Emily Thorne is nothing at all like Emily Thorne. Emily — our Emily, the star of Revenge, the one that used to be Amanda Clarke, the serene philanthropist orphan who is secretly the vengeful daughter of a wrongfully accused man — is still, after eight episodes, essentially a cipher. We know she hates the Graysons, but we don’t really know what she wants to do with them. (Destroy their empire? Put them on trial? Bury them alive and screaming in the catacombs underneath Sagaponack?) We don’t know her true feelings about Daniel. We know she feels something for Jack, but it’s not clear if it’s love or just regret. Nolan is her only confidante, and with him Emily acts cold and unyielding. Is that her true self? Or is that just another character she’s playing? Emily Thorne is, in a sense, the model of the contemporary workaholic, spending every waking moment focused on her bloodthirsty goal. She may not have a real personality. A good thing: It would only get in the way.
Contrast that with the original Emily Thorne — the girl who was born with that name, though I’m henceforth going to refer to her as Amanda Clarke in the hopes of preventing confusion nosebleeds. If Emily Thorne has no personality, then Amanda Clarke has entirely too much personality. When Emily put her under house arrest at Casa Nolan, she was so taken by Nolan’s backyard pool that she seemed fully prepared to swim naked in broad daylight. “Shy little thing, aren’t you?” deadpanned Nolan, who offered her one of his house bikinis. She grabbed one, tore off the price tag, and tossed it casually onto her jacket…which was still covered in Frank the Security Guy’s blood. That’s the kind of detail that the fastidious Emily would never let slip. And where Emily uses her feminine wiles almost abstractly — she doesn’t flirt, she subtly lays the foundation for men to flirt with her — Amanda has no qualms about walking up to a dude she just met while dripping wet in a red bikini, handing him a bottle of sunblock, and saying, “Whoever you are, wanna make yourself useful?”
At the beginning of last night’s episode of Revenge, it seemed like the two girls were old friends. Amanda apologized for killing Frank, but tried to make it clear that she was only doing it to protect Emily. In a flashback, we saw the two of them back in the bad old days at Allenwood, fighting in a cafeteria until both their pretty faces were beaten and bloodied. Warden Stiles strolled in to stop the fight, and threw some gravitas in their faces: “This. Stops. Now.”
I thought we were being set up for a nice little flashback subplot about the two girls learning about everything they secretly had in common. Certainly, in the present day, Amanda seemed positively devoted to Emily. She still remembered all the old stories; she was like an Amanda Clarke megafan, capable of recalling even the most distant factoids. She remembered all the tales of Little Jack Porter: “All the stories you told me about him in juvie, I feel like I already know him,” she said. And Emily seemed equally devoted to Amanda. She offered to set her up with a shiny new bank account, refilled every month with shiny new deposits. She was going to give Amanda a new new identity, which would prove that there can be three acts in American life. (So nuts to you, Fitzgerald!) But Amanda was hesitant. “I like being Amanda Clarke,” she explained. “It’s our connection.”
I’ll get back to that in a second. But let’s focus first on the ensuing flashback. We saw young Emily, when she was Amanda (argh, nosebleed!), talking to the Warden. The Warden told her, “You’re smarter than most of these girls. Especially Emily Thorne.” She leaned in to pass some essential knowledge. “Violence is a shortsighted solution when it really comes to handling your enemies. All Emily’s really looking for is a friend.” And here it is, the Inception moment: “You get her trust, and you have her work for you, instead of against you.”
Cut back to the modern day, and Amanda is saying, “You’re the closest thing I ever had to a sister.” And Emily hugs her close and tells her the same thing. But we know the truth. Amanda isn’t Emily’s oldest friend. She was just her first mark.
NEXT: The duality of man. You know, the Jungian thing.