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'The Event' recap: Running 'round in circles

NUP_141429_0583.JPG  I think everything that's still irritating about "The Event" can be summed up in the last two episodes' cliffhangers. Last week, the episode ended with the shot of all of the passengers from the airplane lying dead in the middle of the desert. Somebody sure wants to cover up the story of what happened to that flight! This week, the episode ended with a shot of all of those passengers spontaneously waking up in a hangar somewhere. Somebody sure wants that story to get out there! It's not just that the show immediately reversed itself, which is annoying, or that the show got two cliffhangers out of the same basic plot point, which rankles, but that all of these things are simply happening, without any real sense of a greater context behind what's going on. This episode was the episode where "The Event" realized it had to be a TV series, not a miniseries.

This means that the series has to frantically begin stalling for time. People with good information get killed. Characters race from one place to another with not even the slightest semblance of a reason for why they're so frantically running everywhere. And after Episode 2's big series of revelations, there's just nothing on that level for Episode 3. But how could there be? If you're going to base your series around handing out big answers as often as possible, you're going to burn through story so quickly that by Season 4, your show will be about a post-apocalyptic band of warriors who ride on unicorns, just to keep the story moving forward. "The Event" seemed like it had solved this problem in the first two episodes, if not creatively at least in the sense where audiences (which have been good-sized) would be interested: It came up with a show where everything is a climax.

But this doesn't end up being exciting after three episodes. Even if I didn't quite like the first two episodes, I could see that they had a kind of momentum that kept driving them forward, leaving the audience breathless to ask what happened next. And the show dealing out fun set pieces (like the near plane crash) and answers that were predictable but at least answers (like the whole bit about the aliens, or future humans — take your pick) gave the series that much more of a rush to it. It felt less like a TV series and more like a dumb but still kinda fun summer blockbuster, where everything rushes forward at a breakneck pace simply because it can. The whole thing's going to be over in two hours plus change, and then the audience can simply forget about it.

But on a TV series, the answers have to be spaced out. They have to be hung precisely on the clothesline that is the story. Bunch too many answers together, and the clothesline sags, making it hard to get anything dry. Stretch things out too far, and the wind can whip the clothesline around, getting everything dry but so quickly that it becomes stiff. Similarly, bunching answers together can create a depression the storyline can't get out of, but stretching them out too much diminishes the power of any given answer. I really fear that "The Event" has fallen into the "bunching answers too closely together" pitfall because the third episode is the lightest on answers yet, and it ends up repeating itself over and over and over, until everything that happens feels like a remix of the previous two episodes. Needless to say, this is not a good problem for a series in its third episode to have.

It starts at the beginning, which is a replay of one of the climactic scenes from last week's episode but a lengthy one, as though the show fears we didn't check out last week's episode and need such an extensive refresher course. But we probably don't. Most of what we needed to know is in the "previously on" segment, and what happens here doesn't do anything all that new with what we knew before. All it does is launch yet another episode where Sean Walker stays just one step ahead of the men and women trying to capture him. Sometimes he escapes narrowly. Sometimes they get him. But it all plays out like something that would normally take a few episodes, compressed into just one. It's all action climaxes, and when it's not leading anywhere but is, rather, there simply for the thrill of the chase with nothing backing it up, the whole thing becomes an empty exercise in keeping plates spinning. Ultimately, who cares if Sean is taken? And who cares if he finds Leila? When so much of the episode is built around the star-crossed lovers being apart, it'd be nice to care even the slightest bit about them, but "The Event" has placed all of its faith in moving the plot forward.

Look at the other major plotline this week. The president offers a deal to the aliens (I'm calling them this for now, though I realize their outer space origins have yet to be conclusively determined). He'll let any of them who offer him information about the attempt on his life (and, more accurately, I think, Sophia's life) walk free among the human population. He was going to tell the world about the aliens' existence. Maybe that was why he was targeted. But, of course, the alien who decides that, hey, maybe he should tell the president what's up with his species ends up getting killed and betrayed by a woman who was his lover (or wife or girlfriend or something; I've learned to take nothing at face value on this show). Killing someone who knows something that would help the audience determine what's up is the oldest trick in the book, and it indicates that, absent of any interesting character storylines, "The Event" is just going to keep cycling through the same four or five basic plots over and over, the excitement factor getting emptier and emptier every time. Need further proof? How is the scene where the president interrogates Sophia this week ANY DIFFERENT from the one from last week, outside of a few dialogue differences?

