Talking REVENGE with BEST SERVED COLD author Erin Balser

Happy Revenge Sunday! Last season, Revenge was the series that surprised me to no end, it’s just so good and entertaining and unexpected. When Erin Balser pitched a companion guide to the show, I jumped on board, and Best Served Cold: The Unofficial Companion to Revenge comes out in a few short weeks. Yes, I know — my job can be very awesome: I got to edit a book on Revenge and that was called “work.”

Erin joins me here at the Calhoun Tribune to talk season 2, why Revenge is awesome, and her book.

CC: Let’s dive right into the season 2 premiere. Initial thoughts?

EB: I thought it was a solid start for the second season, as it both managed to remain faithful to the Revenge we fell in love with (loved that they used the flashforward again. Who drowned with the Amanda? Who do you hope it is?), but opened up a lot of new possibilities moving forward: Conrad and Ashley are getting eviler, Nolan and Emily are getting tougher, Jack is getting sadder and more shirtless, Daniel is getting sadder and Charlotte is getting more conniving. I’m excited to see where all this takes us.

I think Daniel and Charlotte’s respective arcs are going to be fun to watch. I can see each of them turning into their parents even more so than they did last year as they begin to embrace their demons and fight for their survival.

I’m also excited by the prospect of the Emily and Nolan roomie situations — but, seriously, what is up with Nolan’s new hair?

That said, I thought the Victoria reveal could have been more dramatic. I mean, we all knew she was alive, right? No way Vicky got on that plane. But at the same time, I want to know more: how is she and the White-Haired Man in cahoots? Does this mean Lydia is still alive? Are they setting up Conrad? Or is the White-Haired Man quadruple timing all of them?!!

and a new Takeda? Really? That confused me for so long.

CC: Agree! I do not understand about Takeda. Is that just like a code name for all Revenge Instructors? Or did they actually replace the actor?

There was a lot in the episode — really good set-up for the season as a whole. I’ve never been more interested in Charlotte. That moment where she ran to Emily and whispered in her ear? Shivers.

The other thing I really dug about this episode was the renewed tension between Emily and Victoria. There’s about one minute where you think they may actually be allies, and then boom — Victoria is asking White-Haired Man to take her out! And he’s all As you wish. BEST. I wondered how they would deal with that in this new season 2 world. The Emily/Victoria dynamic is one of my favorite parts of season one, so I’m glad it is sticking around in this new form.

As for who I hope goes down with the Amanda? Declan, Declan, Declan. You?

EB: The internet says they replaced the actor playing Takeda. He couldn’t come back because he was filming a movie. Sad!

You know, I kinda like Declan as Jack’s voice of reason. It gives him a purpose on the show. When he was being the younger brother/townie boyfriend, I just found him annoying and useless.

Amanda (the fake one) is at an interesting crossroads. She could try to become Emily’s ally, or mess up her life because, well, why not, or try to do this whole domestic thing. Although, as long as she’s around, Jack will keep spiraling downward.

What I love about Revenge is that there are so many interesting parallels between the parents and children: Jack and his dad; Charlotte and Victoria; Daniel and Conrad. This sets up a super interesting precedent for Emily. What’s her mother like? Is she turning into her? and if her mother did had a history of mental illness — what does this mean for Emily? And for the entire state of the show? I can see Homeland-esque twists in the future as Emily becomes more focused and I like it. They’ll need to tread carefully, but this mix of reality and fantasy is something Revenge has done well so far.

CC: Was the show’s interesting approach to its characters one of the things that drew you to writing a whole book about it?

EB: It was! All these characters are extremely complicated and full of contradictions. This makes them relatable as well as intriguing. And even though these characters are doing terrible things (Emily burned down a house! Victoria paid someone to beat up her son!), it’s impossible to classify them as “good” or “evil”. However, it’s easy to classify them both as “awesome (television characters)”.

But I also like the perspective that the show uses. By telling the story through Emily’s eyes, it muddies up how we perceive some characters — eg. Jack could be seen as nothing more than a simple homebody, but through Emily, we also see his good, generous side, because that’s the side Emily chooses to see. It also makes it more difficult to figure out what is real, what’s an act and what we’re supposed to see.

CC: One of my favorite parts of Best Served Cold is “Revenge Reading,” where you explore literary (or film) allusions and how they can help deepen our perspective on Revenge. I came away feeling smarter! And that the show’s writers are incredibly clever. Were these sections as fun to write as they are to read?

EB: These were my favourite parts to write! It was fun learning about all the literary connections Mike Kelley pulled from, but it was also fun to make my own. Using works like Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby helped me understand the characters better and also allowed me to situate the show in American cultural history better. Revenge is standing on the shoulders of a lot of great cultural traditions: great American novels, frothy TV soap operas and a huge history of using revenge as a storytelling tool. The show can totally stand alone as “guilty pleasure” TV, but there’s much more going on underneath the surface. The Revenge Readings help bring that to light. (I hope!)

CC: This may be an impossible question, but: what’s your favorite moment of season 1?

EB: Pffft, that’s easy. The very last one! The song! The slo-mo! The coat! The questions! Best scene ever.

CC: Ha! You’re right. Every time I hear the “Seven Devils” song, I re-live that moment in my head. Though the moment when Victoria makes Emily open her engagement present is so brilliant. It almost makes me want to become an evil matriarch just so I can pull off that kind of stunt.

What are you most looking forward to in season 2?

EB: Yes! The box of nothing was brilliant! Let’s do it. Birthdays, weddings, retirements: boxes of nothing for everyone!

I’m looking forward to finding out more about Emily’s mom, but also learning more about how deep this whole thing goes. It feels like we fell in a rabbit hole and I would like to start climbing out of it.

And more Nolan, obviously.

CC: Obviously. They should do a web series of Nolan puttering around Em’s beach house, choosing his outfits, etc. Highly watchable.

Where can folks find you online and read your expert thoughts on all things Revenge?

EB: They can follow me on Twitter, @booksin140, and on my personal blog, erinbalser.com, I write about Revenge (and other things!).

CC: Excellent! Thanks for stopping by the [imaginary] Calhoun Tribune headquarters to talk Revenge! And thanks for being a delightful author to edit. I miss the frequency of our email correspondence, so please ramp it up!

Best Served Cold hits stores November 1st! You can pre-order it now at Amazon.com, Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.ca, etc. and so on. (And bonus: all ECW releases are part of our Free eBook program — buy a print copy, get the ebook free!)

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