With summer comes the inevitable and boring lull in our favourite television programmes. Perhaps the producers of such shows figure we’ll all be out enjoying ourselves, drinking Pimms and having bbqs, going to the beach and playing Frisbee…after all who wants to sit inside watching television during the warmer months? Oh wait. We do. They obviously didn’t get the memo about summer bypassing the UK. The days are longer, but the rain persists and to rub salt into those pasty English wounds our evenings are decent programme free thanks to the summer hiatus – at least someone’s having a holiday. Just as I was considering taking up knitting to pass the time I saw a promo for a show called Revenge (9.00pm Monday, E4) and the seed of interest was planted.
The title is basically the underlying plot in a nutshell. Set in the heavenly and outlandishly money orientated Hamptons, Revenge is the story of Emily Thorne, real name Amanda Clarke, who returns to the popular resort to wreak havoc and, you guessed it, execute revenge on the people who framed her father for a crime he didn’t commit. They ruined his life and ultimately Emily’s, and she’s out to pay every single person back, with interest.
The episode starts with an apt line of text – “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Confucius (504 BC). I love these philosophical quotes they slip into modern day programmes – its entertainment and a life lesson wrapped up in a neat little gift with a bow. For those of us who lap this stuff up it’s like Christmas come early.
The first six minutes feature a flash-forward. A seemingly divine engagement party – people chatting, laughing, drinking. We get the feeling that there’s something more sinister at play here; isn’t there always? The moon shines bright, the sea laps in and out calmly, serenely. And then a gunshot rings out. A body falls onto the sand under an idyllic backdrop of fireworks and shimmering lights reflecting on the water. A person drags the body from the beach; a young couple fooling around find said body. What ensues is panic, naturally, and some of the best ear piercing screams I’ve heard in a long time. I feel excited; intrigued…we’re off to a good start.
‘For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places’ we hear, ‘absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication.’ I know which one I prefer. ‘This is not a story of forgiveness’, it continues. I’m glad they cleared that up for me, with a title like Revenge I’m not sure I could have guessed the storyline.
We then loop back in time, five months earlier to be precise, where a Miss Emily Thorne, played by the charming Emily Van Camp (Everwood), is being shown round a piece of prime real estate, a place we later learn to be Emily’s childhood home. Well not Emily, but Amanda. She rents the house and begins settling in with the help of her British friend Ashley, who manages to add a dose of normality to the show. When Emily and Ashley joke about getting drunk on cheap margaritas I feel a little smile form. Thank you! That’s something a twenty-something girl can relate to, sort of. Their definition of cheap and mine are probably very different.
These people have money coming out of their derrières. I’m surprised they don’t sit on thrones built from notes, with little dollar crowns and sceptres made from melted down gold. When tickets to a boat party come in at a cool $10,000 a pop and no one flinches you have to appreciate my exasperation. This I understand is their world, it’s not meant for the average person.
With more money than compassion and at the centre of the Hamptons community is the Grayson family, who are also at the forefront of Emily’s revenge plot. Victoria Grayson, played by Madeleine Stowe, is queen of the Hamptons. If looks could kill Queen V would be ending lives right, left and centre. It’s a stare rivalled only by Emily herself. Victoria is married to Conrad, a philandering sorry excuse for a man who’s having an affair with Victoria’s best friend, how very charming. Money clearly doesn’t buy you class. At their ludicrously big mansion we get the opportunity of meeting the Grayson’s two children, something I could have probably done without, but we’re story setting here. Daniel is the apparent golden boy who actually isn’t so golden. I get the feeling we women are supposed to swoon over him. I didn’t. And then there’s pretty little Charlotte, who is used to getting everything her heart desires. She has potential but is fairly forgettable at this stage.
Emily immediately integrates herself into the Hamptons society, where she puts her plan in motion. And voila, we have target number one – Lydia Davis, the recently single woman Emily is renting her house from. Emily constantly relives her father’s trial and we see Lydia testifying against him, thus the reason why she’s Emily’s first take-down target. Good riddance I say. If I were Emily I’d have rugby tackled her at the beach when she gave her mocking welcoming speech. ‘Welcome to the Hamptons, she said with a forced smile and words laced in sarcasm. My first thoughts? End her.
