Why Victoria Grayson was the most effective character

[TW: This article discusses the general topics of child abuse sexual assault and how it is portrayed in Revenge.]

revenge, In the main role Emily VanCamp as the despised Emily Thorne (aka Amanda Clarke) and Madeleine Stowe as the diabolical Victoria Grayson, was a brutal tale of betrayal and vengeance. After Emily’s father was jailed for a terrorist attack he was not involved in, she grew up seeking justice for her father. The journey had its ups and downs, but the characters were far more intriguing than the plot for most of the show, becoming so complex beings that the viewer was left with complicated feelings for almost every character. Even if the show told us who to get excited about, that didn’t necessarily mean we did.

When we followed Emily Thorne’s campaign for revenge, it was easy to promote her at first. However, it did not take long for the collateral damage to pile up, and their actions began to destroy the lives of people who were not responsible for what had happened to their father so many years earlier. This was most evident with Conrad (Henry Czernand) and Victoria’s son Daniel (Josh Bowman), during the opening season. Daniel and Emily ended up playing on a level field – after he tried to kill them, you know. And because Emily was the “heroine” of the show, there were boundaries she wouldn’t cross … but Victoria would, which made her the most exciting and entertaining character on the show.

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Throughout the show, viewers were occasionally pampered with the writers dealing with Victoria’s past. We got to see the things that had driven Victoria to this point in her life, to a loveless marriage to Conrad. The more we saw, the more her instincts and reactions to things came together and painted a portrait of a woman whose existence in the spectrum between good and bad could not be clearly assigned.

As a child, Victoria was tormented by her abusive mother, whose relentless need for status and a man brought some terrifyingly horrific people into her life, some of whom molested Victoria herself. Because of her mother’s abuse, Victoria sought that love and approval from someone else. The result of this eventually became the revolving door of men in their lives, many of whom abused her in other ways. Victoria had to take care of herself from a young age, especially after being left alone with a newborn son at 16, conceived by an older man who had assaulted her.

From now on, Victoria had to make many tough decisions throughout her life and think about whether to put herself or someone else first. Her instincts were always to survive, which often meant that her choices would raise themselves while another suffered. But really, who could blame her, given the hell she’d been through all her life? So she ended up with Conrad, a man who is so rich that she never has to worry about financial resources again … about her children.

Madeline Stowe Revenge

Image via ABC

How Victoria was able to betray Emily’s father, David Clarke (James Tupper) became clearer and clearer, and viewers began to empathize with their situation without the show going too far to ever apologize for the damage it had caused. She remained the antagonist, but it was much easier to sympathize with her and follow her story without viewing her as the devil born again. These layers made Victoria one of the most detailed characters in the series as her life and personality became more complicated (in a good way) with each new twist.

Victoria’s and Emily’s rivalry was much more pleasant on Victoria’s side, too. Emily was offensive for so much of Revenge, often regaining the upper hand because she knew the dark secrets about everyone, but no one knew her own – like the fact that she was Amanda Clarke. Victoria, on the other hand, was so often on the defensive. She knew she was being targeted along with the rest of her family and was so smart and ruthless as to put an end to it. Without knowing who exactly her enemy was, Victoria fought a great fight and somehow knew how to bring Emily to her knees with such style that Emily had to regroup and repeat her mission.

Also, as mentioned, there were limits that Emily would not cross. Victoria did not have these moral restrictions, however. When Victoria found out who Emily really was, she killed Emily’s fiancée Aiden (Barry Sloane). This was the beginning of Victoria’s darkest turn to date. Her crossing of that line, especially in this way (by paralyzing and suffocating Aiden) was completely unexpected and such a blow to return Emily as revenge for the three years she had spent tearing up Victoria’s life bit by bit . But even after killing Aiden, it was still impossible to completely turn against Victoria and see her as the villain. Victoria was raised just to learn how to respond to a situation like this. Also because Victoria’s youngest love, Pascal LeMarchal (Olivier Martinez), had died shortly before of Emily’s desperation for revenge at Conrad’s hands, it was something in return. Victoria kept Emily and the audience on their toes because her actions could be completely unpredictable while at the same time staying perfectly in character.

Madeline Stowe Revenge 1-1

Image via ABC

Victoria was the perfect enemy for Emily, but above all a mother. In her mind, she always tried to make the best decisions for her children, even though it was painfully obvious that it wasn’t always the case. Victoria’s instincts were correct most of the time, but it still pushed people away from her and crumbled their relationships, as it did with Daniel over Victoria’s suspicion of Emily at the beginning of the show. Watch her interactions with Daniel, Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) and later Patrick (Justin Hartley) brought out a very different side to Victoria. These were the only people in her life against whom Victoria was truly powerless because her love for them outweighed her need to keep her walls up and protect herself. Ready to go beyond anything to protect her children, she tried so hard to be the opposite of her own mother … but she sometimes went too far and became as bad as her mother (but in a completely different way).

After four seasons, Revenge ended on a pretty sour note for the Grayson matriarch – her death. Their ending was both contradicting and in part relieving after the trip we made to Victoria with these characters and the many plains explored. Stowe brought Victoria such vulnerable energy that even when she was the one preparing to attack, you could still feel why she was taking these drastic measures. Her words, the look in her eyes or her body language radiated the vulnerability and desperation to be settled once in her life. Victoria shone at all times during the show, clearly a character who has put so much thought into her creation and development. She’s never had an awkward story or phase where it was hard to invest in, which can easily happen with 22 episodes per season.

With her death Victoria had found the peace she had always sought in agony. Unfortunately, not until her relationships with her children have been mended. Maybe it was the ending she deserved after everything she’d done, but it’s still contradicting and heartbreaking. The mixed feelings about her ending are a sure sign of the beauty of the character and the writing that made it so that you can’t help but empathize with her.

All four seasons of Revenge are currently streamed on Hulu.

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About the author

Jay Snow
(29 articles published)

Jay Snow is a freelance entertainment writer. He lives in the PNW and loves everything that has to do with witches and superheroes. Follow him on Twitter (@snowyjay) to find out more about what he’s watching!

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