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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Event: "Strain"

Illustration for article titled The Event: "Strain"
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I feel comfortable saying that, since returning from hiatus, The Event has elevated from being a full-on spaceship wreck to merely ho-hum. I don’t think it’s outright bad anymore, and though a lot of the choices they’ve made have resulted in narrative whiplash, I admire the writers for doing a competent job of making so many changes in such a short period of time. Following the dramatic viewership drops that followed the premiere, I’d imagine that the network notes came flooding in: Knock off the time jumps, bring the disparate characters together, sprinkle in satisfying resolutions while working towards the broad end game, that kind of thing. The Event has had a dramatic and bumpy evolution that has been kind of breathtaking to witness, even if the show itself was still trying my patience.

But The Event is still capable of surprising me, apparently, hence the above praise which I realize borders on revisionism. I didn’t expect to get much out of “Strain” because of the way “Cut Off the Head” ended. I was really irritated by that ending because it created no suspense. I can’t be convinced that Martinez would die. This is a show in which Leila is not only still alive but is considered a regular cast member even though the character has absolutely nothing to do. (This is to say nothing of the captive Simon or the superfluous Vicky.) If I know Martinez is not going to die, then there’s no suspense, and I hope the writers didn’t think Dempsey’s suicide last week would communicate that anyone can die at any time. That’s clearly not as true as it was on 24, which did a far better job of killing off cast members in surprising ways than The Event does. On the earlier series, I was never convinced that Jack would die, so I’d groan every time they did a Bauer-in-winter story, which was like once a season give or take.

But the semi-cleverly named “Strain” didn’t fixate on Martinez and his medical crisis; it dealt with the immediate aftermath, including some observant emotional moments, which resulted in a more absorbing episode than I would have predicted. The stories I did like on 24, no matter how many times the series trotted them out, were the ones about the treachery and treason in the White House cabinet, and “Strain” delivered a reasonably entertaining facsimile. I’ve come to like Jarvis as a character: his indecision, his weakness, his feelings of inadequacy awkwardly paired with zealous patriotism and fierce ambition. Jarvis’s weasel-in-over-his-head bit reminds me of 24’s Charles Logan, though Bill Smitrovich is no Gregory Itzin, so it doesn’t completely succeed. I was impressed with the scene in which Jarvis quivered and vomited sympathy all over the First Lady, before vomiting literally in the nearest toilet. I was also glad to see some conflict in Sophia, which was missing from last week’s episode. Given how adamant she seemed about co-existing peacefully with humans and how friendly her relationship with Martinez was prior to the Coral Gables incident, it only makes sense that she would have some mixed feelings about his demise, even if it accomplishes her goal.

Sterling and Peel got some good stuff to do, as they tried to prove Jarvis’ involvement in Martinez’s emergency while pressure mounted to initiate Jarvis’s succession to the presidency. It strained belief that Sterling wouldn’t try harder to take Jarvis down, regardless of the lack of a smoking bullet, but Peel’s rationale for holding their powder wasn’t unreasonable. I’m even suddenly interested in Leila. Not so much Leila, really, but her relationship with Michael. Simon is a traitor to his people and won’t go along with Sophia’s plan, even if it means the death of his species. Michael, meanwhile, is a loyalist who is determined to keep his regained role as Sophia’s right hand but is also a loving father who can’t bear to lose his daughter. So now Michael has to try to nudge Leila along in accepting that this is her life now in order to keep them both alive. Watching him try to thread that needle could yield some fascinating stuff, particularly as a dead henchman is now lying somewhere unaccounted for.

Naturally, The Adventures of Sean and Vicky still remains the least engaging part of this show. It’s almost like watching a high-stakes episode of The Amazing Race or scenes from a mindless summer blockbuster except that if this were a real summer blockbuster, Jason Ritter and Taylor Cole would be playing “Taxi Driver” and “Swimsuit Assassin,” not the leads, and it wouldn’t take up as much of my time. After being activated in last week’s weird suicide ritual, Sean is slipping into his role as unlikely action hero without hesitation. After weeks of dumb luck and lots of help, suddenly Sean is the man, doing parkour moves to slip onto a boat and put its owner in a sleeper hold. I wish everyone could have been in my living room watching this with me, as I have a feeling the giggly “Chile, please!” I let out at that moment would have been delightful and infectious for an onlooker. Speaking of infectious, seems the weapon Sophia was looking for is the Spanish Flu, which she plans to release to kill off the human population. Conveniently, infected tissue is on its way to the States, which means Sean and Vicky will be able to come on home to continue their adventures. The less of this, the better, The Event.

Stray observations:

  • Between the sweetener poisoning and the radioactive isotope debacle in “Loyalty,” The Event has really made a trademark out of wresting drama out of coffee consumption.
  • If there was a porn parody of The Event, the non-terrestrials would figure out how to weaponize Spanish Fly.
  • The stuff about the coffee was nonsense. I snickered when they ended the act with Sterling and Peel barging in on a cleaning crew. And don’t get me started on the sleeve.
  • Before collapsing, Martinez appeared to be consulting with Peel about a bill. It’s nice to see that Sophia and Co. aren’t the only issue the president is dealing with.
  • So long, Luis. I’ll miss your lustrous, greased up bald head.