“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, build two graves.” —Confucius (504 B.C.)
Revenge‘s pilot, which aired in 2011, opened with this ominous quote indicating that its The Count of Monte Cristo-inspired tale was serious. It wasn’t merely concerned with delivering soapy plot twists and schadenfreude amusement from Emily Thorne’s takedowns of the One Percent. It was interested the consequences of Emily’s revengenda: What would be the costs of her quest? Once it was over, would there be anything left of Amanda Clarke in her to go back to? Emily’s life wasn’t just at stake, her soul was, too. Throughout its fourth season, this theme was brought into sharper relief as more of the characters found out her real identity and the show neared its finish line.
As the title suggests, the series finale revisits the above quote. Wasting no time diving into the state of Emily’s soul, “Two Graves” opens with a flashback—the first of many—to little Amanda Clarke practicing her double infinities as grown up Emily waxes poetic about how the delineation of good and evil becomes blurred when life becomes more complicated and you have to rationalize crossing it. David joins little Amanda on the steps and tells her that people aren’t born bad; it is their actions that make them bad. Unaware of what’s to come—his arrest—David promises that should his little girl ever stray off the path of good, he’ll be there to steer her back on. It’s terribly on the nose, but this is classic Revenge, so we’re not complaining.
Jumping forward to the present, a detective passing Emily’s cell informs her of Ben’s passing, thus making him the latest casualty in her four-season-long war against Victoria. It’s time to get back into the game and to initiate a plan she and Nolan formulated should one of them ever be incarcerated again. After confessing in court to murdering Victoria, Emily is transferred to a maximum security prison—one for which she and Nolan have an escape plan.
Following the “horrific” events in Mary Gaines’ home, Victoria returns to the city to meet up with Margaux, who has prepared for her a new identity and safe passage to France on a private airline. News of Emily’s in-court confession reaches Margaux and Victoria’s ears. The conversation eventually turns to the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, and it is here that Victoria reveals she used her mother’s corpse in the fire.
In another flashback, we see that Victoria paid her ailing mother a visit in the hospital shortly after Emily’s interview. Victoria’s mother, Marion Harper, a.k.a Mary Gaines, is more wicked than her daughter. She explains that she changed her name just to hide from her daughter. Victoria demands to know who her father, and her mother cruelly tells her that it was her fiancée, the one with whom Marion found Victoria in bed. This entire scene is by far one of Revenge‘s more ridiculous plot twists. It’s unnecessary to the plot and merely serves a thematic purpose. We’re meant to see that Victoria, unlike Emily, never had a parent, or anyone for that matter, who cared enough to save her from her path of darkness. Did Revenge need to introduce incest into the equation to drive this point home? No. However, it is with this tortured history with her own mother that Victoria promises to go to her grave before letting anyone hurt her children again after hearing about Emily’s in-court confession.
With ease, Emily escapes from prison. This news quickly reaches Margaux, who is horrified after she finds out that Victoria attended her own funeral to see her children one last time. Sadly, neither Charlotte nor Patrick was in attendance. (Real talk: She just wanted to attend her own funeral because who wouldn’t want to do that). Moved by Louise’s heartfelt words and grief, Victoria decides to tell Louise that she’s alive. “Hello, Poppet,” she says to a stunned Louise, thus revealing her secret love of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Meanwhile, Jack and a newly freed Emily head to New Jersey to search Mary Gaines’ home. They find evidence that Victoria was there and Ben was killed there. News of Emily’s escape is already out, so Nolan commands them to stay put to avoid capture. It doesn’t take long for Emily to grow restless, but thankfully Jack is there to calm her down and make her feel safe. In one of several meta moments from tonight’s finale, Jack passionately kisses Emily because he doesn’t want this whole mess to end without doing that. After four years of build-up, Hamptons’ most annoying will-they-or-won’t-they couple finally sleeps together.
When Emily wakes up, she finds a note from Jack saying he went out to get food. With him gone, there’s no one there to stop her from tracking down another lead: how Victoria faked her dental records. Emily heads to a dentists’ office and finds Mary Gaines’ original records. Unfortunately, this victory is short-lived because Nolan, who has been monitoring Margaux’s accounts, informs her that Margaux recently transferred money to a notorious assassin’s (White Gold) account. Naturally, the assassin’s first stop is Mary Gaines’ home, where she finds and near fatally stabs Jack, who puts up a helluva fight before falling.
