The Event recap: Signs of Life
As Sean hits the road with Agent Collier, we learn details about his past, but Sophia and Leila remain stuck in stifling captivity
To be or not to be a fan of The Event? I thought I would know the answer to the question by now–but I don’t. Last week, I expressed my disappointment with this insanely implausible cliffhanger serial for being too insane and too implausible for my tastes, and did so with a degree of harshness that in retrospect might have been a smidge unfair. Yet despite my sarcastic articulation, I stand by my criticisms of the episode’s nutty plotting logic and my chief complaint about the series in general–that the show needs to do more to flesh out its characters and make them more interesting. Last night’s episode, “A Matter of Life and Death,” was commendable for cracking open some of its characters and giving us a small peek into their pasts and psyches via several flashbacks–Sean Walker’s hard, haunted upbringing, President Martinez’ Cuban roots, Sophia Maguire’s identification with refugee identity. I appreciated the effort. But my new struggle with The Event is that I wish it was about something more than just its action flick thrills and slick, shadowy look and nebulous mysteries. For example, it seems to me The Event could be using its Whatchamacallums as a metaphor for misunderstood, persecuted Otherness; maybe the vision for the show is to eventually tell stories exploring that theme, once it brings those so-called inhuman “extraterrestrials” out of their isoated Alaskan closet and into open contact with the rest of the world. (Maybe one day, Sophia can star in an “It gets better“-like youtube video.) In general, I want to see The Event get better in all phases of its creative life. “A Matter of Life and Death” showed signs of improvement, though I can’t say it wowed me. The villains aren’t compelling, Leila’s abduction plight bugs me, and Sophia’s storyline has barely inched forward since the final moment of the pilot. And where the hell is Hal Holbrook? After four episodes, I thought I’d be starting to really invest in The Event. It’s not happening–yet. But I’m willing to give it more time.
Last week’s cliffhanger: The pilot of Flight 514—also Leila’s father—was dead, murdered in the Arizona desert along with the other passengers by (presumably) Whatchamacallums in black helicopters… but in the final moments of the last episode, Michael and everyone else suddenly woke up.
This week’s developments: Turns out they were never completely dead–according to the doctors, “some process was still active in the body”–but regardless, Thomas restored them to biological functionality. They had amnesia–couldn’t remember anything about the flight or what happened to them in the desert–and Michael, sweating Leila’s fate, wouldn’t ‘fess up to Blake Sterling about what he knew about the conspiracy to kill the president. Then Michael and the 514ers began bleeding profusely out the nose and mouth, presumably another show of force and control by Thomas.
Character revelations? The episode hung a few details on Michael that may or may not be noteworthy. For example, during the Thanksgiving flashback, Michael’s (now dead) wife explained, apropos of nothing, that Michael, once flew international routes, then decided to fly domestic, and that led him to become a pilot for Avias Airlines. Are we to wonder why he made the switch in specialization? In the same flashback, Michael expressed reservations about Leila dating Sean due to the boy’s sketchy past, but ultimately offered his approval via a glass of very old Scotch. The camera doted on the label–Natape 1896. Significant?
Burning question: Could Michael be some long-lived Whatchamacallum, too?
NEXT: Anyone interested in starting a campaign for Sarah Roemer as the lead in a future remake of Halloween?
Last week’s cliffhanger: One of three women whose current job in the narrative is to be held captive. (Also see: Sophia Maguire and Maya, who was MIA this week.) She might have had her brains blown out by “Vicky Roberts,” who is henchwoman (and military-trained black ops agent) to DB Sweeney’s Carter, whom I shall be referring to as Toepick this week at the request of my wife, for whom DB Sweeney will always be “That Guy From The Cutting Edge.” After Sean escaped, Team Topick decided they still needed Leila alive to use as possible leverage against Sean.
