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TV Review: The Event – Fall 2010

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NBC’s The Event delivered an exciting pilot, though initially it seemed like the first half of what was intended to be a two hour episode. Having now viewed all 10 episodes from the fall run that no longer seems to be the case. Though the first episode was light on explanation, episode two, when combined with the first, doesn’t make the story seem any more complete. Instead, it they are the beginning of several much larger arcs, some of which wrapped up in a few weeks, and some of which are still open. The biggest question still is: what is the Event that the title refers to? If network promos can be believed, it hasn’t happened yet.

Overall, this is a pretty cool show. It has elements of Lost, 24, and a little bit of V. Large parts of several episodes have been done in flashback, revealing different things in the main characters’ pasts. It’s a storytelling method that has not been implemented in every episode, and it has not been overused. Sometimes the backstories are there to inform us about present events, and sometimes they’re just about revealing traits of the characters. Very few of those flashbacks are superfluous, the rest of the story has needed them to better illustrate some points. The one that does seem unnecessary, as far as the rest of the episode is concerned, is when Sean (Jason Ritter) met Leila (Sarah Roemer) for the first time. But it was incredibly sweet and completely welcome.

The cast is excellent, and almost every character is layered nicely. This is best demonstrated by the three Washington D.C.-based main characters. First there is President Martinez (Blair Underwood), who seems so idealistic but has participated in covering up some of the recent events, opening himself up to being blackmailed by his slimy Vice President, Jarvis (Bill Smitrovich). Jarvis fancies himself a patriot despite his having been complicit in the attempted Presidential assassination.  Despite showing a political convention, the show dances around which party each character belongs to, but I think it’s pretty clear that Jarvis is GOP and Martinez is Democrat. That does paint the series with a liberal lean, even though a lot of the action and anti-terrorism stuff traditionally appeals to a more conservative audience. An interesting choice.

Director Sterling (the always perfect Zeljko Ivanek) at first seemed duplicitous, and he sometimes is. But he is the true patriot, willing to do anything reasonable for his country, and not willing to endanger its citizens. He may have disagreed with Martinez’s decision in the pilot, but he would never have gone to evil lengths to stop it.

However, finding out that Jarvis was the mole within the President’s circle doesn’t make sense. Jarvis all but accused Sterling of being the guilty party early in the season, in private. If he had wanted to remove suspicion from himself, surely that confrontation would have gone down in front of at least the President and some aides. In retrospect, it was only meant to fool the viewers, and doesn’t make much sense for it to have happened. There have been a few other moments like that, but this is the most glaring example.

Obviously, the main story is about the aliens who came to earth in 1944, lead by Sophia (Laura Innes).  Many of them have been in a prison in Alaska for the last 66 years. Their motivations, or even how they ended up here, is still unknown. What has been shown is that there are factions within the group, as there very likely would be in the real world, who don’t agree with their leader. The biggest faction is lead by Sophia’s son, Thomas (Clifton Collins Jr.), who ended the season deploying a communications satellite to send a message home. This is a twist I didn’t see coming, and have no idea what he’s really up to.

Thomas has been the least consistently written character.  He spent a whole episode being berated by his mother for not being a capable enough leader, even though in the rest of the stories, he has shown independence and the ability to command others enough to be a serious threat. However, as he is also my least favorite actor of the group, and he is involved in some of the biggest, action-packed plots, I am focused enough on other things to not notice this issue most of the time. I think his character was certainly not really fleshed out when the series began, and we’re seeing on screen the different writers’ different approaches to figuring him out.

One major problem with the show is that there are a lot more aliens in the meeting hall with Sophia than previously shown escaping their crash site in 1944, even taking into account limited camera angles. What’s up with that? Do their children age quickly, and then stop? Is that how the population grew? I didn’t see any kids among them. What about half-breeds? Surely, marrying and having kids would have raised suspicion, since they don’t age, and would have had to leave their families at some point or risk exposure (that was dealt with to some extent, though not fully, when trying to explain the drastically different numbers of aliens).

One of my favorite characters is Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale). One of Sophia’s group who escaped imprisonment, Simon currently works for Sterling. A few episodes into the series, it seemed certain his cover was blown, but some pretty clever writing kept his job intact. Simon is loyal to Sophia, but also to the men with whom he serves. He seems to have the ideals of morality and the sacredness of human and alien life in hand more than any other character. While playing both sides, he wants the greatest good for both and is not motivated by selfishness. The episode where we saw him in love with a woman in the 1950s, and his later encounter with her in her old age, demonstrated as much. He is a truly good man (being?).

While Simon is an example of great character development on the show, sadly, not every character is used to their full extent. However, given the changing amount of screen time Sean, Sophia, Martinez, and the others get, and depending on who is involved with the major plots moving the story forward, I would bet that won’t stay true for long. I can’t imagine right now how Christina (Lisa Vidal) could really be worked in more, but maybe with Vicky’s (Taylor Cole) greatly reduced role in the last few episodes of the fall run it could be in the works. And why Martinez didn’t do much important in the last few episodes, even though he was still a presence, is something I definitely wonder about.

Most cheated at this point is Leila’s father, Mike (Scott Patterson). As the pilot who almost flew a plane into Martinez and Sophia, as well as the father of another main character, Mike has spent most of this run locked up by the government and his screen time has been scarce. As a Gilmore Girls fan, I want more for Patterson, and the finale left me with hope that will be coming down the line. With a twist I saw coming from about hour three, I was nevertheless excited when Sean and Leila realized that Mike is an alien. I wonder if Sterling and Martinez know yet. They should with all the medical work done on Mike at the CDC and if not, there will be another huge plot hole for the writers to plug.

The action during the run has been intense, and the story has kept me guessing–there are so many threads unraveling at once, it’s impossible to be bored. But, the stories aren’t so numerous as to be very confusing either. While it does not (yet) live up to Lost or 24‘s legendary status, there is enough here that, if handled right, it could be a great show with at least four or five seasons worth of interesting tales. The current stories will probably only take us though one or two as the series has chosen to keep the revelations coming fast, rather than dole them out slowly. I think that is the right decision in this case, and I, for one, am interested in finding out what happens next. So far though it’s pretty good. We’ll see what comes next, and whether that will push the series to greatness, or condemn it to mediocrity… if it doesn’t get canceled first.

The Event will return to NBC on Monday, February 28th. A little too long between episodes for my taste, and after Sweeps–which isn’t a great sign–but here’s hoping that it does well.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com