All hell breaks loose as a certain homicidal stripper returns, a truth about Emily's parentage is revealed, and possibly three major characters die.
Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

In a characteristically insightful article on earlier this year, my colleague Jeff Jensen summed up the essential requirement of the hypothetical series that would one day inherit Lost’s pop culture mantle: that it would be absolutely nothing like Lost.

Well, Doc J was right. And, amazingly, it didn’t take long for that mantle to be transferred. The show that would take Lost’s place as the nexus of a bona fide pop culture moment would not be a series with heavily symbolic, geek-friendly sci-fi mysteries—sorry, FlashForward, V., The Event, Awake—but simply one with storytelling integrity: a vividly evoked milieu populated by characters whose complex, sometimes counterintuitive, motivations would drive the plot. That show has turned out to be, of all things, a nighttime soap. The funny thing about Revenge, though, is that it also happens to take place on an exotic island full of history-haunted characters working out daddy issues related to the tragic crash of an airplane.

“Reckoning,” the white-knuckle finale to a first season that now seems like years worth of storytelling packed into 22 episodes, even began with an image straight out of Lost: a tight close-up on Emily Thorne’s left eye as her iris closed in to reframe her perspective. She needed to do a lot of reframing in this episode, and so did we. Victoria Grayson, her daughter Charlotte, and nemesis Lydia Davis could all be dead. A pregnant Fauxmanda popped up Whac-A-Mole-style once again to thwart Emily’s chance of romance with Jack. Emily confronted the White-Haired Man and discovered the limit to what she’ll do in the name of revenge. And finally she discovered that her mother is still alive. Has your head stopped spinning yet? No? Me neither. First of all, though, a big EW “thank you” to Gabriel Mann for stopping by our live chat during the finale last night. I can’t imagine a better companion to guide us through this hour of roller-coaster television.

Last week’s installment, “Grief,” ended with Emily’s realization that Daniel had brought all the evidence of his parents’ misdeeds directly to her. A Pandora’s briefcase of incriminating hard-drives, photos, and receipts lay on her kitchen table downstairs. So to open “Reckoning” she staged a robbery to explain its “disappearance.” Luckily, she had the perfect fall guy in mind: the White-Haired Man, whom Conrad now believed was threatening his family. When Daniel told him that the evidence was missing, Conrad showed his son the footage of Emily and him in bed that he assumed the White-Haired Man had sent him.

Daniel went back to Casa Clarke and promptly found a videocamera hidden in a George Orwell book. Because the White-Haired Man may be a lethal assassin, but he’s not above a little irony in his espionage. Heavy-handed symbolism though it was, I think it still went over Daniel’s pretty little head.

Conrad began a sweep of Grayson Manor, much to Victoria’s horror. “I certainly hope it was worth whatever petty little frisson you derived from your dalliance with the SEC,” he told her, proving yet again that he’s become Revenge’s new MVP of bitchery.

Of course, the Graysons had it all wrong. The White-Haired Man did not have the evidence they needed. But he did have Nolan, and when Emily showed up at the billionaire’s minimalist mansion she saw a laptop with a message being telegraphed via webcam: “Call My Cell Or I Die.” She did. Emily, meet White-Haired Man. Or rather, for her initial introduction she identified herself as Amanda Clarke, all the better for him to know that he was about to pay for the death of her father. They had unfinished business. Unfinished business that could only be resolved face-to-face.

NEXT: White-Haired Man. You’re going down. Or not.

When they finally met in person, WHM asked Emily to chloroform herself, or else Nolan would meet his maker. Emily complied, and when she woke up she found herself chained to a wall in the kind of antiseptic holding cell where you’d imagine they’d be tortured to the sweet refrain of “Orinoco Flow.” Torture is always a good idea, especially when you’re an ex-CTU agent, have two prisoners, and one is an über-geek with probably a low pain threshold. But Emily told WHM that he had exactly one hour to retrieve the evidence she’d stolen or it would be transmitted via email to the authorities. Just when I’d hoped we’d have a bit of Star Wars-style banter with Nolan in the role of Princess Leia and Emily as Han Solo—I would have particularly enjoyed a huffy line from Emily like “Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your worship?”—Emily pulled a handy lock-pick out of her sleeve and removed their binders. Nolan had to go secure the evidence and plant it in Agent McGowan’s car. But she would stay behind. She had a score to settle, and was going to settle it in the most badass way possible: with an axe and the parting line “Tell Jack that I love him.”

