Daniel's trial comes to a speedy, satisfying end

By Christian Blauvelt
March 29, 2015 at 10:33 PM EDT
Colleen Hayes/ABC
S1 E18
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Ah, so that’s why Emily made an imprint of Lee’s key!

Is Revenge well plotted or what? Last week, many of us were left scratching our heads as to why The Schemer Formerly Known as Amanda Clarke would need to make a mold of the Grayson henchman’s car keys. Now we know it’s because this way she could plant incriminating evidence in his car that would save Jack, exonerate Daniel, and implicate Conrad and Victoria in Tyler’s death. Never mind the fact that when she made said mold she had no idea Jack had held onto his bloody hoodie. Emily’s faith in the Gods of Revenge was so strong that she knew, she just knew, some piece of evidence would turn up. She needs to thank those Gods of Revenge—or at least the hereditary idiocy so obviously present in the Porter family—for serving up such a gift.

As “Justice” opened, two long months had passed. It was now December 16, two weeks into Daniel’s trial. The Hamptons, previously all sun-kissed and bright, were now gray, windswept, and snowy. During our live chat last night commenter StarGazingB noted how this show pretty much exists in a different world: “Love how in Revenge land it actually did snow around this time, when in real life there was hardly any snow on the east coast.” Revenge showrunner Mike Kelley told EW’s Tanner Stransky that they were going with the Overlook Hotel effect to depict the Hamptons in winter: the strange eeriness that befalls a resort, or in this case resort town, during the off-season when everyone leaves. Considering that weather has only played a meaningful part in Revenge once before, during that episode when it rained, the Graysons’ winter of discontent was staged magnificently.

In the courtroom, the prosecution was just wrapping up its case with a highly melodramatic, Actors Studio-style reenactment of what the State thought happened on the beach the night of Tyler Barrol’s death. Ashley continued her rise to PR power as the Graysons’ mouthpiece. And Declan had just received a subpoena to testify about what exactly he saw that night. Of course, Ashley’s spin as to why Porter the Younger would recant his initial police report about the hooded man? “He’s a highly emotional young man…I’m saying he’s a teenager nursing his first broken heart. Draw your own conclusions.”

NEXT: The Wild Amanda Chase of 2012 comes to an end, but Jack keeps holding onto that bloody hoodie as if it were a security blanket.

Meanwhile, the man in a hoodie himself, Jack Porter, continued his now months-long search for Amanda. He found himself in Saugus,Mass. talking to a motel clerk who unbeknownst to him was using an ancient form of AIM to communicate with Nolan. Apparently, the billionaire CEO had been spending the last couple of months sending Jack from town to town along the Eastern Seaboard, using his innumerable budget-travel contacts—who knew tech moguls networked so extensively with hourly employees in the hospitality industry?—to keep him occupied on an extended wild-goose chase. The look of dejection that came across Jack’s face as the motel clerk told him that she’d just partied hard with Amanda that weekend was somehow heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time. Jack is truly the opposite of Daniel when it comes to matters of the heart. Daniel will let any seed of doubt about his betrothed fester until he violently pushes her and screams some variant of Revenge’s trademark “What game are you playing?” But Jack?….Jack will remain fiercely devoted to his lady love even when every piece of evidence, and even the lady love herself, tells him to stay away. It’s that loyalty that ultimately does make Jack the better man, and why Emily will probably choose him in the end.

But, oh, if only Jack had a brain! When he returned to Montauk to find Nolan running the Stowaway and tutoring Collins Prep’s newest student, Declan—Faux-Witty Declan Line of the Night: “Upside is he knows more about pre-calculus than you…downside is he’s Nolan”—he revealed to his younger brother that, yes, he still has possession of the hoodie, covered in Tyler’s blood, he wore that infamous night on the beach. He told Declan he wanted him to tell the truth on the witness stand. I mean, if he really wanted Declan to do that, he could just turn himself in, but somehow this has to be his younger brother’s decision alone. He just didn’t get that Declan had already lost both his parents, so he wasn’t about to lose his brother too. No matter how fair of face Charlotte Grayson may be.

As it was, the vultures were already starting to circle Jack. Blood splatter analysis had revealed that the stains on Daniel’s jacket were not indicative of having dragged a body 30 yards across the beach. But forensics, schmorensics. If the O.J. Simpson case proved anything, it’s that juries aren’t convinced by science. They’re convinced by good storytelling and a few clever soundbytes. So they should start by establishing Daniel’s character. And to do that, the defense would call as its very first witness: Miss Emily Thorne. How many times have we heard Victoria’s bitter, suspicious delivery of the name “Emily” on this show? Her response to Mr. Brooks’ suggestion that Emily take the stand was the most hyperbolically incredulous yet.

