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The Event Is Disorienting But Needs Room to Grow

By Edited Apr 27, 2016 0 2

I spent a good portion of the summer hearing what The Event is not, so I was looking forward to seeing the premiere and finally getting some idea of what it is. The heavily promoted NBC drama kicked off with I Haven't Told You Everything, which is the enigmatic line that concludes the episode. The statement is addressed to President Elias Martinez, portrayed by Blair Underwood, but it might as well be the show speaking directly to us. Of course it hasn't told us everything or there would be no need for the series to continue. The question is, has it told us anything?

Pilot episodes have a tendency to be disorienting. Once the main characters have been firmly established, there's a tendency for the show to settle into a more manageable rhythm. I can't say for sure whether that will happen here, but I hope it does, since this premiere gave me a bit of a headache, whooshing back and forth through time as we got a closer look at three different characters and those clustered around them.

Like Flashforward and V, The Event seems to be trying to capture the LOST audience with a befuddling series involving a cataclysmic event and a large cast of characters. It does share a few basic elements in common with LOST. For one thing, we spend a good chunk of the first episode on an airplane, where a drama is unfolding. Jason Ritter, son of the late John Ritter and formerly of the sadly short-lived Joan of Arcadia, portrays Sean Walker, arguably the main character here, an appealing young man distraught over the mysterious disappearance of his fiancee, who we meet in flashbacks. What's more, we see him pull off a daring water rescue that makes me instantly think of Jack Shephard, though he seems a bit less of a type-A personality, particularly when it comes to trying to work up the nerve to propose and ask his future father-in-law for his blessing.

That father-in-law is professional pilot Michael Buchanan. Played by Scott Patterson, he seems like an authoritative but down-to-earth guy, which is similar to the impression we get of the president, who doesn't seem to have been in office very long. President Martinez comes across as idealistic, with a gravitas that largely melts away in the face of several advisors who know much more about what's going on than he does. One of these is a shrewish-seeming fellow by the name of Blake Sterling, who is played by Zeljko Ivanek, who beat LOST's Michael Emerson for the Emmy in 2008 and appeared in one episode of the show as Dr. Edmund Burke, Juliet's obnoxious and ill-fated ex-husband.

So far, Sean, Michael and President Martinez appear to be the major players in this drama, though there are clearly others who understand what is happening far better than they do. Or we do. From where I'm standing now, I would be tempted to say that The Event is what happens with the plane at the conclusion of this episode, but I get the impression that this isn't quite the case. That something more startling to us but more expected to certain higher-ups is still on its way. Clearly, it would seem that science fiction will play a role here. Could the reversed "E" in the show's advertising be a hint that mirror universes will come into play? Might there be aliens involved, especially given the cryptic talk of Laura Innes's vaguely creepy advisor, Sophia Maguire? That remains to be seen.

LOST certainly established how valuable flashbacks can be as a tool for exploring the history and motivations of characters. However, it's important to make sure that we are clearly rooted in the current timeline. The Event does a decent job of letting us know what is happening right now, but I still found myself confused at times, wondering whether I was still in a flashback or back in the present day. Creator Nick Wauters might want to think about coming up with a better way of setting these scenes apart from one another. LOST had it fairly easy in this regard because the contemporary timeline had such a clearly defined setting. In episodes that flashed back to the Island, a whooshing sound effect was helpful in signaling a change in timeline. It might be a good idea to employ such a device here. Additionally, I'm not sure I understand why some of the flashbacks are shown out of order. The only purpose seems to be obfuscation, which is bound to get on viewers' nerves before long. Indeed, it would seem that it already has, and I heard from several people that they walked away from The Event feeling dizzy and unengaged.

Like Hawaii 5-0, the series gets off to a pretty violent start, with guns being waved around, abductions occurring and a plane in danger of being shot down by the government. In the midst of all the calamity, there's a bit of tenderness to be found in how sweet-natured Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer) interacts with her father and Sean, and with a couple of cute kids on the sidelines, there may be some forthcoming opportunities for light moments. In this episode, however, there is little in the way of comic relief; one complaint I have with most of these shows that try to follow in LOST's footsteps is that they tend to have such a somber tone to them. Will I continue to watch The Event if the whole thing feels ominous and oppressive? Probably not.

Still, this is a series that needs a little breathing room. It's a shame that Flashforward got the axe just as it was hitting its stride. People have to be willing to give The Event a shot, leaving time to develop fulfilling storylines and character arcs. I'm not hooked yet, but I am intrigued enough to stick with the show for a little while and see if it's going anywhere. I hope a few more people do the same.

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Comments

Sep 28, 2010 12:13am
mcimicata
Phenomenal article that opened my eyes to the subject! It was well written, and you clearly know what you are talking about.
Sep 28, 2010 12:21am
bilbopooh
Thanks! The second episode aired tonight; didn't catch it live but looking forward to seeing it online.
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