The characters in NBC's new speculative-science drama Revolution face a rather dark, bleak future.
For Winnipeg-born actress Tracy Spiridakos, however, things could hardly look brighter.
Revolution, which premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on NBC and Citytv, is one of the fall TV season's more promising new shows, and if it lives up to the promise of its pilot episode, Spiridakos will necessarily take a huge step from cable-series lead and occasional major-network guest performer to full-fledged network TV stardom.
That's great news for the local product. For the character she plays, well, news of even a slightly good-ish nature is pretty hard to find.
Revolution, which comes from the production auspices of writer/producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, Fringe) and producer/director/actor Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys & Aliens), is an action-adventure yarn set in the near future, in a world in which all electrical power has ceased to exist.
The story actually opens some time around the present, in the Chicago apartment of a seemingly average family, where a somewhat harried mother (played by Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell) is trying to get her cartoon-focused daughter to shift her attention long enough to speak to grandma on the telephone.
Suddenly, husband/father Ben (Tim Guinee) bursts through the door, carrying a cardboard box full of office clutter and babbling something about needing to fill the sinks and bathtubs with water immediately.
Wife Rachel's eyes go wide. "It's happening, isn't it?" she asks.
Rather than answering, Ben frantically goes about the business of calling his brother, Miles (Billy Burke), while at the same time scrambling to download backup files from his laptop computer. Miles, a military type on his way back to base after a night out with a buddy, wants to know what his brother's fuss is all about.
"It's all going to turn off, and it will never, ever turn back on," Ben tells him. And before he can answer Miles' question about what's going to turn off ... everything does.
Lights go out; computers shut down; automobiles stall in their tracks; airplanes fall from the sky. The entire planet is plunged into complete power-blackout darkness.
Cue the opening credits.
When the première resumes, it's 15 years into the future, and the current-free world has evolved (devolved?) into a primitive but functional society whose focus seems to be on agrarian concerns and sort-of-tribal living.
Ben and his now-teenage children, Charlie (Spiridakos) and Danny (Graham Rogers), are part of a small community living in what appears to have once been a suburb of Chicago. Charlie is headstrong and rebellious, while Danny is more of a follower who allows his sister to get him into trouble.
One afternoon, while Charlie is out exploring a portion of the surrounding countryside deemed off-limits by her father, a militia troop arrives in the village. Its commander, Capt. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) announces that he's searching for Ben Matheson and his brother, Miles, because his superiors believe the siblings know something about why the power went out and, perhaps, how it might be restored. When the other villagers rise up to try to stop the troopers from taking Ben away, shots are fired and blood is spilled.
Hearing the gunshots, Charlie races home, only to find her father mortally wounded and her brother missing, having been taken prisoner by the militiamen. With his dying breath, Ben implores his daughter to go to old Chicago to seek out her Uncle Miles, who will know what to do to rescue Danny from his captors.
And so begins Charlie's quest/adventure in earnest; with former computer geek Aaron (Zak Orth) in tow, she heads for Chicago in search of her uncle -- "All my dad ever said about him is he's good at killing," she tells Aaron.
When she finds him, he wants no part of her quest. But when it becomes clear that Charlie's journey has led militia forces right to his doorstep, Miles is forced to reconsider, and the reunited family unit fights its way out of a rather tight spot.
Monday's Revolution première is by no means a perfect pilot -- there are some gaps in its narrative logic that require a generous suspension of disbelief -- but if you're willing to buy into the appealing mythology of a world without cellphones, e-mail, texting, Twitter or photo-radar cameras, you'll find the action-filled story compelling and the diverse collection of characters worthy of emotional investment.
Spiridakos is very appealing in what should become her breakout role, and Burke (The Twilight Saga) is every bit the action star as her equal-billing co-star. Esposito (Breaking Bad), for his part, is perfectly cast as the militia-boss villain who will make their rescue mission difficult.
There's potential here for huge prime-time fun. Out there in the darkness, Revolution's future actually looks pretty bright.