I'll be the first to say it: conspiracy theories can be downright addictive, but there comes a point in every show built around a central mystery wherein the paint comes off ... or the car looses a wheel ... or the numbers just don't add up. You understand the metaphor, don't you? It means that the show -- either at the hands of the writers, the various directors, or the showrunners -- fails to make any achievable sense. When the pieces to the puzzle cannot go together in any logical fashion, the viewer can no longer recognize what he's looking at or if he's even supposed to be watching any longer.
In the last few decades, several television shows -- to varying degrees of success -- have attempted to create a genuine conspiracy thread all of their own; in creative circles, this central plot is generally referred to as the "central mythology" or "mythology arc." TWIN PEAKS started very strong out of the gate, but it withered and dithered into somewhat nebulous if not quasi-celestial territory that quite possibly ended up aggravating creator David Lynch's core audience; while the show's ending remains a powerful testiment to how mysteries can reward fans for their loyalty, it's hard to say how many of them were genuinely still watching once the conclusion arrived. THE X FILES dabbled in some wonderful extraterrestrial stories and ideas in its long mythology arc -- the possible invasion of the planet Earth -- and it did so in a way that pulled viewers tighter and tighter into the evolving plot. Series creator Chris Carter clearly (early on) wanted to have his program of otherworldly exploits grounded in decidedly human characters, with all of the strengths and weaknesses. The show enjoyed solid popularity ... until (one could argue) that it decided to align itself much too closely with expanding that mythology at the expense of stories about real people. Its finale ended up being an exaggerated 'clip show' that defied and denounced much of the brilliance of the show's earlier seasons. And, of course, no exploration of conspiracy television would be complete without a mention of LOST, a program whose title served as a metaphor more for the hours of time viewers 'lost' in return for investing in the show that ultimately delivered its audience exactly where viewers had long ago speculated it would despite the fact that the (mildly) disgraced showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had long ago (and much repeatedly) debunked. Despite concocting a winning formula for what could be one of TV's most remembered hourlong dramas, Lindelof and Cuse to this day still argue that fans "just didn't get" the ending, not there was all that much to get to their solution.
Attempting to cash in on the 'hole' in suitable genre programming created with LOST's departure, NBC salivated over putting THE EVENT into production. Largely, THE EVENT explores the TV battlefield already staked out by far superior shows (including LOST, Fox TV's 24, and THE X FILES), hoping to draw viewers in to a central mystery involving (gasp!) the invasion of the planet Earth. The various players include the U.S. President; several members of his cabinet; the First Lady; hundreds of aliens (who conveniently happen to look just like Earthlings, the science of which was explained in the show's first hour); and a whole slew of secret agents, double agents, possibly triple agents, and a globe-trotting millionaire who may or may not be on the side of goodness and light. Out of the gate, the events of THE EVENT unfolded both in real-time plotting and character flashbacks, a conceit (thankfully) dropped once TV critics explained how difficult it was to understand what was happening in the show's "present" given the fact that everyone in the "past" looked pretty much like everyone in the "present" so it became nearly impossible to distinguish the timelines.
From what I can recall of reading industry reports on THE EVENT's ratings, the show gained a solid audience upon premiere that's dwindled down to what remains of the core viewers. Given the program's format, it's hard to say whether or not anyone could jump aboard as a very healthy understanding of these characters backstory is needed, and many, many, many subplots have now unfolded to the point that the show lacks serious cohesive ... and, with April 18's airing of "Cut Off the Head," it's fairly easy to assume that perhaps even the writing staff have given up on making any sense of what's come before, what's currently happening, and where it all is heading.
