Revenge, on ABC, is my favorite new show this season. It’s on Wednesday night, at 10 p.m.
The Plot: Emily Thorne has just moved into a beach house at the Hamptons. Just another rich young woman looking to have fun in the sun with fellow wealthy people, right?
Wrong. Seventeen years ago, Emily was Amanda Clarke, living with her beloved father in the Hamptons. At age nine, she watched as her father was wrongly arrested and convicted of treason. Amanda disappeared into the juvenile system. She is now Emily, and she has one purpose, one goal, one need: revenge on those who destroyed her father. To make that possible, she has returned to the Hamptons to seek her own form of justice from those who betrayed her father.
The Good: Amanda at nine was just young enough, and seventeen years just long enough, that no one recognizes Emily (or, as some online fans call her, Emanda.) (Don’t you love fans? Emanda.)
The concept is so simple — revenge. But so complex, because with each episode the viewer sees that this is no whim. Emily has been planning, manipulating, pulling strings, putting things into motion for years. It’s just now, this summer, that it is all coming together for her to step forward, to move to the Hamptons, to rent the same house she lived in as a child and tap the first of the many dominoes she set in motion years ago.
Of course, revenge is never quite so easy as it seems. There are . . . complications, shall I say? The pilot begins with a party at the end of summer for Emily and Daniel. Daniel is the son of the couple who framed her father, and just as that sinks in a shot rings out and Daniel collapses into the sand. Rewind to the day Emily rents the beach house. Already, so many mysteries.
Revenge is perfectly plotted with just enough mysteries to keep the viewer intrigued but not overwhelmed: who was involved in the plot against Emanda’s father? Who shot Daniel? The first few episodes are almost straightforward: a person who harmed her father is identified and Emily wrecks their life. She is no Dexter, there is no blood on her hands. She prefers to destroy people in ways where they have to live with the consequences, not escape in death. A few episodes in, the formula changes, and it seems like Emily’s plotting isn’t going the way she wants. Delicious!
Teen appeal? A few side characters are teens, and I confess, so far they are the least interesting and most annoying. However, Emily’s entire life is about invention, reinvention, and figuring out who one is. Isn’t that what teens wonder? Who will I be? What are my goals? What do I need to do to achieve those goals? These are all things Emily considered, and worked at, and now we watch what happens. Because revenge has been so part of her core, her focus, she also has to contend with questions now — is my path true? Do I have another possible life? Are my choices my own? Is revenge worth it?
Here’s another way to put it: Amanda is who Veronica Mars would have been, without the love and moral guidance of Keith Mars.