NEXT: Jack and Emily share a cozy moment, and Victoria suggests Charlotte use her feminine wiles to get better testimony out of Declan.

Scheming wasn’t all Victoria Grayson had on her agenda. Sure, she hired her henchman Lee to intimidate Juror #3, whose contempt for her son was oh-so-obvious, but she also found time to get busy with her artist “friend,” Dominic Wright. Last week I was convinced that she was using him to further some hidden agenda—something to do with art forgery maybe?—but, um, no, it seems Victoria really just needed to get laid. And she also unburdened her heart to him about how he was her true love, but she got all cowardly and chose a marriage of convenience with Conrad Grayson over spending a life with him. She “walked around in emptiness” until…she met David Clarke. Yes,Victoria actually spilled the details of what she and Connie did to David Clarke, proving that she has officially relinquished her title as Grandmaster Schemer. Absolution and redemption are now more important to her, I suppose, than security and comfort, though why she chose this moment, with her son’s life on the line, to get all confessional, I really don’t know.

Speaking of people getting all confessional, Jack stopped by Casa Clarke to visit Emily. They lit a fire, the better to ignite Daniel’s seething jealousy as he watched from afar. Jack moped about how he’d never been able to catch up to Amanda, which begs the question: what has Takeda been doing with her for the past three months? But like the considerate soul he is, Jack soon empathized with Emily about all she’s been through, even offering her a hug. Of course, this meant Doubting Daniel now questioned whether he should have Emily testify at all.

Ah, yes, back to the story you’ve all been waiting for: Charlotte’s pill-popping subplot! If Victoria was willing to have Lee hire thugs to beat up Daniel in prison, surely she’d encourage her daughter to sleep with Declan to get him to change his testimony, right? That was the implication, anyway, when she said to her daughter, “You’re a resourceful girl. You’ll find a way.” LuckeeShev87 hit the nail on the head when she said in our live chat, “Victoria so just pimped her daughter out for her son’s sake.” So Charlotte showed up in a skimpy crimson dress that I think we all thought at first was a negligee, all the better to seduce Porter the Younger. She confessed she knew Declan was protecting his brother, just like she’s protecting hers. But if he lies, her brother will go to jail forever, and she was giving him “the chance to fix everything…including you and me.” Her pomegranate lips ripe, moistened, and parted, she reached in for a slow, sensuous kiss. Declan’s heart melted and his teenage hormones screamed “Yes!” And that’s when human cold shower Nolan walked in on this tender scene. (Nolan Snarkgasm of the Night: “So, I’m guessing she wasn’t here to help you with your midterms?”) Funny thing is, both Charlotte and Jack wanted the same thing of Declan, which was for him to tell the truth. But Nolan suggested he stick to his guns and lie. At court the next day, Declan announced that he hadn’t seen anyone on the beach and that Charlotte was drunk and high on oxycodone that night. Sure he added, “Charlotte’s a good person, she’s just looking out for her brother!” but the damage had been done.

NEXT: Charlotte succeeds at tarting it up, but not at a Victoria-approved moment.

The contempt that radiated from the Grayson matriarch regarding her daughter’s utter lack of seduction skills was palpable: “Obviously he wasn’t given a convincing enough incentive.” Live chat commenter JasonReloaded summed it up for all of us when he said, “I love how she’s upset because her plan of whoring out her daughter failed. Mother of the year, folks!”

In less sleazy wheeling and dealing, Jack asked Nolan for advice about what to do with the bloody hoodie. The fact that he still had this hoodie was very much news to Nolan, and he called Emily to announce DefCon 1. Okay, not to panic, Emily thought. This could still be used to their advantage. She had Nolan get Jack out of the bar for a couple hours, while she ransacked the place looking for it. Of course, as she left Casa Clarke, Daniel, drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Mr. Walker’s Amber Restorative and perched on the rail of Grayson Manor’s balcony, saw her purposefully ignore his phone call. Coleman Clark chided Emily for her carelessness: “EMILY! You know he can see your every movie like you’re staying at the Bates Motel. Amateur.” I suppose that makes Daniel our Norman Bates and Victoria, Mrs. Bates.

Daniel should have been minding his sister. While reading Mason Treadwell’s The Society Connection (By the way, whatever happened to him? Is he still publishing his blog?), the Grayson family maid knocked to say Charlotte had a gentleman caller. Apparently, the Graysons so adored The Help they’ve mandated that their own help wear the uniforms of the maids in the film. Charlotte certainly treated her maid with contempt, telling her that she’d tell her dad she drank their 85-year-old Scotch if she breathed a word about this young buck she’d brought to her boudoir. This was Charlotte’s dealer, a punk society kid who stole one of his dad’s prescription pads to acquire her meds. Only this time he had other payment in mind than money. Now that that Montauk rat was out of the picture what was stopping her from being with him? “Absolutely nothing.”

