Recap: 'The Event' - 'Loyalty'
While the glamorous world of “Event” recapping pays more than it probably should, I’m nonetheless required to hold down a day job to make ends meet. Lately, sadly, “day job” means alternating graveyard shifts with more regular hours, which does a number on the body’s internal clock, to say the least. But maybe the resulting sleep deprivation combined with mass amounts of caffeine produces the ideal conditions for watching this show: Olympic-record sized leaps in logic and plot holes big enough to hide the missing 747 in? Why not! Random, asynchronous editing and the arrival of new characters who are totally out of left field but whom I’m immediately supposed to care for? Sure!
It all makes sense to me now. As long as your brain is as addled as the show itself, “The Event” is gangbusters. It must kill in the insomniac and speed-freak demo.
[More on this phenomenon, and Monday's (Oct. 25) "Event" after the break...]
Or maybe I’m just trying to come up with excuses for the fact that tonight’s episode, “Loyalty,” is the show’s second effort in a row that I’ve enjoyed on some level. With Sean rescuing his distressed damsel Leila and President Martinez releasing Sophia to Thomas, the season’s first mini-arc came to a conclusion last week, and now it’s time to take things to the next level. For the time being, at least, “The Event” is relatively (compared to the show’s own dubious past precedent) exciting.
A lot of silly things happen, to be sure, but they aren’t necessarily the same silly things, and for “The Event” that’s a marked improvement. Sean’s heroics bringing Vicky and Carter’s unfathomable reign of terror to an end helps with that, to be sure, though sadly the episode makes it clear that we’re far from seeing the last of their particular evil organization. At one point Sean and Leila are inexplicably confronted by a crazed conspiracy theorist (who, of course, is speaking the truth) who claims that “the government are scared little children” compared to the real baddies who are trying to keep the conspiracy under wraps.
Really? Because last I checked the government was in an intense showdown with an alien master race that had to demolish a building and blow the cover of a ten-year embedded alien spy in order to thwart President Martinez and Blake Sterling. Carter and his boys, meanwhile, got their asses handed to them by Sean and his clever use of a camera phone. But whatever, I’ll just hold out hope that the true conspirators are super-cool badasses who were concerning themselves with more important things. Maybe Carter is just the head honcho’s dimwitted cousin sent to kill the computer nerd who may-or-may-not-know something to keep him from messing with the real operation? One can dream.
For his part Sean smartly ditches Agent Collier at some motel. I know if I were some dorky nobody who somehow wound up accused of murder and enmeshed in mankind’s greatest conspiracy, I too wouldn’t want the help of an FBI agent who so quickly relegated herself to being my stooge. No, this is a mission for the untrained and the nonprofessional. Sean and Leila are on the job! Between Sean’s ingenious camera phone battle strategies and Leila’s emphatic demands for answers and hair-brained hunches, what can go wrong? With the addition of a twitchy conspiracy theorist who somehow knows everything to their team, I have to assume the writers are having fun with this. Jason Ritter certainly seems to be, and it almost makes these goofy scenes fun to watch. At this point I don’t even care that Sean and Leila are inexplicably running off on their own wacky adventures rather than helping out the government with the knowledge they have--I’m just going to go with it.
But the episode’s silliest moments come with its mismanagement of Agent Simon Lee, the alien crash survivor who went undercover in the US government and serendipitously managed to work his way into the position of head agent in charge of tracking down the rogue aliens. I like Ian Anthony Dale enough, but to this point I knew absolutely nothing about his character other than that he’s an alien, he generally disapproves of mass murder, and he’s one heck of an SUV driver. But now, all of a sudden, “Loyalty” is a Simon episode, in about as “Lost”-ish a way as I could possibly mean that (my addled mind has even added to my memory the ‘swoosh’ sounds before and after the episode’s flashbacks.)
Simon’s story alternates between his present-day struggle to maintain his cover while ensuring Sophia escapes Blake Sterling’s nifty isotope blood tracker, and his idyllic life on Venice Beach in the 1950s, frolicking with the apparent love of his life (a damn dirty human) under the name “Mason.” Somewhere there’s a decent story here: the titular loyalty is a play on Simon’s betrayal of the US government and his loyalty to Thomas and Sophia. He gives up his life with his true love because Thomas told him to, demonstrating that his loyalty to his people trumps his loyalty to his love. In the present day he’s again faced with a question of loyalty, when he’s given a few moments to follow Thomas and Sophia into some hatch, or to remain with the humans he’s betrayed and try to save them from the building that is collapsing around them.
Driven by memories of his lost love, Simon chooses to forsake loyalty all together and simply do what is right. He’s betrayed President Martinez, and now he betrays Thomas and Sophia by remaining behind and saving whatever lives he can (seemingly getting buried in rubble in the process.) This is a development I could get behind if Simon hadn’t been such a poorly developed character to this point. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to leave the development of some characters until later in the season, but it still has to happen organically. What we get here instead is a god-awfully ham-fisted attempt to provide Simon with emotional depth over the course of one episode, as if the writers wedged it in after realizing they hadn’t taken care of that part yet.
Simon’s 1950s beach life isn’t the episode’s only flashback: we also see him in the year 2000, just as he’s working his way into Inostranka detail, being accosted by an elderly version of his old girlfriend. His partner is confused as the woman runs up to him calling him Mason, smiling and marvelling at how well he’s aged (she later thinks he’s an angel). When a nurse runs up and apologizes for the old, Alzheimer’s-stricken lady, Simon coldly takes the out and tells her she must be confusing him with someone else.
But later he visits her in her nursing home room with the sunflower he had promised her the last time they were together nearly fifty years earlier. He tells her that if it was “up to him” he would have stayed with her and married her and they would have had children and lived happily ever after. She replies, in one of the series’ most groan-inducing moments to date: “It was up to you.” I gather that this is supposed to be touching, or profound, or emotionally devastating, or something, but really it’s just bloody strange. The scene relies on some kind of emotional investment that the show has taken no care in actually developing, and rather than being heartbreaking, it just comes across like Simon filling this poor old woman’s head with stuff that will surely make her sound even crazier to the nursing staff.
This is the sort of stuff that happens when a show only starts paying attention to a character’s development when it absolutely has to. Rather than building on seeds of emotional investment already planted, it has to bring something totally out of left field and try to make it work all at once in the confines of an already busy episode. I’m almost offended that the episode intends for me to care about this woman finally getting her sunflower without having done the legwork to actually earn an emotional moment; the scene weirded me out more than anything. It’s a total failure that serves only to distract from something that could have been interesting.
But “Loyalty” is still dumb fun that executes its primary Simon/Sophia/Thomas chase plot well enough. I marvel at how many customers that coffee shop was able to cycle through so quickly, and I wonder how poor the government’s security must be that Simon using his access card to steal a high-tech isotope from the armory only vaguely indicted “someone on the field team” rather than identifying Simon individually, but these are the sort of plot holes I can live with. At least when I’m this sleep deprived.
In past weeks I’ve called for “The Event” to pay some attention to the characters and try to make us actually care for them. But after “Loyalty” I’m almost prepared to take that back: if this is how clumsy the attempts at character work are going to be, maybe they should just forget about it altogether and focus on giving us straight-up excitement. On that front they’re at least making some improvements.
What'd you think of "Loyalty"?