Anti-Hero in Revenge

Posted Apr 19 2012, 9:23 am in , , , , ,

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Last night, Revenge came back with a new episode (finally). It’s taken weeks off so everyone, including me has been anxiously waiting. I talked about my love for this show months ago, when it first aired. Before the break, the show managed to twist what we all thought we saw in the pilot episode. The pilot opened with a scene on the beach making us believe that Daniel, Emily’s fiancé, had been shot. Instead, he’s arrested for shooting the other crazy person on the show.

In that first post, I talked about how Emily appears to be a complete sociopath with no feelings, at least until we see her with her childhood friend Jack. Through all of the twists and turns on her quest for revenge, this has held true for Emily. At the time, I didn’t call her out as an anti-hero, but now I think she’s one of the finest examples on TV.

Emily is on a mission to get revenge against the Grayson family for ruining her father and taking everything from her as a child. In one fell swoop, she lost her only parent, her house, her dog, and her best friend. Then she’s trained to believe the lies about her father.

So while revenge itself is far from a noble concept, as viewers we’re immediately sympathetic toward Emily because of her past. In addition, the Graysons are such a lousy bunch of rich snobs, it’s kind of nice seeing them taken down a notch.

Emily is conniving and deceitful and will do whatever is necessary to achieve her goal. There are times that I cringe watching what she’s willing to do and the lies she’s willing to say to move her plan forward.

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It’s never been clear whether she really has feelings for Daniel. I know she doesn’t view him as part of the problem. After all, it’s not his fault who his parents are. He is a means to an end, but I think some of that gets muddled for Emily.

In last night’s episode, she admits that she lost focus and let emotion get in the way. I’m not sure about the direction of that emotion. She loves Jack. But it wasn’t clear if that’s the emotion she was referring to, or if she’s talking about Daniel.

In all my talk about anti-heroes, I’ve learned a lot. You can read past posts here and here and some links to other people’s posts here.

While looking at the concept of the anti-hero, I’ve come up with some things I think are necessary for it to work.

The anti-hero has to be sympathetic, if not likable. She needs to have some redeeming qualities. She should believe her cause is noble, even if it feeds into something personal for her. And finally, I think that the anti-hero has to make the audience believe she can be redeemed or reformed. Even if it never actually happens, we need to believe in the possibility.

Emily fits all of these. We’re sympathetic because of her childhood, and her love for Jack shows that she’s not heartless. She believes that she’s doing some good by taking down the Graysons. They have a habit of ruining lives, and not just her father’s. They’re bad, bad people. Finally, and this was revealed last night… SPOILER ALERT

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Emily admits that she would dump her plan and come clean if she had to in order to save Jack.

Now, Nolan puts the words out there and Emily lets him believe it, but I think deep down it’s true. She doesn’t officially admit it, which is disturbing. Maybe she’s playing the game letting Nolan think that.  Maybe she can’t admit it because emotion has already gotten her into trouble.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the rest of this season.

Do you watch Revenge? Who do you think Emily should end up with Jack or Daniel? Or no one?



6 responses to “Anti-Hero in Revenge”

  1. We love Revenge, but there is nothing more irritating than when the network puts a show on the shelf for a few months. They build up all this momentum, gathering in viewers, and then what? Leave us to hang and hope we come back? This show is full of so many plot twists and turns and twists again that it makes it difficult to remember them all after the time off the air. Last night’s episode was great!

    • I hate the drop-off for midseason too. It’s one of the many reasons I love cable network shows like Shameless, Dexter, and Justified. They run their whole seasons through without reruns or breaks.

  2. jenfullmoon says:

    I tend to root for Daniel over Jack, I find him to be very sweet, which is surprising given his nasty gene pool. Jack is nice enough, I suppose, but he’s kinda crusty and cranky in a way I don’t find to be that fun to deal with. (And I speak as someone who IS crusty and cranky, and normally I like that.) I dunno, I just don’t find him terribly charismatic or interesting. Okay, so Daniel isn’t that interesting either, but he has moments. The boy tries. Hell, Declan has more charm than Jack.

    I do think Emily has feelings for both guys, Daniel included. Which is fine with me for the most part, but I can’t say I am terribly interested in watching Emily/Jack scenes. Or any Jack scenes.

    On the other hand, there’s really no way to make a relationship work once you find out that your girlfriend’s entire life is dedicated to screwing over your mother…so a relationship with Daniel is ultimately doomed. I just enjoy watching it while I can.

    • I don’t know, I think Daniel could work once he sees how horrible his mother is (and he’s almost there). Personally, I like Jack. He might be crusty, but he’s intense and I like that.

  3. I LOVE Revenge. I was so glad it returned to us last night with new episodes. I felt robbed last week when the new episode was really a summary of all the events that have take place thus far, but also commended the show’s ability to potentially attract new viewers that might have missed the earlier episodes.

    Who should Emily end up with? That’s tough. I really like Jack and Daniel. Poor, Daniel. He doesn’t deserve to be a Grayson. The romantic in me says Jack, but the avid TV watcher in me says Daniel — the story can continue on longer this way, I think. 🙂

    GREAT post!!

    • When I saw on Twitter last week that it was a recap episode I was mad and felt cheated since I’d been looking forward to the new episode.

      I’m rooting for Jack. He represents the one really good thing for Emily and I think she can be happy with him. I think no matter how different Daniel is, he will always be a reminder of the Graysons.