NEXT: Emily pretty much solves everyone’s problems with one swift stroke.

While Charlotte was in flagrante oxycodone, Dominic was expecting a tryst of his own with Victoria. But another Grayson showed up instead. When Conrad discovered Victoria’s affair with Mr. Wright, he did a little background check, and saw, much to his surprise, that he’d been caught forging expensive paintings attributed to other artists, including a little de Kooning currently hanging in his study. Basically, he was threatening him to get out of Dodge before he called the cops. But before he cleared out, leaving only that poorly painted portrait of a young, nubile Victoria behind, Dominic told Conrad he knew all about David Clarke. Apparently, this is now the worst kept secret in Hamptons history.

When Emily returned from Jack’s place with the hoodie she’d stolen, she found Daniel sitting on her stairway, sulking. Because seeing your fiancée hit “ignore” on her cell phone is totally worth a one-way trip back to Rikers. He wanted to know what she was up to and he was willing to shove her to find out. Is it just me or does Daniel seem a good 10-15 years younger than Emily? Not because he’s actually that much younger than her, but because he has the emotional IQ of a 10-year-old. I know a lot of you guys find him dreamy and all that, but…really? He’s barely more mature than Declan.

Anyway, back to the other besotted guy on this show. When Jack learned from Declan that they’d been robbed, he knew something wasn’t right because all their valuables were still there. No, the hoodie! An “anonymous” tip later, and the NYPD found said hoodie in Lee’s car, where Emily had planted it using her set of freshly minted keys. Yeah, but Jack’s DNA is on it? So what!? It proves that Lee was the one who beat Jack up. In one fell swoop Emily saved Jack and exonerated Daniel by pinning Tyler’s murder on Lee, who’d implicate Victoria. Revenge done.

NEXT: The Graysons make their long reach felt in Rikers, and Emily realizes a terrible truth about her father’s death.

Well maybe not quite yet. When Lee used his one phone call in prison to call Victoria, announcing himself as “Your Worst Nightmare,” Victoria should have been like, “I’m sorry, you have to be more specific. ‘Your Worst Nightmare’ really doesn’t narrow it down.” Conrad was one angry Grayson. Why have Lee beat up Daniel in prison and have him threaten a juror when he may have been the killer all along? He was going to make a call to an even more sinister henchman, who also had contacts inside the Big House, to mop up his wife’s little Lee mess. And just in time too. Daniel, newly arrested and imprisoned in Rikers for violating his house arrest just so he could shove Emily against a wall, wrote his fiancée a suicide note. Yes, the time had come “to do us both a favor and end this now.” When Mr. Brooks approached a jail cell, he saw a man hanging from the neck. Farewell, Dani…wait! Revenge faked us out! Yes, it was Lee who found his neck in a noose. And conveniently, he’d left a suicide note of his own…confessing to killing Tyler. Mr. Brooks set about getting Daniel’s charges dropped.

Remember, Emily had bugged Grayson Manor, so she heard Conrad make his call to take care of Lee. Which meant that, in all odds, her father hadn’t been randomly killed in a prison riot. He’d also been murdered by Conrad’s forces. Their reach is long, indeed. Now she wasn’t just fighting to expose the Graysons and clear her father’s name…she was fighting to avenge his murder. Emily’s plot has just reached a whole new level.

NEXT: The Game of Thrones Theory of Revenge, or why Revenge heralds a new breed of post-post-9/11 TV shows.

One of the thoughts that’s been pestering me the past few weeks is how incredibly similar Revenge is to another of the most popular shows on TV right now: Game of Thrones. You’re probably like, “Um, Revenge is about pretty people wearing beautiful clothes in gorgeous settings, and Game of Thrones is more often than not about less-than-pretty people covered in dirt and grime wallowing in a war-torn medieval hellscape. What could they possibly have in common?” How wrong you are. First of all, put Cersei Lannister or Daenerys Targaryen in Alexander McQueen and they’d be the toast of any number of Hamptons Fire + Ice parties. Not to mention that Tyler Barrol would undoubtedly pine for Jon Snow’s “pretty mouth.” Second, Revenge has enough bed-hopping and quasi-incestuous romance (remember, Daniel is the brother of Emily’s half-sister) to put Westeros to shame, though Revenge really could use more “sexposition.”

