TV Show Review: Revolution (Warning: Ranty)

I almost stopped watching this show over the opening. Right here at 0:41: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4Bq-h2JCSE

If you go to 0:41, you will see a jumbo jet spinning to the ground.

Let me explain why I raged over this. The premise of the show is something happened that caused all electricity to stop working. Later in the show, it’s explained that there are nanobots in the air, absorbing all electrical current. This means computers won’t work, cars that run on gasoline don’t run, etc.

Okay, I can suspend disbelief for that. In fact, I’m a really easy person for the most part to convince, because I always want to let myself sink into a story, and will happily go with the story as long as it’s internally consistent.

Whoever came up with the jet spinning out of control clearly seems to think that electricity has something to do with lift. It doesn’t. That’s not what happens to a plane when you have an electrical failure unless the pilots are complete frelling asshats.

Engine failures are something pilots are drilled on – to adjust the speed of the plane to maximize the distance you can cover, and try to reach something flat enough to make a decently smooth crash landing. Gimli Glider anyone? If the engine fails in an aeroplane, it does not suddenly drop like a stone or spin out of control like crazy.

That’s an engine failure though. That’s assuming that what happened would cause the engine to fail. An electrical failure does not cause an engine failure in an aeroplane. An electrical failure is an electrical failure. Your electronics will stop working. With the Gimli Glider, the battery eventually ran down, and they were stuck using a ram turbine to power the hydraulics that moved the control surfaces. That’s likely to fail under the circumstances of the show’s premise as well, so I can believe that the pilots would have lost control of the plane entirely. However, they’re more likely to end up in a spiral dive then. That spin? Completely implausible. They’d definitely be in a shitty position – trying to make a landing with no control over the plane, or next to none, over ground that appears as nothing but black, since all the lights on the ground are out, and it’s dark. They will probably crash if they try to land, but they won’t spin. Those planes are built to be aerodynamically stable, and resist spinning.

But here’s the kicker, and you probably haven’t even thought about this yet. Okay, so presumably the plane is in this death spin because of a lack of any electricity working. It’s affected by this no electricity phenomenon, right?

THEN WHY ARE THE POSITION LIGHTS STILL ON?

Why? Because it’s night, and we wouldn’t be able to see the plane in it’s dramatically implausible spin if there wasn’t something lighting it up, and clearly that’s more important than internal consistency to the premise.

Ugh.

This is particularly bad because this is the opening scene, and the scene introducing the premise, so the audience is using everything they see right now to interpret how the premise works.

Anyway, that’s why I almost stopped watching the show.

Now to why I kept watching the show: Rachel. And some Charlie, but mostly Rachel. She’s introduced as a damsel in distress. She’s a prisoner of the Big Bad, and the characters have to rescue her. She falls nicely into the mother-desperately-trying-to-protect-her-children trope. She’s also a scientist, so she’s uber smart, which is also cool.

And they’ll play up all these elements, and then suddenly remind you that she’s also freakin’ badass. Give her a gun, and she’s not the sort of woman who stands at the back whimpering, hoping she’s not forced to make the decision to pull the trigger on someone and then when she is, can’t bring herself to take a life. No, that’s her husband. Rachel? She will shoot your ass. She gets to be brainy, a middle aged mother, and still gets to be a fighter.

And Charlie’s her daughter, and because Charlie is introduced first, you don’t realize right away that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to badassery. Charlie is kind of another subversion of a trope, because she’s the protective character who’s sworn to look after her younger, sickly brother (he suffers from activity induced asthma). The trope is just gender swapped. She’s an archer, so right away has warrior characteristics. She gets a romantic subplot, but it doesn’t overshadow anything else about her.

There’s another warrior female character too, so there’s three major female characters who kick butt. They didn’t just go with the token honorary male character, they’ve got three of them. And the male characters, the writers weren’t afraid to make them weak – Rachel’s husband, and then the teacher character are both non-fighter types out of their element.

