ABC’S REVENGE: HOW THE HAMPTONS GOT ‘BURN’ED
By Sharon Beck
Amanda Clarke doesn’t forgive. She doesn’t forget. And when it comes to the Conrad Grayson family, she will stop at nothing in her quest for Revenge.
If you are looking for a television program that will make you feel happy and warm inside … this is not that program.
When Amanda was a child, her father, David Clarke, was convicted of terrorism and treason in the bombing of Flight 197 which killed all 274 people aboard, and was later murdered by a fellow prison inmate. The loss of her father and the knowledge of what he had done devastated Amanda, and she quickly began traveling down a road of self-destruction. Foster homes, arson, and juvenile detention were just a few things that the orphaned girl faced. However, she later came to learn that her father had actually been framed by multi-billionaire and business magnate Conrad Grayson and his socialite wife Victoria, that the Graysons themselves were actually complicit in the terrorist attack, and that David’s murder in prison had been at the hands of agents of the Graysons. From that point on, Revenge has been the sole focus of Amanda’s life.
She enlists the help of technological genius Nolan Ross, the founder and CEO of NolCorp, a software and electronics company in which David Clarke had invested and believed when no one else did. As a result of this, Nolan felt intense loyalty to David and had visited him in prison every day until David’s death. Nolan was the one who picked Amanda up on her release from juvenile detention, and at that point, gave her David’s diaries and his share of NolCorp (49% of the closely held stock, making his daughter an immensely wealthy young woman) and explained David’s innocence to her. As a result of this, and of his vital technological help in her mission of revenge, they have become very close friends.
She returns to the summer house in the Hamptons where she had so happily lived with her father – which happened to be next door to the Graysons’ sprawling mansion – and having assumed the identity ‘Emily Thorne’, begins her sophisticated and merciless mission to destroy all those who had had even the smallest part in helping to destroy her father.
In addition to Conrad and Victoria Grayson, several other persons take key roles in Emily’s quest:
Daniel Grayson, Conrad and Victoria’s handsome son and heir
Jack Porter, Amanda Clarke’s childhood friend, owner of the Stowaway bar; he does not know that Emily is actually Amanda.
Charlotte Grayson, Daniel’s younger sister, who we eventually learn is Amanda Clarke’s half-sister – the daughter of Victoria Grayson and David Clarke, who had had an affair when Amanda was a child.
Mason Treadwell, an author who wrote David Clarke’s biography and believed in his innocence, but was paid off by the Graysons to back up their story in his book.
Satoshi Takeda, Emily’s “revenge” instructor who has taught her martial arts, hones her mental and emotional discipline, and helped her define her mission and stay focused to see it through to completion.
Aiden Mathis, who also trained under Takeda in order to avenge his father, who was manipulated into participation in the downing of Flight 197, having unknowingly loaded the bomb onto the plane. There is distinct contrast between Emily’s quest for retribution and Aiden’s: Emily focuses on destroying people’s lives by exposing their secrets and their crimes; Aiden is a willing, and often eager, killer.
The Americon Initiative is a secret, sinister collective of intelligent businessmen and women whose specialty is literally capitalizing on people’s fears. They carry out acts of terrorism and place the blame on various scapegoats. It was the Initiative who was behind the downing of Flight 197; Conrad Grayson was their money launderer and their initial intent was to place the blame for the bombing on him; he convinced them to frame David Clarke instead, reluctantly supported by his wife, who had been David’s lover. The Initiative’s profit from the bomb came when the FAA granted billions of dollars in security contracts with private companies whose stocks quadrupled in value following the bombing – companies in which the Initiative had heavily invested.
The Initiative’s introduction into the story revolves around a very dangerous piece of software called Carrion, written for unknown reasons by Nolan Ross. Nolan had stopped production of the software, labeling it a failed project; the Initiative presumably wants to use it to cause another terrorist attack. Nolan and Emily are intent on preventing the program from falling into the Initiative’s hands. Helen Crowley is the first representative the Initiative sends to obtain the software; when she fails, they send in a replacement – a man called Trask, who at first sight is recognized as the embodiment of evil, with narrow eyes, an unsmiling mouth, a quietly sinister way of speaking, and no regard for human life. His role in the story is less involved than that of his predecessor, but he leaves an unforgettable mark on everyone who encounters him.
I remember absolutely hating Trask the first time I watched his episodes. And it wasn’t the kind of hate that you enjoy – the kind that gives you thrills and chills and you can’t wait for the character to appear so you can see what new nefarious deeds he’s going to perform. No, I just hated this guy. He was creepy, he was evil; I wanted him gone.
Then I discovered Burn Gorman, Trask’s portrayer, when I watched Pacific Rim with my son and wondered why Doctor Gottlieb looked familiar. And when I say “discovered”, I mean “instantly began obsessing”. I looked up other shows and films he had been in and was amazed and excited by what I found. A card-carrying Whovian already, I threw myself into the excitement of Torchwood; as a fan of BBC costume dramas, I wept for the lovelorn Mr. Guppy; as a sci-fi geek I sat down a second time to cheer for the socially awkward but genius scientist who helps save the world from an alien terror. And of course, I re-watched the episodes of Revenge that featured the disturbing and sinister Trask.
The second time I watched Trask’s episodes, I watched with the intensity of a lovesick teenager. I anxiously awaited each appearance, held my breath when he spoke just so I wouldn’t miss a single sinister word that came out of that lovely mouth, cried when – (Oops, sorry! Spoilers!)
What kind of actor can make you love a villain? One might think of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki; Heath Ledger’s Joker; Andrew Scott’s Moriarty – all of whose characters are loved by audiences worldwide. And what kind of actor can make you hate a villain? Villains are meant to be hated, so it seems it should be an easy task. However, when the actor in question is reportedly the most pleasant, easy-going, and friendly young man you’d ever like to meet, it somehow makes the job seem a little more daunting. To act in complete opposition to your own personality takes a deep talent, and Burn Gorman has got that talent. His fluid facial features and expressive voice can take him from a handsome, young, smart-aleck but well-meaning doctor (Owen Harper, Torchwood) to a Brother of the Night’s Watch turned traitor with a filthy mouth and a cruel streak (Karl, Game of Thrones); from a nerd scientist with a too-short haircut and a limp (Dr. Gottlieb, Pacific Rim) to a sinister terrorist operative such as Trask.
Burn describes himself as a character actor* and in my opinion, that is what makes him so extraordinarily special as an actor. There are actors who, it is joked, “play themselves” (Nathan Fillion plays Nathan Fillion). Burn is not that kind of actor. Every new role that he steps into is a fresh experience, and while some roles may be similar to others, each one is still unique for what Burn brings to it.
“A self-proclaimed character actor, Burn loves nothing more than pulling on a wig or false teeth for the sake of a role...”
“I think of myself as a character actor, compared to a straight actor. I know a character actor in England is pretty much the same as in the States; you're actually hired to put on terrible teeth and stuff like that.”
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