In just a few short weeks, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) has polarized Revolution's audience into two very distinct groups: those who appreciate Charlie's plucky spirit and those who want to strangle the heroine with her own (perfectly coiffed) hair. But is Charlie really that bad or is she simply misunderstood?
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Creator Eric Kripke likens Charlie to a Joseph Campbell-esque hero alongside Star Wars' Luke Skywalker and The Wizard of Oz's Dorothy Gale, but it seems she's struggling with fans' perceptions to fill such iconic shoes. The most-contested issue: her persistent poutiness. In the midst of a post-electric dystopia, Charlie's puppy dog eyes and heavy lower lip seem frustratingly out of place. And while it's important to maintain some degree of idealism in the face of horror, Charlie's innocence comes across as ignorance more often than something to aspire towards.
Charlie's naive self-entitlement is highlighted best in "The Plague Dogs" through her narcissistic breakdown at Maggie's (Anna Lise Phillips) deathbed. In one of Revolution's least subtle moments of character development, Charlie literally cries out how horrible it is that "everybody leaves me" (which we're sure is exactly what Maggie was concerned with as her life literally seeps out of her).
And though Charlie's abandonment issues are understandable, compared to everyone else in the series, she's led a relatively cushy life. Charlie doesn't seem to appreciate that — unlike the rest of her motley crew — she's lucky to have family and loved ones who even have the option of leaving her. Aaron, Maggie and even Miles are far more alone than she has ever been. But unfortunately for us, Charlie has yet to accept that death, loss and abandonment are simply realities of the world she lives in. Instead, she prefers to sit around and whine like a spoiled kid who just had her cell phone taken away.
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But it's easy to forget in the midst of all this "everybody leaves me" nonsense that Charlie — no matter how whiny — is still a total badass. Tricking Nate into getting himself cuffed to a pole: pure genius! Though, as Miles points out, killing him would have been better in the long run. But much like Superman, Charlie prefers to avoid murder unless absolutely necessary. Is that really so bad? Plus, it doesn't mean the girl can't be ruthless when the time is right.
In "Chained Heat," Charlie steps up her game, slaying two men in cold blood. In the following episode, she helps bomb a militia squad. So while she may be emotional, Charlie is far from weak — and Spiridakos wants to make sure you don't get those two things confused. "I personally don't believe that vulnerability is a weakness," the actress told TVGuide.com. "I think it's really great that we get to embody that and show the strength that comes with being vulnerable and loving people, as opposed to hating and having their walls up."
Hmm... it sounds like Spiridakos might be calling out her onscreen uncle Miles (Billy Burke), who embraces a kill-or-be-killed, lone-wolf attitude. And though Miles in necessary to get Danny (Graham Rogers) back, Charlie pays little heed to her uncle's advice. But why should she? She hasn't seen Miles in years and when they do reunite he's a total jerk with zero interest in helping her. Miles might know more about the militia, but that's because he founded it (not exactly something that inspires unquestioning confidence).
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But this combative relationship is at the heart of what makes Revolution a success. Watching Charlie and Miles attempt to come to terms with each other gives the series an honesty and angst it would otherwise lack. After calling Ben (Tim Guinee) a coward for bowing to the militia, Charlie clashes with Miles who, in a rare show of emotion, reprimands her for disrespecting her father. Through this chilling interaction, we get a painful glimpse at Miles' own vulnerability and realize that Charlie might not be all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there appears to be a shocking amount of anger boiling beneath her idealistic veneer.
This spat was a major turning point for both the characters and the audience, who begin to see the ways that survival is changing Charlie. Since first stepping outside her idyllic community in the pilot, Charlie has continued to evolve as she starts to grasp the nightmare that is the world without lights. This process comes to a head in "Soul Train" when, after her emotions interfere with a rescue attempt, she decides to undergo a drastic philosophical makeover. "You're going to see Charlie try to lose hope, try to be more like Miles," executive producer David Rambo says of the upcoming episode "Sex and Drugs." "If she thinks that this is what you have to do to survive, she's going to try to do it, but ultimately she's always going to be Charlie."
Hopefully, Rambo isn't lying about that last part. That's because no matter how grating her fairy-tale views might be, we need Charlie to retain at least a glimmer of innocence, "because if she doesn't have that, then she's lost, and in a way, we're all lost," warns Kripke.
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So remember this next time you feel the urge to Charlie-bash: She isn't just pouty dead weight; Charlie's innocence is a necessary counterbalance to the post-apocalyptic world. Without Charlie and her unwavering faith in humanity, we'd just have another dark and convoluted serialized mystery (and we all know how well those have been doing recently).
And don't forget, we're only a quarter of the way through the first season. Compared to the one-dimensional wet blanket we met in the pilot, Charlie has already grown leaps and bounds, something Spiridakos promises will continue.
"The more she interacts with [Miles], the more they continue on this journey, the more she's going to grow from a young, little girl to soon enough a lady and then a woman," Spiridakos explains. "She's going to start to embrace who she is, know what she wants, what she's willing to do, what she's willing to stand up for."
In summation: Yes, Charlie started off as a mopey brat, but she won't stay this way forever. The question is whether or not you'll stick around long enough to watch her transform.
Revolution returns Monday, Oct. 29 at 10/9c on NBC.