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'The Event' recap: Something finally happens!

March 22, 2011 |  9:00 am

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What are these? Are these actual stakes in the world of “The Event”? How can such a thing be? Didn’t this show resolve to just frustrate us for a full season before giving us what can only be a halfway-satisfying cliffhanger? Granted, this turn isn’t the greatest story turn ever, but in the world of “The Event,” it’s a step up.

At last we have some sort of ticking time bomb: If Thomas doesn’t evacuate everyone off of his home world they’ll all die within the year. The star their planet orbits is about to go supernova, and that, of course, is going to be a bad deal for all involved. Now, I’m pretty sure stars don’t just GO supernova (and maybe the show has been preparing us for this for a while with the notion that the world Thomas’ people come from is a dying one), but at least there’s some tension here. 

That it took slightly over half a season of television to get here is a problem, but I’m willing to go with this for the time being. It certainly sets up an interesting dilemma: Either way a particular world is going to die, along with all of its people. If Thomas doesn’t bring everyone from his world here they’re going to be baked by a dying star. If he does bring everyone here then all of us die, and he’s committed genocide. It’s murder by inaction, or it’s the gravest crime anyone can commit.

It’s a genuine pickle for the guy to be in. If the show is going to turn into a generic battle between humanity and people from another planet, I’d rather that the beings from another world have a specific reason to invade, not just some general desire to escape a dying world. I’ve heard that one before, but this one is at least vaguely new. 

Outside of that revelation, though (one that the show held off on revealing for almost the entire length of the episode, after Thomas got the message from home in the teaser), this was another snore of an episode. Sean Walker continues to do stuff for no discernible reason. (Oh, right, his sister gave him a pep talk last week, so he decided to take on the global conspiracy with only spit and gumption to keep him safe.) Now he’s got Vicky along, which is an improvement over Leila, I guess, but it’s still kind of a stupid story line that continues because the show has a main character who has nothing to do with anything.

At the same time, President Martinez and his staff continue to have the same argument they’ve been having, about whether they should take action against the aliens in their midst, while Dempsey hangs out at a playground and grins maniacally at the children there, who will soon feed his youthifying machine or something. Weird.

This underlines my point about “The Event”: It’s probably too late to do much to save the show. Had the twist about the supernova come up in Episode 2 or 3, or even Episode 8 or 9, it might have been possible for the show to feel like it was getting a second wind. But now, mixed in with all of the other  usual stuff, it just feels like the show has fixed one tiny element without tackling the giant pile of other problems around the edges.

It’s one thing to make the stakes on the show believable, to give the villains a reason to want to destroy Earth, other than general jerkiness and vague speeches about a dying world. But it would be another entirely to, say, give us characters who had some sort of logical drive or a story that made any sort of sense, where one plot point followed from another.

Here’s an example: On every show like “The Event” that has succeeded on one level or another, every episode has had a memorable moment. Whether that was a character moment or a plot twist or something incredibly awesome being revealed, there was a reason for fans to start buzzing the next day around the water cooler. The best mystery shows found ways to pace these revelations. The worst wasted them all right away or didn’t have them to begin with.

Again, “The Event” had that massively satisfying conclusion to the pilot, with the disappearing plane, but has there been a moment since that made you sit up, take notice, and say, “OK, that was cool”? I can think of maybe one, but that was more because of general weirdness than anything else. (I refer, of course, to the apartment filled with creepy old lady girls.) 

Or from yet another angle: In that scene after Sean has successfully blackmailed Vicky into helping him by threatening to make the address of her mother and son “go viral” (apparently because everybody on the Internet loves passing around random addresses, instead of cat videos), she explains to him that Dempsey doesn’t want to have the aliens released, and that’s why he had it in for the president. Is this new information? It seemed like something we’ve been told before, but I couldn’t remember a specific scene where it was laid out. Maybe it was just conjecture I’d drawn from the various clues that had been dropped. But it was also entirely possible that this information had been conveyed to the audience, and it had just been done so in a forgettable way. On another show, a revelation like this would have been big news. Here, it was something the show just got out of the way before other stuff happened.

At this point, “The Event” has been so many different kinds of shows that it’s probably useless to stop waiting for it to pick one and just settle down. It started out as that “24” show with a sci-fi twist, where some action sequences happened in every episode, and there were also aliens. Then it briefly became a “Lost” clone, where we got random character back story in every episode whether we liked it or not. Now it’s trying to forge its own path, moving the story forward lumpily and trying to get us to care about characters who don’t have an ounce of nuance. “A Message Back” was a step in the right direction, but it also feels like too little, too late.

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-- Todd VanDerWerff
follow me on Twitter at @tvoti

Photo: Thomas (Clifton Collins Jr.) gets some terrible news from back home. Credit: NBC

 

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