"Cut Off the Head" refers to the good-then-bad-then-good-then-bad-again leader of the alien race, Sophia (update: she's very bad now); in the program's opening, she explains that the only way to accomplish her goal of dismantling Earth's largest and most powerful government -- the United States -- is to "cut off the head," a sentiment explored hundreds if not thousands of times in TV dramas around the world. In any event (pun intended), Sophia hatches a plot to foist the paper tiger Vice-President into the presidency by eliminating the real tiger, President Martinez. As plot twists would have it, the Vice-President has already been "in" on previous developments with the aliens, siding against his boss, and he finds himself on the "outs" with the White House. Before you can say "snap, crackle, and pop," Sophia whisks herself to the other side of the country and appears in a hotel room in the guise of a "lady of the night" to which the Veep calls upon at her behest. The Veep won't allow the Secret Service to so much as enter the room, and the lead agent is perfectly alright with this despite the fact that the Veep was nearly assassinated two episodes ago under relatively similar circumstances.
At this point, I realized that the writers aren't even trying to convey any sense of reality to THE EVENT, and maybe it's my fault for expecting it.
To the program's benefit, the creative staff does try to explore actions taking place around the world, but, to the showrunners' neglect, it would appear that there's no continuity person (or logic specialist) alerted. If it's daytime on one side of the world, then it stands to reason that it's nighttime on the other, but don't let planetary conditions stand in the way of getting quality film in the can while the sun is high in the sky on both sides of Earth simultaneously. Also, don't even expect time to unfold naturally! Jason Ritter's lovable everyman rescues one of his collaborators from a fire in the show's opening, but it turns out the housefire was a ruse to pull Ritter out of hiding. (He's now been awarded some kind of 'intergalactic savior role' for the future of mankind, a solid promotion from his previously stated job as a computer analyst of some sort.) However, once he's taken into custody, the narrative shifts back to storyline's unfolding half a world away; he's not seen again until 20 minutes or so of screen time -- we're led to believe that nearly a day has passed elsewhere -- but it's only moments after being captured by the bad guys! Complete with smoke smudges on his rosy cheeks and all!
It's hard to not experience some frustrations over THE EVENT. As I mentioned, the show creatively had to modestly re-invent itself -- retooling the premise without all of the confusing flashbacks -- and, since that time, some of the paint has come off. The seams are showing. Hollywood has lost some of its glisten. Conspiracies are intriguing, but they need to be grounded in a logical exploration of characters alongside the mysteries. While the program is not without some high points in storytelling, those moments have usually come when THE EVENT dismisses the conventions tied to other influential TV shows and stakes out territory of its own choosing. For example, episodes 11 and 12 dealt almost entirely with the efforts of the president's chief of staff, Blake Sterling (played by veteran character actor Zeljko Ivanek), attempting to stop the aliens from escaping the secret prison stronghold deep in Alaska; the episodes were tightly plotted, and the diversions of the secondary plots were limited to the real-time scenario of the main plot. It worked exceedingly well because -- for a brief time -- THE EVENT ignored the fact that, as a program, its very existence was predicated on other shows coming before it; the writers had a solid premise, they staked it out firmly in creative ground, and they put it in the capable hands of a cast and crew that probably realized it was a high point. Also, episode 15 (titled "Face Off") was another departure from the heavy conspiracy web by simply holing up the escaping aliens in a deserted church and surrounding it with federal agents. The activity stayed true to one basic premise -- the stand-off between the forces of presumed good and evil -- and, while it may not have been a home-run -- the episode worked because it felt somewhat independent of all other threads the show's writers have introduced.
This is when THE EVENT has worked best, and that's when it isn't trying to be derivative of something else. On its own, it works. Tied up in fragile knots of some galactic conspiracy, it mostly doesn't.
Now, in fairness, that may be because "The Event" (the very core of the central mythology) has yet to happen. Allegedly, all of these events are still building to "The" Event. But ... the question that bodes is, "Will we know when 'The' Event actually gets here?"
It's hard to say. All I can say is that with "Cut Off the Head" THE EVENT appears to be spiralling out of control. Perhaps it's because no one at the controls is no longer invested in seeing it through? I've no way to know. I only know that, based on that episode, the only 'event' left may be cancellation.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
What's your opinion on The Event, Season 1, Episode 17: "Cut Of...?