While many view Emily as a tragic and deeply flawed Anti-Hero, nobly seeking revenge by questionable means, the sheer amount of Disproportionate Retribution probably makes her more of an Anti-Villain than an Anti-Hero. If taken this way, she is clearly a Big BadVillain Protagonist while Takeda is another villain. This isn't to say that her enemies, the Graysons and the conspiracy that brought down her father, are good, only that Emily is A Lighter Shade of Black. She even puts together a villain band of sorts. Although several of its members aren't consciously aware of their complicity, they fit the archetypes pretty well in practice.
Given that the series is explicitly based on The Count of Monte Cristo, and the entire point of that story is that the titular protagonist is more of a monster than anyone he seeks vengeance against, most likely the Anti-Hero view is the "alternate" and the intended lesson was a He Who Fights Monsters thing which never got driven home fully due to the shorter than expected run of the series. Season 4 starts with some very pointed plot threads to this effect, where Emily has literally replaced the Graysons and enacts all of their flaws without any of the redeeming qualities, though they are quickly abandoned in favor of watching the Designated Villains perform an intricate juggling act with ten or fifteen Idiot Balls.
Who is the lighter shade is also something of a matter of interpretation. The Graysons tend to screw people over for profit, but Emily inflicts torment and death purely For the Evulz, or over relatively minor offenses that only did harm incidentally. Self-interest is at least a valid motive, if not an entirely altruistic one.
By season 3, fans were really starting to lose patience for Emily to stop wasting time on the small fry and just get her revenge on the Graysons already. By the end of the season, Conrad has been tricked into an Engineered Public Confession (and then killed) and Victoria has been trapped in a psychiatric institution.
they severely overestimated how long the fans would put up with Victoria leading David around by the nose while he unhesitatingly lapped up every lie she fed him. For many, the tipping point was David destroying Nolan's reputation on live TV, leading them to bail on the show just one episode before he finally learned the truth.
Halfway through the season, the story is essentially over. Conrad is exposed and long dead, while Victoria has to spend the rest of her life knowing the true love of her life despises her and the son she betrayed him for ended up dead anyway, and even accepts that this is what she deserves, allowing Emily and David to have their happy ending. But then Margeux insists on following her own far less interesting revenge against Emily, which doesn't even make much sense as Victoria and David are the ones she should be angry at.
Bellisario's Maxim: Executive producer Mike Kelley has stated that they are aware of the problem with the dog's age but would prefer if the viewers simply ignored it.
Kelley: We get a lot of flack for how old that dog is but, you know what, as far as I'm concerned, he can stick around for the whole run.
Bond Villain Stupidity: Emily leaving Victoria in the mental institution, which she can (and does) easily escape from, rather than having her prosecuted for the very real murder of Aiden. It's even more egregious when you remember that Emily's goal that entire season was faking a murder to put Victoria away with.
Better on DVD: Definitely worth a rewatch, as you'll notice the foreshadowing and themes more than the first time around. It may also change your opinion of who's the real Big Bad of the series out of Conrad and his wife.
Breakout Villain: Lydia and Mason, originally created as one-shot takedowns for Emily, both evolve to have their own unique dynamics with her outside of being mere Grayson conspirators. This was likely in part due to positive fan response to both characters, who go on to play pivotal roles in later story arcs.
Damsel Scrappy: Charlotte. People were not fond of her by the end of the first season, but she arguably got the most blowback from every revelation Emily reveals. Quite epically subverted when she actually is kidnapped, which was actually staged by Emily to let her know exactly what her parents' misdeeds were, and bring down Conrad.
Quite common in the Emily/Daniel fandom in regards to Jack (or on occasion Aiden).
Was frequently directed at Fauxmanda for interfering with the potential Emily/Jack pairing. Unfortunately for her the fans got their wish.
Draco in Leather Pants: Daniel often has his greedy and amoral actions handwaved by fans in favor of the relationship between him and Emily, who is in stark opposition to everything he stands for. The fact that he is played by Josh Bowman, who is dating Emily VanCamp in real life, doesn't help.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Nolan. A close second would be Nolan's attire, which is nothing short of impeccable.
Emily. It's hard not to root for her after all the Graysons have done to her father, and her by extension. Their actions, however, have led to Emily becoming a Tragic Monster who's bent on making sure they suffer, and she cares very little for collateral damage. At first, anyway.
