TV Review: The Event

E: One of Monday’s new shows, The Event aims for water cooler buzz with a large scale mystery.  This sort of ensemble drama has been notoriously hard to pull off.  Will they be the new Lost?  Could it be the next The Nine (brilliant but canceled) or the next Flash Forward (full of promise but ultimately disappointing)?  Heck, even Lost got lost for a while.

So the question is, did you get hooked? Me? Not like I did with Lost.  This premiere didn’t leave me breathless.  But there was enough build up to get me to care, enough unanswered questions to leave me curious, and generally just enough to leave me willing to watch more.

M: So far it’s a bit of a mixed bag for me.

E: And that would have been been the pithier way to say it.

M: It felt like they tried to take elements of about 50 different things and combine them all into one, and by doing that make it an event (pun intended).  They pulled a bit of Lost, a bit of 24, a bit of Flash Forward, and then other less recent things like The 4400, The Langoliers, Nowhere Man, and about every horror movie set in a tropical vacation spot location.  The thing I didn’t expect was that…. parts of it worked pretty well.

E: I felt like I’d seen too much of the pilot in the commercials.  Too much of it wasn’t a surprise.  That said, there were elements that intrigued me.  I really liked the jumpy narrative structure.

M: I was ok with it, but like many things that do that, I was a tiny bit annoyed when they were repeatedly replaying 30 second to a minute of what they had already showed us.  Trust us, we’ll jump right back in, now stop wasting time and get to it, you’ve only got 42 minutes worth of show per week!

E: Good point.  The laziness of that bugs me, too.  Now I’m going to sound like their ad campaign, I know, but what IS the Event, anyway?

M: That was one of the things they did well, they made us interested in it, but didn’t let it out.  Let’s see how long they can keep that up.

E: And who are the prisoners?

M: That’s a mystery I wasn’t expecting, and like.  There are 96 people, that have been kept secret from previous presidents, held up in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, for we don’t know exactly how long.  I think it was something like 11 years.  We don’t know why, but my guess is it has to do with whatever the event actually is.  I know, I’m really going out on a limb there.

E: My prevailing theory is that the CIA director orchestrated this assassination attempt on the president, in order to keep secret whatever is going on with those prisoners.  It seems too pat that the vice president disappeared right after the meeting where he and the CIA director and a random general pleaded with Blair Underwood’s Cuban-American President Martinez to hold back on a press conference.  (Just wondering – reporters allude to his immigrant past.  Have they changed the Constitution in this fictional universe?)  They seemed desperate enough to do something, and the CIA might know something about making someone’s identity disappear.

M: First, they talked about his parents background in Cuba, I think we are supposed to infer he’s first generation, not an immigrant himself.

E: Eh, maybe.

M: Second, the “random” general was in one of my favorite X Files episodes, Sleepless, where he was a soldier who, because of government experiments, hadn’t slept since the Vietnam War.  Any time I see him pop up (and he’s one of “those guys” that pops up everywhere) I remember that episode fondly.  As for the CIA director (another of “those guys”, X Files and Lost alum, Zeljko Ivanek), seems plausible, but it also seems way to straight forward for this show.

E: Zelkjo Ivanek is an effortless creep; I guess it’d be fascinating if they used the casting to make his character seem untrustworthy when he actually isn’t.  Is the show that smart?  Eh.

M: That’s yet to be seen, but I’m doubtful, too.

E: Now, the plight of Sean Walker (Jason Ritter’s character) was pretty terrifying.  Girlfriend is gone, his papers are gone, he’s out of the country and it’s like he doesn’t exist.  Super super scary.  That’s kind of my personal nightmare.

M: To me this started as a rip off of lots of horror movies.  Gee, a couple on a tropical vacation, through strange circumstances (here Ritter saving the woman from drowning) befriends another couple they know nothing about, and then bad things happen.  How original.

E: Well, right, obviously that couple had something sketchy going on.

M: No doubt, and the picture of Ritter and the woman on the snorkeling trip will be important at some point, mark my words.  However, the stroke of genius for this particular plot line was combining it with the concept of the waaaaay before it’s time Nowhere Man, which would easily be a hit today.  No one recognizes you, no one knows your missing loved one existed, there appears to be a huge conspiracy against you…  it is a terrifying and at the same time exhilarating plot.

E: Nowhere Man was hardly the first, but I can get freaked out by that plot no matter how many times I’ve seen it.  So, why do you suppose the attackers killed Leila’s mom?  I’m hoping – and frankly, assuming – that Leila and her sister are alive, held as hostages for their father’s cooperation, but why kill the mom?  To prove they were serious?  Wouldn’t her body, left in the house, be a hiccup in the otherwise seamless coverup?  Or will they say that the pilot killed his family before trying to take out the President?  Or did they think no one would ask?

M: I just assumed it would be to show they were serious, though I didn’t give it much thought.  It may have been just to tell the audience that anyone can die.

E: Also, is the excellent Laura Innes an alien?  I was expecting her to somehow divert the plane.  Instead it disappeared.  Who did that, and how does she know who they are?  How did that work?  Fascinating that the plane is somewhere else, rather than just blown up.  I don’t know what to say about that other than, cool. Not jumping up and down cool, but still, cool enough.

M: I have to say, during that whole part I was a bit put off by the shoddy reaction by the Secret Service, but that was dramatic licence, I suppose.

E: How so?

M: In reality as soon as they knew a plane took off with “a known terrorist on board” in the same city as the President he would have been rushed to a secured, likely underground location.  Not only did they wait, but they never even got him in his limo.  Wouldn’t happen, but it was more dramatic for him to be standing there when the plane pulled a Kaiser Soyze.  Really, I was more annoyed by the earthquake/wind storm that hit the President’s location while the plane was still a long, long way off.

E: Weirdly, I didn’t think about that at the time, but you’re right to point out that it’s silly.  That goes to my conspiracy theory, though.

M: If they end up explaining that as someone knowing the plane was coming, and that being the build up to whatever beamed the plane out of there, I’ll be cool with it.

E: Indeed.  But you still haven’t answered my question.  They have to be aliens, right?  And their landing was The Event?  Unless they’re mutants, that is, changed into whatever they are now by The Event?

M: Like with the CIA director being behind the plane hijacking, aliens seems too easy.  Doesn’t mean it won’t be aliens, and for the life of me I can’t think of something better, as Heroes just kind of used up the mutant thing.  Wait, they could be trying to cash in on the success of Harry Potter!  It’s wizards!

E: Now that I’d totally go for.  Make it be wizards!  Please, please make it be wizards.

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