Of course there has to be a hiccup along the road and one thing Emily doesn’t bank on with her master plan is the presence of Jack Porter, a friendly and very handsome face from her childhood. When she bumps into him her attention momentarily wavers (whilst she fondly remembers him, he doesn’t know who she is). A weaker girl would have crumbled under his dreamy gaze and adorable smile – but not our Emily. Sadly for Jack it seems like nothing can stop this vengeful lady and she gives him the brush off. Retreating from the scene she shows us just how intent she is on executing her plan.
Jack we learn is sailing away from the Hamptons on his boat, in search of something more, somewhere he can make a difference. Because the Hamptons are so terrible… You can’t help but warm to the Porter clan. Jack and his brother Declan come from more humble roots (their father owns a harbour side tavern) and they give us a welcome break from the rich list. Whilst Dec is pleasant in a bright eyed, self-assured way, he’s also a tad petulant; too concerned with his own thoughts to notice things falling apart around him, namely his father’s bar. Your average teenager then. There are echoes of the Gossip Girl ‘Dan and Serena’ storyline with Dec and Charlotte Grayson. We know how this goes – outsider boy, popular girl…they fall in love blah blah blah… I hope if these two characters get together the writers do something exciting with their storyline. Perhaps they could go all Natural Born Killers on us? That would certainly throw a spanner in Emily’s plan. She could hire them to do her dirty work. Job done.
With Jack getting ready to set sail we become acquainted with Nolan Ross who wants to buy Jacks boat, to no avail. Nolan is immediately my favourite character. His quirky sense of style, his slightly camp demeanour, his ability to bring a little sunshine to each scene he’s in. Whilst his huge wealth means he appears to slot into the Hamptonite set, he’s awkward and doesn’t exactly fit the mould – all the more reason to like him.
It was only a matter of time before Emily revealed to Victoria that her seemingly loyal best friend (yes that’s Lydia) was having an affair with her husband. The perfect opportunity comes at the $10,000 a ticket boat party and there’s only one way that could go. Anyone who loves a good public revelation will have relished Emily’s casual chat with Victoria, exposing her husband’s infidelity and Lydia’s betrayal. Girl puts style and class in revenge.
I’d like to point out that whilst Emily sowed the seeds to ruin her, it’s ultimately Victoria who casts Lydia out on her perfectly defined behind, showing everyone what she’s capable of. I certainly wouldn’t want to get on her bad side.
With Emily mingling with the people who ruined her father, she ‘accidentally’ spills a drink on Daniel Grayson, providing an opportunity to charm him and forge the beginnings of a relationship that will give her that very convenient opening into the Grayson family. Much to Queen Vs annoyance. Hooray! Round one to Emily.
The boat party also sparks a rather surprising and slightly violent alliance between our heroine and our favourite Hamptonite Nolan, who reveals that he knows all about Emily’s secrets and wants in on the action. He wants nothing more than to join her in taking down the people who ruined her father. Emily however rejects his offer of help, rather foolishly in my opinion. If Emily embraced Nolan and they teamed up they could be like Pinky and the Brain, and take over the world. Nolan would be Pinky of course.
‘Amanda Clarke no longer exists’ Emily utters as we near the end. After watching this first episode I think she’s going to find that forging another identity is harder than she thinks, especially when Victoria is hell bent on digging up dirt about this latest Hamptons resident. She makes a phone call as she watches Emily from her tower on high – ‘I want you to find out everything you can about a young woman named Emily Thorne’. Looks like the Queens on the prowl.
As Emily marks a red cross over Lydia’s face in a photo, a little thrill rolls over me. Revenge is a modern day Count of Monte Cristo with a refreshingly likeable female at the helm. I think I’d get on well with Emily, in fact I know I would. I admire the sentiment of her whole mission.
These characters seemingly perfect lives are intertwined with deep deception and questionable motives, masked behind devious smiles and lies. It’s a world that Emily is throwing herself into head first. There’s a dark theme a-brewing and it’s only going to continue to get darker.
All I can say is one down, many more to go. I’m talking episodes and characters.