Tyler has a bit of this, when you remember that he's genuinely mentally ill (and when you find out that he only got violent because Emily was deliberately pushing him into a breakdown to get rid of him).
The other Emily/Amanda is also not hard to sympathize with; she has a tendency to cause problems for Emily, but most of her actions seem motivated by a desperate fear of losing Emily (and later Jack). Given that it's heavily implied, if not outright stated, in her second episode that the entire reason Emily became her friend in the first place was for a convenient lackey, she's not really wrong to be afraid.
Aiden, whose propensity to do things without thinking means Emily's plans would probably get a lot smoother without him.
Can be applied to the series as a whole - all Emily needed to do when she arrived in the Hamptons was bug Grayson manor and televise Conrad and Victoria's daily incriminating conversations. Instead she wastes three seasons toying with the Graysons, executing a convoluted plan to marry into their family, and watching her loved ones die one by one.
In the twenty-second episode of Ghost Whisperer season one, Henry Czerny guest starred as a man investigating a plane crash. Try watching that episode in mind knowing what his character does in this show.
Nolan with Jack. Their relationship starts with Nolan essentially bribing Jack to be his friend for three months, but as it progresses, Jack seems to develop some genuine affection for Nolan. On Nolan's part, it wouldn't be a far-fetched interpretation to believe that he's head-over-heels in love with Jack; he is willing to go above and beyond to help and protect Jack in a way that far surpasses his interest in any other character, even Emily. In fact, Jack being put in danger is one of Nolan's few Berserk Buttons; while he will usually stick loyally by Emily no matter where her plan for revenge takes her, as soon as she puts Jack at risk, Nolan is no longer on board, and the few moments that he has actually gone head-to-head with her over her lack on conscience have been about Jack's safety. It probably has to do with the fact that Jack is one of the few people Nolan has ever met who doesn't have either a fortune or an agenda, and at this point, their relationship is the only one in the series free of schemes or duplicity.
After the initial distrust and suspicion wears off, Nolan seems to be increasingly charmed by (and flirtatious with) Aiden. In turn, Aiden has responded with good humor, even playing James Bond to Nolan's Q in one scene. By the end of Season 2, he displays trust and genuine affection towards his "unexpected friend".
Among the more obvious examples...
Nolan: Hmm, so this is where Aiden-san waxes off.
...and this slash fic premise waiting to happen.
Nolan: You can be my bodyguard and I can be your Whitney.
Like You Would Really Do It: The Season 3 opening tease showed Emily shot aboard a ship and falling overboard. Even when the episode where it happened ended on a cliffhanger of whether she'd survive, there was no real question that there's no show without her. The promos for the next episode didn't bother to pretend there was a chance that Emily would die from her wounds.
Both the Graysons, Amanda (the real one), Uncle Bill, and the Initiative cross this by framing David Clark for funding terrorist activities.
Their son (Daniel) crosses this as well when he decides to keep the family secret after his father tells him everything.
Charlotte comes dangerously close when she ruins a girl she thinks her ex is in a relationship with out of jealousy, then tries to commit suicide.
Tyler, David's roommate from Harvard, either when he goes off his meds and holds everyone at Daniel's birthday at gunpoint trying to force a confession out of Conrad, or when he tries to kill Daniel and frame (fake) Emily for the crime.
Safe to say that Victoria goes even further across it when she kills Aiden and transports the corpse to Emily's house.
You couldn't think of any possible way for Charlotte to realize Jack was one of her kidnappers other than his grabbing people's shoulders in a completely unmistakable and instantly recognizable way?
Pascal getting murdered by being shoved into helicopter blades feels pretty absurd.
The process of unlocking Louise's memory of her father's death is hilariously soapy even by the fourth season's standards, with half coming out from a round of five finger filet, and then the true memory being unlocked just from being shown a piece of paper.
Fauxmanda's daytime-soap-opera plunge off a balcony while pregnant in stripper heels, complete with Victoria melodramatically shouting "Martha!", is iconic.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: This show seems to have a special gift in rescuing Scrappies. Both Declan and Charlotte have gone through a lot, and since then have become a lot more level headed and likeable as characters.
Declan's sensitive and mature efforts to help Charlotte deal with the revelation that she's David Clarke's daughter and his attempts to prevent Jack from being recognized as the guy on the beach suggest that the character may be salvageable.
