappeared to sober up and get her life together. After over thirty years, nineteen of them sober, Stevie finally mustered the courage to face her abandoned son.

(ABC/Danny Feld) GAIL O'GRADY AS STEVIE

(ABC/Danny Feld)
GAIL O’GRADY AS STEVIE

Greatly adding to the fluidity of this particular storyline are Stevie’s dignity, and Jack’s contentedness with his current situation. We see in Stevie a genuine and hard-won unshakable sense of self-worth. For his part, Jack is in a healthy romantic relationship, has a thriving baby, and, as of last week is a new home owner. But that’s not all that alerts us to his general demeanor.

The magicians who create entertainment for the small and big screens, a.k.a. the ‘Revenge Fairies’ in this case, are experts at nonverbal communication, or ‘subliminal messaging.’ They use color, light, music, and camera angle to manipulate our experience and convey their specific intent. This is also done explicitly for each character through wardrobe, makeup, hair color or style … you get the picture. Case in point, note the length of Jack’s hair these past two weeks. It’s shorter and more conservatively coiffed than in any of the previous 2.5 seasons. It used to be wavy and almost collar-length. Also, though he has historically sported a degree of facial scruff, it is now much more manicured. Message: Jack has gotten his life together. He’s content and happy.

The next significant struggle is that of Emily and Aiden, masterfully portrayed by Emily VanCamp and Barry Sloane. Upon Nolan’s insistent urging (God bless Nolan!) Aiden emerged from the shadows to administer extraordinarily tough love to Emily allowing her to overcome her subconscious fears, recapture her sanity, and recommit to her original agenda: clearing David Clark’s name. For the first time in a long time, the real Emily Thorne takes a stand. In the process, however, she accesses several painful memories including one of her father in bed with Victoria (Yowsa!), another of her begging her father to leave the hateful Victoria, and another of her dad’s words of love for Emily as he carved the double infinity sign on the post at the beach house.

Curiously, it’s intimated that Emily’s mental blockage was based on her fear that her father wasn’t worth it; that he didn’t deserve it. We can assume this ‘it’ refers to having his name cleared. What remains unclear is exactly what she’s referring to when she says her father is to blame for everything; that it was he all along. Does this mean she can relinquish her own guilt over everything that happened to them during her youth? Or does it mean something nefarious … like that he really was guilty of the crimes he was imprisoned for? Time will tell, Revengers.

Not to go unmentioned is the incredibly tender final scene between Emily and Aiden. How much do we love Aiden Mathis at this point? A hell of a lot more than a bushel and a peck, my friends. And more every episode, especially now that Jack seems to be comfortably settled into the friendship category. And you know what? It feels really good that way, doesn’t it? The entire Emily-Aiden sequence is now at the top of my list of Revenge favorites: the relentlessness of Aiden’s commitment to Emily’s sanity, the emotional intensity of their physical struggle against each other, and more significantly, Emily’s struggle against her own subconscious and the mental blockage that caused her black-outs and her sabotage of her own efforts to achieve her Revengenda. Color me a confirmed Emiden or Aimily shipper.

By the end of the episode Emily has another recollection: David Clarke’s mention of a prison visit from Stevie Grayson once she’d received her law degree. Emily has now sworn to uncover all of Stevie Grayson’s secrets. Could it be that another take-down is in the coming? I hope so! Get out your red Sharpies, Revengers!

(ABC/Danny Feld) MADELEINE STOWE

(ABC/Danny Feld)
MADELEINE STOWE AS VICTORIA

Perhaps the most understated and difficult struggle of the episode—and also the most surprising—was Victoria’s when she arranged to have Patrick receive an apprenticeship with artist Stefano Leone in Tuscany. It has been clear since he arrived at Grayson Manor that Patrick has been the only source of joy in Victoria’s tortured existence. He seems to be the only pure love of her life.

This week, Patrick went looking for punishment by attending his rapist father’s Irish wake and spitting upon the man’s portrait, making himself the center of a brutal attack. Though she warned him not to allow his rage to consume him, she could see Patrick was powerless to relinquish that rage and always would be. Enter Nolan, the only other person who truly loved Patrick.

In a compassionate tête-à-tête, and despite the fact that he’d recently been beaten and robbed by Patrick, Nolan brought to Pat’s attention that he’d changed considerably since arriving in the Hamptons (and not in a good way) and that he hadn’t always been like this. Best line of the episode: The word accident is fast becoming a euphemism for ‘Patrick did it.’ This scene wins honors in the top of my favorite Nolan scenes of all time.

In a clever cinematographic maneuver, we see Patrick standing in Victoria’s room saying goodbye to her as he prepares to leave for the apprenticeship in Tuscany. Then as the shot switches from Patrick to his silently crying mother, we see that he is not actually there … she is simply listening to his voice on her cell phone. His beautifully delivered soliloquy includes the realization that his darkness comes from his father, and that as long as he stayed in Hamptons he was afraid other people might get hurt. Most importantly, he was now in pursuit of doing something he hoped would make her proud. Pass me the Kleenex. #IMeanIt

Though Victoria may have an extraordinary vocabulary and a rapier wit, loads of cash and possessions, and the current title of Grayson matriarch to match her Queen Anne throne, she will never have the self-confidence bred from higher education and independence like Stevie does. The question is, how will this play out as the two vie for dominance over Grayson property?

