Revenge is one of a new wave of American imports currently airing on E4. But, unlike ‘Don’t Trust The B*tch in Apartment 23’ and the frankly awful ‘2 Broke Girls’, Revenge is a twisting, turning thriller set in the glitzy, glamorous location of The Hamptons in Long Island, New York. It’s preposterous, it’s dramatic but it’s also bloody brilliant.
The premise of the show is as follows:
Emily VanCamp (previously seen in Brothers and Sisters) stars as Emily Thorne, a wealthy, attractive, socially upward twenty-something who moves to the Hamptons over the summer, renting a home next to the uber-rich Grayson family. All perfectly innocent so far, until we soon discover that Emily is not who she seems.
Her real name is, in fact, Amanda Clarke and her father, David, was wrongly convicted of funding a terrorist attack fifteen years previously. He tragically died in prison whilst Emily/Amanda was a teenager and she is now out for revenge (hence the title) against those whose framed him.
The people that Emily/Amanda is targeting are, of course, the Graysons. Family patriarch Conrad was David’s boss and supposedly the man who funded the attack, whilst matriarch Victoria (played by Golden Globe nominee Madeleine Stowe) was in love with David, but betrayed him in order to save both her family and her dubiously firm skin. Because of this, Emily/Amanda (let’s just call her ‘Eminda’) sets out to destroy the outwardly-perfect lives of the Graysons, albeit very slowly.
Despite their exterior, the Graysons have some dark, dark secrets. With those skeletons in their hugely expensive closets, they have to find ways of maintaining the façade. Conrad continues to be a ruthless businessman who is also doing his wife’s former best friend, Lydia Davis, whose house Eminda bought and who is out for revenge herself after being banished from the Hamptons after the affair was uncovered by Victoria.
Victoria, meanwhile, deals with her skeletons by hosting the lavish charity functions that have occurred in every single episode so far. During these functions, Victoria has ample opportunity to utilise her unique gift, that of the ‘Grayson Glare’.
For around 90% of the time Victoria is on screen, she is either glaring intensely at Conrad, Eminda, Lydia and pretty much everyone else, even her children. It’s pure soap theatrics, a look that has been perfected over the years and is part ‘I’m going to destroy you’, part ‘I own the Hamptons’ and part ‘I’ve just lost a contact lens’. If you are on the receiving end of one of these looks, you are in serious trouble. Fortunately, our Eminda is no slouch when it comes to glaring either, leading to some prolonged and dramatic ‘glare-offs’ with Victoria that are both lengthy and strangely arousing *cough*
The reasons for these glare-offs is that Victoria doesn’t trust Eminda, regularly spying on her from a balcony in the Graysons’ sprawling mansion. This is because Eminda has, in order to invade the Graysons’ social circle, become romantically involved with their son, Daniel, whom she may or may not be developing actual feelings for. Daniel has a troubled past but is supposedly finding new love with Eminda.
However, he has a creepy college roommate called Tyler, who (for reasons unknown) wants to destroy this potential romance and lead Daniel back to his bad old ways of drinking and shagging.
Well, I say ‘bad old ways’, but that seemed like something to aspire to when I was his age.
Adding to the sexual complications, Eminda also has romantic tension with local barman and childhood friend Jack (who is blissfully unaware of Eminda’s true identity as he is too busy wondering which checked shirt to wear in each episode as it shows HE IS NOT RICH LIKE EVERYONE ELSE).
It’s a tangled web alright. Helping Eminda carry out her slow-burning payback is Nolan Ross, a sexually-ambiguous billionaire who is grateful to David for investing in his technology firm years ago and who wants to help avenge her father. As an aside, the character of Nolan is so clearly based on Mark Zuckerberg that he might as well be wearing a GAP hoodie and have called his company ‘Bookface’.
Anyway, back to Eminda’s plan. A few episodes in, we are still not entirely sure what it actually is. At the moment, she seems intent on destroying the lives and careers of the Graysons’ co-conspirators in the terrorism cover-up, one by one, as well as those who were compliant in keeping her away from her father whilst he was dying in prison.
Anyone hoping for a quick reveal or pay-off may be interested to learn that a second season has been commissioned. This means that Eminda’s plot is either incredibly long-winded, likely to go horribly wrong or, God help us, there is a secret ‘hatch’ in the Hamptons that may or may not have something to do with a smoke monster…
Revenge is admittedly rather ridiculous and occasionally feels a bit like a throwback to the days of Dynasty or Knots Landing, albeit with a bigger budget and without too much ‘smell the fart’ acting. However, it is also immediately gripping and thoroughly enjoyable, a weekly ‘guilty pleasure’ if you like (in my house at least).
Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to practice my ‘Grayson Glare’ in the mirror.