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'The Event' recap: Dumb plot twists galore

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Does “The Event” exhaust anybody else? Every week, the individual scenes are crafted specifically to avoid giving the audience any helpful information. After the second episode – where we learned about the aliens and what happened to the plane – we’ve been getting an increasingly elaborate shell game, one seemingly designed just to keep the audience riding high on a buzz of constant plot momentum. But when the plot keeps circling the same five or six things, it just gets tiring to have to cheer loudly as the juggler at the center of the show keeps all of the balls (and chainsaws and what have you) in the air. Put another way, I’m pretty sure I could skip all but the first five and last five minutes of “The Event” and not really miss anything (well, I could, if it wasn’t my job to keep up with it). Everything in between is a long, long journey to nowhere.

“But, Todd!” you say. “Lots of other shows have had this ‘put the action up front and at the end’ structure, and you’ve liked many of them!” Indeed, I have. “24” was the epitome of the super-fun TV thrill ride (at least when it was good). “Lost” was one of my favorite shows ever, combining a bunch of genre tropes I really liked with some awesome plotting and mysteries. I even liked the goofy fun of the first seasons of “Prison Break” and “Heroes,” which were supremely dumb shows but at least sort of proud of that fact, as they just kept coming up with endless strings of insane plot twists. Honestly, if “The Event” were more like those latter two shows, I’d just be rolling with it. I’d know, deep down, that it wasn’t GOOD, but I’d at least be having fun. But look at those four shows I just listed. See how many characters you can name from those shows, just off the top of your head. Now see how many you can list from "The Event." Without checking IMDB, I get to Sean (because he's the main character) and President Blair Underwood before running out of room. Even the DUMBEST of those other shows - "Prison Break," if you're playing along at home - had a wealth of fun characters in it. But “The Event” wants to have its guilty pleasure cake and eat it too. It wants to be dumb and profound and thrilling all at once, and it’s failing at all three tasks.

Take tonight’s final plot twist, which might just be the dumbest plot twist in the history of plot twists. You know that whole thing where the evil Vicky (or whatever you want to call her) and her good pal Carter (played by the always enjoyable D.B. Sweeney) are apparently foiled by the feisty Leila, who breaks out after the latter leaves a giant chunk of glass in her basement prison, the better for Leila to cut loose her bonds and make her escape, shooting Vicky in the process, leading the evil one to tumble down the stairs. Of course, Leila goes to the cops, and of course, we’re suspecting that the cops have been turned (or the conspiracy is monitoring the phone lines). But what happens at the end is even stupider: The conspiracy has set up an elaborate ruse to get Leila to call Sean, so he’ll come and try to rescue her and they can … do something to him.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that the easiest possible way to get Leila to call Sean is to leave a cellphone within her reach. Let’s also leave aside for the moment that a global conspiracy could probably get a guy’s cellphone number if they really wanted to – regardless of whether that guy is on their radar or not. What makes this whole sequence so frustrating is that it exists purely to keep the audience guessing. Nothing can change, and everything has to be reversed because otherwise, there can’t be a series. Leila can’t escape. Sean can’t find her. The conspiracy must always exist because shows like this always have a conspiracy. It’s like there’s been no thought given to explaining to the audience why any of this is worth caring about or why any of these characters are worth our affection. Instead, every effort has been made to just keep plates spinning as long as possible, while the show tap dances.

Every week, I go into this show thinking that this will be the episode where I can turn off my brain and just go with the stupidity. Every week, I’m wrong. It’s simply a long chase sequence that sacrifices everything in the name of superficial forward momentum. Honestly, if you were to summarize everything that’s happened this season so far, you would probably cover less space than if you were to summarize the events of non-serialized shows like “Hawaii Five-0” or “The Defenders.” At least in those shows, the characters take on new cases from week to week. On “The Event,” everything is devoted to keeping up the illusion that things are happening, even as the show is constantly struggling to get back to the status quo. To take another exceptionally stupid example from tonight’s episode, just why would a threat be made to kill all of the people from the plane when they’ve been killed and resurrected once already (and had their memories wiped)? Why not have the alien leader guy use the death of the people on the plane as a legitimate threat? Or promise to use his technology to make all humans immortal? Or something other than just going a step forward, then immediately taking that same step back?