But I've seen plenty of folks who thought this episode was the best one, so maybe I'm just cranky. "Protect Them from the Truth" nearly bored me to tears because I don't see the human tack to hang my hat on here. The characters are still so paper-thin that the plot putting them through the same paces over and over is going to lead to ever diminishing returns. I usually give a serialized show like this three episodes to win me over, since I tend to like science fiction and serialized shows usually take a while to put all of their pieces in place. Obviously, I'm following "The Event" for you guys, so I'm not going to give it up. And even if I weren't being paid to look at this series, I might stick with it, just because it's so easy to watch and the cast is pretty good. But there's little here that's making me say, "Hey, that's interesting," and that's the death knell for a show like this.

The plot in a nutshell: Sean escapes custody after the car he's in is hit by what appears to be Walter White's mobile meth lab, but he saves the life of the female agent who took him into custody, making her start to think, "Hey, maybe this guy ranting about the enormous conspiracy is RIGHT." Sean then races all over, and the feds race after him. Eventually, he discovers the girl from the cruise ship — who's still holding his girlfriend hostage — has many, many aliases. Surprise! Meanwhile, the president tries to cut a deal with the aliens for information on what they're up to, but the one who decides to talk is killed before he can say anything (by the girl he asked be brought to him no less; that's cold). Oh, and remember those dead people from the plane? They're alive again. 

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

Photo: Sophia (Laura Innes) refuses to cut a deal in Monday night's episode of 'The Event.' Credit: NBC.

Related articles:

'The Event' recap: All interdimensional wormholes lead to Arizona

Scott Patterson's first thoughts on 'The Event': 'Why bother?'

Complete Show Tracker coverage of 'The Event'

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

This completely hits on everything I felt as we are now three episodes in. I'm trying to hang in for at least 8 episodes but they're quite trying my resolve. It was nice that they backed off the time jumps this time out but they pulled so many contrivances out of their back pocket for Sean to move along it was more than I could just overlook. My husband did overlook them however... he dozed off with 20 minutes left in the episode. Maybe it'll get better but for now I'm calling shenanigans. Times infinity.

I think I'll just let you watch 'em and read the recaps. Three episodes is usually what I give on any new series and this past one was just so boring. I've truly only been watching for the sci-fi element so let's all be happy Caprica is coming back at least. This show needs less Jason Ritter story and more alien info drops such as more scenes from their side, anything.

Great recap, Todd. For some reason this is a show that I really want to like, and I keep waiting for something to get me hooked, and I keep waiting, and I keep waiting...

I like the president and the plot surrounding him, but the whole deal with Sean Walker is just getting annoying.

This said it all.. I was disappointed and bored to tears with last night's show... Sorry to say, The Event has deep-sixed my viewership for good.
This is the very reason that new shows have to be superior to "catch" my attention.
The sneak-up-to-the-crux of the plot-line only to back away in a swirling pool of redundancy is not what I would define as compelling drama.
So long, series.
bobbie

Expensive footage.
Just send it to us so we can cut it to make sense.

I dedicated so much time to LOST only to be somewhat disaponted in the final story. I don't think I will be willing to dedicate time to the Event unless they make it worth my while. A slowly drawn out story that holds us hostage to secrets? I aint buying that again. I have seen all episodes so far and will give this show one more week before I decide to jump ship and wait a year or so for a marathon.

They might want to repeat 'Fast Forward' instead...

The conceit of the time flashes got real old real fast. I too, was glad to see they backed off that this week. Maybe, with the plane people waking up, the government people will calm down and we will start getting some desperately needed information.

Excellent analysis on the show so far. I thought the first episode was great and couldn't wait to see how it was going to develop.

After seeing the last two episodes (2 & 3), I just don't think this show has got any legs. Aliens with advanced tech unable to free their captive friends for 66 years. A lead character - naive, comp-sci guy - pulling off miracles with the kind of luck even a lottery-millionaire couldn't conceive of. Cartoon-like stereotypical secret government organization able to access and control all data at a whim. The killing of an office with full of FBI agents.

There's good sci-fi and than there's mind-numbing where it's impossible to suspend disbelief. In contrast, I thought FlashForward was a very well-written successor to LOST (with strong character-development) and was unhappy to hear it was cancelled.

I LOVE Sci-Fi and hope that 'The Event' can pick up the pieces soon and turn it around. The reality is that the characters are so well-defined at this point - mostly mannequin-like representations of real people - and the story so outlandishly hokey pulp that it could take a major rewrite to fix it at this point.

I still plan on watching a few more episodes but I'm afraid that the "creative" direction of this show has already been completely revealed.

I just had to come back and add another gapping hole in plot that really needs to be tightened up:

The guy crashing into the two FBI agents and one of the lead characters - killing an FBI agent and a cop. Why, who... were questions that immediately popped into my mind that were never answered. Here is this guy in a motor home with a clear view of the road block and a car making a turn and he rams into them.

It's this kind of weak writing that's going to get this show cancelled pretty soon.


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