Recap: 'The Event' - 'Everything Will Change'
“Everything Will Change,” tonight’s episode of “The Event,” left me more frustrated with this show than I’ve been in a good while. That may seem unwarranted: the episode isn’t terrible--not nearly as terrible as “The Event” has been in the past, in any case--and the plot twists weren’t even groan-inducing (as they so often are). But going into the mid-season hiatus, now was the time for the show to justify its own existence and respond to the critics (like me) who have been asking, “Is this really all you’ve got?”
To be blunt, it failed. And it’s now clear that the flaws that have plagued “The Event” so far are here for the long haul.
Though it’s sometimes hard to notice, “The Event”’s biggest problems have always been relatively small matters of execution. Sure, every episode is jam-packed full of silliness and conceptual broad strokes that are incredibly easy to make fun of, but so was “Lost,” really. And if we’re willing to accept well-lit ponds and smoke monsters, surely we can roll with anything “The Event” has to offer. But this show just can’t get the details right. I feel that with a few small tweaks in execution and dialogue here and there, many of the show’s broader flaws wouldn’t seem so glaring.
Take, for example, Sean and Leila discovering that Leila’s father, Michael Buchanan, is an alien (and therefore that Leila is too). This twist was telegraphed last week, but it’s still a solid idea that adds some interest to an otherwise forgettable character. But how is it revealed? All-powerful Dempsey is scared off by Sean “compromising” his latest incompetent goon, and in fear of Sean and Leila’s arrival, he abandons his organization’s laboratory and leaves it unguarded. And though he’s able to smuggle out a gaggle of mutant elderly little girls, he leaves behind incriminating documents, haphazardly setting them on fire and hoping for the best. Sean and Leila discover the secret installation by surveying a randomly public list of patient names at a mental health facility and then (successfully!) impersonating a patient’s family (I’ll admit to laughing when Leila realizes she’s pretending to be the daughter of a man with “cancer in the balls”). Lucky for them, another patient overhears their investigation and tells them all about the little girl voices he hears coming up from the floor.
Minutes later Leila and Sean penetrate Dempsey’s secret, newly-abandoned basement lair and manage to scrounge up two intact folders: one on the guy they just parted ways with, and the other on Leila’s father. Not only does Dempsey employ incompetent fools, but the gods are apparently cursing him with outrageously terrible luck!
This was potentially cool twist--and an important one, too, given its proximity to the hiatus. Rifling through stacks of photographs spanning decades but featuring a man remaining the same age is some delightfully creepy imagery. But this is all buried under terrible execution. More information magically falls into Sean’s laps, and even characters who are supposed to be Sean’s enemies inexplicably behave like mindless Sean-serving automatons rather than, you know, actual characters. It’s like the writers were so excited by their twist that they couldn’t be bothered performing their due diligence in getting there.
Another example is the infuriating Vice President Jarvis plot. One of the more frustrating aspects of “24”’s legacy is the now-commonplace assumption in TV-land that a person will be complicit in any measure of evil so long as you vaguely threaten his family first. Michael Buchanan, despite ostensibly having the might of his alien cabal at his back, hops into a plane and tries to fly it into his alien leader and the President of the United States because his daughters are threatened. Though at least his daughters were being held hostage at the time: Jarvis receives a vague, second-hand threat from a man he personally has the power to take down, and he immediately rolls over. Because it’s just that easy to compromise the highest levels of American government. I have trouble believing he doesn’t have other options to explore, and I hate that television characters can no longer have as much intestinal fortitude as your average mob rat. President Martinez doesn’t fare much better, as he’s quickly scared off by threats of bad PR coming from the most treasonous individual in this history of the United States.
But perhaps the worst part of the episode, for me, is the exchange in dialogue between Jarvis and President Martinez, where Jarvis spouts some stock crap about not having Martinez’ “Ivy League degree,” but that he can still impart some wisdom as an “elder.” What wisdom, you ask? Essentially, it’s that Martinez thinks he’s merely dealing with a regular ol’ conspiracy here, when, really, it’s a SUPER conspiracy that they’re all just bit players in. There’s a childish streak in this writing, and not in a good way. In the same way that the writers seem too excited about their twists to actually go through the proper stops to arrive at them, they’re so excited about their super powerful villains and their super powerful aliens that they can’t be bothered to waste time establishing them: they just add some intensifiers every time someone talks about Dempsey and his goons and hope that it does the trick.
The episode’s other plot line is stronger, as Thomas and his evil alien-lawyer friend betray Sophia and launch what we and President Martinez think is a nuclear missile, but turns out just to be his attempt to “phone home” like any good E.T. It would be sort of sweet, except for that part where he comments about all of the people who are going to die. It isn’t awful, but good Lord does it feel like low-rent “24,” complete with fictional third-world countries and their overly polite, jelly-spined ambassadors whom the President threatens. Though I was at least mildly amused by Thomas including the names of all the Inostranka detainees as shareholders of his missile-launching puppet company as a “raised middle finger” to the president.
The missile launch at least produced the sort of high-stakes tension that “The Event” can seldom muster. If this episode came two weeks ago I might even have said it was a promising sign, and that I was excited to find out just what sort of signal Thomas’ newly-launched satellite was sending “home.” But as a fall finale, this episode falls woefully short. I mean, it’s called “Everything Will Change,” for God’s sake. Don’t give an episode a title like that unless you have something like the season two finale of “Battlestar Galactica” or the season three finale of “Lost” up your sleeve. And that sure as hell wasn’t this.
Week-to-week I finish most of my reviews with some sort of call for “The Event” to raise its game. Maybe there’s some slim hope it still can but, really, if not now, when?