This week’s developments: Bound and locked up in a basement, Leila thought she had gotten the best of her captors by cutting through her ropes with a glass shard from Toepick’s conveniently-broken beer bottle. (She was no doubt inspired by the “…And the Bag’s in the River” plate-shard episode of Breaking Bad.) She smacked Vicky across the head, grabbed her gun and fired twice at her, and ran away. She found a cop, and proceeded to explain her abduction and escape so poorly that of course the authorities didn’t believe her. Still, Leila was allowed to make a call, and she tried ringing Sean, but alas, his phone was low on energy, so she left a voicemail. It was all a set-up–Toepick and Vicky let her escape so she could lure Sean into their clutches–and I must say that I didn’t see the twist coming. I liked the twist for this reason: Without it, Toepick and Vicky would have been rendered uncharacteristically incompetent, and I would have had to officially deem them the lamest villains in prime time television. I disliked the twist for this reason: It undermined Leila’s show of strength. She remains barely a character–she’s just The Reason That Michael And Sean Do The Crazy S–t That They Do. But at least actress Sarah Roemer, whom I do like very much, is getting the chance to prove she can do sexy female victimization very well. If they remake Halloween again in the near future, she has my vote for the Jamie Lee Curtis part.
Character revelations? Her parents live 16 hours away from MIT. Also? Runs well barefoot.
Burning questions: If Michael is a Whatchamacallum, then what does that make Leila? Also, if Toepick and Vicky/Laura want Sean, why didn’t they just abduct him on the Love Boat when they had the chance? [UPDATE AT 9:15 AM PST: One of my Twitter followers, @mcarbone782, suggests that the baddies now need him simply because he now presents a threat to them, when before, he didn’t: “Toepick now wants Sean because he is starting to put the pieces together and figuring it out.” An extremely sensible reading of the show. Thanks for this.)
Last week’s cliffhanger: Fake US marshals—working either for mystery mercenary/possible covert operative Toepick or insidious intelligence chief Blake Sterling (or both?)—tried to nab the girlfriend-seeking Everygeek from an FBI field office in Yuma. When Agent Collier became suspicious, bullets started flying. In the aftermath: Sean and Collier got away, the agent just a little more convinced that Sean wasn’t your typical conspiracy theory psycho.
This week’s developments: Sean and Collier tracked one of Vicky’s aliases (Laura Roderick) to an address in Texas. They hoped to find Vicky/Laura inside with Leila, and the episode encouraged us to believe that they would via clever editing–but I saw this fake-out coming a ways off. (I must admit, though, that because they tried to fool us here, I was better set-up for the twist ending, as I assumed they wouldn’t try such narrative “trickeration” twice in one episode.)
NEXT: Surprised Sean didn’t use Vicky/Laura’s adorable kid as leverage?
Instead, Sean and Collier found Vicky/Laura’s mother living in the house–taking care of Vicky/Laura’s son, a boy with an endearingly crooked smile and sad eyes. Strange. I find Vicky/Laura’s surprising backstory more interesting than Vicky/Laura herself, who as played by Taylor Cole is all breezy ruthlessness and exudes not a whiff of the poignancy that has now been given to her character. It’s like the Vicky/Laura character Sean is piecing together from his experience and research is a completely different woman than the one Cole is playing. Anyway, Sean snapped the kid’s photo and got Vicky/Laura’s phone number; I thought for sure he was going to call her right away and send the photo, as if to intimate some kind of threat to get Leila back. Give me back my girlfriend, or I’ll… I’ll… smash your boy’s music box! Don’t screw with me, lady, ‘cuz I’ll do it!
Character revelations? Many. His mother was “not well.” (Mental illness?) His father drank himself to ruin. He left home as fast as he could. In his post-college years, he became a videogame programmer. I suspect all these details will prove to be significant–especially the family stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sean’s on-the-run fugitive life at some point takes him back to his hometown to learn some secrets about his origins. Which brings us to:
Burning question: Is Sean Walker central to the mythology of the show, or really just an accidental hero, embroiled in a larger drama that really has nothing to do with him?
Last week’s cliffhanger: He thought he was on the verge of getting answers out of Whatchamacallum turncoat William but then William’s girlfriend Maya shivved him with something pointy. And speaking of turncoats: Did Blake Sterling help orchestrate Flight 514 assassination attempt on President Martinez? Vice President Raymond Jarvis seemed to suggest as much.
