With ‘Heroes‘ finally off its schedule, NBC needed a new “event” show (no pun intended) to retain the comic book and sci-fi (read: nerd) viewers. I’m sure the network was also pretty eager to capture some of the ‘Lost‘ audience. So here we have ‘The Event’. (Or possibly ‘The Ev3nt’. I’m not sure what the deal is with that rotating “E.”) The new series has been promoted as some sort of flashy, big budget sci-fi/supernatural mystery thingamajig with… oooooooohhh… such big secrets that the promos can’t even reveal the basic premise of the story. Is the hype justified? Is this the new ‘Lost’?
That’s it. In a word: No. It’s no ‘Lost’. Not even close.
But is it at least halfway decent in its own right? Hard to say at this point. The pilot episode, ‘I Haven’t Told You Everything’, is really just kind of annoying from start to finish. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a kernel of something interesting in there that can be drawn out in subsequent episodes. That better happen damn quickly, though.
What’s the show about? I have no idea, frankly. And I have no idea specifically because the writers don’t want me to have any idea. They’ve written the pilot episode to be super-confusing.
Jason Ritter (John’s son) stars as a terrorist hijacking a passenger jetliner. Or maybe he’s just a nice dude named Sean on a cruise in the Caribbean with his girlfriend. Or maybe he’s both. Or maybe he’s neither. The story is told as a series of flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks within flash-forwards within flashbacks within flash-forwards within flashbacks within flashbacks within… Well, you get the idea. Or you don’t get the idea at all, because you’re not supposed to. There’s basically no way at all to tell what’s happening, or when, or why, or to whom.
From what I can gather, at some point Sean was a nice dude on a cruise in the Caribbean. Then his girlfriend went missing and nobody had a record of either of them ever boarding the ship. The girlfriend’s father (Scott Patterson from ‘Gilmore Girls’) is a commercial pilot. Some bad men killed his wife, then forced him to fly a plane into the President’s vacation compound. Sean got on the plane (completely unexplained how he got past security with a gun in his pocket). He isn’t trying to hijack the plane; he’s just trying to stop “The Event.” If this plane crash is “The Event,” which isn’t clear either.
President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood – because Jimmy Smits apparently wasn’t available and nobody bothered to rename the character when they recast with an actor who isn’t even remotely Hispanic) has been trying to shut down a Guantanamo-like military detention facility called Mt. Inostranka in Alaska. Doing so will also result in the release of 97 detainees who are so super-secret that even the President wasn’t told about them until someone leaked the information to him. Who are these detainees? That’s the big mystery. Or, perhaps not much of a mystery at all. I’d say there’s about a 70% chance they’re aliens, a 25% chance they’re time travelers from the future, and at least a 5% chance that they’re time traveling aliens from the future. I hope to hell that the producers aren’t planning to drag this revelation out until the end of the season.
What makes me say this? The episode ends with Sean failing to stop the plane crash. As the jet is barreling down towards the President’s compound, a giant ball of energy appears in the sky right in front of it. Poof! The plane flies into it and disappears. No crash. What’s that about? The leader of the detainees (Laura Innes from ‘ER’) says to the President, “They saved us.” Who saved what? “I haven’t told you everything.”
No shit, you haven’t told us everything. The writers here haven’t told us anything, really.
With a mystery like this, the story should be structured to follow the journey of the characters. You the viewer don’t know anything at first because the characters don’t know anything. As the characters find clues and learn things, you learn things.
In ‘The Event’, there are already plenty of characters in the pilot episode who know plenty of things. The President knows things. His advisor (Zeljko Ivanek, who I’m sure you’ll recognize from practically every show that’s aired on television over the past decade) knows things. Innes’ character knows things. By the time he gets to the plane, even Sean knows things. But we in the audience aren’t allowed to know those things, because they’re being deliberately withheld from us. This isn’t a mystery. It’s just the writers jerking us around to make themselves feel clever.
One more episode. That’s how long I’ll give this show to straighten itself out and start telling a coherent story. I can’t imagine that every single episode will retain the flashback-flashback-flashback-flashback structure. If the next one does, I’m done. If there really is an interesting nut of an idea that can be pried out from beneath this gimmick shell, maybe then I’ll give it more time. We’ll see.