Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Event: Thoughts on a Fledgling Show

The Event has promoted itself as the antidote for those who miss Lost, but don't want to feel like they're being teased with questions that will ultimately never be answered (though I think that was to Lost's benefit, but you all know my feelings about that show by now). The showrunners have promised that when a question is posed, it will be answered within the next few episodes, if not in that very episode. It promises to keep its intrigue up, but does it actually deliver?
The Event is a multilayered ensemble thriller about a plot by a race of aliens to get back home after crashing on Earth. They've been detained in Inostranka, Alaska for 66 years, though there are some that walk among the rest of us. The President of the United States (Blair Underwood) gets involved after an assassination attempt that involves a plane that disappears out of the sky in Miami, suddenly reappearing in the middle of the Arizona desert. There's another subplot about Sean (Jason Ritter), who's searching for his girlfriend Leila (Sarah Roemer), who was abducted from their cruise ship for mysterious reasons.
So far, the show's been a mess. The plot involving Sean and Leila is only ostensibly attached to the alien plot, as Sean was on the plane and Leila's dad was flying it. Otherwise, the two of them have had very little to do with the story. Worse, they've been pointless characters: Leila is the helpless damsel in distress, while Sean just whines to everyone about how he has to find his girlfriend, and that they have to believe him. Its a plot that's full of contrivance and uselessness; they've only recently started finding a place in the grander scheme of things, but they're still characters I have a hard time caring about.
The government conspiracy plot is much more interesting. It may not be better written or acted, but the characters are more developed and in general are given more to do. The show doesn't quite know what to do with President Gonzalez, but recently they've been half-heartedly pushing him into the grey areas his black-and-white worldview, which is at least an effort to deepen him. Zeljko Ivanek's Director of National Intelligence Blake Sterling is easily the show's most interesting character, since he has no problem sacrificing human lives to stop the aliens (or EBEs, pronounced ee-bees, as they're known on the show). And Agent Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) recently was very interesting, but more on that in a second.
The second major problem the show has is in its promise to resolve questions quickly. This was supposed to ensure that the show doesn't feel like its being made up as they go along, but this approach actually does just that. It feels as if the writers are burning through their story as fast as possible, and a lot of things seem to be made up on the spot as a result. Characters seem to forget things that just happened, or make ridiculously stupid decisions, just to service the quick pacing of the show. Its hard to keep up, as a result, and it makes one wonder how they'll wrap up this season, much less a potential second one.
On an episode-by-episode basis, most have been mediocre, with the pilot setting everything up and almost every subsequent episode failing to deliver its promise. I say almost, because October 25's episode, "Loyalty," was exactly what I had hoped the series would be. The episode focuses on Agent Lee, revealing his heartbreaking backstory while pushing him into a corner in the present day. Its the kind of character-oriented storytelling that Lost used to do, and for once that story was pretty decent. On that level, The Event was finally delivering. And then there's the last five minutes of the episode. That sequence, which you can see below, is without a doubt the most action-packed scene of this series so far, and perhaps of the entire television series. Its incredibly well-staged, and then there's the magnificent tracking shot (it starts around 1:50). Lasting almost a full minute - which is an eternity in television terms - the shot is brilliantly orchestrated, and is hands-down the most impressive piece of cinematography I have seen on network television in a long time.
Unfortunately, the episode that immediately followed "Loyalty" returned to the brain-numbingly dumb storytelling that has characterized The Event thus far. But for one hour, I saw everything that the show should, and still can, be. The Event still has a lot of potential as a show, but so far its been wasted.

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