Saturday, August 5, 2017

Project Canceled: The Event

"The Event"...*sigh*...okay so maybe I've been completely unfair to "The Event" back in the day but man am I NOT looking forward to this. Why? Okay, to be fair "The Event" did start off as an interesting show but ultimately devolved into absurdity and poor construction of plot. This is just going off of what I remember. "The Event" came out in 2010 during TV's "Post "L O S T" Complex Plot" Era where it seemed like every network was trying to capture the lightning in a bottle that ABC had with "L O S T" (this was even played up in the marketing campaign for it saying that if "L O S T" and "24" had a baby it'd be "The Event"). Sadly, "The Event" had two things working against it, for starters it was on NBC and second, Blair Underwood was in the main cast. Despite being religious (I am a Christian) I am far from superstitious and don't believe in ghosts or good luck charms but when it comes to curses, I'm more than a little hesitant to say they don't exist and Blair Underwood is the reason why.

Seemingly every TV show Blair Underwood finds himself in the main cast, it gets canceled shortly after. This list is staggeringly long to be considered a coincidence and he's on a list of individuals labeled "TV cancer". While I'm only half-joking, his track record saw very little success in TV, no clue why that is as Blair is a good actor. "The Event" came on the scene with a marketing campaign centered around a series of "events" that would take place in the show "an assassination plot", "a mysterious disappearance" and "a CIA Cover up" while "events" they are not "THE EVENT" in which the series takes it's name from. This was to build intrigue about the exact nature of the series.

To summarize;

"The Event" is about a series of aliens who crashed on Earth and are currently detailed in an Alaskan prison. While some were detained others integrated themselves into human life. Now those aliens are preparing to takeover the world when news reaches them that their sun is going nova. One man is able to stop them."

That's "The Event" at it's core but the telling of the story involves a President seeking to release to the detained aliens and let the world know about their presence and Jason Ritter's character attempting to find his girlfriend after she's been kidnapped. These events relate to each other and it's the overall conspiracy that drives the show. When it first aired, I was impressed but after witnessing the series as a whole, I definitely flipped due to some inconsistencies I noticed that were just too glaring to ignore. Maybe it was harder to follow because of the nature of the show and having to watch it on a week to week basis that made it seem like the failure it was but I seriously doubt that. However, this is one of those moments where I feel like I was too hard on it and maybe it's worth a gander. Going into this, I'm going to try and find the exact moment when I stopped caring and see if I can figure out an answer to a question I've had since the series aired, I won't tell you what that question is now but I'll address it later on. Needless to say the answer to that question does make up the majority of why this series failed, at least to me. So for "Project Canceled" we're gonna learn about "The Event" and find out where exactly this series failed if at all.

From the pilot "I Haven't Told You Everything" we establish a few things, how powerful the aliens are and the fact that they're integrated into our society. We immediately understand all the characters and their motivations: Sean Walker is trying to find Leila, his girlfriend who mysteriously disappeared during their trip, President Elias Martinez is preparing to inform the public of the prisoners at Inostranka and free them with the strong discouragement of The CIA Director Blake Sterling and a few other key people. Sofia is the leader of the aliens from Inostranka who befriended President Martinez and is with him in Florida to help him make the announcement. Michael Buchanan is a pilot and from this episode we can assume that the kidnapping of his daughters Samantha & Leila have blackmailed him into flying a plane into The President's Floridian retreat. However, at the end of the episode the airplane is sucked into a vortex and teleported away before it makes impact. However, this is still NOT "The Event". Despite this not being the event, there is a noteworthy event that happens in this episode.

Sam Buchanan! She is the crux to this whole thing. In "I Haven't Told You Everything" both Layla and Samantha are kidnapped. Later on in the series, when she's saved, she gets taken to live with another family and then is never seen again. I remember this and that was the question I spoken about earlier in the introduction, "What the f*ck happen to Samantha?". From what I remember a majority of the beginning of the series was dedicated to finding Samantha, so for my sake and for everyone else's I'm going to track which episodes feature the search for Samantha, how many times she's mentioned and how many times she's on screen just to make sure I didn't imagine her sudden vanishing from the story at large. The pilot is strong in setting up the world we're now introduced to and the problems that will flow from that. All in all if I had no knowledge of this I'd be willing to see where this series goes. 

However, after rewatching, I have to say that "The Event" is riddled with painful plot holes, characters holding the idiot ball and eye-rolling frustration. The plot-hole begins in Episode 06 when Leila and Sean are reunited, a little explaining is due here: Leila was kidnapped by two people Vicky & Carter, Sean with the help of FBI Agent Collier managed to blackmail Vicky in aiding them in getting Leila back and managed to capture Carter. Leila decides that she can't sit idly by while Sean & Agent Collier sweat Carter for information and together they decide to drive off and look for information themselves WITHOUT informing or bringing Agent Collier. Damning enough as that is, remember that at this point Sean is still wanted for a murder he didn't commit and Agent Collier is the ONLY person who can help clear his name.