Elsewhere, an increasingly lubricated Daniel hired a Bronx thug to spy on Emily. The result: photos of Emily and Aiden kissing. Please, Revenge fairies, don’t let Daniel put a hit out on Aiden! Also, Conrad gleefully began preparations to see Pascal, Margaux’s father, who will be arriving in time for the next Revenge episode.

Next week in “Disgrace,” the stage is set for a “devastating revelation” when Emily and Victoria go head to head in a very public showdown during an evening at the opera. Sunday, March 23 (10p.m. ET) on ABC.

9 Comments

  1. JemilyLover

    March 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I think you have it wrong or maybe you need to watch that scene over again.

    “Curiously, it’s intimated that Emily’s mental blockage was based on her fear that her father wasn’t worth it; that he didn’t deserve it. We can assume this ‘it’ refers to having his name cleared. What remains unclear is exactly what she’s referring to when she says her father is to blame for everything; that it was he all along. Does this mean she can relinquish her own guilt over everything that happened to them during her youth? Or does it mean something nefarious … like that he really was guilty of the crimes he was imprisoned for? Time will tell, Revengers.”

    Young Amanda was angry with her father for bringing Victoria into their family especially when David suggested that she was about to become part of their family. In the end that’s exactly what happened. Amanda/Emily and Victoria became family. It was her buried anger that made present day Emily lash out. This was discussed by Emily and Aiden after the interrogation scene with the water barrel. Did you miss it?

    • Catherine

      March 18, 2014 at 3:58 am

      JemilyLover – Thank you for commenting. I watched that scene over and over and I agree with you about her anger being the blockage and him being the one who made the mistake. I should have been more clear in my phrasing, but that is exactly what I meant with, “Does this mean she can relinquish her own guilt over everything that happened to them during her youth?” I do think it was her anger, that was clear, but her comments about him, I felt, were intentionally ambiguous.
      Again, thanks for commenting!

      Catherine

  2. AimilyLover

    March 18, 2014 at 12:22 am

    You got it all right, thank you!
    The blame tho, i’d like the way you interpreted this reference. And yes to briliant scene of Patrick’s goodbye, poor boy, again an orphan, Vic is all alone again.

    Kudos to Stevie vs. Vic, truly win in casting imho

    • Catherine

      March 18, 2014 at 4:07 am

      That scene with Patrick tore at my heart! Stevie was such a sympathetic (agreeably understandable) character in this episode, I really wonder what will happen next and how she will go on the attack with Emily. I;m dying to know why she visited David Clarke in prison.

      When I heard Em’s opening comments about memories, I thought they might be going in a totally new direction. Look at these: “We spend our lives struggling to hold on to the things we value most. To the people we believe we can never exist without. But our memories are often an illusion protecting a far more destructive truth.”

      This may sound crazy, but I actually wondered if perhaps they were insinuating that her memory was wrong, and that it wasn’t Victoria that was sleeping with her dad, but Stevie! I’ve read that our memories sometimes fill in the gaps with what our brains *think* happened. How strange would that be? Then Jack and Emily might be siblings? But this is way too convoluted … and Victoria was definitely involved with David Clarke. Could Stevie have been as well? I actually don’t think so, but it is fun to speculate when anything goes in the wonderful world of Make-Believe!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Catherine

  3. Micheli

    March 18, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Adorei o Review… perfeitoooooo!!! EStou na torcida para que a Emily fique com o Aiden na Final..!!! 😉

  4. Micheli

    March 18, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Loved the … perfeitoooooo Review! I’m rooting for Emily stay with Aiden in the end ..!

    • Catherine

      March 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      Me too! Aimily all the way. : )

      Thanks for commenting … in both languages! (Portuguese?)

      Catherine

  5. Petro

    March 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for a great review! Interesting to note is that it seems the title of next week’s episode has changed from Expiration (when all the titles were aired in the beginning of the season) to Disgrace (recently)

    Both titles work as Ems’ marriage dissolves and some disgrace is brought the the Grayson family.

    • Catherine

      March 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Sorry for the late reply! I screwed up my previous comment to you and it disappeared into the ether! Here’s the gist: I hadn’t realized “Disgraced” wash;t the original title! You’d think the episode names would change many times from their assignment at the beginning of the year until they actually materialize for us on screen. It will be interesting to see what kind of divorce settlement Emily and Daniel come to. He can accuse her to faking a pregnancy, but that is nothing in comparison to shooting Emily and brazenly Sleeping with someone else in their own bed.

      Also, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens between Stevie and Emily. I pray, pray, pray Stevie and Victoria don’t team up. That could be disastrous.Instead, I see Stevie getting the red marker treatment … just like in the old days!

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      Catherine