This week’s developments: Another episode, more scenes of Martinez stomping around looking WTF? flummoxed by his Invasion of the Body Snatchers life–and yet another scene with Martinez and Sophia in a small spartan cell yelling at each other. The Prez: I want the truth! Sophia: You can’t handle the truth! This is getting rather tedious. Also, why is the President of the United States handling these interrogations? Did all the CIA interlocutors get laid off during the recession? One more thing: I liked the bit with Thomas getting at Martinez by sneaking a phone into his son’s backpack. Creepy.
Character revelations? He can cook–his wife, Christina, can’t. His mother and his wife’s mother came to America as Cuban refugees. His background may have helped him identify with Sophia’s plight and prompted his initial decision to let the alleged alien and her fellow Inostrankan detainees out of their Alaskan hellhole.
Burning question: What kind of relationship does President Martinez have with Vice President Jarvis? Last week, Mr. Heartbeat Away From The Presidency was suspicious of Sterling. But after last night, I’m beginning to be suspicious of Jarvis. I was particularly struck by the snaky intelligence chief’s response to Jarvis’ implied accusation of conspiring against El Potus: He’d never do anything that would put someone like Jarvis in the Oval Office.
NEXT: A reader theory about the origins of the Whatchamacallums (possibly influenced by an overdose of Fringe).
Last week’s cliffhanger: Same as last week’s cliffhanger: Locked up in a cell after the disappearance of Flight 514 and determined not to spill any of the secrets of The Whatchamacallums, to the point where she all but ordered Simon Lee to make sure William was silenced by any means necessary. At the same time, she was troubled by the apparent mass murder of the Flight 514 passengers, perpetrated by the leader of the at-large Whatchamacallums, Thomas. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said.
This week’s developments: Still locked up. Still trying not to spill her reality-rending beans. But she did tell Martinez a couple things, even if they were things we already knew: Thomas is not to be trifled with, and she and he “have different opinions on how to adapt.”
Character revelations? Blake Sterling raised a good point about Sophia and all her people: They aren’t omnipotent. Yes, they can teleport planes via Jack Kirby boom tubes, perpetrate fake mass murder, and cause hemorrhaging via… uh… remote control? But despite these sci-fi resources, Team Thomas can’t bust Sophia free–be it from Mt. Inostranka, or her current circumstances. Also, Sophia really seemed to click and identify with the whole refugee concept during her flashback conversation with Martinez. Cut to my oft-stated version of the theory that many Event watchers seem to have: The Whatchamacallums aren’t extraterrestrials at all, but time-traveling refugees from a dystopian future. And so we end with this:
Burning question: Are The Whatchamacallums really ETs or not? I wish the show did more to cultivate added intrigue around this question. Ever since putting this idea out there in the second episode, The Event has done little to expand upon it or even make us question it. Why isn’t there another character in the story offering a different take on who or what the Whatchamacallums might be? The show could work this angle, sent in by Marissa Birch of Las Vegas, who either watches way too much Fringe–or has never seen an episode of it. She writes:
“Everyone seems to be getting locked into the idea that the Whatchamacallums are aliens. I know only 1% of their DNA is ‘human,’ but what if they are humans, yet just differently evolved in a way that we can’t track with our testing practices? What if they are simply us from a parallel or ‘Many Possible Worlds‘ universe? They obviously know how to affect and utilize wormholes, etc. so they can travel between worlds or remove pieces from one place and transport them to another. What if 66 some years ago, they were testing [their cutting edge technology] and accidentally landed here? Maybe their secrets are things that would unhinge our world as we know it, coming from another world? Just a thought that’s been dancing in my head.”
The point is that I think The Event should spur us indulge and consider a variety of dancing thoughts. Even if all alternative theories are proven wrong, and The Whatchamacallums really are proven to be aliens, I think encouraging us to mull and debate multiple possibilities would be good for the show, because it would activate our imagination to dream into the story, and thereby draw us deeper into its creative world and become more invested in it.
Anyway: I’ll shut up now. The floor is yours. What did you like and dislike about this week’s episode? After four episodes, how would you gauge your interest? Would you call yourself a fan of The Event–or are you on the fence? Until next week, you can find me at @EWDocJensen or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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