ABC’s solemn soap spins a tale of vengeance in the Hamptons, doling out satisfactions bit by bit
Getting even on TV, or in the movies, is usually portrayed as exhilarating. Or at least satisfying.
ABC’s new “Revenge,” Wednesday night at 10, gambles that we’ll want to watch a good vengeance drama even when it turns out to be a grim process where in the end it doesn’t seem like anybody is going to feel very good.
Orphaned, Emily spent her teenage years bouncing through loveless foster homes. She was sustained by a dream, then an obsession, then a plan to track down all those responsible and make them feel the same pain she felt.
As this suggests, Emily isn’t thinking in terms of slashing their tires or soaping their windows. Emily is thinking much bigger, and she has no interest in playing any nicer than those folks played.
She just wants to get even.
Happily for purposes of the drama, her primary adversary is worthy. Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) rules a major corner of Hamptons society, and she didn’t get there by simply fluttering her eyelashes at the right men.
Her husband, Conrad (Henry Czerny), is a stone-cold fellow himself, albeit a very rich one, so Emily must navigate carefully to infiltrate their exclusive and suspicious world.
VanCamp makes Emily nicely credible in a tricky situation. She has an endearing ease and poise that allays any suspicion the Hamptons inner circle might harbor about outsiders, yet she also can narrow her eyes and lock in on a target with eyes that resemble dry ice.
Stowe enhances the show herself, playing Victoria as a woman who has done awful things yet isn’t entirely awful.
To understand isn’t exactly to forgive, but as we begin to see what happened those many years ago, even when we see it through Emily’s eyes, it becomes clear that Victoria had a few residual sparks of humanity.
The bigger challenge for the show, of course, is to make us understand the things Emily now does.
The most famous male vengeance seekers over the years have often followed an unspoken code that says you’re not only allowed to seek revenge, you’re almost obligated.
That cuts them a lot of slack in the behavior and morality departments, and it will be interesting to see if Emily seems to be accorded similar leniency.
Whether she is or not, she quickly moves beyond the point where she is purely a sympathetic victim.
That means “Revenge” will bank more on creating a compelling and complex psychological and investigative drama than on simply setting up good guys and bad guys and counting on the viewer to root for the good guys to win.
The show is asking viewers, then, to invest some time and not expect a clean resolution of some black-and-white drama each week.
That’s a gamble and a risk. “Revenge” seems confident it can be taken and won.
By David Hinckley/Ny Daily News