First, a bit of housekeeping. Judging from the comments on last week’s review, there was some confusion about my take on the awful cliffhanger with the deformed kids in the playroom. I realize they weren’t actually wearing masks. I just thought the make-up looked way silly. It’s an interesting challenge, covering this show. It’s easy to forget that not everyone who reads this column views the show as a ramshackle oddity. But at this point, The Event has disappointed more than it’s delivered at such an unfavorable ratio that it’s hard to take the thing completely seriously.
That doesn’t mean I’ve completely given up on it. There are moments, however fleeting, that make me feel like The Event is a show that could evolve into something I’d actually enjoy, rather than something I feel compelled to diagnose. The problem is that those moments tend to come when it’s cribbing from one of the shows that make up its DNA. I realize that I’ve become sort of a broken record here, but this show borrows so heavily from its influences, it’s tough to watch without comparing it (though it usually winds up an unfavorable comparison.)
This episode was much more 24 than Lost, a marked contrast from the past two episodes with their Lostian flashback structure. Though we focused on one character, the duplicitous Vice President Jarvis, the flashbacks didn’t add up to their own complimentary arc. They were simply used to shade in a little and provide details we didn’t have. As Sterling seemed to suspect all along, Jarvis was involved in the effort to silence President Martinez. I think it’s safe to say that NBC’s promo about how this week’s episode would reveal who wanted Martinez killed was a little misleading. (A shame, because I thought that in week’s prior, the promos had mostly played fair, which is a rare treat.) We didn’t find out the whys of Jarvis’s involvement quite yet. But we did find out that Jarvis was taking his orders from Hal Holbrook’s character, who now has a name: Dempsey.
One of the things I do think The Event has done well is Dempsey’s deliberate reveal. The show and Holbrook have done a fine job of injecting menace into a character that could have easily played like an kooky old eccentric. And I like that they’ve put the American people between two factions, the EBEs, and whoever Dempsey’s cabal is, both of which can seem like they might actually be the good guys, depending on the episode. Rather than having just a possibly hostile alien race, there are two warring factions with shifty motives. To bring up Lost yet again, it’s very similar to the delightful confusion created when Widmore’s freighter crew arrived on the island. I wasn’t quite sure how the conversation with Vicky would go, considering her culpability in Sean and Leila’s escape. But that I never knew what to expect from Dempsey is a good sign.
The water was further muddied when Dempsey ordered a hit on Jarvis, but Vicky decided to instead join him in exposing Dempsey, who has a motive other than protecting the people. (Dempsey still manages to take him out, in spite of Vicky’s double-cross.) Not sure why I didn’t guess this, based on last week’s episode, but Dempsey’s motive apparently has something to do with his face, which gets all oldie-youngie. There’s a danger to cliffhanger scenes like this one and last week’s. The feeling for me is usually about 10 percent “Hmmm, that’s interesting” and 90 percent “Ugh, fine, whatever.” Too many of those with too few answers (or not the right answers at the right times) will almost certainly result in further viewer attrition.
Speaking of attrition, the degree to which I care what happens to Sean or Leila continued to dip this week, something I wouldn’t have thought possible. Basically, Sean got shot and Leila figured out a way to get him medical attention. It honestly felt like these characters were inhabiting another universe than the one Martinez, Sterling and Jarvis were in. At this point, I don’t even know if Sean and Leila are in the same place in time as the rest of the story. This is the consequence of doing so much flashing forward and back, and switching between the stories when they are quite literally happening in night vs. day. I don’t even know that Sean and Leila follow the same physical laws as anyone else. I do hope they’ll figure out how to integrate them into the story soon.
- I did quite like the backstory of Martinez and Jarvis becoming a bipartisan ticket. Having Jarvis walk off the convention stage to a "real American" baiting country song was a nice touch.
- There was no actual EBE stuff this week, since it focused so heavily on the Dempsey faction. Did the episode suffer because of this?
- Do we think Dempsey is another species, one different from the EBEs, perhaps a rival?
- We haven’t heard from Agent Collier for quite a while now, is she completely in the rearview?