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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Event: "A Matter of Life and Death"

Illustration for article titled The Event: "A Matter of Life and Death"
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Over the past few weeks I’ve really come to enjoy recapping The Event. Not so much for the show itself, which we can all agree has circled the drain at varying speeds since day one, but for the comment thread. In addition to the firsties, both triumphant and tragic, there are fascinating discussions that speak broadly about what makes television shows work and what makes them fail. The most hilarious of those discussions regards the subjective nature of implausibility, how one man’s “Eh, I suppose that’s reasonable enough” is another man’s “C’mon, you have got to be fucking kidding me.” A buddy with whom I discussed last week’s episode had the biggest issue with the way the show plays with time, how President Martinez is in Florida, then Arizona, then Washington within a matter of scenes, how William was at Inostranka one minute and in Washington the next, and how Maya appears shortly thereafter as though there’s an express bus running from Alaska to DC. It’s a valid point, but one that for whatever reason doesn’t bug me to the degree that it bugs him. But there are in every episode scenes, lines, ideas that just irritate me to death.

That everyone seems to be annoyed by something in each episode, even though we can’t all agree on what those annoying things are, says a lot about The Event’s inability to keep us invested in its characters or its plot. 24, the show to which The Event is most accurately compared, took as many trying liberties with the timeline, but it was so often delivering compelling action scenes that there was less time to analyze the nonsense and plot holes. And even when they became apparent after the sugar rush, it was forgivable since 24 delivered entertaining, if not always logical television. Suspension of disbelief is elastic; we’ll lengthen or shorten the leash according to the worthiness of the story being told, and The Event doesn’t do nearly as much to earn the slack 24 did. Considering the showrunner of The Event is Evan Katz, who wrote for 24 since the show’s second season, it’s both fair and illuminating to dig into a comparison of the two shows.

The most striking difference between The Event and 24 is the woeful lack of developed, or even interesting characters. When D.B. Sweeney said at the beginning of this episode that Leila would be dead in two hours, I didn’t much care because I don’t know who Leila is, or for that matter, why she’s still alive to begin with. “A Matter of Life and Death” worked harder to fix that issue than any episode we’ve seen so far. Through flashbacks, naturally, we got some tidbits intended to foster a little more emotional connection to Sean, Martinez and Sophia. They were somewhat effective, because who among us can resist a broken home narrative, a meet-cute or an up-by-the-bootstraps immigrant success story, but the flashbacks weren’t enough to get me on board with the characters. In fact, the characters I’m most interested in are Sophia and William, the ones I know the very least about. That suggests to me that in a show like this, the characters are limited by the plot. I’m only going to be interested in the characters in so much as I’m interested in the story. Humanizing Sean with a sad origin doesn’t help.

What The Event needs is an engaging story and a deft execution of it, which “A Matter of Life and Death” proves yet again that the show’s writers aren’t quite show how to deliver. As in the second episode, this fourth episode takes an interest-piquing cliffhanger and immediately snuffs out any tension it could provide. Rather than muddle through the fustercluck that the reanimated passengers would create, they decide to rob them of their memories and detain them. For whatever reason, Blake is in charge of the investigation, much to the chagrin of the vice president. So the 514 passengers are now sort of a non-issue, beyond the fact that Martinez’s incompetent Secret Service agents allowed a cell phone to be placed in his son’s backpack. William calls with a threat: release Sophia, or he’ll kill the passengers. Why this is of consequence is anybody’s guess. So what William is saying is that he killed the passengers once, and unless he gets what he wants, he’ll rekill them! And not bring them back to life again! You’re bad at threats, William. The way that’s supposed to go is, you kill the passengers, then say that unless Martinez does what you want, you’ll kill additional people. As we suspected, Sophia and William have never been quite on the same page. Or something. Sigh.

The bulk of the episode was spent with Sean and Collier. After escaping the Yuma field office, they took advantage of some sap’s unprotected wi-fi to back-door the whosy-whatsy database to get a line on Vicky. They’re working by themselves because no one else can be trusted. The hunt leads them to a house, and in a bit of 24-ish sleight of hand, we were led to believe it was the house in which Leila was being held captive. Alas, it was just a house with a stubborn old lady in it. Predictably, the woman is Vicky’s mother, who is covering for her and taking care of her son while she’s off doing eeevil things. All of which leads us to the stupidest twist the show has delivered yet.

D.B. Sweeney and Vicky toss Leila in a basement with her hands bound. Sweeney breaks a bottle of beer, conveniently leaving a huge chunk of broken glass behind allowing Leila to cut herself free. Just as Vicky is about to kill her—surprise!—Leila knocks her sideways and grabs the gun. With Vicky in hot pursuit, she shoots her and flags down a cop. At the police station, she manages to call Sean and tell him she’s in a small town in Texas, so he can come get her. But—surprise again!—it was all staged! Sweeney put the glass there on purpose! The gun was loaded with blanks! They killed the real cops in the station and now the cops are the bad guys! And all of this is in the interest of getting Leila to call Sean so he’ll come get her? Never mind that we don’t even know how Sean is involved in any of this, or why he’s so important seeing as how getting Laila back seems his only objective and he doesn’t seem to care about what’s going on outside of that. Why was any of this remotely necessary? I know, I know, this is the show that introduced Vicky by having Sean leap off a cliff to save her from drowning, and maybe this doesn’t even compare to the stupidity of that. But I wish this cabal would hire me as their logistics manager, so that I could come up with plans as streamlined and efficient as “How about we call Sean and tell him where to find Leila?” And this is the cliffhanger? That’s the taste this show wants to leave in my mouth? I want to punch things. I know we’ve had our disagreements about what is and isn’t plausible in this show, but I think we can all join hands here and call bullshit.


Stray observations:

  • Hal Holbrook was listed as a guest. I suppose that was his voice on the other end of Vicky’s call.
  • Vicky’s son is hella creepy.
  • As much as I hated the final reveal, part of me is semi-relieved that Sweeney isn’t such a moron that he’d break a glass bottle and leave behind a chunk that big.
  • Am I the only one unclear on why Leila had to cut herself so much to get the rope off? The rope was between her skin and the glass, was it not?
  • I’m still enjoying Zeljko Ivanek. In fact, he’s the only thing I am enjoying about this show now.