It’s long been nearly a foregone conclusion, but this week NBC made it official that “The Event” will not be returning for a second season. So for those true few of us who have remained with the series through the first season, any satisfaction or payoff that we’ve so dutifully been waiting for must come within the final two episodes.

Well, make that the final episode, as the penultimate (and lazily titled) “The Beginning of the End” offers little in way of either satisfaction or payoff. In fact, while not as routinely terrible as the past few weeks, this episode only added to my frustration as the season’s plot lines started coming together in the most expected and unexciting ways, making it clear how this season (and the series with it) will end, and why satisfaction and meaningful payoff are probably much too far out of reach.

[Full recap of Monday's (May 16) "The Event" after the break...]

The episode opens on the image of bodies strewn about a street, with Sophia alone making her way through the destruction. A little girl, bloodied and dying, accosts Sophia and begs her for help before blaming everything on her. The imagery could have been interesting were I not too busy grinding my teeth in frustration over the fact that it’s all obviously a cheat: Sophia is dreaming. She wakes up, and like President Martinez with his dream earlier this season, begins to question herself, even questioning Dr. Lu as to whether there’s some way a few humans might be spared.

There isn’t. The super-flu, as explained by some hokey CNN-style graphic that Sophia needs because otherwise we wouldn’t know what the “eastern seaboard” or “the world” are, will wipe out all of humanity, and now Sophia is a little bit closer to releasing it, having placed agents at key locations like airports and food suppliers. They will release the disease, now tempered by Leila’s hybrid immune system, to the public through newly circulated dollar bills and the preservatives sprayed on grocery produce (organic-eating train commuters who pay with debit cards will be mercifully spared from Sophia’s wrath.)  Then Sophia leaves to see to her incoming alien arrivals and, well, that’s about it.

Sean and Vicky meet up with Lee and Blake, and together the four of them root through garbage until they find a discarded gas receipt left behind by the alien gunman Sean killed at the mall. Sean then waves a magic wand (I can only assume) at his MacBook and somehow uses the receipt to track the gunman’s car all the way to Sophia’s lair. The foursome make their way to some warehouse where they find Dr. Lu and Leila. Sean and now-infected Leila share a Spock/Kirk moment through the plastic of Leila’s clean room. (Why did Dr. Lu need this? The aliens are immune and they’re already trying to spread the disease worldwide. Why is containment needed beyond allowing for a Sean/Leila sentimental moment?)

President Martinez wakes up and argues with President Jarvis. There is a moment where he thanks Blake for his service that I actually sort of liked, but other than that nothing of note happens. “The Beginning of the End” is yet another placeholder episode wasting time until the series finale arrives next week, at which time something can finally, at long last, happen.

Yet it seems unlikely that even the finale will be exciting, on account of how obvious everything has become. This season’s cliffhanger has long since become obvious: the good guys will stop Sophia from releasing the virus, but Sophia will still bring massive numbers of her people to Earth, leaving the future of both humans and aliens unclear, now that they must cohabitate.

Somewhere buried in all this conceptual mess is a show that I might have been half-interested in keeping up with next season. There’s almost something intriguing about the idea of two billion aliens suddenly occupying a large portion of the planet, not as overlords or even, necessarily, as enemies. They would operate as another faction in a world already full of them, making treaties with some nations while warring with others. I can imagine a show where I’d enjoy watching the characters-- maybe even some of these characters-- sort through the resulting morass.

But instead “The Event” had to paint itself as a mystery, and reveal a not-particularly-mysterious plot to us in mind-numbingly dull piecemeal, and in execution has cast itself as a poor “24” carbon copy. These glimpses at what this show could have been do not come as satisfying reveals that at all justify the season up to this point. “The Event” was never concealing intriguing secrets or nebulous plot points from us, it was, from the beginning, concealing the entire conceptual framework of the series.

In the pilot episode, Sophia tells Martinez: “I haven’t told you everything,” In fact, she had told him nothing, and the show itself had told us nothing. Then for the first half of the season, it was revealed to us bit by bit why this is a show we should actually care about, but far too slowly to ever build a whole idea that is actually worth caring about. Then even that was abandoned and the show become a conceptually undeveloped terrorist plot in which the characters behave as they do for no good reason beyond the writers saying so. Now the show is awkwardly trying to remind us that, once upon a time, there was supposed to be something more to “The Event.”

At one point this week Simon catches a glimpse of the scrolls, or whatever they are, that were passed on from Dempsey to Sean (just before Dempsey shot himself in the head and spared the show any more time wasted on his character), prompting Sean to admit that he doesn’t know what the heck they are. Simon makes some cryptic comments obviously pertaining to the earlier reveal via Dr. Lu’s ridiculous dialogue that the aliens were Earth’s original inhabitants. Of course, at this point we’ve already forgotten all about evil Mr. Dempsey and his inexplicable experiments on little girls. Hell, for all the relevance it’s had to the show these past few weeks, many viewers may well have forgotten that Sophia and her people are aliens.

The awkward exchange between Simon and Sean is oddly apropos in this circumstance, and their relationship in that moment is similar to that between the show itself and its viewers: we , glance obliquely through the corners of our eyes at all the abandoned plot lines and introduced but undeveloped story elements that were supposed to make “The Event” interesting, and all the show can do in return is shrug awkwardly before returning to the dull reality it has created for itself. 

Of course, it’s unlikely that “The Event” would have been a good show under any circumstance, even if the writers had the time to flesh out all of their ideas. The extraterrestrials would have gone from being illegal aliens and Guantanamo detainees to being Israelis returning to their homeland in the Palestine that is Earth. It sounds like a mess in theory, and most certainly would have been in execution. But at least it might not have been so rote and boring. At least it could have been a train wreck.

But what “The Event” is now is all it ever will be, and now there’s nothing left to do but grit our teeth and slog our way through one final episode. It sure seems like that’s what everyone involved with the show is doing.

What are your hopes for the finale?