Declan Porter in the first season, who was an angsty Emo Teen with Parental Issues (his father had a heart attack after hearing how Declan hates him and blames him for their financial troubles) who was also in love with a girl way above his social standing and as a result lashed out at anyone and everyone. Special mention must go to the moment where, after it's revealed that the father's heart attack was fatal, Declan is utterly cold and uncaring, claiming that he still thinks his father is a pathetic loser. He nearly tops this in a later episode when he bitches out Emily for "leading Jack on"... while at a dinner party at the Graysons' with Daniel, Victoria, Conrad, Emily, and Charlotte in attendance, making him look like a petty child (and ruining the dinner). He gets better as the show goes on, but then he gets killed off.
Padma in Season 2. Many fans found her to be a poor replacement for Tyler as Nolan's love interest and considered her introduction into the plot to be forced and networkpandering (despite it being made clear prior that Nolan is bisexual). The hate for her character was enough that not even her horrific death of being held captive for six weeks and smothered to death alongside her father managed to elicit any sympathy from fans.
Ashley, although to a far lesser extent than most other characters. She was generally regarded as a stylish yet pointless addition who required a constantly changing job description to justify her presence on the show. The new showrunner realised this and put her on a busin his first episode.
David Clarke, largely because the writing staff seems to be in open war over whether he's just as cunning a manipulator as Emily, or dumb as a brick. The result is a thoroughly schizophrenic character whom it's impossible to have any sympathy for despite being, well, himself.
Distill everything people hated about the Initiative into one person, and you've got Malcolm Black. A Giant Space Flea from Nowhere completely removed from anything on the show that anyone cares about, with inexplicable abilities to bounce back from whatever is thrown at him, and all the while we know he's not going to succeed in killing any of the main characters.
Margeaux after her FaceHeel Turn, with her attempts to get to Emily being utterly pitiful compared to the show's other villains, yet Emily still can't manage to permanently stop her just because she's literally the only thing keeping the story going by this point.
Season 2 tasked the fans' patience with an ever more incomprehensible Kudzu Plot involving the Nebulous Evil Organization the Graysons are in bed with. This ultimately led to the show's creator Mike Kelley leaving the production, and Season 3 pointedly does away with the whole thing in its opening minutes (complete with Emily suggesting that they never speak of the Initiative again) so we can get back to watching Emily plot against the Graysons.
Season 4 got there much faster, being just episode after episode of David Clark being a complete idiot who unconditionally believes everything Victoria tells him while ignoring the obvious evidence that she was an equal partner in framing him, until it's just no fun at all to watch. Not to mention the introduction of the nebulous and Initiative-esque "Malcolm Black". It eventually reached whole new lows for the series as the writing staff apparently panicked upon reaching the story's logical endpoint while they still had a third of the season to go, resulting in their completely giving up on keeping just about any character's motivation or personality consistent as they flailed around for anything that could possibly keep the train going. This ultimately led to a disastrous combination of dropping ratings and unhappy actors that resulted in it being the show's end.
Take That, Scrappy!: Ashley receives a vicious dressing-down from Emily and Victoria before being thrown on a plane and exiled from the country in the Season 3 premiere. Many saw this as an Author's Saving Throw by the new showrunner to address the stagnancy of Ashley's arc in the past two seasons.
Declan's posthumous Final Words to Jack via smartphone.
Daniel's Died in Your Arms Tonight moment with Emily, complete with her tearfully admitting her relationship with him wasn't a complete lie.
David's final moments with Emily on their porch swing, amidst somber falling snow.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Revenge has a propensity of either throwing aside good plots or development far too early, or just never picking them up to begin with. Some examples...
Emily's increasing He Who Fights Monsters subplot is never expanded upon except brief moments where Nolan calls her out on being overly callous. Even her few instances of genuine humanity (Amanda and Daniel's deaths) are quickly glossed over.
After four seasons of near complete irrelevancy, Charlotte finally has something to do. Her entire life crumbles, as does her family (two of whom die), all due to a meddlesome half-sister she only recently knew existed. What happens? Absolutely nothing!
One of the key complaints against the series is that it failed to maintain its procedural "revenge of the week" formula that had garnered critical praise early on. While some fans argued that this structure was unsustainable given the limited scope of Emily's vendetta, others thought this could have been remedied by the show becoming an anthology series or a "revenge" procedural where Emily exacts revenge on behalf of other people.
The revolving door of supporting characters, each with their own 3-episode subplot, became a major issue for fans by Season 2. Although some of these characters were disliked, many, such as Patrick, Stevie, Javier, Malcolm and Natalie, were positively received, leaving fans disappointed when their arcs were abruptly cut short.
