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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waiting For The Event

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Season (Series) of 'The Event'.

More and more I've come to realize that I'm a sucker for Sci-Fi on Network TV.

More and more, I've come to realize that I'm a masochist.

And I'm not entirely sure why that is.

You see, usually, I give a show 3 episodes and if it doesn't make the grade, I bail. But for some reason, for Sci-Fi, I've got a weakness.

I realize that now.

For some reason, when it comes to Sci-Fi on Network TV all of my safeguards go out the window and I'm willing to put up with some crazy, crazy amounts of bullshit.

And, sad as it is to say, nothing quite takes the cake like The Event.

You see, plot-wise, there were some great ideas there; spattered throughout the mess there truly were some fantastic scenes and twists. But getting to those moments, getting to those reveals... execution-wise... it was just... yikes.

This was a show that spent most of its time telegraphing its punches... and then, with a few notable exceptions, played them straight. The episodes themselves often devolved into nuggets of new/interesting story wrapped in layers and layers of useless padding and expository/re-expository dialogue.

In fact, it was all so meted out, so slowly paced that it took me 3 episodes to realize that I'd managed to miss 2 earlier episodes in the series (apparently my PVR decided not to tape them).

Anyways, for those who never watched The Event -- or those who never cared but might be slightly interested, I've decided to share a bit of my pain... maybe get a bit of closure, maybe try and make it all make sense for myself ('cause it certainly didn't make that much sense when I watched it).

I've decided to try and sum up the entire first season/series of The Event.

*deep breath*

Aliens crash-landed on Earth a good 40-50 years ago. They were captured and held prisoner in an Arctic mountain range by the US Government. They were here on a mission of peace (theoretically). Aliens look exactly like us, their DNA is only like 1% different from ours. Also, they age super slowly.

NOTE: Everything gets crazy convoluted for most of the season, but I'll try and make it make sense (I'm condensing the entire series and trying to make it chronologically relevant).

Essentially, the newly-minted President Martinez finds out about said Aliens and wants to give them a shot to integrate themselves; had even planned to release them and introduce them to the world. His major chief of staff (or something) thinks this is a horrible idea and that they should either be left to rot or destroyed where they are because they're a threat (as it turns out he's ultimately right, but whatever). The President overrides him and continues with his plan to bring them public.

Then someone tries to kill the President by flying a plane into him.

Yes, you heard that right.

Eventually (near the end of the season) it turns out to have all been a plot by the Vice President, who was working for some shadowy figure who was apparently from some race of 'Sentinels' who guard the Earth against Aliens and didn't want the President letting the Aliens out... or something (but I'm getting ahead of myself, more on this later). In what is actually kind of a cool scene, the Aliens inadvertently (or advertently, I can't remember) save the President by using Alien technology to teleport the plane away at the last minute.

Anyways, over several episodes we come to find out that some of the original Aliens escaped capture and integrated into our everyday life. One of them (the leader of the Aliens' son, as it turns out) has been working behind the scenes to get Human technology up to snuff so that they can build a device that would allow them go home. Almost all advancements in Human technology come from this one guy's knowledge.

The leader of the Aliens, Sofia, a seemingly nice lady given the circumstances (she's been in said Arctic prison for a good 50 or so years), has been adamant to the President that they're a peaceful folk. Secretly, she's been having her son work on said Portal back home. Once she realizes the tech is feasible (saving the President from the plane turned out to be a 'test run') she goes on to tell her people that as soon as the portal is finished, they're are all going to leave Earth and head back to their home planet.

Her son doesn't want this, he's realized that he quite likes his new life on Earth and so he stages a coup against his mom -- attacking the secret Government prison directly and freeing all of the Aliens in an attempt to wrest power from his mother. (In the end, that doesn't really work and mommy pretty much slaps him on the wrist -- even though he actively killed a large chunk of his own people who were "traitors" for wanting to stay by his mom's side... oddly enough, this point is never brought up or addressed)

The US Government, of course, doesn't like being under direct attack from what amounts to sleeper cells of Aliens and so President Martinez spends a lot of time waffling on what the hell to do about this situation. His borderline 'good' relationship with Sophia ends up blown all to shit after a series of lies and miscommunications, eventually leading him to realize that these people are a threat. He ends up saying enough is enough and -- in a weird, entirely out of character moment -- he orders the Army to kill Sophia's son and a bunch of his followers. (He blows up a bus load of them with an attack chopper).

Sophia (who is now free from the prison and out amongst the populace) is displeased about this turn of events and decides that all Humanity must pay (seriously) which ends up all well and good because, an episode or two later, it's revealed that her home planet -- the one she's been trying to get everyone back to -- is about to be destroyed because their sun is imploding. Vindicated (so it would appear) she goes about plotting the utter death/destruction of 5.8 billion Humans to make way for her people.

And so she ends up sending a bunch of Aliens to Siberia to dig up an original version of the Spanish Flu virus from a frozen grave (why Siberia? That's never explained) and then proceeds to weaponize said virus (it kills too fast, so they want to slow it down...).

Also, the Aliens are immune to it.

