A couple of years late to the party, but I made it and am glad I did because this first season…it’s really something.
Advertised as a modern take on Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, it’s a long-winded tale of vengeance that takes place on the beachy resort side of the Hamptons. The protagonist, Emily Thorne, comes back to the Hamptons under disguise to exact revenge on the Grayson family and their friends and allies, all of whom conspired together to frame her father and had him imprisoned where he was later killed. It’s the conspiracy of the decade that the Graysons thought they’d buried, but they forgot one major loose end, and now she’s returned for some serious payback.
Emily’s style of vengeance is quite artful and inventive in that she only manipulates a few events to set a domino effect in motion which lead to her targets hanging themselves, not literally, at least not yet. The story arc is a classic with some new twists added to give the show a modern feel. This is the type of show that ends each episode on a cliffhanger, but each episode is chocked full of twists and turns, so that makes up for it leaving you hanging.
At first I wasn’t sure if this was a show I’d be interested in, what with all the glitz and glamour and mansion-sized beach houses, but then as the episodes rolled by and target after target fall from grace, I realized I was actually hooked and I ended up staying up late night after night to watch just one more episode. The showrunners have an interesting way of working in the aftermath of the most recent financial crisis into the setting and background; it’s tucked snugly way in the back and only resurfaces in subtle ways as a reminder that Hampton denizens’ glamorous lifestyles aren’t as glamorous as they look.
The show has its flaws, some glaring, others not so much. Here are a few things I can’t overlook.
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* * * * spoilers below * * * *
1. Close-up shots of facial expressions. Is it really necessary for either Emily or Victoria Grayson to react to every single shocking reveal that happens in front of them? A couple of shots here and there, sure. But every single time another character drops a bomb of new information? It can get tiresome and eat up too much screen time, is all I’m saying. Besides, high-functioning sociopaths like these two ladies have amazing poker faces. You don’t survive in the Hamptons if you don’t learn to control facial muscles. Though there’s always botox to help.
2. Emily leaving her infinity box and other crucial info lying around her house or simply tucked into a desk or under her floorboards. The Graysons could have had their goons check her house during any one of those frequent trips she took to town, but for whatever reason (most likely plot-related), they didn’t send the goons over to ransack. Maybe they aren’t as clever as they seem? Or maybe that’s just another glaring hole in the plot?
3. Emily replaying those tapes of her father over and over again without headphones on. Seriously. Anyone could have seen or overheard or catch her unawares since people like to drop unannounced all the time. More discretion on her part would make her actions more believable.
4. Emily hanging onto hard copies. Paper is dangerous, especially in her case. And leaving photos with big red X’s over people’s faces around your house is just asking for trouble. A paper trail can be used against you, and it is when someone like Tyler Barrol goes looking for leverage.
5. Too many convenient coincidences. That seal camera ending up in Lydia Davis’ apartment shortly before her swan dive? Frank Stevens just happens to see Nolan consulting with Emily and comes to the conclusion that he needs to ransack her house? Victoria’s goon steals almost all of the Treadwell tapes from Jack’s apartment but he just happens to leave the most important one behind? Tyler Barrol, right off the bat, sets his sights on removing Emily from the picture?
These things came together too easily. They made it way too easy to see the writers’ hands at work. I hate it when that happens. It takes me out of the story because once I see the how it’s put together, I cannot not see it.
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If things didn’t work out the way they did, I’d still be at my first day job, still working for a whole company of Graysons. I probably would have moved up a little bit by now, probably promoted to keeping a lip on their dirty laundry. Probably, but definitely still a hired help. I wouldn’t have been able to climb much further. So glad I got out when I did. No good can come from being that close to fire and brimstone for too long. But at the time, I didn’t see it that way or the light at the end of the tunnel. I even thought I was where I was supposed to be. This show reminds me of all the things I don’t miss about that kind of life and those kind of people.