After a few weeks off for what were probably very sexy, intriguing holidays, ABC's Revenge returned to the airwaves last night with a big, conclusive episode that wrapped up one recurring character's storyline in soapy fashion. And also in frustrating fashion.
We're speaking of the show's resident Mr. Ripley, evil Tyler, a conniving fellow with ulterior motives just like our heroine Emily, only hers are good, wholesome righteous-vengeance based ulterior motives, whereas Tyler's were selfish and opportunistic and, well, gay. And that last detail is where the show ran into one of its few glaring problems.
Like, aw man, did they have to make this particular villain a slithery gay guy? Really? Not that all gay characters have to be angelic creatures of moral rectitude and put-upon beatitude, a la St. Kurt of McKinley High, that's definitely a bad thing, but there's a long-standing trope in film and TV and books that paints certain villains as nefarious homosexuals as a way to communicate a general sort of sneaky badness. Patricia Highsmith kinda does it in her Ripley books, it's scattered across cinema history like depressing breadcrumbs (two random examples are Will Patton in the terrific '80s thriller No Way Out and bad Uncle Scar's asexual European feyness in The Lion King), and now it's here on this ABC show.
Well, perhaps the argument could be made that the actual queer character on the show is Nolan, who has proven himself to be homo-friendly and a standup fellow for the most part, but last night there was so much of Tyler grabbing desperately for his beloved Daniel, met with Daniel's angry revulsion (a revulsion that was pure and justified, the show seemed to suggest), that it really didn't seem like Tyler's leanings were all part of some grand act. He really did have a secret, doomed, obsessive crush on Daniel and that's part of what made him wicked (unchecked mental illness didn't help either) in the show's eyes. And that's kinda frustrating! Gay people can be villains too, obviously, but this is such a well-worn and somewhat sociologically dismaying stock character, the sneaky gay villain with his terrible, pathetic lust for the broad-shouldered golden man of the story, and we wish Revenge had gone a slightly different route.
Eh, but, what can you do. It's still a supremely entertaining show, and, truth be told, we're kinda glad to see Tyler go. He was meddling too much in Emily's perfect revenge machine — she hasn't destroyed someone's life in weeks! So let's get back to that. And, hey, show people: Gay characters of all sorts are welcome, but after this rote exercise, if the next one you introduce is a male stylist or a female tennis player, we're gonna have an issue again.