In the fall finale, Leila uncovers hidden truths about her father, while Thomas returns to rebelling against Sophia
Blair Underwood Event
Credit: Jordin Althaus/NBC

“What does this mean? What does this mean?” That was the pleading question that culminated the fall finale of The Event—the cliffhanger that was supposed to fire our imaginations and excite our anticipation for the next half of the season, which will arrive in late February. But the answer to the question was implicit, and Leila, the person posing it, seemed unwilling to accept the obvious, even as she held proof in her hands.

Similarly, “Everything Will Change”—which needed to accomplish so much in its last hour of 2010 to shore up my interest and trust in this series—was further evidence of a hard truth that needs to be faced: The Event is a bust. It would seem to need more than a little fixing, but regardless, I don’t think I’m convinced this is something that can be “fixed.” What am I saying? What does this mean? It means that barring a miracle on par with a wormhole opening in the sky and zipping a plane across the country in a blink of an eye, I won’t be watching and recapping The Event when it returns next year. I’m sorry. I tried. But I’m out.

The proof that Leila held in her hands was a charred dossier filled with photos of her father, Michael Buchanan—photos that revealed that The Man Formerly Known As Luke From Gilmore Girls had lived more than a life or two, as he was one of these (apparently) eternally youthful Whatchamacallums that fell to Earth back in 1944. This not-so-shocking disclosure capped an episode filled with conspicuous references to age and exhibitions of aging. Vice President Jarvis scolded the president he tried to assassinate for not knowing his place and failing to embrace his puppet’s role in the elaborate rigged theater of power. “Let me give you some advice—as your elder,” Jarvis fumed.

The theme of power struggle between wizened folks and uppity whippersnappers was literally played out in the continuing contretemps between Sophia and her son, Thomas, who somehow, someway gained or regained all the rebellious, murderous gumption he lost in last week’s episode. And Sean—who spent the early episodes saving people left and right, even his enemies—screwed on his Dirty Harry and injected one of Dempsey’s henchmen with a syringe of mystery serum that the bad guy intended to push into Leila. Within seconds, the hale and hearty goon rapidly aged into a frail old man and died. (Though the headwound that never disappeared throughout the transformation bothered me: Wouldn’t the quick regeneration of his body have patched that up?)

The upshot of these motifs and the demonstration of the drug’s effect would seem to portend… something. Is Decrepit Dempsey looking for a way to reverse his agedness—or could he be looking for a way to restart it? Perhaps Dempsey is a Whatchamacallum who came to Earth an old man in failing health, and has remained stuck in that state because our planet’s environment is rich with… preservatives? I’m intrigued by this idea—the only intriguing idea that I got from “Everything Will Change.” Transformation requires being subordinate to time, to participate in the natural laws of life and decay. The Whatchamacallums would seem to have the ability—at least on this world—to transcend this process; maybe Dempsey belongs to a subset of this perplexing population that doesn’t see the upside in life extension.

NEXT: Why The Event is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If any of this analysis/interpretation is accurate, you might wonder if the writers of The Event were winking at the fundamental dilemma/paradox of serialized storytelling on television. The inclination or desire is to tell a story full of cause and effect, incident and progression—full of change—over a long stretch of time, finding artful though organic ways to delay the inevitable but ultimately guiding the saga to an end that it must have for the story to have any kind of meaning. American television networks aren’t necessarily opposed to this ambition—as long as the creators of these shows can keep them going for about 4-7 cost-recouping, profitable years. In my experience, it seems that what many storytellers learn once they get into the grind of making these kinds of shows is that they don’t have as much story—or at least good story—as they thought they had to sustain their enterprise. Buffy the Vampire Slayer—the best realized TV series of my lifetime after The Wire–was a glorious exception. But it was greatly helped by a premise that allowed for stand-alone stories and possessed an inherent narrative arc, i.e. the eight years of high school/college coming of age, that lent itself well to the requisite 5-7 year business plans of most television series. If only all shows could last only as long as it takes to tell only their best stuff, I think TV would be a lot better.

Of course, some shows somehow, someway find a way to make it to air poorly stocked in “best stuff.” Some show have “best stuff,” but their creators lack the storytelling chops to do right by it. It seems to me that The Event falls into one of these two categories. The talent behind and in front of the camera is considerable. And I do love the way the show looks. But I find myself wondering if The Event is an example of something that in theory and in the dreaming seemed like a great and exciting idea, that seemed to contain a lot of promise and purpose, but when everyone got down to the nitty gritty of making it work, they realized there really wasn’t much “there” there. There’s certainly no “there” there for me. I really do like the actors, and I thought I could like their characters—but I don’t. I thought I could get by on cliffhanger thrills; I was thinking wishfully. I thought I could remain galvanized by the mystery of The Whatchamacallums; I can’t. Aliens? Really? That’s all they are? I can’t believe it’s true, but the show tells me that it is, so I guess it must be true… but no, it can’t be. And yet I no longer care enough to stick around to find out.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a recap of last night’s episode, not a funeral. So to the point:

Sean and Leila found the place where Samantha was being a held with all those prematurely old Benjamina Buttons—a secret basement within Willow Brook Behavioral Hospital, home to caricatures of mentally infirm people, like The Woman Who Says Outrageous Things (“Cancer in the balls? Is it painful? Sounds painful?”) and Guy With Religious Name Who Hears Voices That Actually Turn Out To Be Real. And so Moses (seriously) led Sean and Leila to the Samantha Promised Land, but they discovered that it had been cleared out in advance of their arrival. (Didn’t it occur to them that killing The Goon may have triggered this consequence?)

NEXT: Sophia sits down for tea with her treacherous son.

Yet because pop culture bad guys always need to be so much more inept than real-life bad guys, Samantha’s abductors did a craptastic job of destroying their evidence, particularly evidence of most interest to the very people they know are hunting them. And so Sean found Leila’s father’s file. Is it possible that they were meant to find the file? Sure. Does it bother me that I don’t know the difference? No. Such is the measure of my uncaring.

Sophia, Simon, Thomas and Isabel enjoyed some tea together while sitting on large throw pillows and partaking in some kind of vaguely religious ritual that involved the lighting and extinguishing of candles with cups and upturned palms. I was baffled by this scene—not because of the ceremony, but that Sophia would even be sharing this communion with Thomas and Isabel, and that Thomas and Isabel were even still together. I thought Domineering Alien Mama put an end to that relationship last week? That’s what it seemed like, but I guess I was wrong.

Regardless, the change in Thomas back to being the ruthless rebel son after failing to find the guts to kill Sophia when he had the chance last week was unbelievable to me. Similarly, given Sophia’s bluntly direct way of dealing with the crisis to her administration last week, I found it equally unbelievable that she didn’t directly confront her boy about the secret accounts he was hiding from her. Sophia and Thomas were aware of the other’s trickery and mindgames, and… whatever. Thomas enacted is master plan: Launching a rocket that wasn’t a nuclear strike, as feared by President Martinez and Blake Sterling, but all about putting a telecommunications satellite into orbit—one designed to send messages into deep space, not back to Earth. Was Thomas The E.T. phoning home to his Whatchamacallum people, summoning them to the land of hot tea and everlasting life? Or maybe he was sending an S.O.S. to the show’s writers: What does this mean? What does this mean?

They tried. I tried. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But hey: “Everything will change,” right? So here’s hoping against hope that I’ll be back here next year, baring witness to a miracle, and maybe even eating my words.

What did you think of The Event‘s fall finale? Will you keep your appointment with the show when it returns in February? Sound off below!

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The Event
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