When WHM returned, she was there. Waiting. We were gonna have ourselves an axe fight! Emily got to show off her full arsenal of Takeda-instructed jujitsu when she finally went all Battle Royale on his ass. “You’re a fighter,” WHM said. “You must have gotten that from your mother.” Bastard! You don’t taunt the girl by throwing in her face the fact that her father didn’t put up a fight when you killed him. If you do, you’ll probably hear her say, “Look at my face. It’ll be the last thing you see when you die.” So she did say that. But some part of her, the David Clarke part of her, must have made her realize what she had become. She threw down the axe before she had choked all the life out of him, and when he asked why she hadn’t honored her father, she replied, “I just did.”

When Emily returned to her cottage, she really should have expected that Daniel would be there. After every moment in her life that’s profound or meaningful or soul-shaking she can expect Daniel to confront her with petty recriminations and unfounded accusations. This time, Ashley had told him about that post-dog-funeral smooch she witnessed between Emily and Jack. The fact that Jack had also returned that $1 million check made Daniel realize that he really did have some competition for Emily’s heart. For the umpteenth time he said some nonsense about his mother being right, that Emily must want to marry him because of the Grayson name. As if an independently wealthy young woman who’s just bought a beautiful seaside house in the Hamptons would want to marry into a family that’s been through a murder trial, an SEC investigation, and impending terrorism charges. Emily said she would have married him in spite of his family name, not because of it, and, sadly, he’d now become what he always said he never wanted to be: a Grayson.

NEXT: Charlotte gets her own incredibly petty revenge against Declan and Yonkers Girl. And Victoria begins the arduous task of reclaiming her soul.

Speaking of the proverbial apple not falling far from the tree, Charlotte continued her clandestine attempt to undermine Declan’s blossoming relationship with Yonkers Girl, who I hear prefers to be called Jaime. After some half-hearted attempt at extending an olive branch by telling them that their teacher Mr. Hibberd might understand about their late project if they tell him they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder—an ailment the teach suffers from himself—she put on an absurdly velvet-voiced Victoria impression to hire a private investigator to dig up dirt on her competition. Turns out Yonkers Girl had an affair with her old history teacher. An affair that was well-documented in photos, all the better for Charlotte to destroy her online. Somehow Declan knew immediately Charlotte was behind it, so he told her that he’d lowered himself by being with her and that he would never speak to her again. Worst of all, he called Charlotte “her mother’s daughter.” That’s gotta hurt. And it’s pretty unjustified. Yes, Charlotte committed a pretty serious case of cyberbullying. But is that really any worse than Declan lying under oath to deny that he saw his brother on the beach the night of Tyler’s murder? That was a move that could have sent Charlotte’s brother to jail for the rest of his life. Not to mention that he also exposed her to be a pillhead not just to her school friends—like Charlotte’s prank—but to a courtroom and the tabloid press. And Declan feels like he can judge his ex? Damn you, wharf rat. Damn you.

The funny thing about that insult was that Victoria has slowly been trying to reclaim her soul these past few episodes and make amends for her many crimes. With hindsight, her rekindled relationship with Dominic Wright actually does make sense. It was the kind of purely genuine, emotional connection that she’d never had with Conrad, and that Conrad had now deemed forbidden once again. As painful as the ruination of the family would be for her children, it was better for them to face their own horrible history than continue to live in blissful ignorance. And when Agent McGowan called her to say that Conrad had likely ordered David Clarke’s death in prison, the horror and self-loathing in her eyes as she stared off in realization conveyed that she was now willing to do whatever she could to atone for her crimes…even if it meant giving up her life.

When Daniel tried to talk her out of testifying before a Grand Jury in Washington D.C., she told her son that Conrad had even had David Clarke murdered. His response? “Well, he must have had a damn good reason.” A true Grayson indeed. She hoped to find an ally elsewhere–In Lydia Davis, no less. Sure, she had taken up with Conrad again, but if he were to lose money and become a fugitive, Lydia would find testifying against him to be preferable to fidelity, now wouldn’t she? Needless to say, it didn’t take much cajoling by Victoria for her to see the light.

NEXT: Before taking her flight into history,Victoria has one last incredibly hateful gift for Emily. Plus, a certain homicidal stripper returns!

Emily watched the White-Haired Man visit Conrad and tell him that he hadn’t stolen the evidence. To her astonishment, WHM didn’t reveal how Daniel’s fiancée is actually the daughter of their fall guy. I mean, why exactly? Maybe it’s that the terrorist group behind the downing of that plane in the ‘90s, the Americon Initiative, didn’t find Emily’s threat to be all that pressing after all. Or they’ve found that her agenda and theirs are one and the same. It could very well be the latter, because during his conversation WHM even picked up the picture of Daniel and Emily, the one with the hidden camera in it, and winked into it, to show he knew he was being watched.