In Episode 07, Carter is suddenly free and able to take a phone call from his employer and the series' initial antagonist James Dempsey. Seeing Carter walking about freely one would assume that he somehow managed to kill Agent Collier and escape, not too much of a stretch considering Dempsey has enough pull to nearly assassinate The Vice President of The United States, BUT somehow, Agent Collier is alive and well and working in an office. Which raises the question what happen and how did he escape? It's never explained and never addressed. Suddenly he's a captive and then suddenly in the very next episode, he's not. But that's not the most damning.

Yeah, I was captured but the writers really didn't wanna go anywhere with that so here I am.

Consistently, Sofia and the aliens make statements about them being non-violent. Sofia tells President Martinez "We mean you no harm." and after Thomas decided to use several people's lives to blackmail The President into releasing the prisoners at Inostranka, Sofia says "I can't sit here and let him sacrifice all the lives of those innocent people." as well as "What Thomas has done goes against everything I believe in.". Also, Sofia says "We're not allowed to damage benevolent civilizations who aren't a threat to us.". With statements such as these it's painfully obvious that Sofia and her band of aliens upon arriving on Earth weren't up to anything nefarious. This is a safe assumption to make considering the latter statement was made in the confidence of her own people, so she can't be accused of putting on a front.

Despite this, Sofia NEVER reveals her true intentions for 66 YEARS! Even going so far as to have one of own people murdered (by his girlfriend, nonetheless) so he wouldn't tell President Martinez about why they're there. That and she continues to stone-wall President Martinez when he asks her point blank about their intentions for being on Earth. In Episode 09 however, we learn EXACTLY why they're there (again in the confidence of their own people) they're there because their home world is "barley viable" (direct quote). That's why they're there. They came there as settlers not as invaders. So the entire series from beginning (chronological beginning, e.g. 1944) until 2010 is a MISUNDERSTANDING! And the whole series devolves into a childish game of "Trust Me?" with greater and greater stakes.

Would you trust this face?

Things from this point on become a blitz play with the idiot ball being passed around like nudes on the internet. The biggest holder of the idiot ball is Vice President Raymond Jarvis in Episode 14. As mentioned hitherto, Jarvis was in with Dempsey on the assassination attempt on Pres. Martinez, however, once that failed, Raymond was ready to tell President Martinez about Dempsey (after some prodding by Vicky) until Dempsey's back-up plan landed Jarvis in the hospital. Upon recovery, it's revealed that Dempsey threatened Jarvis's family if word go out that he told anyone about Dempsey. Instead of using the ACTUAL national security risk that's going on (Thomas and his people are planning a mass invasion) to tighten up security on his own family...or instruct them to remain at the White House (like they should), Jarvis decides to use this new found lease on life (escaping assassination not once but twice!) to be a huge dick to President Martinez.

Now I understand that his family was threatened, but there's not much even Dempsey can do if The Vice President needed to be ushered away on a security matter (unless Dempsey has people inside the White House...and if he did he wouldn't be in this mess to begin with). So in the privacy of the oval office, why doesn't Raymond Jarvis tell the President "Look, secure my family, put them with men you trust and I'll tell you everything you want to know.". Once again Dempsey attempted to assassinate this dude twice (you'd think after one assassination attempt they'd lockdown The VP) but by Episode 14 this dude is making public appearances at a function with pretty basic (albeit high tech) security. If he truly was scared for his life about Dempsey killing him, don't you think he'd be a bit more cautious about stuff like this?

That Face You Make When You Realize You've Been Had.

That being said the Samantha Saga reaches it's conclusion in Episode 11, Michael is reunited with his daughters and now I begin to track the movements of Samantha. By Episode 13, they're taken to live with The Gellars (fellows aliens), who (quite vocally and loudly) voice their opinion of Leila & Samantha being half-breeds (my word, not theirs). As of Episode 14, Mr. Gellar has gone to a mass meeting of aliens to hear from Thomas (Leila sneaking into said meeting) while Samantha stays with Mrs. Gellar at home. So by Episode 15 Thomas officially declares Earth to be their new home because their original home (NGC-253) is uninhabitable because their sun is going nova. However, the military has found Sofia and the mass gathering.

I'm about to make a huge mistake...

Thomas seems to enjoy holding the idiot ball, rather than explore impersonal realms of communication he decides to call everyone to meet in one place at one time to tell them the bad news, hence how the government was able to find them. At this point Sofia and a bulk of her people are surrounded, so what does Sofia do? President Martinez calls her and orders her to turn herself in and things won't get violent. At this point in the story things have already gotten violent because of Thomas's actions (infecting the passengers of Avias515 with a virus, collapsing a building on several agents, shooting the Director of the NSA, killing several of his own people, attempting to kill Sofia not once but twice). Rather than continue to be peaceful and surrender (not only to show Thomas up that despite everything she's willing to continue to trust President Martinez and sway some of her people to her side, which would go along way to resorting some goodwill between her and Martinez)
Sofia decides to double down with Thomas, and you guessed it, stone-wall the situation and make things much worse.