WTH, Casting Agency?: Lord knows how anyone could look at the role of badass lady assassin White Gold and decide the perfect choice was Courtney Love.
Poor Daniel Grayson, who is genuinely trying to be a good person, but is being manipulated by his best friend and girlfriend, becomes a pawn in his parent's divorce, is framed for murder, and has to choose whether to reveal the truth about David Clarke and thus destroy his family. At least at first. Then he turns into something between Prince Zuko and Darth Vader: fully aware that his choice to work with his father was wrong, yet still not entirely turned to the side of darkness.
Nolan is arguably the series' biggest example. He has to pay people to be his friends. You can't help but cheer when Jack decides he actually wants to be his friend for real. He's also so devoted to Emily's cause out of gratitude to her father that he gives up his company for her plot, and then the incident which results in Padma's death and the Initiative taking control of an extremely dangerous program happens.
Charlotte. She may have gotten in her own way towards the end, but the majority of the collateral damage happens to her, and she loses her father before she gets to know him and suffers from being out of the loop most of the time. And then she loses both Declan and her baby.
The real Emily Thorne. The most important relationship in her life, with the real Amanda Clarke, is built on Amanda being encouraged to use Emily by the warden. When she seeks Amanda Clarke out, Amanda just wants her to go away so she doesn't ruin the plan. Then she ends up marrying Jack and getting pregnant without being able to tell him the truth, and Amanda coerces Emily into a dangerous situation confronting Victoria in her own home, where she and her unborn child nearly die. Then, just as Emily and Jack are turning things round and she has the baby, she dies protecting her family and Amanda.
Jack. His business is failing, his father died, he was sent to prison, and he was finally reunited with his childhood crush, only for it all to be a lie. Made worse by the fact that he's possibly the only fundamentally decent and good-hearted person on a series filled with liars, con artists, and killers. Amanda dies, and then Declan dies in the Season 2 finale, sending Jack over the edge and on his own Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
And of course Little Amanda herself.
David Clarke. The man's wife goes insane, tries to drown their daughter, and is institutionalized; then he's framed for terrorism by his boss; betrayed by the woman he loves; permanently separated from his daughter; sent to prison for life; loathed and derided as a mass-murderer by the outside world, including his daughter; and finally, ten years into his ordeal, shanked to death in a prison courtyard. His fate is revealed to have been even worse in Season 4. Instead of being assassinated by Conrad, David was instead kidnapped and held captive for ten more years by arms-dealing psychopath Malcolm Black. Upon learning of his daughter's apparent death, he finally escapes and stays in hiding long enough for his name to be cleared. However, he then has to contend with Victoria's manipulations, Malcolm's revenge, and Natalie trying to frame him again. And after finally making it through all that, he learns he has lymphoma. Yeah.
Villain Decay: Victoria rapidly undergoes this in Season 4, mostly as a result of Conrad's role in the David Clarke frame-up finally being outed to the public. This leaves her penniless, publicly disgraced, and estranged from her remaining family members, with her only attack being to try and manipulate David when he shows up alive and infatuated with her. Despite her continuing animosity with Emily, she fails to pose any real threat to her and, once David learns the truth about his daughter's identity, has her role basically reduced to that of a bitter stepmother. Made even more egregious by the season's promotional campaign promising Victoria's grand "revenge" against Emily, which she only actually follows through with in the final four episodes.
YMMV tropes for the band
Colbert Bump: In one of the few non-shirtless photos of Stefan Burnett, more commonly known as MC Ride from Death Grips, he can be seen repping Revenge's Infiltration.Downfall.Death album. ◊
Epic Riff: "Blood of My Blood", "Filth Solution (Intolerance)", "Us and Them (High Power)", "Humanity Noosed", "Hate Nomad", "Death Heritage (Built Upon Sorrow)", "Genocide Conquest", "Shock Attrition (Control in Decline)", "Cleansing Siege (Take Them Down)", "Atrocity March"
Nightmare Fuel: Uninitiated listeners might find Revenge's music to be completely terrifying, and rightly so. The breakdown in the middle of "Wolf Slave Protocol (Choose Your Side)" and the beginning guitar solo in "Death Heritage (Built Upon Sorrow)" are particular examples where the true musical horror of Revenge shines through. In an interview from when he was in Conqueror, James Read warned fans of melodic music to not waste their money on his band's album.