The realization that “Chaos,” the fifteenth episode of Revenge’s first season, would be the episode to catch us up with the season opening flash-forward was a welcome one. Revenge’s writers have been excelling at mixing things up, taking the story in directions the viewer has anticipated but doing so in unexpected ways. At first it seemed like a pretty safe assumption that we wouldn’t get to see just what was going on at that engagement party until the season finale, and while “Chaos” feels very much like a season finale at times, the fact that there’s almost a third of the season left makes it all the more exciting. It’s a damn fine episode, quickly cycling through and paying off a variety of plots that have been building over the course of the season, never dwelling too long on any one aspect of the series and finding compelling ways to get the most out of every situation it finds itself in.
To start with, Tyler returns and makes the most of his screen time as he’s revealed to be the culprit behind the theft of Emily’s box o’ revenge. He knows all about her now, and before long he’s managed to kidnap Fauxmanda, blackmail Emily, and throw the entire series into a state of unrest. We don’t get much of any details about how Tyler’s escaped from whatever insane asylum he was being kept at, but minor matters like that pale in comparison to the delightful fun that emerges from his return. One of the best things Tyler precipitates is turning Fauxmanda against Emily, even if it ends up being short lived. Many series like Revenge would likely try to keep the Tyler/Fauxmanda super-crazy-team-up going for longer than about 20 minutes, but Revenge focuses in on exactly what it needs to do and then moves on with lightning speed. One minute Fauxmanda’s getting the drop on Emily and cutting Tyler free and the next she’s fighting against Tyler in an effort to save her own life. That kind of pacing manages to make the plotting feel hyper-accelerated and make Tyler feel that much more menacing and unpredictable.
There’s smart plotting all over this episode, in particular the way it builds towards its finale. I’m not quite sure just how much the writers had planned when the initial flash-forward was written, but all of the stories that have been building effortlessly fall into place in ways that give the moment we got a glimpse of 15 episodes ago much more complexity and depth than I’d anticipated. Jack’s involvement ends up being in an attempt to save Fauxmanda, Declan and Charlotte’s dip in the water is fueled by Charlotte’s depression over her true parentage, and the apparent shooting of Daniel ends up being complicated by the fact that Tyler has just revealed at least part of Emily’s true intentions. The basic material of that flash-forward is still the same, but that it became so much more complex over the course of the first season speaks to just how well Revenge has built to this point. It’s still mostly plot driven, but there’s enough character in there to keep things interesting.
About the only frustrating note I can find with the episode is the return of Emily’s sensei in revenge, Satoshi. He lurks around the edges of the episode, noting the ways that Emily’s plans are spiraling out of control and when things get too crazy he steps in to get everything back on track. Presumably he’s the one who stopped Tyler from offing Daniel and either killed or put Daniel in a position to kill Tyler and he also returns Emily’s box. He finishes things off by picking up Fauxmanda as she attempts to flee and spiriting her away in his rather fancy sports car. He’s just a bit too useful in cleaning up the utter mess that Emily has made of things, and while I appreciate that the show knows it can’t let things get too out of control, Satoshi feels like too easy of an out in many ways. He hasn’t been involved with the series for quite a while and he’s not enough of a character in his own right so he feels like a plot device rather than an organic addition to the story being told. There’s certainly every chance in the world that his inclusion will end up being quite compelling since the depth of his involvement and Emily’s reaction to his meddling is still unknown, but at the moment it felt like a betrayal of one of Revenge’s strengths, letting things get totally out of control in delightful ways.
Despite that misgiving, which I’m hopeful will be proven to be misguided; this was just a virtuoso performance from the folks behind Revenge. It was unexpected, moved like the wind, and pushed the story forward in many interesting ways. As usual Revenge has left me wanting more, and I’m extremely glad that I only have to wait two weeks for another episode rather than an entire summer. At this point the only concern I have is that Revenge will burn through too many plots too quickly, but that’s a concern for a later date because right now, Revenge is damn good.