Anyway, I’m kind of glad I got over my rage over that four second clip of the plane spinning. The male to female roles are well balanced, and the women in the plot are there as more than arm candy to the male characters. And of course I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings.

And it’s on Netflix, for Americans and Canadians who can hack American Netflix.

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20 responses to “TV Show Review: Revolution (Warning: Ranty)

  1. Unless the jet used fly-by-wire controls, as do all Airbus and some Boeing airliners. I don’t know about the Jumbo. In fact I could not definitely identify the jet. The position lights may have remained on because all the power did not fail completely at once, as shown by the car headlights still on after the jet crash.

    As for the Gimli Glider thing, it was all the fault of that darned new-fangled metric system, which also caused a Mars probe to fail. If God wanted us to go metric he’d have given us 60 centimeters instead of two feet!

    But seriously, ‘REVOLUTION’ sounds interesting,

    JTS

    • If you took out the engines and fly by wire, it would definitely crash. But it wouldn’t be a flat spin like what was featured on the show. They’re traveling around 350 miles per hour.

      It would’ve been a more realistic approach to showing plowing into the ground, similar to what happened to the American Eagle Flt 4184. Granted, it was ice that brought it down, however it did not spiral like a carousel.

      • Ah someone else beat me to commenting on fly-by-wire. I did recall professors in engineering mentioning that some aircraft ARE designed to be inherently unstable, using microcontrollers w/redundancy to give the impression of stability.
        So if they changed how it crashed, you’d be ok with it?
        I may have to see what this show is about, you made it sound somewhat interesting.

        • There certainly are planes built to be inherently unstable, and certain planes that cannot even be flown by a human without the help of a computer constantly adjusting control surfaces to keep the thing from flailing out of control. Those are fighter jets, and the reason for the built in instability is maneuverability. The more stability built into the design of a plane, the safer it is, and the less likely it is to spin, but the less maneuverable it is. Certain things, like a low centre of balance are sometimes a problem for very large planes, and planes like the Antonov have certain destabilizing design elements, like the downward angle of the wing, to make it possible for the plane to turn at all.

          So yeah, I could believe that a fighter jet could lose complete control and spin like nuts like in the clip, but not the passenger jet that’s actually in the clip. The jet in the clip is more likely to stay straight and level and just careen down to land on it’s belly. If they have no control over the plane, it’s also possible it could end up in a spiral dive, but that would result in a nose down attitude with rotation on the lateral axis, not the vertical axis, as in the clip.

  2. I kind of wanted to think about finding time to watch that show, but that was before I knew that the premise was about nanobots eating electricity.

    Mleh!

    I mean you can still have a neat plot built on a shitty premise, but that’s a lot of disbelief to suspend.

    • I’ve heard that from a lot of people, and yeah, I do tend to be willing to forgive a lot for the sake of a story. To each his or her own – I wouldn’t criticize anyone for not watching for those reasons.

      • Who am I kidding. I gave up the right to judge TV shows the moment I watched a crapload of Laguna Beach reruns in one night.

        It’s probably worth a shot. Most of the time when I hear a TV premise on its own, it seems absurd but when I actually digest the story, it takes on an entirely different character.

        • Lol, that makes me think of my husband and me. When I tell him about that awesome new story idea I just had, he almost always goes “I dunno,” and starts poking holes in it. But then when he actually reads the story, he likes it.

  3. It’s funny you mentioned that. When I saw the first episode, aside from the navigational lights, I commented to my wife that they failed physicals… royally failed it. They still have the forward motion that’s not going to cease once everything fails. So while I’m sure it’d be a spectacular crash, I highly doubt it would be a flat spin.

    Let’s not even mention them picking up an using aircraft that haven’t been used in over a decade. While I’m not a mechanic, I do know things exposed to the elements tend to decay/rust. So even if they drained the fluids from the helicopters & drones, I highly doubt it’d work after 15 years in the elements… unless you had someone who was very bored. Not to mention fuel to power those things.

