By Chris Rebholz
Sep 09, 2013 11:33 AM EST

Revenge: The Complete Second Season DVD Review

Revenge: The Complete Second Season DVD Review
Purchase  DVD | Digital HD
There was a period several years ago where it seemed that Bones was the only television show I watched on a regular basis. However, in recent years, the TV dance-card has been filled with more and more shows. As many have pointed out, there are a lot of great shows out there right now, both on network channels and on cable. These cable shows have introduced a new culture to the medium, and it's not just the swearing and the nudity. The shows on HBO, Showtime, and AMC have seasons which are shorter than those to which we were accustomed (and more like British seasons), and thus, they are forced to squeeze more into less time, which seems to allow for more punctuated and better stories. Would this approach be beneficial to all shows? This question comes to mind when watching the second season of Revenge.

The story of Revenge actually begins in the mid 90s, when David Clarke (James Tupper) and his daughter, Amanda, were spending time at the Hamptons. But, their fun ended when David, who worked for Grayson Global, an investment firm, was arrested and accused of funneling money to a terrorist group which blew up a passenger plane. David went to prison and Amanda went to foster homes and eventually a juvenile detention facility.

However, the bulk of the story takes place in the present. Amanda has changed her name to Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) and she has now returned to the Hamptons seeking vengeance on the Grayson family, whom she is convinced framed her father. Emily's father made an investment with computer whiz Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) and Emily has inherited this fortune. Nolan lives in the area and, being aware of her true identity, becomes her closest ally. Emily buys the house next to the Graysons and posing as a young socialite, begins to worm her way into their family. She meets Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman) and the two hit it off. But, Emily also runs into Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler), who had been her best friend as a child. As Emily cozies up to Daniel as a way to get into the family, she finds that she also still has feelings for Jack. In the meantime, Emily is working her way through a list of those who conspired against her father. Things get even more complicated when we learn that Amanda switched identities with a real Emily Thorne (Margarita Levieva) when the two were incarcerated together. This new Amanda comes to the Hamptons to help Emily and soon enters into a relationship with Jack.

As Season Two begins, Emily finds herself reeling from the events at the end of Season One. Victoria Grayson (Madeline Stowe), Daniel's mother and the top target of Emily's plan, had died in a plane crash. Daniel's younger sister, Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) had a drug overdose. Just as it looked like Emily and Jack were going to get together, Amanda announced that she was pregnant. And Daniel called off his engagement to Emily. In Season One, we learned that Emily had gone to Japan to train with Takeda (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) in order to be ready for what lie ahead. We now learn that there was another student there named Aiden Mathis (Barry Sloane), and that he has not only come to Emily's aid, but that they are in a relationship. As he and Emily are no longer together, Daniel throws himself into his father's (Henry Czerny) company. Annd speaking of business, Nolan's company comes under investigation and must hire a CFO. Meanwhile, Emily learns that the group which committed the act of terror for which her father was blamed is now planning a new attack.

The first season of Revenge was an interesting hybrid. The ultra-rich Grayson family, complete with evil matriarch Victoria felt like a throwback to Dynasty or Dallas. This was played out against the elegant backdrop of the Hamptons which was juxtaposed to the more blue-collar town where Jack's bar is. Added to this was something akin to Alias where a seemingly normal young woman was leading a double life and trained in the ways of combat and espionage. The show presented an interesting mixture of soapy plot twists combined with action and suspense.

The above synopsis feels rather murky and complex, but it only begins to scratch the surface of the show. Season One introduced several characters and subplots, most of which were attached in some way to Emily. Season Two sees this trend continue and the show makes the same mistakes which so many programs do. First of all, there are too many characters that have too much going on. In order to drag out Emily's revenge plot, the show constantly shifts to the various lives which are going on around her, but we want to see Emily. Secondly, the show separates too many characters who work well together. Season Two sees Emily and Daniel apart because of their break up, Nolan is pulled away from Emily for his business, and Jack must deal with Amanda's pregnancy. In their place we're given Aiden, whose sudden appearance on the show feels forced and whose presence never really feels justified. (We're told that he and Emily are in love, but it doesn't feel tangible.)

So, Revenge is one of those shows where when it's good, it's really good, but when it cools down or loses focus, it feels tedious. Season Two contains some good plot twists and things certainly get interesting during the last few episodes, but it doesn't all work. During Season One, there were definitely episodes which felt like filler and you get the same sense in Season Two. It's been reported that Creator Mike Kelley, who has since left the program, lobbied for shorter seasons, but ABC wouldn't hear it. Kelley may have had a point, as the shows gives the impression that they were surprised that they got picked up and there wasn't enough story to sustain two seasons. The idea of a female Count of Monte Cristo messing with everyone around her is a good one and the show hits the right notes at times, but hopefully Season Three returns the focus back to Emily.

Revenge: The Complete Second Season wonders why no one recognizes it on DVD courtesy of ABC Studios. The five disc set contains all 22 episodes from the show's second season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The level of detail is good and we can make out textures on objects. The colors look good, which is important given the lavish costumes and the image is never overly dark or bright. The transfer certainly rivals HD broadcast quality. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some impressive surround sound effects here and we can often pick out individual sounds in the rear during action or crowd scenes. The music and certain scenes trigger the subwoofer. The stereo effects are good and show good separation.

The Revenge: The Complete Second Season DVD release contains several extras spread out across the set. Disc 1 contains nine DELETED SCENES from various episodes which run about 12 minutes. Disc 2 features an AUDIO COMMENTARY on the episode "Illusion" from Executive Producers Sunil Nayar and Melissa Loy, and Writer/Co-Executive Producer Michael Foley. We also get three more DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. Disc 3 brings us an AUDIO COMMENTARY for "Sacrifice" with Executive Producer/Writer Mark B. Perry, Writer/Executive Story Editor Joe Fazzio, and Nick Weschler & Margarita Levieva. In addition, there are nine DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. Disc 4 brings us five DELETED SCENES which run 6 minutes. Disc 5 kicks off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "Truth, Part Two" from Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Mike Kelley and Emily Van Camp. There are ten DELETED SCENES which total about 9 minutes. There is also a 3-minute reel of BLOOPERS. "The Sound of Revenge" (15 minutes) profiles composer iZLER (that's how it was spelled on-screen) and we get to see him both working with instruments and conducting the orchestra. Also, we see him on-set interacting with the cast and crew of the show, which is unusual for a piece like this. "Haute Hamptons: Dressing Miss Davenport" (8 minutes) profiles the clothing worn by actress Ashley Madekwe and features comments from her. We also hear from Costume Designer Jill Ohanneson.

For a standard DVD Revenge: The Complete Second Season boasts some impressive features as well as an excellent audio/video transfer. And while the second season is entertaining, especially when it hits the mark, it too often misses that mark focusing more on subplots and secondary characters as well as forcing new characters on you who feel forced and a bit rushed in their conception. We'll see what Season Three has to offer when it starts up in the fall, if the show can't get its act together, don't be surprised if Revenge doesn't see a conclusion. 

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  • John Delia   (B)  (Revenge: The Complete First Season DVD Review)

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