NEXT: A spin-off?
Thankfully, the cops arrive in time and Jack is rushed to the hospital and saved. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this series, it’s that the one the way to incur Emily’s full wrath is to hurt someone close to her. After paying Jack a visit at the hospital, Emily promises to put Victoria in the ground, and Nolan doesn’t even try to stop her because he, too, plans on unleashing his vengeance on White Gold. To make things easier, they gain an unlikely ally: Louise. Victoria made a fatal error in revealing she was still alive to Louise—it made “Poppet” realize just how much Victoria had been manipulating her the entire time. (Why Victoria would risk her perfectly crafted plan to ease Louise’s pain makes very little sense.)
And here’s the showdown we’ve been waiting for: Emily vs. Victoria. Decked out in her classic black hoodie, Emily enters the room with gun at the ready. Victoria’s confident she’ll win for two reasons. First, she expected Emily to pull something like this, so she installed cameras all around the room to capture Emily murdering her. Second, Emily has never had the strength to kill in the past, and she doesn’t believe she will now. Thank god for Emily’s soul: David appears and shoots Victoria to save his daughter one last time. It’s the one move Victoria never saw coming because she’s never had someone who would take the fall for her like this. It brings the story full circle because not only is David saving his daughter from the dark side, but he’s also taking the fall for a crime he actually did commit.
For the benefit of whoever is on the other side of the cameras, David lowers his gun to the ground and raises his hand—which, in hindsight, was stupid because Victoria’s last act of life is to shoot Emily. One commercial break later we learn that she survived (possibly via a heart transplant from Victoria—authorized by Charlotte, who briefly returned!—if Emily’s flashback/nightmare is to be believed).
Revenge ends with Jack and Emily’s wedding. The finale is determined to make Emily/Jack happen, and it does, with some awkwardness. Since the show began, Jack’s been trying to sail away from the Hamptons. Tonight, he finally gets his wish as he and Emily set sail for parts unknown, with their new puppy in tow, and leave the Hamptons behind. However, before we get here, the show takes time bringing closure to some of Emily’s most important relationships.
We first begin with her father, who did go to prison for Victoria’s murder. However, the judge granted him compassionate release because of his lymphoma; the court allowed him to return home to die with his daughter. As he sits on the porch of the beach house and looks out onto the snow, he reminds Emily how much he loves—infinity times infinity. It’s a fitting a conclusion to their relationship, which was one of the troublesome parts of this season. Their reunion never quite seemed to click, usually because the show was too distracted with other less interesting characters—Margaux and Louise—and plots. With his death, Emily believes she has narrowly avoided fulfilling Confucius’ warning. “The second of the two graves was meant for me. I was only saved by my father’s infinite love,” she says via voice-over.
Next is Nolan, by far Emily’s most important relationship on the show. One of the joys of watching Revenge has been tracking Nolan’s growth over the course of the series. In the pilot, Nolan was little more than a rich boy genius who was bored and looking for something cool to do. As he’s said throughout this season, Emily’s quest gave him purpose and now he’s left worrying if there’s a life for him once she’s gone. Yes, there is: Emily’s parting gift for him is someone who needs his help clearing their mother’s name. “Two Graves” more than proved he’s ready for this challenge as we saw him, with a guilt-ridden Louise’s help, take down White Gold.
“Two Graves” is probably more successful of a finale than it has any right to be after an uneven season that never quite clicked together and after Revenge took so long getting here. Drawing out the battle between Emily Clarke and Victoria Grayson over four seasons didn’t do the show any favors because by the time we reached the finale, it didn’t have too much of an impact. But, Revenge didn’t care what was standing in its way and was clearly determined to deliver to the most satisfying finale ever, even if it meant awkwardly forcing some things in (like Emily and Jack’s relationship). If there’s one thing the finale failed to do, it was to show who Amanda Clarke is apart from the girl who finally gets the guy. But, then again, was there any way that Amanda Clarke could be more interesting than Emily Thorne?
Especially with its callbacks to past episodes, “Two Graves” definitely reminded us of what made Revenge so lovable way back in the first season. It’ll definitely be missed. What did you guys think of the finale? Are you happy Emily didn’t end up in one of those graves? Would you watch a Nolan-centric spin-off?