After all based on Blake's testimony at Inostranka he can verify that not all of the aliens agree with Thomas, so Martinez would be able to at the very least consider the idea that Sofia's intentions are peaceful. But instead Sofia decides to remain inside and berate her son and beg her inside man (Simon) to find a way for them to escape. So just because they found out their homeworld is dying, she can't accept the possibility that MAYBE some EXTREMELY poor choices were made that could be undone simply by telling the truth? But she continues to make herself look like the enemy. collapsing The Washington Monument.

Here's a quick summary of "The Event" that I explained to my wife and this will highlight all the problems this show has: "Say you're not home, and a Stranger comes crashing through your window and passes out upon entry. You come home, you find the shattered window and the Stranger conscious and injured. You ask "What happened? Why are you here? Who are you?" and the Stranger says "Oh, I was trying to get into your house but I fell through the window.", naturally you'd say "Why are you trying to get into my house?" and The Stranger says "I can't tell you but I can tell you I'm not here to hurt you, but I will be living with you from now on.". Naturally, you say "You're not living here until you tell me what the hell you're doing here!" but The Stranger continues "I can't tell you, but I'm not here to hurt you."

If you can see the problems there, you can see the problem with "The Event". Episode 15 is the highlight reel of bad decisions that simply made what is meant to be "Must See TV" completely unbearable television as every character suddenly decides to huff paint in between commercial breaks to lower their I.Q.s about 50 points. Believe me, I could write an article pinpointing exactly how and where each character makes an EXTREMELY bad decision and how it could have been fixed without sacrificing narrative tension or writing myself into a corner but that's more attention than I'm willing to give this show. 

That being said there are other avenues in which the show fails and that's the "central" antagonist of James Dempsey. While Dempsey himself shows himself as a force to be reckoned with and a character who's very much "in the know" of things going on, the handling of his character leaves much to be desired. You can tell that the writers were setting up for something however that something will probably never be explained. That being said the DVD boxset of "The Event" does indeed contain "The Origins Of James Dempsey", so even the creator felt it necessary to share his origins with the audience. James Dempsey is the initial villain of the series having orchestrated the assassination attempt on President Martinez, the kidnapping of Leila & Samantha and the assassination attempt on Vice President Jarvis.

While despicable acts on their face, Dempsey makes it clear that he's been working for the greater good (ie, stopping Sofia & The aliens). His knowledge of Sofia's people stems from the fact that Dempsey is (in his words) a member of a tribe of sentinels who protected humans from Sofia's people for thousands of years and can see the tapestry of history and the "larger sweeping events to come". The series shows that Dempsey has been using half-breed girls (hence Samantha's kidnapping) in order to create a sort of longevity serum that reverses his aging (seen in Episode 8) and apparently some kind of strategy board that may or may not allow him to control people or events to some extent (seen in Episode 12). In his final interactions with Vicky & Sean it's revealed that he's been on to Sofia's plan to eradicate mankind from jump (even if that plan just came to about until Episode 17).

Throughout the series we see Dempsey doing very cryptic things culminating in a cave in France where Dempsey finds a cave drawing indicating to an aide that they're "guardian angels" and oddly enough Dempsey has a tattoo on his wrist that is found in the cave, which he notes said cave is thousands of years old. Likewise, Dempsey obtains a scroll from said cave and reads. All of this leads to the fact that Dempsey is a much more knowledgeable character than everyone in the series (including Sofia) but by Episode 17, Dempsey kills himself. Now, granted his suicide was a "heroic sacrifice" the logic being that if he was alive Sean would stop at nothing to bring Dempsey to justice so Dempsey eliminates himself so Sean con focus on stopping Sofia and the aliens. As Dempsey put it that is Sean's "place in the tapestry of events".

His place was to have a hole in his head, apparently.

So who and what Dempsey is, is very important and I imagine that is the series continued we'd learn more about the sentinels and probably see more of them as well, after all Dempsey says "it's become clear to us that someone outside of our group..." so clearly Dempsey is not the only one. Through context clues it's clear that Dempsey was simply testing Sean with various trials in order to prepare him to take on Sofia, but Dempsey's absence from the show is glaring and leaves many plot points unexplained. Admittedly the last 3 episodes are actually enjoyable (not saying much considering any slight improvement and believe me the improvements were slight is better than the stuff we've been seeing) but still there are some glaring issues. It takes the series a full 21 episodes before all the main players are in the same place and working towards the same goal.