But, I think, on a deeper level, both these series represent a profound culture shift. The past decade has been marked by television’s psychotherapeutic working out of our lingering terror and anxiety in the wake of 9/11. Shows like Lost and 24 were about characters haunted by histories of violence, either as victims or perpetrators, seeking some absolution. They depicted a starkly binary worldview. Sure, Lost and 24 would sometimes try to muddy the waters a bit, but at heart both featured stories that were strongly about “Us vs. Them.” Lost even came up with a recurring black/white binary pattern to hammer home this idea. It didn’t really even matter who “Them” were. What was important was that their fight against these external threats, whether the terrorists of 24 or the Others on Lost, in effect gave our main characters unity and identity. After all, America was never more united than in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. We were the good guys, and it was our mission to hunt down the forces of evil. No wonder The Lord of the Rings, with its starkly binary, Manichaean worldview, was so popular when the first installment hit theaters in December 2001. As Lost evolved, though, its characters struggled more and more with what exactly it means to be the “good guys,” finding that their perceived enemy, the Others, weren’t quite as monolithically evil as they had initially imagined.

More than ten years after 9/11, a lot has changed. For one? America’s sense of mission. A decade at war can do that. Now we’re a bit more like the castaways on Lost in their later years, or latter-day Jack Bauer, questioning whether we’re the “good guys” at all. And into this zeitgeist of doubt and uncertainty have come Game of Thrones and Revenge, two series that wallow in moral murk. Now, good guys and bad guys are harder to tell apart. Everybody’s character is shaded gray. Sure, we sympathize with Emily Thorne because of how cruelly she and her father have been wronged, but she dispatches her enemies with a ruthlessness that’s very, very worthy of them. In 20 years could Emily become the Hamptons’ next Victoria Grayson? I have no doubt. And she’s perpetuating a cycle of backstabbing and betrayal that has no real hope of ending. Most importantly, while a Jack Bauer or Jack Shepherd formed his identity in opposition to his enemies, Emily’s fight seems to be leading to the disintegration of her identity.

Sure, we kind of hate Victoria for doing what she did to David Clarke. But it’s a testament to the complexity of Revenge’s writing that she’s been shown to be very much a prisoner of her own authority as well. And if the Graysons are supposed to be the bad guys, well, how to explain one of the most beloved characters on the show, young Daniel Grayson himself?

NEXT: The Game of Thrones theory of Revenge concluded, and why Revenge, as much of a fantasy as it is, really says a lot about who we are.

More specifically, Revenge may be the first overtly post-post-9/11 TV show. If post-9/11 series like Lost and 24 concerned themselves with the emotional shock and devastation of violent trauma, Revenge shows what happens after, when we’re eventually able to intellectualize what has happened. I can’t help but think Revenge’s depiction of the fear-based culture that needed a boogeyman, in this case David Clarke, on which to pin blame for that tragic airplane bombing is an implicit criticism of some of our own overreactions in the aftermath of 9/11: color-coded terror alerts, old ladies spread-eagled in airport security checkpoints, among them. If you let terrorism change the way you live, then you’ve let the terrorists win. And Revenge has depicted the way politicians, law enforcement, business leaders, and journalists (yes, we’re not absolved) profit from the creation of a culture of fear, to magnificent effect.

Looking at Game of Thrones as a point of comparison—SPOILERS AHEAD!—Emily Thorne finds her counterparts in both Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. Arya adored her father, Ned Stark, a decent, noble man who was unceremoniously beheaded for treason. His crime? Trying to expose that King Joffrey was not really the heir to the Iron Throne of Westeros, but the illegitimate, incestuous offspring of Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime. By trying to do the right thing, he lost his head. Daenerys Targaryen was the daughter of The Mad King, the last Targaryen to sit upon the Iron Throne. His legacy has been thoroughly trashed by the usurpers who’ve claimed his crown after him. But in reality, like David Clarke, he wasn’t quite as bad as legend has made out. Okay, he did have a guy roasted to death inside his armor, which is worse than anything David Clarke did, I’ll admit. Now (at this point in Game of Thrones’ season 2) Daeny is in exile, wandering the desert with her tiny group of followers and three baby dragons, who she hopes someday to lead into war to regain her throne. Arya, on the other hand, is training to become an assassin and is already devising a “Revenge List,” much like Emily Thorne, of the people who did her daddy wrong.

Of course, as George R.R. Martin is perhaps today’s most notoriously slow writer, we still don’t know how their stories will be resolved. In fact, it’s entirely likely Emily Thorne’s story will be concluded before we find out what happens to her counterparts in Westeros. But one thing is certain. Both Revenge and Game of Thrones have blurred the lines between hero and villain to such a degree that it makes us question our own motivations for finding catharsis in tales of mortal satisfaction. Fantasies they may be, indeed. Yet neither flinch from showing their characters—and, by extension, us—how they really are. Not how we’d like them to be.

What did you think of “Justice”? Is that really the last we’ve seen of Dominic Wright? Were you surprised that Daniel’s court case was resolved so quickly? Where the heck is Treadwell? And just what have Takeda and Amanda been up to this whole time?

Welcome to the Hamptons, a glittering world of incredible wealth and privilege, where smiles hide secrets—and nothing is colder than revenge.
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