The Event: "A Message Back"
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The Event: "A Message Back"

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The Event

"A Message Back"

Season 1, Episode 14

When I talk about The Event, I feel like the word I say most often is “stupid.” And I don’t just say “Oh, that show is so stupid,” or “Such stupid, illogical things happen in it.” I also say “Am I totally stupid for initially and intermittently thinking this could be a good show?” I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I must say, after watching “A Message Back”… ugh, I don’t know. I give up. I don’t know whether The Event is fixable or whether the overhaul that would require would be so massive as to render it a fundamentally different show. I had fun watching this episode, and I thought it was a huge step up from last week, and what more can I ask at this point?

Granted, “A Message Back” required a substantial suspension of disbelief, but what else is new? This was kind of a major request, though. This episode required me to accept that Sean Walker is some kind of primal, badass superhero after the first half of the season’s trial by fire. I’m having some trouble with this. This is what I know about Sean Walker: weeping violins childhood, got in a little trouble as a student, everyman and doting boyfriend. Now, of course, the guy has been through quite a bit of nonsensical conflict since we met him. I accept that he’s figured out how to use a gun by now. I get that he’s pretty pissed off at the people who sucked him into these awful machinations. But teaming up with Vicky to go through the vice president in order to take out a shady billionaire not above killing people and experimenting on children? Sean kept saying “I’m a man with nothing else to lose,” and when Jack Bauer would say that, I believed him. When Sean says it, I think “Dude, your girlfriend broke up with you, but there are plenty of other girls out there. Are they half-alien? OK, maybe not, but who needs some complicated alien chick? It’s like the title of that movie I’ve heard of but have never actually seen, Earth Girls are Easy.”

But OK, let’s go ahead and say Sean’s bar fight with that jerk was finally the thing that tapped into his inner Jason Bourne. He tracks down Vicky and leans on her to help him take down Dempsey by first getting to Vice President Jarvis, who just happens to be attending a gala within driving distance. (His leverage, as before, is a threat of making her mother and son’s address “go viral,” whatever that means.) If you were looking for credibility straining scenes, this story delivered in spades. So Sean and Vicky decide in order to get on the list for the event, they can’t just hack in and add their names, even with Sean’s prodigious hacking skills. They find their marks, then con their way into the hotel room when a just out of the shower Vicky knocks and says she locked herself out and needs to call the front desk. This happens, I presume, because this is a five-star hotel that, as part of its edgy, boutique concept, requires its guests to use communal showers. Or because Vicky is so hot that the gentleman thought it was a good idea to let an almost nude woman into his hotel room, which he was sharing with his wife. Fine.

So they barge in and steal their identities, but when they’re finished, Vicky wants to kill them, but Sean isn’t quite there yet. He settles for pistol whipping both the man and the woman. So back to Jack Bauer, who the writers are now trying to turn Sean into. Jack would do crazy, borderline character-poisoning stuff all the time, but it was always under the auspices of trying to prevent some horrific, mass casualty event. Sean is trying to, let’s see, get revenge against the people who made him break up with his super-hot girlfriend and prevent them from kidnapping more half-man, half-alien moppets? I’m not sure I want him to pistol whip innocent people to achieve that end. At least, not if he’s supposed to be the protagonist of this show. After they corner Jarvis at the gala, Vicky armed with some kind of improvised PVC shotgun, he finally admits that Dempsey is somewhere in France. And because of some incredibly inept Secret Service agents, they’re able to get away.

There was much more to like about the Martinez story this week, which had a good amount of 24’s flavor to it as well. Martinez has had a very David Palmeresque about-face lately, after having his idealism used against him one too many times. Palmer was the last living mensch in season two, but by season three, he had become a Machiavellian hard-ass. Martinez has squished that path into a dozen episodes, which is fine with me, because his insistence on treating an alien invasion like the arrival of cool neighbors with beer was an unbearable liberal cartoon. I much prefer the kill-em-all Martinez, even though Blair Underwood hams it up ever so slightly. In the war room, they lock in on a location for Sophia and Michael, and Martinez is about to order them taken down, having ordered the military to step in with tactical assistance. But in a Bauer-like moment of pitch-perfect instinct, he figures out that by following them, they can find all the EBEs. It’s a rare win for Martinez, who has gotten an entire carton of eggs on his face since all this began.

The EBEs, meanwhile, have convened for an emergency meeting to discuss the message sent back from their home planet. Apparently, the situation on their planet is more dire than initially imagined. Their planet’s sun will start to supernova soon, and within one year, the planet will be uninhabitable. Even Sophia shows up to hear her son’s message, in spite of his multiple attempts to kill her and his massacre of her loyalists at Inostranka. If the entire group believes Thomas, it will effectively change the game for their people. There’s no way Sophia could continue preaching patience and diplomacy as their people back home are in a time-sensitive situation. This is an instance in which Jack Bauer tactics start to become excusable. Hell, I’m practically rooting for the hostile aliens at this point.

Stray observations:

  • The cold open was pretty great this week, with the surprise assassination at the observatory.
  • Did anyone find this episode’s music cues especially shrill and hilarious?
  • The woman who plays Dr. Dempsey’s assistant is just terrible at acting.

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