Bare in mind Director Sterling wanted to see Sean Walker several episodes prior to their meeting, the fact that they couldn't find Sean is mindblowing. Also if the aliens had a portal that could transport an entire planet why then couldn't they transport themselves home? As far as characters go, President Elias Martinez was a decent enough character, shown to be a generally decent man who simply got tired of trusting the wrong people (Sofia and Jarvis), as far as TV Presidents go he's no David Palmer but then again who is?

Director Blake Sterling played by Zeljko Ivanek (I'll never type that again) zigzags here. If you know anything about this actor, he usually plays villains, the cold, calculating, ruthless type. I had the pleasure of being introduced to him in the 1st Season of "24" as Andre Drazen (also where I saw Mischa Collins for the first time) and ever since then I've liked him. While Director Sterling does start off as President Martinez's biggest enemy when it comes to releasing Sofia and her people, we learn that Director Sterling is extremely loyal and is merely a man constantly trying to do the right thing amidst very difficult circumstances. He toes the line between being a sympathetic character and an absolute bad ass very easily. Episode 7 does a good job as establishing Blake and his feelings towards betrayal so when he displays his anger at Raymond Jarvis it's understandable and you genuinely feel his hatred.

You don't want this guy yelling at you.

Simon Lee is easily my 2nd favorite character right after Blake Sterling. While starting the series off as loyal to Sofia after learning about her plans of genocide against the human race, he went rogue. Simon unfortunately doesn't become completely cool until he teams up with Blake (again, in Episode 20) to help take down Sofia. Simon gets a flashback episode as well (Episode 6). Simon is easily very sympathetic as he wants to stay loyal to his people but at the same time can't go along with Sofia's plan. Ian Anthony Dale's natural charisma shine through to really make this character well rounded and likable.

This handsome mofo.

Sean Walker is a decent character, he's competent, capable and tenacious. Sean is an Everyman character and Jason Ritter does a good job as being an Everyman, which likewise makes the fact that he's some sort of "chosen one" a bit more convincing. At many points in the episodes Sean is very rarely seen holding the idiot ball or doing something egregiously stupid (except with Leila). But Sean's a completely serviceable character for the series.

The ultimate Everyman.

Laura Innes plays Sofia and Laura Innes is an amazingly creepy actress as she can play soft and warm one minute and completely evil the next. She's played a lot of villains (I remember her from...nope, not gonna spoil it) but ever since then she's both entertained and terrified me. She an amazing ability to control her facial expressions so that can convey everything and nothing and therefore you never quite know what her characters are truly thinking. This is what made Sofia such a reprehensible character. Please bare in mind she's the villain but she's such an unlikable villain because her actions and self-righteous. This sets her in direct contrast to Thomas.

I really can't talk about Sofia without talking about Thomas. Upon rewatching the series I really wish Thomas had stuck around as he was the more compelling characters out of the two of them. Thomas tried to assassinate Sofia as he felt he was living in her shadow and she wasn't doing what was necessary to save their people. While Sofia constantly made references to not wanting to commit genocide but having no other choice, blah, blah, blah...Thomas was much more open about it and willing to go through with killing if that meant the survival of their people. Thomas wasn't self-righteous, he was the hero of his own story and was determined to save his people. I understood and enjoyed Thomas as an antagonist far more than Sofia because Thomas was ready and willing to go to war while Sofia wanted to save face and sound heartbroken while ordering the deaths of billions. 

Had "The Event" managed to secure a 2nd Season I imagine it would have been dealing with the fall out of The Alien's actions and turned into a semi-invasion series with squads of aliens arriving to take over the plant, Simon would probably be working with The White House to help counter the aliens and we probably would have learned more about The Aliens, Dempsey's group and that scroll he gave Sean that Simon was interested in. 

In conclusion, I was worried that maybe "The Event" was one of those shows that I was just too hard on. After all it does enjoy a 5 1/2 Star rating on Amazon and reviews for the show on Amazon appear to be incredibly favorable. But after having watched the series with a critical eye and taken notes, it's pretty terrible. All sizzle and no steak made by pretty bad writing, unlikable characters, EXTREMELY poor continuity and an unclear focus of plot development. The plot isn't driven by constant raising of the stakes and competent efforts being thwarted, the plot is sadly driven by characters who are too stupid to care for. These are not nitpicks as very basic elements of the plot could have been solved very easily by a little bit of honesty and better decisions.

Why was "The Event" canceled? I doubt viewers were as critical on this series as I was but ultimately, I feel like even if they couldn't quite articulate why, many understood the show was losing it's way. People know garbage when they see it even if they're not aware of it and this show was doing everything in it's power to try and misdirect the audience. Anyway, that'll do it for me I'll see you guys for the next Project Canceled when we take a look at "Mortal Kombat: Conquest"!

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