Looking Back on “The Event” – What it did Right, and What it did Very Wrong.

This week, “The Event” took a holiday from its weekly episode spree.  Obviously, then, I couldn’t review the next episode; so, instead, I’m going to review the series as a whole so far (which could just be the last time I review this show on the blog).

It’s no secret that I have an overall, less-than-favorable attitude towards this show.  What started as a series with great potential quickly became a show I couldn’t bring myself to care about.  Where did it go wrong?  And, did this show get anything right?

It could be argued that most of the problems with “The Event” were manifested in the pilot episode itself.  The flashbacks were confusing.  The plot was convoluted.  There was no time to establish any characters beyond basic “good guy/bad guy” roles.  However, I still stuck with the show after the pilot for a variety of reasons.  First, you can’t always judge a show by its pilot alone (Fringe had a mediocre pilot but eventually became a great series).  The show is, after all, just getting established.  Secondly, the creators of “The Event” had promised that they knew where the entire show was headed.  Unlike the later seasons of Heroes (where it became painfully obvious the writers had no idea where they were taking anything), “The Event” promised direction and, most importantly, sense.  Sure, the pilot had its flaws, but maybe the show could overcome those flaws if the writers really knew what they were doing.  Lastly, the show did get one major thing right in the pilot: a sense of pacing and adrenaline.  While you didn’t always know what was happening, you were still anxious to find out what would happen.  So, the pilot gave us plenty to worry about but still offered some hope for the coming episodes.

The coming episodes, however, were a mixed bag.  They did overcome some of the pilot’s shortcomings.  All of the later episodes calmed down on the number of flashbacks we saw, keeping the overall plot for each individual episode far less convoluted.  The flashbacks may have, at times been pointless and had no bearing on present day events (such as in Episode 4, where most of the flashbacks are centered on an unimportant facet of Sean’s family life), but at least it signaled a refinement in the show’s storytelling technique.  Unfortunately, the flashbacks often did not reveal anything too important and rarely affected the present day scenario, making me wonder what the point of the flashbacks are.  The first time the flashbacks really affected a character in the present day was the most recent Episode 6, where Simon chose not to follow Thomas to a new location after it ruined his life previously.

With an improvement in the storytelling mechanic, “The Event” began to clue viewers in as to what was actually happening.  Episode 2 (the only episode that I really gave a positive review) actually showed us the overall arc of where the conflict is coming from.  It told us about the “aliens,” what the President was doing in the pilot in the first place, and it gave us a little more context for Sean and the kidnapping story.  “The Event” still had its larger questions, but from the second episode on, each episode made more of an attempt to make sense within the context of that specific episode.  It was a welcome change, as the pilot really made no sense without the context of the later episodes (I’m still not sure if it makes much sense).

Unfortunately, once the show calmed down and made an effort to stay self-contained, a number of glaring plot holes were revealed.  The third episode made a number of terrible decisions that the show has yet to recover from.  Moreover, the episode revealed what appears to be an apparent laziness with the writers.  When a desired outcomes seems impossible, just write in a convenient plot device and “bam!” implausible scenario is now possible.  Something is unlikely in the real world (or even in the world of the show)?  Just ignore it and maybe the audience won’t notice.  Is the show losing interest?  Throw in a sudden and entirely useless plot twist!  Yes, anything is possible when you’re the lazy writer of a serial drama!  What’s funny is that, in all of the interviews, the actors are always talking about how “The Event” is mostly realistic with a hint of sci-fi thrown in.  Yeah, sci-fi aspects may not come up very often, but, still, in the real world, people don’t just walk away from severe injuries and then get in shootouts later that day (I’m looking at you, semi-unimportant woman cop whose name escapes me).  Most of the episodes after the second one either had implausibilities happening or, quite literally, nothing happening.  It was some time before the President’s storyline actually had any substance to it.  In fact, there were whole episodes with them trying to figure out what to do, only to come up with nothing (a metaphor for what the writers were experiencing, perhaps?).

Additionally, all of the episodes (including the second episode) had another problem – lack of character development.  Because the show is so action-focused and adrenaline based, smaller character moments were often nonexistent.  There were a few sprinkled here and there, but, for the most part, they didn’t affect the story at all.  Most of the characters within the show had been set up as stereotypical characters and then were left alone (the leader who wants to do what’s right, the underline who has his own agenda, the merciless badguy, etc.).  Even Sean Walker, the main character who was set up as an everyman, lacked sufficient character moments.  You still get the impression from the show that he’s just an ordinary guy, but how are we supposed to know that if we never have an opportunity to see it?  (And, no, one single flashback where we see him awkwardly meet his girlfriend for the first time doesn’t count).  Ultimately, it is the lack of character progression that leads to my distaste for the show.  Yes, there are a lot of plot holes and even more too-convenient plot devices, but those can often be forgiven if you’re engaging us with interesting characters (LOST had its fair share of convenient plot devices, but we believed and loved the characters so much that we let it slide – plus they were on a magical island).  “The Event” just hasn’t done that.  When you don’t have any interesting characters, you have to rely on an increasingly implausible scenario to grab your attention, and when that doesn’t work, you’re screwed.

And then there was last week’s episode.  Perhaps it doesn’t deserve as positive a review as I gave it, but it was still a different episode.  It was the first one in the entire series that attempted to develop a character in a believable, sympathetic way.  Yes, it was not always perfectly executed, and, yes, the episode still had its lazy writing, but there was a hint of character progression!  Flashbacks actually affected the present.  Characters (or at least one) were portrayed as flawed and, dare I say, human (which is funny, because he wasn’t actually a human).  Given the track record of the show, I’m inclined to think that the writers just got lucky with this episode, but it’s possibile they’ve finally realized some of their shortcomings.

Put simply, The Event has a lot of ground to cover.  With its myriad disappointments and frustrating developments, I can’t recommend the show.  Yet, last week’s episode provided just enough to steam for me to wait at least one more week (Although, I have to admit, it’s dangerous taking a vacation from the show this week, as it may just lead to me not caring when it actually does come back).  Is this a good idea?  That’s tricky – I did stick with Heroes through its utterly crappy third season and its snooze-inducing fourth season, hoping against hope that the writers could bring it back to its former glory.  Obviously, I can be a bit of a masochist when it comes to holding out hope for bad TV shows.  Only time will tell if that’s what I’m doing with “The Event” or not.  Next week may see me either dropping the show completely or holding on for a bit longer.

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~ by digitallysmitten on November 2, 2010.

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