NBC has touted “The Event” for a long time. Like “Lost,” it relied on mystery and obtuseness for attention, with ads that touted the tagline “What is ‘The Event’?,” to entice would-be viewers. Which is fine — “Lost” left a big hole on the airwaves — but the thing is, a poster only gets you to watch once.
And this is where “The Event” fails. The first episode opens up to a young man named Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) hijacking a plane. Meanwhile, we see that President Elias Martinez’ (Blair Underwood) release of detainees from a mysterious, top secret Alaskan prison means that he will be targeted for an assassination attempt, via plane crashing into his press conference. Of course, the plane is the same one that Sean has hijacked in an attempt to stop the assassination of the President. Right when the plane is about to kill the President, it gets surrounded in a blue energy field and disappears. Before we can register what just happened, it cuts to black. Roll credits.
But, going on three episodes now, this show has shown that it can’t keep up the promise of the first episode — which wasn’t that great to begin with. But why is that?
While people may have been annoyed by how lethargic “Lost” was in answering questions, this show goes by faster than Roadrunner down a painted tunnel. And, as most people who saw the “Lost” finale can attest, the answers aren’t always satisfying. Same goes for “The Event,” which by the second episode we find out is about humanoid aliens hiding from the government, limiting the possibility of where stories can go.
The other crucial problem is the characters. Or, should I say, lack thereof. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of characters, it’s just that none of them have any. Character, that is. They are stock archetypes with fewer dimensions than victims in slasher films. First, the protagonist Sean, is simply boring. His love scenes with his fiancé, played by Sarah Roemer (by the way, being his fiancé is as nuanced as her character gets, a running theme in this show), are flat and unrealistic. They have no chemistry and that lack makes his quest to find her after she is kidnapped by shady government agents (one of the main conflicts of the show) feel like useless padding.
We don’t care if he succeeds; sure, they say they love each other and that they have a deep connection, but they don’t show it. And the few times they try, it’s embarrassing. Every character, except maybe the President, deals with this kind of one-dimensional dilemma. There’s the alien in disguise working as a double agent, the requisite shady government advisor, the vengeful alien villain, etc. All clichés, and all as nuanced and morally ambiguous as a Christian morality play.
Now why am I harping on this so much? Well, the thing is, with mystery shows like “Lost,” its predecessor “X-Files,” and its current successor “Fringe,” is that the mysteries take a backseat to the characters. We are invested in long, convoluted (and in the cases of both “X-Files” and “Lost,” disappointing) mysteries, because there are characters that grounded it. We didn’t watch “Lost” just to find out what the hatch was or why there were polar bears or how Hurley stayed fat without any food. We watched for Jack, Locke, Sawyer, et al. We wanted to find out more about them; finding out the mysteries of the island was a perk.
But is it fair to compare “The Event” to “Lost?” Shouldn’t we be looking at the show on its own merits? If we do, the show fares even worse. Because at that point, instead of thinking of this as a sort of “Lost” replacement, you get to see it for what it really is: a one-note gimmick, with one-note characters, with a one-note outcome (cancellation).