I write enough about what makes me angry about this show from week to week that I suppose it would be best to talk about some of the things I am still enjoying. Jason Ritter remains a likable presence at the show’s center, and his scene with Vicky’s son (yes, she has a son) was well-done. I like the occasional bit of story development when the show lets the audience figure something out for itself – like when we caught a glimpse of Sean’s phone being low on battery and were able to piece together that Leila wouldn’t get through to him because … his battery died. And I really enjoy the scenes between Blair Underwood and Laura Innes, even if they keep repeating the same basic lines of dialogue over and over. The actors are such pros that pretty much everything they’re handed ends up being more fun than it has any right to be.

But I headed into “A Matter of Life and Death” wanting to write about how I can sort of enjoy the show on that stupid level I did “Heroes” and “Prison Break,” before I realized that that’s simply no longer true. Maybe it was true in the pilot, and maybe it was true in the second episode, but by now, the series has put enough of its cards on the table that we should be getting into some truly insane stuff. Instead, it mostly just keeps having the same chase sequence over and over and over, with a little computer hacking thrown in for good measure. Sure, “Heroes” and “Prison Break” were stupid, but they weren’t afraid to blow stuff up. “The Event” keeps lighting fuses and then snuffing them out just as quickly.

The plot in a nutshell, in case you’ve been sensible enough to give up on this show: All of those people who woke up last week? They’re alive, but they don’t remember what happened on the plane. Until the possibly evil alien guy is all, “Look what I can do!” and gives them nose bleeds, which apparently will lead to their deaths. (You ever notice how often a nose bleed is a harbinger of doom on TV? Sometimes, a nose bleed is just a nose bleed.) President Blair Underwood receives a threat to this effect from a phone that was secretly placed in his kid’s backpack. The other aliens want Sophia and company, and they’ll do anything to get her. Torture keeps getting brought up obliquely because the show wants to seem like it has its finger on the pulse of modern America. (And when the president first met Sophia, she just wanted to be like any other immigrant  – also topical!) Sean and his new FBI friend race all over, without really accomplishing anything (though they find Vicky’s mom and son), but Leila breaks out of her bonds on her own. It turns out it was a set up by the conspiracy to lure in Sean. And Hal Holbrook’s disembodied voice controls the conspiracy!

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Leila (Sarah Roemer) spent much of Monday's episode of "The Event" cutting herself out of her bonds with a piece of glass. Enthralling! (Credit: NBC)

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Complete Show Tracker 'The Event' coverage

 
Comments () | Archives (11)

This show has pretty much seven episodes to manage to keep me watching and they're failing miserably. They get seven, because I'm probably one of the biggest D.B. Sweeney fans on the planet and I will watch the absolute worst bit of anything to see him on screen. I watched the first episode because I didn't want to be behind when he started his 6 episode run. We're half through it, they better pick up the quality soon. Really soon. They have to give us pay off on at least one of the dangling threads somewhere. These are the people who gave us 24. We know they have it in them to give us fun, fantastic, unrealistic but COOL suspense. So, get to it already.

I agree completely ! Fell asleep in Ep. 3 Act Three. Grabbed the remote during Ep. 4 Act Two. Spent what was left of the hour with an enjoyable Ep. of Castle. At least those writers know how to unfold a mystery. Todd, I'm sorry you have to spend more of your valuable time with the 'Non-Event.' Had high hopes for a Bourne-like thrill ride, but I'm 'Lost', and I'm out.

