One episode in and I already miss Thomas. And no, it’s not a good sign that I have routinely maligned “The Event,” week after week, and yet begin this week’s review with a note of nostalgia. “You Bury Other Things Too,” however, confirmed my fears of where the show is heading with the major characters we’re now stuck with. Sophia is Hitler, while Martinez is probably Roosevelt at his Japanese-interning worst, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just call him Stalin. Bluntly, I hate the entire set up. Thomas’ death has committed “The Event” to a path I would hate even if the show were well executed.
I’m sure the idea seemed interesting on paper: Martinez and Sophia were two idealistic leaders who could have become great allies, but due to circumstance they are now bitter enemies, hellbent on one another’s destruction and driven to unspeakable means. And just so we don’t forget that he exists, nice-guy Sean is even joining in on this theme, finding it in himself to become a torturer. But these ideas are drawn in such maddeningly broad strokes, and the character developments are so wholly unrelatable, that the show has destroyed any and all compelling characteristics of both Martinez and Sophia.I wholly despise Sophia, and not in the sort of way you’re supposed to despise a villain. I despise every facet of her character. We have been told again and again that she is some sort of great leader, yet for the entire season we’ve seen her do nothing but go on and on about how she comes in peace, letting Thomas do all the work while chastising him for being a childish disappointment. Now she has turned around and adopted Thomas’ views for reasons that were obvious to Thomas from the start.
If the United States government blowing up a bus or two in response to a terrorist attack and a further threat to level the American capital is what it took to convince Sophia that the human race is not “benevolent,” then she’s not only a hypocrite and a terrible leader, she’s also incredibly dimwitted.
And it’s not that I have a problem with stupid, hypocritical characters, but that’s clearly not what Sophia is intended to be. “The Event” has failed to characterize her as strong, intelligent, principled, or even capable in any way, and yet it’s against the assumption that she is all of these things that the show hopes to produce some emotional response from the audience as Sophia adopts a policy of Lebensraum. She wasn’t believable as a great leader, and she’s not believable as an evil leader, and these two halves pushed together create a clunky, annoying mess of a character.
President Martinez, meanwhile, doesn’t fare much better. After destroying two bus-loads of people before making any attempt to apprehend them, he’s come up with the unwieldy plan of DNA testing every living American in search of alien sleeper agents. He’s taking this hard line because he feels responsible and ashamed for the leniency he once granted Sophia, but, as is the case with Sophia, it never occurs to him that the problem wasn’t that he was too lenient, it’s that he was too stupid.
It’s not that I question the idealism that led Martinez to want to release the aliens back in the show’s pilot. I just feel there were logical stopgaps he could have taken before holding a press conference and announcing to the American people that aliens were about to come live with them. He could have, perhaps, moved them out of that Alaskan gulag they were confined to, set them up in some comfortable digs, and then asked a question or two, like where they came from, for example, while still keeping things under wraps for a little bit. Instead he behaved like a blind idealist, and a terrible president. Since that didn’t work out, he’s now behaving like a vicious authoritarian, and a terrible president. (As a side note, am I the only one who thinks coming clean about the aliens would be a better move than Martinez telling the American public that Pakistani terrorists can cause earthquakes now?)
The actions of both Sophia and Martinez do not make us consider, in any reasonable manner, the ramifications of contrasting ideologies, they just let us know that, no matter how you act, things don’t typically turn out well if you’re a terrible leader. This is supposed to be interesting because these are supposed to be two sympathetic characters pushed to extremes with understandable motivations, and because either of these two could be good guys who could easily be in each other’s shoes. Sean and Vicky echo this development, as Sean is forced by circumstance to torture that ridiculously-French French guy while Vicky tries to make amends for the evils she was forced by circumstance to perpetrate-- the title of the episode is even taken from Vicky’s poetic waxing about what you have to do to cope with killing a person. (Even evil Dempsey seems to think he’s a good guy forced to extreme action by circumstance, revealing that he considers himself a guardian angel, or something, in a plot that continues to be so silly that I refuse to grant it anything beyond a parenthetical.)
Because of how clumsily drawn all of this is, relying on character development based on senseless dichotomies, the result is a bunch of unintelligible and entirely unsympathetic characters. (And, Jesus, making Laura Innes, Blair Underwood, and Jason Ritter all unsympathetic takes some doing!) This show seems to think having a character take up an extreme course of action because they failed at trying the exact opposite extreme course of action counts as nuance. That’s not the sort of thing nuanced human beings do. It’s the sort of thing clinically insane people do.
The irony of it all is that Thomas, despite the fact that he created the atom bomb, despite the fact that he could seemingly teleport between Asia, Alaska, and California, and despite the fact that he was a who-knows-how-old extraterrestrial, was the only one of the supposed leaders who ever behaved like a human being. Sure, he was a bad human being, but that’s fine. I understood what he wanted, and in hindsight appreciate the fact that he was able to be conflicted about things without swinging wildly between two extremes of some ridiculous dichotomy.
With Thomas no more, the rest of this season is staged as a showdown between two characters I hate. As such, “The Event” may transition from being a show that is boring, insipid, and forgettable, to being a show that is actively annoying. While I had been hoping for some sort of major pivot in this season, this certainly isn’t the one I had wanted.
What'd you think?