    Logic would dictate the aircraft would fall to scrappers. I won’t even mention the “nanobots.” Sure, it’d be cool and useful to set someone on fire, but it is causing me to lose interest it.

    When I first saw the previews, I was expecting a TV version of S.M. Stirlings “Emberverse” series. Unfortunately, we have something lacking a suspension of disbelief. lol

    • The Volkswagen Woody Allen found in a cave in ‘SLEEPERS’ started at the first turn of the key after hundreds of years idle(!)

      • I haven’t seen the movie, however if it was in a cave, it wasn’t exposed to the elements. Then again, it could be German engineer. I saw an episode of Top Gear UK, where the guys did several things to destroy a Mercedes, and it still cranked at the end. lol

        • ‘SLEEPERS’ was a seventies comedy, Josh, like all the early Woody Allen movies. And Volkswagens were famous for their reliability in those days. Another ‘SLEEPERS’ joke was that they discover hundreds of years from now that smoking is good for you!

          The Top Gear guys are better at destroying caravans (small trailers). My favorite was when they flung one to destruction with a full sized replica of a medieval trebuchet siege machine!

    • The helicopters – I thought the same thing, but then I thought, you know what? Bass has been looking to turn the power back on for a while, and it doesn’t make sense for him to go out, find a way to turn the power back on, and *then* once he’s got power, go start doing maintenance on the helicopters he’s planning on flying. He’s probably had people working on restoring the choppers for years.

  4. I’m claiming a limited amount of smugness here because I read the first part of your blog and then I looked at the clip and saw the plane and thought – hey those green and red light thingy’s (position lights as I’ve learnt they’re called) are still on so what’s with the fact that there’s no electricity?

    And then that’s the point you make later, so I’,m happy! But clearly the bigger point is that, as you say the plane is spinning, that makes a lot of artistic sense and zero aerodynamic sense. In partial defense of the program I think those position lights are blinking, a bit, but of course that doesn’t explain the corkscrewing in to the ground nonsense.

    Beyond that, I don’t think I can comment on this porgram because I haven’t seen the episode, but in terms of what I see generally I’m beginning to wonder whether, artistically, TV and movies are moving from ‘damsel in distress/eye candy’ as the trope for female roles (which was frankly lame) to ‘butt kickin bad ass’ which I guess is better but still falls short of what a real human being is. I know all this stuff has to be entertaining, of course – and I think we’ve come some way to presenting men and women better in the arts (TV, film,literature …) but I still think we’ve got a bit of a way to go.
    A

    • Yeah, it’s not like we haven’t been screaming for years now that we want to see real women in real roles, not just quantity either, but quality. Substantial roles where they do things that are important to the story. It seems like the writers of this show probably got a little more freedom. I’ve read a lot of stories, more and more lately, of things like this – the development of female characters, being shut down by producers who are convinced that only males watch these shows, and they don’t want women characters being prominent in the show, even though the writers want to put it in, and ratings are good.

  5. We’ve probably devoted more time and attention to the falling leaf plane thing here than the show’s writers ever did! But another Point Of Improbability occurs to me, perhaps dealt with in the first episode, which I have not seen.

    If the nano-bots somehow ‘eat’ all electricity, even within machines and batteries, wouldn’t that kill all humans and mammals and reptiles and fish etc., all of which are effectively electrically powered? Is not life itself a kind of electricity? We humans make enough electrical power for the Atificial Intelligences in the ‘MATRIX’ trilogy to use us as batteries!

    Or does the Law Of Cool take precedence?

    • I think you’ve just ‘owned’ the producers of this story – but I don’t think they’ll care, they’ll be puttign this show on for people who don’t want to think about it this much!
      A

      • Yup. It does annoy me, but I can still bring myself to appreciate the show for what it is. The show is more about North America’s descent into pre-industrial chaos than it is about the science fiction elements. The science fiction elements, I can see, are really only there to make the setting exist. Looking at it that way makes it easier for me to accept the premise and not examine it too closely.

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