Episode 5 - Casualties of War
28 March 2012
I just watched three episodes of The Event back to back and I kind of enjoyed the experience. Let's crack out the proper reviewing tools to examine all three episodes and the state of the show in general.
The Good: Jason Ritter is doing a very fine job here. The role only calls for him to be likeable and he does that effortlessly. It's a brilliant piece of casting really because there is no chance in the show for real character development. The show needs the actors to convey a sense of who they are just by the way they handle generic dialogue. Ritter manages to use his smile, his stutter and his looks of desperation to garner genuine sympathy from me. He is being asked to play Jack Bauer's gentler cousin or a more emotional Michael Schofield or if you will, a less muscular Spartacus. Congrats to him.
I also enjoy the pace of the show. The details of the plot are not very satisfying but the structure of the show has managed to keep things seeming important and dramatic throughout each episode. I liked that Sean and Leila were reunited in episode five because those kidnap stories wear thin fast. There were even hints of some genuinely interesting dilemmas such as when the President is informed he can gas his detainees to death like a second holocaust. The show has successfully borrowed the intensity from 24 and the flashbacks from Lost and does use those tricks to create a show which should be able to hang onto a certain audience for the rest of the season.
The Bad: The show isn't interested in genuine characterisation which is sad. The flashbacks to Sean and Leila's courtship were a fun break from the action but they were generic enough to convince me that nothing better is coming. Ditto Thomas and Sophia. You can tell the show's priority is on action and drama and not on getting to know what makes these people tick.
That means the show has to be exceptionally good at the drama for it to really succeed. Sadly it isn't. What kept 24 going for so long was that in small ways it did deliver consequences. Lots of people died, buildings blew up, nuclear weapons exploded and so on. The sense that bad things really could happen if Jack didn't spit and scream in everyone's faces meant viewers took the show seriously. The Event just keeps raising the stakes so high that nothing they deliver could live up to the hype.
What could be so important that Sophia would keep silent for over sixty years? What could be so important that Thomas would commit mass murder to get his way? The show creates the impression that if they opened up to President Martinez he would probably help them. It also seems as if were the truth something genuinely terrifying or unknowable then Sophia wouldn't have cooperated the way she has so far.
Meanwhile Vicky's people gun down an entire FBI office, kill an innocent man in a parking lot and then murder more cops to set up the trap to catch Sean. Again, what could be so important that they would shed so much blood and risk capture? Those are extreme terroristic attacks and I don't think the show has the plot to back them up. Instead Vicky's associates bicker like any bunch of action movie villains. This makes little sense considering they have killed fellow officers and should surely be worried about being caught. Vicky herself is unconvincingly heartless and when we discover she has a secret child I rolled my eyes at a plot lifted directly from Prison Break and I doubt they were the first to think of it. So the woman who can kill anyone without her conscience being troubled then kills all her colleagues to protect her son. It's sensational and silly and cheapens the impact of death even further.
Amidst the raising stakes and bloodshed the show has dealt in action cliche's. Some I have already mentioned. When Leila escaped and found friendly police officers willing to help her I was delighted. That practically never happens on TV and it would be very fresh to present a different story. Soon though the rug was pulled out from under me with the old "it was a setup all along" bit and I groaned. Not only is that an old bad plot but it's stupidly risky. Leila might have accidentally killed Vicky or herself. Or more to the point maybe she would have rung some of her friends and told them where she was. The fact that she didn't was stupid but then that whole story was, considering her ruthless captors could have just tortured her or forced her to call Sean at gunpoint.
Another bad cliche was FBI Agent Collier saying "How do I find those bastards?" a full ten minutes after her colleagues were gunned down in front of her eyes. Like so many shows The Event is treating death like it's an everyday event and when you do that you rob death of its dramatic impact. You train viewers not to care and ultimately to care less about your show.
Conclusion: I think The Event can become a serviceable 40 minutes of silly drama. There is a way to go forward, as 24 showed, keep the tension high and maintain an audience. But I don't think there is anything interesting in the plot left. I highly doubt we will learn that Sophia's people are something beyond our imagination with amazing implications for today.
I don't think I will continue to write about the show episode by episode. But with little other drama around that fits my taste I might check back in on Ritter and his adorable stutter when I can and see how it's going.
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