Revenge recap: Love and Death

A sad loss brings Emily and Jack close together. Much closer together
Ep. 21 | Aired May 16, 2012

WHITE HAIR, BLACK HEART Nolan dons the worst disguise ever -- mustache, anyone? -- to confront the sinister White-Haired Man.

Colleen Hayes/ABC

As much of an emotional overload as “Grief” proved to be, one thought kept nagging at the edges of my consciousness: Takeda would not be pleased.

That’s because Emily has officially dropped her mask. Yeah, I know she hasn’t leveled with Jack about her true identity as his childhood sweetheart, but emotionally she kinda has. As she watched Jack bid his tender, heart-melting farewell to Sammy the Bionic Dog, she finally let herself feel what she had lost: her golden, interrupted childhood; the years she could have spent with her father, Sammy, and Jack; even her very identity. But I also think she started to feel the pain of what she’s still denying herself: a life of genuine human connection. Right now Emily is her own greatest obstacle to happiness. When she reached in and kissed Jack, leaving behind her convoluted web of schemes and lies, it was an expression of her truest self, which she may only just now be discovering.

I don’t know about you, but I was deeply impressed with Emily VanCamp’s performance in “Grief.” Throughout nearly all of this first season, her demeanor has been hidden, coiled, a “rage chilled into silence,” as my colleague Owen Gleiberman referred to Rooney Mara’s take on Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Like Mason Treadwell’s invocation of the two-faced god of doorways, Emily is a flesh-and-blood Janus, someone who facilitates exchanges without really changing herself. VanCamp has turned in one of the most consistently internal performances I’ve ever seen on television, with only a few hints here and there to the emotions churning underneath her composed façade. Her reaction when Daniel told her that Victoria  was raped by David Clarke was one of the few times she uncorked her raging inner life, however subtly. And when she cried for Sammy and kissed Jack, she let go of the mask completely. If Takeda’s right, if revenge can only be achieved by abstaining from any emotional involvement deeper than fury, then her plan is hurtling off the rails.

It doesn’t help that her greatest ally got knocked out from a chokehold by the White-Haired Man.Was that a gasp-worthy cliffhanger or what? In our TV finales preview, EW ran a photo showing Nolan and Emily bloodied, bruised, and chained to a wall. Well, after “Grief” it seems pretty likely we know who the culprit behind their imprisonment is. The episode started with James Morrison’s fixer meeting with Conrad about that little matter of the SEC investigating his company for underhanded dealings and, you know, domestic terrorism. Conrad had become a “bad asset." Even though the Grayson CEO claimed he had the situation under control, Old White-Hair said, “I’m afraid your word isn’t going to satisfy the Initiative.”

And so it begins: months of inter-season speculation about exactly what the Initiative is and what the motivations of its members are. Is the Initiative the terrorist organization that downed that jetliner for which David Clarke took the fall? Or something even bigger? Is what happened to Emily’s father just the tip of the conspiratorial iceberg? Personally, I love these questions, and the possibility that Revenge is going to zoom out and reframe the focus of its narrative by presenting an even larger context of deception and intimidation than we ever dreamed fills me with giddy delight. Maybe the Initiative is like SPECTRE or the Alliance of Twelve. Or maybe it’s actually the re-constituted Dharma Initiative, and they’re still crashing airplanes. In any event, it’s clear now that the White-Haired Man is just a liaison between Conrad and the Initiative, not one of the actual power-holders. That doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous, though. Did anyone else think, when he picked up that photo of Daniel and Emily in Conrad’s office, that it was actually a sly acknowledgement of the fact he knew there was a camera in there?

NEXT: Daniel continues to prove that he really is a Grayson after all.

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