Honestly, I think any attempt at explaining the mechanism and effects of the blackout in any rational scientific way is bound to be a futile gesture, and I say that as someone who enjoys doing that myself (see my analysis of the blackout from the trailer here
This being a JJ Abrams production and a mythology-based series, I suspect we'll get a piecemeal mixture of vague scientific, pseudoscientific, and purely magical terms thrown our way ("The laws of physics changed!" It likely involves mathematical codes somehow, given the "algebra teacher's" --who clearly was more than that-- involvement). Enough to string the audience along as they drag the mythology out season by season (if they get the chance) until we get to the big revelation episode that doesn't actually resolve the mythology in any satisfactory way, but allows fans to argue whether the mythology they were speculating on for multiple seasons was ever meant to be resolved or if it was always just about the journey and the mythology didn't really matter. And I say this as a fan of both Abrams and mythology-based series like Lost
I suspect in the end the blackout will have been caused by some kind of satellite-controlled EM field, computer virus, or worldwide nanite infestation that will explain a few of the effects but not make an ounce of sense for all the rest of them. The rule of cool will be the number one motivator for what happens on the show. If it's cooler that people are reduced to muskets, crossbows, and swords when there should be plenty of working modern firearms around (like Gus Fring's handgun), that's what we'll get. If it's cooler that people are riding horses than driving in pre-computerized cars which should still work, that's what we'll get. And if it's cooler that planes fall from the sky vertically (and many of the ones in the background were shown doing just that), that's what they'll do.
Now, leaving the mythology aspects aside, the problem with this pilot was that it was too short. It should have been two hours. With the exception of the twist about the identity of Munroe, I learned absolutely nothing new from this episode that I didn't already know from the four-minute preview shown a while back, which literally gave away every single plot point without any of the extraneous filler. They should have extended the pilot and built up the characters more so they weren't one line ciphers like Plot-Advancing Perpetual Victim Asthma Boy, Algebra Lady Who Knows Things, Comic Relief Google Guy, Rebellious Girl With Heart, Stern Stepmom Who Means Well, Morally Ambiguous Badass Good Guy, Slightly Less Morally Ambiguous Badass Bad Guy, Dead Father Who Knew Things, Obviously Still Alive Mom, and Complex Loyalties Hunger Games Reject.
Putting the focus on the teens as the center of attention might make sense from a demographic standpoint, and it provides the audience with counterparts who are as equally in the dark about the mystery as we are and therefore need it explained to them (us), but I have a feeling it's going to get really tedious in a short amount of time, since I was already on angst overload from the pilot which had hardly any exposition and was just flowing from one action/drama scene to the next. The focus should have preferably been on the uncle from the start, but maybe now that he's been introduced he'll start to take over the narrative more.
While the level of overgrowth might not have been entirely realistic, the scenes with the abandoned, run-down cities and infrastructure were quite impressive. Again, rule of cool trumps realism. I suspect Wrigley Field just gave up the fight to the plants once it realized the Cubs were never going to win another World Series.
Likewise, the fight choreography was superb. While it stretches credibility that the Munroe guys attacked Uncle Badass one at a time or in small groups martial arts movie style instead of all in a rush (although he did kind of break them up), everyone involved still acquitted themselves well with the sword and hand-to-hand fighting. I suspect they had a good deal of instruction before filming. And Hunger Games Understudy was quick and cool on drawing the bow.
It wasn't a great pilot and certainly didn't grab my attention or make me say "wow" the way previous Abrams' produced pilots for Lost
did, but unrealistic though it may be, the setting is interesting enough for me to stick around and see if things improve. Plus, I'll watch Giancarlo Esposito read a menu for an hour, so watching him play a shrewd mostly evil but not completely unreasonable bad guy should be fun. Uncle Badass could develop into someone interesting, and not just an asskicker, especially with his relationship to Munroe and his peripheral knowledge of the mechanism for the blackout.
Anyway, I give the pilot a "B-." Enough to keep me hanging around to see where it goes, but not enough to guarantee my loyalty yet.