I'm afraid, in my opinion, you are obviously embittered your favourite and 'more fun' shows ended and rather than give this new one a chance just want to attack it because it isn't those other shows. Pretty sad really.

I feel all the previous crummy shows you enjoyed has dulled your pleasure centers. The Event isn't the best thriller. It's no Lost or early seasons of 24, but it's much better than Castle or Hawaii-50. Except for the 'event' itself, there is no difference between the Event and 24. You seem to enjoy the all the mini-twists Jack went through, why is it so hard to believe the conspirators would perform their little escape fake-out? Your suggestion of accidentally leaving a cell phone around is even dumber than the fake-out. How is she supposed to know where she is when making a phone call in a cellar? What kind of ex-government agents would be that stupid to leave a phone around a captive without arousing suspicion. The whole point of the fake-out is to draw Sean to them so they can kill him, and the easiest way to kill Sean is for him to put his guard down a little. Bring the criticism when a cougar shows up or they nuke Sherman Oaks. Otherwise, the Event is o.k. until the big reveal and we sit around and say: Is that all there is? Nothing else?

@Glen Williams

Amen! I seriously think that all of the people that have been sour on "The Event" from the beginning are holding a grudge/bitterness from LOST/24. The show will never be either one of those shows, and while it's probably not the best writing since Shakespeare, they ARE telling a compelling story. This reviewer is clearly not giving the show a chance at all. I'm guessing he's missing Jack Bauer's teet.

Is this really that different from V or other high dollar productions lately that fail to draw us into the characters in a meaningful way?

Don't listen to the naysayers, recapper. You've got it right. The Event is lame and not showing any signs of improving. Admittedly we're all missing those other shows but they really don't compare to this. Shows like "24" and "Prison Break" had one MAJOR thing going for them: a strong male lead. "Lost" gave us two. The Event is taking an "ensemble cast" a bit too far and are foregoing any downtime to give the viewers a chance to care about this situation. Also, you can't really compare it to those shows again since they all had a clear destination be it a bomb being stopped or leaving the prison or getting off the island. If The Event has something it's going for I would love to be let in. Even "V" tell you its gearing towards a head between Vs and Earthlings and had no problems giving away a clue an episode. I won't even begin to say how even Hawaii 50 is better than this b/c its not even in the same realm of story telling. So while you all think the recapper is being biased, I haven't read anything to say otherwise, like what part is actually captivating you to keep watching. All n all The Event, which I don't understand how the name got past the drawing board, but i digress, is try to take on too much and doesn't know how to handle it ala Heroes. Get rid of it and try again next fall.

Thanks for calling me dumb. I can't wait for the next episode.

First off..I love scifi...Lost, Jericho, Invasion, Threshold, Surface, Fringe, Flash Forward, Sarah Connor etc..a enjoyed them all..but "The Event" just plain sucks. It's as if the show was written by a 12 year old. The whole blanks in the gun scenario, Jeeez, that was poor writing. And of course you had to suffer through 2 way too long and completley meaningless flashbacks to Thanksgiving dinner. None..and I mean none of the characters are even remotley likable or worthy of care. This show is the type of junk that will doom future scifi shows. I only hope Fringe doesn't get cancelled...it is a much much better show.

if you though the show was so dumb, you are going to witness it grow dumber as it continues. the leila character barely has a facial expression that doesn't look a smile which makes it hard to believe she even cares for the missing sister. they kidnap a student doctor that does even dumber stuff like wearing a glove but lets leila stick her dirty finger in a bullet wound and also sews up only one side of an exit wound. this show is empty and its getting harder to watch, just like V (2009). also i don't understand why the deadwood/caprica actress character was even brought in; why did they have to know about aliens which was totally unnecessary. nbc can't do sci-fi with shitting all over it. this show is going to be dumber than the curious white boy in horror movies ( in the words of pablo francisco, you could struggle them with a cordless phone).

This is the most idiotic show in the history of the earth and the alien planet


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