Recap: 'The Event' Finale - 'Arrival'
Did NBC's canceled drama at least tell us what The Event is/was? Kinda.
The final shot of “Arrival,” the season (and seemingly series) finale of “The Event,” calls back to the same imagery that made the show’s pilot a hit last year. Back then we didn’t know what the nature of this show would be, and as the episodes rolled by, we continued waiting to find that out. Around mid-season it became clear that whatever the nature of “The Event” may be, we were already seeing it, and that it is perhaps best characterized by ‘waiting’ itself. At that point it just became a question of what we were waiting for. If the execution of the show was going to be so dull, we could at least hope for a solid payoff. Now, with the series coming to a close this week, I was left, sadly, almost as disappointed in the payoff as I was in everything leading up to it.
[Full recap of Monday's (May 23) finale of "The Event" after the break...]
While I was not a fan of the pilot, it nonetheless generated a lot of excitement among viewers, and it seemed to promise that something ‘big’ was on its way. Personally, I didn’t appreciate the promise, because I did not find the episode itself compelling on its own. But I still wanted to see that promise fulfilled. Somehow I was cheering for something decent to shine through during the finale, for some sign of the path the show was meant to follow. The fact that “Arrival” reuses the pilot’s imagery is appropriate, in that the fulfilment of the show’s promise is nothing more than another promise. We’re given a glimpse of something ‘cool,’ after which I surmise we were to wait some more, hoping that something interesting would come of this latest promise. Only now there’s no more waiting to be had, and “The Event” must stand as it is, which, sadly, is a failure on almost every level.
The actual plot of the episode is so frustratingly dull and executed in such a rote manner it comes across as a distraction or an afterthought that the writers had to begrudgingly settle.
Last week Sean and company acquired a computer they hoped would contain clues regarding Sophia’s evil plot to murder the entire human race. As it turns out they discover everything they need to know from the goofy, pointless John-King graphic we saw playing on repeat behind Sophia as she explained her plan last week. Now, because Sophia required a computer generated amorphous red blob blotting out an outline of the United States to somehow explain her otherwise straightforward plan, Blake is able to pinpoint the exact three locations where Sophia will release her killer flu.
Blake contacts Martinez with this information, but Martinez, though recovering from multiple strokes with remarkable speed, still lacks the power of the POTUS. With the help of Chief of Staff Peel, Martinez is able to launch strikes on two of the three locations of release, but for some reason is unable to do anything about the airport where, as it turns out, Sophia will be unleashing the flu herself. Government forces quickly take down Sophia’s men at the food processing plant and the engraving bureau, but Sean, Vicky, Blake, and Simon are left having to neutralize Sophia at the airport themselves.
The following chase scene is remarkable only for the ability of both good guys and bad to bypass airport security seemingly at will. Blake gets an assist from Vicky in gunning down Sophia’s henchman, while Sean engages Sophia in a climactic talk-down. A weak but strong-willed Martinez is able to wrest the presidency away from Jarvis by tricking Jarvis to admit his misdeeds on tape, in a scene that only further confirms how much the writers wished for Jarvis to be Charles Logan in the fifth season of “24.” Martinez then locks down the airport, and Sean convinces an emotionally fragile Sophia to give up the ghost and turn herself in.
During every tedious moment of the flu plot, the writing and the acting make it painfully clear that this is all nothing more than going through the motions until the perfunctory season arc comes to a merciful end. Each turn is less surprising than the last; after a full season of build-up, the good guys do nothing more beyond finding out where the bad guys are, and then running off to shoot them. Even Martinez’ tape-recording take down of Jarvis is obviously telegraphed. Sophia, true to form for the character, completes her arc with the quietest of whimpers, without ever once showing a sign of the leadership and strength that were supposed to make her a compelling character.
Obviously the plot of the episode itself is only half the story, and what I imagine more viewers were interested in is what, if anything, is revealed about the show’s greater mythology, and maybe even what that whole ‘event’ thing was in the first place.
We all expected the super-flu to be contained, but for Sophia to succeed in warping her people to Earth. It wasn’t a particularly bold prediction considering the final episode is titled “Arrival.” But to its credit “The Event” was able to throw one wrench into our predictions: Sophia doesn’t only bring her people to Earth, she brings her entire world to Earth. Literally! The final scene features the same sort of wormhole we saw in the pilot opening up, only on a much lager scale, and instead of swallowing up a plane it deposits a planet, its bottom half scorched, into orbit alongside Earth. It can be seen, hundreds of times larger than the moon, in the sky from every place on Earth. It’s entirely ridiculous and silly, but at least it’s something a little out of the ordinary, standing out starkly from the rest of the very bland series. It’s a pity that we had to wait until the final scene of the season to see it.
The final shot of the episode even manages to pack in one last reveal, as Christina Martinez stands on the White House lawn with her son, who looks up in the sky at the new planet and asks, “what’s that?” Christina looks up in shock and awe and says, “home!” So yes, she is an alien after all, though ostensibly one not working with Sophia. (Why she says her prayers in Spanish, we’re still not quite sure.)
As for what the ‘event’ is, Simon tells Sean that his people once inhabited Earth, but had to leave because any further time on this planet would have caused their species to evolve into some new form of life in a transformation their people refer to only as the “Event.” Simon doesn’t know what this transformation is, but he does know that humans can’t survive it. It’s all hopelessly vague, and I couldn’t help but think that the writers should have considering transforming their villains into something “greater” far, far earlier in the series run. But, again, at least it’s something.
“The Event” would have served itself well by jettisoning the entire ridiculous plot about killing off the human race with the flu, and instead accelerated the telling of that this series was evidently supposed to be about: a dying alien planet being warped in its entirety into Earth’s orbit, containing a seemingly human population harboring some mystic secret. Of course, the science of it all doesn’t make sense, but at least it would have given the show an image to put on a poster, and given fans of the show something to tell their friends beyond, “er, well...it’s about aliens, but they’re like us!”
There was no reason for the contents of this season to be 22 episodes long. If the writers wanted to create a show on the scale of new planets showing up in our sky, then they shouldn’t have wasted so much time with god-awfully dull chase scenes and dry political intrigue. Whatever advantage gained from structuring the series as a mystery and pacing the reveals as they were was not worth the time spent not knowing what the show was even about.
This is a series that began with an episode lacking coherent plot and drawing its only power from a promise that big things were to come. It ends with an episode that seems to view its own plot as an inconvenience, something to be tied up almost as an afterthought, before moving on to what’s truly important: another promise that big things are to come. Both the pilot and the finale end with everyone looking into the sky at some confusing phenomenon, and with Sophia saying something smugly knowing and cryptic. This is what the “event” is, and this is all “The Event” will ever be: an idea for an image meant to excite viewers. Everything between those two moments is filler.
It was a nice idea for something that bookends a season (and, as it turns out, a series), but next time they should try figuring out the rest, as well.
What'd you think of the finale of "The Event"?
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