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Recap: ‘The Event’ – ‘A Message Back’

I have to believe, in the spirit of intellectual charity, that the minds behind “The Event” really thought they had something special with this series. Beyond the ridiculous and overblown “What is the Event?” ad campaign that NBC used to drum up hype, this show has been tackled earnestly and presented in such a manner that it could only be worthwhile if it was attempting something incredible. This week, as another nondescript episode, “A Message Back,” floated by without having any effect on me as a viewer whatsoever,  I realized that there is only one final hope I can have for this series: I need to know what that “something incredible” is.

In the early days of the season, I often pointed out that, despite my dislike for the show, I was still pulling for “The Event,” hoping that it would pick itself up, figure out where it was going wrong, expand on what was working, and take its solid cast and make an honest go of it. But at that point I was still focused on the ‘what,’ the nuts and bolts of what was happening on screen, the execution of it, and what could be improved. Now my only interest is in the ‘why.’ Why any of this?

For example, why Sean? It’s not just that he’s a likable enough, if two-dimensional, character who is consistently saddled with silly, inconsequential storylines that serve no purpose beyond disrupting the pace of the show. It’s that I’m struggling to figure out why he’s a character in “The Event,” at all. For a show that was once confusing, Sean’s story is incredibly straightforward. He wants to bring down the bad guys, so he approaches someone (Vicky) he knows is involved in the conspiracy, and pretty much asks her what’s up. He threatens to have her son killed, again, by making the video of him go viral, and telling Vicky that he has to be alive to enter a code that controls the “virus” (we’re pretty sure that’s not what it means for a video to go “viral” there, techie, but whatever.)

Vicky goes into spy mode and helps Sean find the next person involved in the conspiracy (Vice President Jarvis), who, after some covert-ops party crashing, Sean also threatens, demanding to know where creepy, playground-lurking Dr. Dempsey is. “France!” he is told, and so Sean is ostensibly off to France, where I’m sure he’ll find someone else to give him just enough information to find someone else who has information.

This is all “bad” television. It’s poorly scripted, it’s silly, and it’s (worst of all) boring. But that’s fine—I’ve exhausted myself pointing out that “The Event” is a bad show, and at this point it doesn’t seem like the American public needs to be reminded again. I just want to know what the intent is, here, and how this whole “Sean” thing was ever supposed to be good in the first place.

Sure, I get that he’s supposed to be the everyman adding a human element to a show crawling with lofty characters, like a capable version of Kim Bauer. But Kim didn’t just materialize to play a type “24” otherwise lacked, which seems to be the case with Sean. It’s like if the “24” writers skipped over season-one Kim entirely and proceeded directly to the later parts where they had no idea what to do with her. It’s a bizarre point of departure.

I can understand the shenanigans with Thomas and President Martinez a little better, if only marginally. The president realizes how silly his whole “respecting civil liberties” thing was and finally starts to get shit done by suspending Posse Comitatus. Thomas, meanwhile, discovers that his home star is going supernova and, in his distress, leads his people directly into the president’s trap.

Strangely, this whole ordeal leaves Thomas in a place that might be interesting had he began the series there: leading a group of aliens acting out of desperation and an undying sense of responsibility for the countless endangered loved ones they left behind. If this was the truth behind some emotional core that we’re now discovering, I might like it. But that sort of development is the opposite of what “The Event,” does—it doesn’t uncover meaning that has been buried, which is what any good mystery story should do—it just teleports in plot twists from the heavens that raise the stakes.

The titular message back to Thomas is nothing more than another broad stroke among the show’s countless others. Originally we were told thousands of Thomas’ people would be warped to Earth, and that this would spell certain doom for the human race. Now we discover that that number is “obsolete,” as Thomas says, and that instead they must bring over millions—their entire civilization. This does nothing but expedite Thomas’ agenda and make him a tad more menacing, while the threat to humanity now transforms from certain doom to, well…extra-certain doom? Some things have been moved around, the stakes raised from serious to super serious, but none of it means any more to us than it did last week. The ‘why’ still hangs hopelessly in the balance.

Believe it or not, I’m still cheering for “The Event.” Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that will save this show, either artistically or in the ratings. But I’m still hoping that the writers reveal what it was that, once upon a time, was supposed to be good. The fact that it didn’t turn out good doesn’t matter. I can be incredibly forgiving with ‘bad’ when it comes to genre shows. “Battlestar Galactica” is one of my favorite series of all time, but it was wildly inconsistent and, to be honest, gave us two or three episodes that were far worse than anything “The Event” has yet produced. But who wants to focus on the things that don’t work when there’s such ambition and grandeur to carry us away. And if “Battlestar” is an unfair example, take something like “Space: Above and Beyond,” in the ‘90s, which was silly and largely terrible, but I still enjoyed it because I bought in to the mythos it was trying to create.

I’m not at all bothered that “The Event” failed to sell me on its mythos. I’m bothered that I have no idea what I was ever supposed to buy into. So my hope for the rest of this series, for the rest of what will likely be the its only season, is that “The Event” shows me what was supposed to be at its core. If it shows me the pieces that it simply failed to put together, I will give the show a tip of my hat and watch it sail off into the sunset. I’m cheering for proof that, at some point, the writers had something going on, and that, though it may not have worked out, this wasn’t all put together for no reason.

Because if this is really all there is to the show, my final review will likely be a long, wholly unpublishable series of expletives. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Are you still on that bridge or did you jump off the bridge long ago?

By Luke De Smet – Thomas gets bad news from home, while Sean and Vicky take a roadtrip



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