The Event? Whoop-doo!
What is The Event? Certain characters know, but the writers of this show aren't telling. Not yet. Though, they claim we'll know soon enough. Apparently it involves a giant ball of blue phlegm that is spit forth from the heavens above. One that is capable of swallowing airliners whole. And Laura Innes, who is spoken to in a manner only befitting an alien presence from space definitely has something to do with it. But who or what is she? Only time will tell in this eager jolt of itchy anticipation.
The Event is a jittery child that doesn't sit down long enough for us to get comfortable with it. It herks and jerks between various months, giving us little snippets of the past; images only complicated by the immediate future. The Pilot episode feels incredibly short, and, in actuality, without commercials, is only about thirty-five minutes long. Surely not enough time to actually let us in on any of its secrets. The show does a nice job of setting up its central characters. But apparently, everyone we're introduced to will be getting shuffled to the back seat next week. Which isn't ever a good thing when trying to sail a new series with a giant cast down such a massive river.
If there's a problem with the formatting, it's that too much time is spent repeating and replaying action beats that we've just seen seconds before. Its as if creator Nick Wauters has no trust in his audience. He treats us not only like ADD riddled children corralled into a play pin, but he also suspects that we might be narcoleptic, too. Falling asleep during every commercial break, he jolts us and kicks us in the groin with scenes we literally witnessed two and a half minutes ago. But Christ, who could nod off during this tense nail-biter? The music is amped to near spine-shattering levels, and the editing is fluxed at a stressful pace.
The main focus in this first episode is on Jason Ritter's Sean Walker. Though, if the second episode preview is any indication, we shouldn't get too attached, or invested in him just yet. Anyone who has seen Jason Ritter's previous work has already fallen in love with the guy. He carries his late father's likeability, mixed with a tangy bit of darkness he picked up working in that wonderful Fred Durst ode to no_My Bodygaurd called The Education of Charlie Banks, and he can't quite shake it. He's got some greasy Mike Patton/Mondo Cane facial growth going on, and a cock-eyed nerdist approach to his lines that is as enthralling as it is bewildering. He is unique in his construct of Walker, and it's a character we can really get behind. His story starts off innocently enough. He's deeply in love with his girlfriend. He's taking her on a cruise. And he is going to propose. The kid's so old school, he even asks dad for permission to engage in acts of matrimony. This, despite the fact that he's going to be ravaging daddy's little girl for seven straight days on a boat, in the middle of nowhere, out of wedlock.
Walker's rendezvous in the tropics with his soon-to-be fiance Leila are hurriedly inter-cut with scenes of the young man, sweaty and sick, in an airplane bathroom, obviously doing things he shouldn't be doing. One minute he's cavorting across an oceanic landscape, the next he is pulling a gun mid-flight. Title cards constantly sweep at the camera shouting, "Eleven days ago, six months ago, two days from now, yesterday..." It's a whirlwind of moments that push us to a rousing climax, with little snippets of our new President, Blair Underwood, sprinkled on top for a bit of flavoring. Most of it doesn't make sense, even after we get a sense of what is going on. But that's to be expected. This is a five-year mystery in the making, after all.
Blair Underwood's President Elias Martinez seems to know what the event is. There's a group of individuals holed up in Alaska. And they are gearing up to make a big announcement. Laura Innes is their ringleader. We see her chained and shackled. A prisoner. Martinez treats her fairly. They are friendly. He flies her back to an undisclosed location, where they plan on making this big announcement on TV. We're never quite sure who Laura Innes is, but judging from the shackles, and the way the President talks to her, she's not some tiny little woman. No. She's something else. But what? Surely not human. An alien would be too generic and blah. Predictable. The information is given to us only in spurts. Which is frustrating. We're not allowed to see more from the characters. And the structural manipulation in the script is blaringly obvious.
While his cruise is docked, Sean takes Leila on a scenic tour of the nearby island. He is going to get on one knee and propose, but his intentions are halted by a screaming man. A woman has fallen off a cliff while taking pictures, and its up to Sean to save her. Which he does in a hurried moment of panic. Before long, Sean and Leila are having drinks with this accident-prone couple (her dude couldn't save her because he had a broken arm). They sip a little too much champagne, Sean and Leila agree to go snorkeling with the woman in the morning, but the hangover keeps Leila in bed. So it's just Walker and this strange woman. If you pay close attention here, Jason Ritter knocks it out of the park with his slightly inebriated twang, his fascination with a flickering light in the cabin of the ship, and the way he brushes off this strange woman's flirtatious vibe on the snorkeling boat. It's a side of men we seldom see on TV. He's shy, yet confident. And the true definition of a gentleman. If all the episodes revolve around him, we'll be in this for the long haul.
When Walker gets back from the snorkeling boat, he finds that his room card no longer works. The cruise receptionist has no record of him ever staying in that room, and Leila is gone. So Sean makes a mad dash for it. Where does he go? He's on a giant cruise liner. The show doesn't stop to tell us, as we've only got ten minutes left, and we have to get to that big reveal. As President Martinez and Sean Walker's story arcs are about to meet in a most egregious way. The climax of the show makes little sense. And I'm hoping its because we haven't been given all the answers just yet. We've got clues. But no answers.
When we last saw Walker, he was running around the top deck of a ship. Now, weeks later, he is seated in an airplane that is about to take off. He knows there is a bomb on board. Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale), a CIA operative in charge of the Alaskan detainees, knows there is a bomb on board, and we, the audience, know that there is a bomb on board. This is where shit gets tricky. Sean lets the airplane take off, even though its headed for President Martinez and Sophia Maguire's fate-filled announcement, set to be broadcast live on air via MSNBC (nice bit of advertising their for NBC's sister channel). He waits till he is in the air to confront the pilot. Thing is, the pilot is Leila's father. Yes, Sean's once-upon-a-time, soon-to-be-father-in-law is going to blow up the plane on the president's face. Walker knew about his intentions. So why did he let the guy get in the air. Why didn't he do something to stop him from getting in the cockpit? Why is he having such a delayed reaction?
Oh, to give us that wallop of an ending. Sure, it's a 'what-the-fuck?' moment. But right now, I don't feel it's earned. It just doesn't make any sense. At all. But then, we didn't actually see Sean get on the plane. We saw daddy get on the plane (you'll have to watch the show to understand the full breadth of it). Though, it seems to me, there would have been better ways to stop the plane then waiting until it took off. I guess I'll have to wait until next week to decide if this Pilot, which revolves around a shifty pilot, actually makes sense. It's a tough one to call, but the first episode comes on so fast and furious, its hard not to like it. And Jason Ritter really is the glue that holds this whole thing together. I hope he doesn't get shuffled too far into the background in the coming weeks.
The opening episode's first big Whoop-doo! moment comes from seeing Casey Siemaszko as an air traffic controller. I thought he'd be a main character, but no. It's just a little cameo. Come on, NBC! Give this guy his own series. He's a pugilist, for crying out loud.
The Event is definitely worth checking out. It's a zingy, zesty bit of excitement that doesn't slow down for a minute. If it did, we'd be inclined to ask far too many questions for our own good. I'll be back next week, for sure. But how many weeks after that is still undecided.