I've noticed lately that TV seems to be showcasing series with a certain lean towards comeuppance. Aside from the attempts towards "MadMen" era driven shows, family comedies, and another round of formulaic procedurals, three new series have appeared with the central character bent on exacting their own brand of justice. Two of these are even on one network; ABC. The network Walt Disney helped to create (it's true) and now owned by his company, has two shows focused on revenge. In fact, it's the straight-to-the point title of one of them.
"Revenge" stars the remarkable Emily Van Camp, fresh from her time on "Brothers & Sisters" (another ABC show), as Emily Thorn, who can be charming one moment while hiding a truly icy demeanor beneath. Emily's dad was accused and sentenced for a crime he did not commit and died in prison unable to prove his innocence. But he left behind for Emily a small box containing all the names of those responsible for destroying their lives, plus a lovely group photo, suitable for framing or in Em's case, systematically crossing out each week's victim of her anger. To date, Emily has eliminated a stock broker, a psychiatrist, a senator, ----- this is one busy girl who's spent years carefully plotting out each move. Well, not exactly, as things do happen out of her control. When the mistress of the South Hampton queen bee's husband gets killed, Em quickly is both appalled and innocent. "This is not my fault," she declares, knowing that she did not mean for the said queen-bee (Victoria Grayson played with relish by Madeline Stowe) and her husband's security guard to silence the woman. It was a result of Em's tightening noose around this duplicitous couple, the chief architects behind dear old dad's disgrace and imprisonment. Oh, and their son is Em's fiance.... or was cause in the pilot, because he's killed,too. The show so far has been a flashback leading up to this point. Is THIS part of her plan? We'll see. There's still a lot of folks in that photo to cross off.
"Revenge" is based on the classic novel, "The Count of Monte Cristo." ABC's other show of I'll-get-even is "Once Upon a Time." This one is not based on one story; it's based on ALL the stories we know, namely, fairy tales. "Or think we know" as the pilot helps set up for us. From the producers of "LOST" (which is already a warning sign), the town of Storybrook is actual the living prison of Snow White, her prince, Jiminy Cricket, and a host of other folks from story time, thanks to a curse set upon them by Snow's Evil Queen. From the first two episodes, we learn there's a deeper history between Snow and the Queen, more beyond the "Heigh Ho" story we've already know. Yes, Snow re-states to Prince Charming the danger of this woman who "poisoned me with an apple because she thought I was prettier than her" and the curse is not to be ignored. See? It's about the Queen and her Our World-version, Regina Mills, the mayor of Storybrook. Lana Parrilla isn't just chewing the scenery as her malicious majesty. You can she the glee she's having in every line, every glare, every chilling smile she gives. Her adopted son has found his birth mother who, by sheer pixe-dust coincidence, is the daughter of Snow and the Prince. But it's about the Queen's need for revenge against Snow and whatever-the-heck-she-did. She is so bent on making everyone's happily ever after ruined, she even killed the one thing she loved the most (and a very "WHOA!" moment for this show as well as primetime in general) to get the job done. It's about Regina's need to not let this curse be broken and the lengths she'll go to do it. (And this chick does not have issues; she has a subscription.)
AMC has now brought us "Hell On Wheels," which is the name of the town that moves with the construction of the new Transcontinental Railroad. Oh, yeah, it's right after the end of the Civil War. Vengeance is never bound by time. Anson Mount plays the dark, stoic Cullen Bohannon, a former Confederate solider who's wife was brutally murdered by Union soliders. Thus,.... revenge! And he tracks down the ones responsible to Hell on Wheels, which gets complicated by a tribe of Cheyenne who want to destroy the linking of East and West. And along with other characters trying to find their way in this frontier, Cullen, (according to AMC's site for the series) though driven, gets qualms by his quest to exact justice. Which is something we have not seen yet from "Revenge" or "Once." Emily simultaneously, can create ever so slightly the coldest/hottest smile when a piece of her plan falls into place. And Regina/The Queen is a woman with no regrets for what's she's done, and will continue to do, to so many.
Do these three shows reflect anything that might be happening in real life? An underlying need by us viewers to see not only good triumph and the bad punished but, the very act of enacting accountability? Who wouldn't want to conjure a curse to sweep over all who have wronged us; to check off each being who deliberately made our lives that much harder to cope with? Do they reflect the movement still continuing in Lower Manhattan? Occupy Wall Street and its nationwide and world wide spin-offs (Occupy Fill-in-the-Blanks) are common people, "the 99%," who are angry at the banks and the execs who helped create the financial quagmire we are all stuck in, and want.... revenge? No. Justice? A sense of "this-is-not-fair-and-things-have-to-change-because-we-won't-stand-for-it-anymore? Yes. But these three shows, their pilots, were created, pitched, cast, and shot long before Occupy ever happened.
I suppose the need to seek revenge is just human nature. We can be complicated and yet so simple in design. "That's not fair" is the knee-jerk reaction in all of us and one these three shows feed into with complete abandonment. They've just started their trips down the dark side and so far, I am enjoying the ride. (But to the producers; don't disappoint us..... if you know what's good for you.)