Victoria and Lydia prepared to fly to D.C. to testify. The former Grayson matriarch’s desire to reclaim her soul is all well and good, but, that said, getting in one last dig at Emily is even better. She came over to her house to offer her condolences for the breakup and finally have Emily open her engagement present. What was inside? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It amounted to as much as Emily and Daniel’s relationship, Victoria said. Basically, there was no way Victoria could top herself in the Bitchery Department after this, so there was only one thing left for her to do: die.

With the Graysons ruined, her father about to be exonerated, and now having received some satisfaction from the White-Haired Man, it was time for Emily to return to Jack. If ever there was a moment to reveal her true identity and profess her love to him, this was it. But no sooner had she walked in the door of the Stowaway to return Sammy’s collar, who should pop up but Fauxmanda herself. And she was pregnant, no less. With Jack’s baby.

Takeda must have felt Fauxmanda had served her purpose, so he sent her back out into the world. Maybe it’s because now he knew Emily had become emotionally involved with Jack and, just as he framed the Grayson scion when he thought she’d gotten too close to Daniel, now he’d unleash Fauxmanda to get Jack out of the picture. And just after Sammy had brought Emily and Jack together through his death! I think Gabriel Mann spoke for all of us last night during our live chat when we first saw Fauxmanda with her massive baby bump: “Always use protection, guys.”

NEXT: Farewell, Victoria.

Time has no meaning when watching Revenge so I had started to think that Fauxmanda’s return would be the biggest twist “Reckoning” would give us. But then I looked at the clock and saw we had 15 minutes left. Boy, was I wrong! Before taking her flight into history, Victoria talked to Charlotte one last time and said that retribution is justified “if the other party deserves it,” unwittingly making her daughter feel all the worse about her little prank on Yonkers Girl. Then, to the banshee wail of Florence + the Machine’s “Seven Devils,” she and Lydia boarded that government-chartered plane that would take them to Washington D.C. to deliver their testimony. And pulling away the blocks from the landing gear? Yup, WHM himself. He must’ve added a little something extra to the plane’s cargo because it “exploded shortly after takeoff” according to the evening news. And Victoria was listed among the casualties. Did Revenge just kill off perhaps its most beloved character? Portrayed by its top-billed star? By every indication it appears it has, unless we’re in for the fake-out of all time come the fall.

We definitely saw Victoria board the plane. No question. It’s possible, I suppose, that she exited it a mere moment later, off-camera. But even for a show that has included some unbelievable twists, that would reach a new level of shameless manipulation. Also, it feels like these last few episodes have served as a conclusion of sorts to Victoria’s arc. After being the show’s grand villainess for 15+ episodes, it decided to depict her tentative baby steps toward redemption. And what could more profoundly signal a shift in her character than being willing to lay down her life to expose her crimes? Her death is also probably the only thing at this point that could get through to thickheaded Daniel that Daddy is a bad guy.

When Charlotte saw the news on TV she called Declan for support, but he snapped at her to never call him again. So she found solace the only other place she could: her bottle of pills. The time had come for her to OD. And when Conrad came into her room, he found her limp like a ragdoll. That said, I, for one, won’t truly believe she’s dead until we see a death certificate.

The other bit of devastating news for Emily to consider was that all of the evidence that could have exonerated her father went down on that plane. Well, almost all of it. Nolan had backed up the hard-drive with the most crucial intel before he gave it to Agent McGowan, and he discovered that this conspiracy went far beyond the plot to frame David Clarke and far beyond the Graysons. For one, he discovered that Emily’s mother is still alive. Which means that when WHM told Emily that she must have gotten her fight from her mother, it may not have been a taunt about how easily he killed her father. It may be that he actually knows firsthand that her mother is a fighter. Let the conspiracy theories about Emily’s mom being a member of the Americon Initiative begin!

To call this an explosive finale doesn’t come close to doing it justice. If Victoria Grayson is actually dead, this’ll be one of the most daring decisions a network series has ever made. And if she isn’t dead, the backlash over a fakeout could be damning. It’s possible I suppose that she and Lydia entered the Witness Protection Program and that plane exploded as a cover. But that hardly seems likely. Would Victoria really abandon Charlotte in her time of need just to go into hiding? And faking a witness’s death isn’t really standard protocol before getting them to testify, even for a case this hyperbolically outlandish. Victoria could very well be gone for good.

What do you guys think? For one, I don’t know how we’re going to wait until the fall, but definitely the casting decisions that are announced in the months ahead—season 2 starts filming July 22—will reveal a lot about showrunner Mike Kelley & Co.’s intentions. Do you think Victoria really is dead? And if so, are you disappointed that’s the end of her story? Or is it the most daring character death of all time? See you next season!