The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

The Event: “A Matter of Life and Death”

Posted by therebelprince on October 18, 2010

A funny thing happened after Lost. Everybody assumed that 24, Lost and their descendants would open audiences up to long-form storytelling,in which patience was rewarded and plot seeds germinated into complex storylines. Instead, people fought back, fleeing in droves as each episode of the new generation of mytharc series only provided tiny morsels of information

I’m really enjoying The Event (indeed it’s the only new drama I’m watching), but it’s a pity that it’s being undermined somewhat by the need to attract new viewers. Ironically, Lost – which, after all, essentially gave us two-dozen stand-alone stories in its first season – was more watchable than this show, which has promised (and has delivered) answers from the outset. By moving the plot along, it’s harder for people to catch up, as evidenced by the “here’s what you missed on Glee!” style previouslies that opened this episode.

The standout performances here were the usual – Zeljko Ivanek and Laura Innes particularly – but man, Jason Ritter has come out of nowhere to give them a run for their money. Sean is forward-thinking and intelligent without  devolving into a generic action series lead. There’s just enough social awkwardness there – particularly in the flashback scenes – to justify his sad childhood and his apparent “nerdiness”. I’m not sure where his plot is going though: when your main characters include the President and members of the intelligence services, it seems almost redundant to include an everyman, but I think the writers and Ritter have done a marvellous job of making Sean interesting to watch.

There were some very creepy scenes over in the hospital, where the survivors of the plane crash are recovering: seemingly back-to-normal after their apparent deaths but with just a hint of zombification. And the political machinations are also moving along at a steamroller pace: Scott Patterson’s pilot is already freed of guilt because he actually confesses everything he knows and, even better, Ivanek isn’t the only one who knows the truth! Whether it turns out to be him or the VP who’s evil (or neither), we’ve been mercifully spared any coded dialogue from ambiguous characters. Everyone is fully drawn, and I’m thankful for it.

I’m issuing a blanket pardon to the overload of exposition this week (although it was a bit silly that Sean had to remind his federal agent partner about Vicky’s multiple aliases) since I know that The Event needs to fight against the tide to drag in new viewers. I’m less certain about the continued overuse of flashbacks, though. I guess I don’t mind them as added colour: seeing Sean’s first meeting with Leila’s parents, or the first time that POTUS and his wife had dinner with Sophia are moments which add weight to the current action and flesh out the characters beyond what their high-adrenaline situations can achieve. I still can’t help but feel like this may continue to be an easy way to paper any holes as we go along. For now, I’m accepting it, as the flashbacks have diminished in quantity since the pilot, and hopefully they’ll occur only when required.

Leila’s storyline, meanwhile, is hopefully a means to an end. It was nice to see her become more proactive, and nicer still that the seeming cock-ups on the part of her kidnappers were all part of a plan. But so far this conspiracy seems awfully well-orchestrated. Who’s to say Leila wouldn’t just go into hiding rather than trust the cops? Or do they have a cop/doctor/kindly passerby on the payroll in literally every town and city? There comes a point – let’s call it Later Seasons of The X-Files Syndrome – where “trustworthy figure turns out to be double agent” is no longer shocking, and instead is par for the course. Of course, The X-Files is this show’s clear ancestor, which is maybe why I’m enjoying it so much?

In closing, I hope The Event continues. Ratings are diving quickly, but so far this is a well-written, atmospheric serial drama. It’s not perfect yet, true, but most of the issues – overuse of exposition, amazingly knowledgeable government database – are forgivable in the show’s embyronic stages. If we can continue to avoid the traps most genre writers fall into when also adhering to network standards, though, we should be in for a wild ride.

Diverse observations:

* Hey, it’s Rosalind Chao! Hi Rosalind Chao!

* It seemed strange that all the plane’s passengers (200 and something) were in separate rooms in the opening. You’d think at the very least, they’d let little children be with their parents.

* I love that the aliens are vegan. It’s about time that TV science fiction caught up with sci-fi of the golden age, instead of going all V on us.

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