The return of “The Event” to NBC Monday night was billed as a relaunch of the series, with the implication that the two-hour episode could bring some new viewers in while keeping the hook in for those who have been with the show since the fall.
But if you were just coming to the show, I hope you paid very close attention to the “previously on” — because if you weren’t already up to speed on much of what was happening, it’s hard to see these two episodes making a ton of sense. (Perhaps this will help you.) Heck, even as someone who watched all the fall episodes and wrote about most of them, I found myself going back to old notes more than once.
On the upside, “The Event” did move things forward on several fronts — most notably in revealing Thomas’ plan — in these episodes. Had “And Then There Were More” and “Inostranka” come just a week, or even a month, after the last fall episode, they would have served as pretty good momentum-builders. But NBC’s scheduling decision really sapped any of that momentum, and what transpired Monday wasn’t enough to glue me to my seat.
The one nod to new viewers (Hi, new viewers, if you’re there) was the introduction of Virginia Madsen as Catherine Lewis, a newly appointed senator from Alaska. She’s the (apparently much younger) widow of the previous six-term senator, who died recently, and in going through her husband’s things she comes across some top secret documents about the Inostranka facility. That puts President Martinez in a bind: She threatens to go public with her knowledge of the secret prison unless she gets the full scoop on what it is.
Martinez finally relents, and Lewis will probably be a continuing thorn in his side, but for now it feels like the character is there to ask things like “What’s all this about a secret prison? Who are you holding there, and why?” as a stand-in for anyone who’s just coming to the show.
The real action, however, took place at Inostranka, where Sterling headed after the NSA decoded Thomas’ broadcast into space: “Preparations are being made for your arrival.” Turns out Thomas isn’t just talking on that one: He’s building a very large “portal array” in Tibet to welcome more of his people to Earth (an array, incidentally, that looks plenty big enough to spot on Google Earth, but … yeah). He needs more hands to prepare for the arrival, though, so he executes a very detailed plan to bust the remaining detainees out of Inostranka.
For the most part, it goes as planned, except that Sterling and a corporal manage to throw a bit of a wrench into things by killing some of Thomas’ goons and convincing one of the detainees, Maya (Clea DuVall, last seen in episode 3), that Thomas really has gone rogue. She takes a bullet for Sterling as Thomas and crew are leaving rather than go with him. We’ll have to wait for the crumbling Washington Monument and the revelation that the aliens used to call Earth home (as promised in the many, many NBC promos leading up to Monday), but the capital-E Event at least feels like it may be drawing closer.
Finally, Monday’s episodes brought Leila, little sister Samantha and their dad, Michael, together again. It’s a touching family reunion, but for the fact that Michael reveals to Leila that he, too, is a “nonterrestrial.” And by implication, Leila and Sam have at least some alien DNA in them, which explains why Evil Hal Holbrook (OK, Dempsey) has been after Sam and other girls like her — he’s looking for a fountain of youth, and since the aliens age much, much slower than us regular people, the mix of alien and human DNA might be the ticket.
That bit of story also put Sean face-to-face with someone from the other arms of the story for the first time, but it was mostly a tease. Sophia promises to answer his questions, but that session must have started off camera, ’cause we didn’t see any of it.
And therein lies one of the problems with “The Event”: We know the rules of these shows by now — they have to slow-play things a little, or else they can’t fill an entire season’s worth of episodes. But if the answers are going to be slow in coming, they better be really good ones, and the diversions along the way better be really diverting. These two episodes of “The Event” weren’t bad, but they don’t have me breathlessly awaiting next week either.
What did you think of the show’s return?