President Martinez ends up in a brain-hemorrhaged coma after the Vice President (now working with Sophia) slips Alien poison into his morning meeting coffee. (This is also a really cool scene)

As Martinez's life hangs in the balance, the VP takes the reigns of the US Government and immediately becomes Sophia's bitch. (He acquiesces to her every whim based on her promise to 'spare' the American people from the wrath of her superior technology. This is actually a lie as she plots to make USA ground zero for her biological attack and from there infect and kill the world).

We then come to learn that apparently the Aliens were here first, long before we got around to being here. (More about the 'Sentinel' stuff... but I'll explain that later).

Anyways, sprinting toward the finish now, at the last minute the President is saved, the Alien biological attack is thwarted and things are looking good -- except the Aliens had finished their 'Open A Wormhole In The Fabric Of Space' portal machine and the Alien race -- all 2 or so billion of them -- teleport their entire planet just out past our moon. Apparently they're all extremely badass and Sophia was actually trying to kill us all with a virus as an 'act of mercy' as compared to what her people will do to us.

The Alien planet (of which half of it glows like embers in a fire) hangs in the sky, bigger than the moon, like the ominous threat that it is.

End of Series.

Now, if that sounds even remotely palatable that's because I've completely left out an entire major storyline and a metric shit-ton of filler. This other storyline actually took up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the general running time of the show.

It was also an utter mess at the best of times. (Pretty much every episode had that character repeating lines and all the new information he'd managed to learn the episode before).

You see, this other storyline was supposed to tell the story from the 'ground level', that involved a regular civilian human... but it was pretty much a clusterfuck from the word 'Go'.

His storyline broke down like this:

A regular civilian (a hacker, of course!) ends up on a quest to save his kidnapped girlfriend after she disappears from aboard their cruise ship (and no one even knows who he or she is, or that they were ever aboard to begin with). After a long (REALLY LONG) and convoluted find/rescue mission, he saves her and it ends up being revealed that said girlfriend is a half-alien. It also turns out that she's an annoying witch of a woman who has absolutely no chemistry with the would-be lead of that tale. (She gives him crap for saving her life...!)

Her father, as it turns out, is a full alien who was one of a few aliens who escaped into the wilderness all those years ago. They discover that there's a shadowy figure who's been pulling the strings, an old man who somehow manages to suck the life force out of children (leaving them withered and old but in the bodies of kids) to keep himself alive.

After the convoluted plot to save his girlfriend, she ends up choosing to leave him to go be with alien dad -- the boyfriend hooks up with a hot but ultimately clueless (at least as clueless as he is) assassin who used to work for said old string-pulling 'Sentinel' man. After even more convoluted and ultimately irrelevant plot points, he and the once-evil Assassin lady end up tracking down and confronting 'Sentinel' man who explains to the hacker in cryptic terms that he is of a race of 'Sentinel's that protect the Earth from 'threats'. He then explains that hacker boy is their last chance to stop the Aliens and save the world. Finally, he hands the hacker a cryptic (ancient) scroll and then proceeds to blow his own brains out with a hand gun.

(WTF?)

Hacker and friend then learns that the Aliens are actually evil (thanks to hacker's girlfriend calling him and telling him that the Aliens are actually evil) and thus hacker and assassin end up in Siberia, trying to stop the spread of this lethal virus. How the hell they manage to travel from Paris to Siberia with no money and with next to no time passage is never explained either.

Anyways, it turns out that the hacker's half-Alien girlfriend ends up being the vehicle for the Alien leader to weaponize the deadly virus (being a half-breed and all) -- and that's pretty much the culmination of the girlfriend's story. Yeah... worth it!!

Eventually, hacker and assassin end up back in the US, and hacker boy ends up talking down Sophia from releasing the virus in Dulles airport -- even tho' the US Government had already pretty much contained the entire situation. The hacker's story basically culminates in that he's there to keep an airport's worth of people from being killed by weaponized Spanish Flu. Not bad... I guess... but certainly a far cry from "saving the world".

So, yeah, end of Season One: Aliens teleport their whole planet into Earth's orbit, ominous talk is spouted, we're essentially doomed.

And that was where Season 2 was going to pick up.

There were some cool ideas in here -- and if they'd done away with the 'ground level' stuff entirely, kept it as just the US Government trying to deal with this threat it probably would've been a stronger show for it.

Certainly a leaner, meaner show.

But it didn't and now there will never be a Season 2.

And, like most cancelled 'Alien-invades' us shows, Humanity basically ends up Fubar'd.

Maybe it's time to just bite the bullet and start with the invasion itself?

(Note: Stephen Spielberg's new series 'Falling Skies' apparently does this).

*sigh*

I wish I had something profound to say after all of this, something to make it all make sense and add some perspective.

As a writer, I'd like to think my stuff would come out better... but, hell, I don't know that I can say that. I don't know what happened in that writing room or what pressures were placed on whom.

All I know is that, as a viewer, I really want to like shows like 'Flash Forward' or 'V' or 'The Event'... and yet every time I come away from it feeling hollow, like I've wasted my time.

How does one fix that? I don't know... but it can't bode well for Sci-Fi on network TV.

Cheers,
Brandon

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