We’re always a little suspicious when a show bows with a build up like that accompanying The Event.  The sense of anticipation is set so high, that the show has to really deliver.  It wasn’t but a few years ago that Heroes bowed with such an ad campaign and the show never quite lived up to the promise it showed in the first season.

“They saved us?” –Sophia

With head nods to FlashForward, Lost, V, and 24, The Event plays out on a broad canvass of eventually intersecting stories.  Through Rashomon-esque, non-sequential, time-jumping story-telling, the show revolves around a mystery, conspiracy, cover ups, and secrets.  We have the president (Blair Underwood) demanding that no secrets be kept from his administration and gearing up for a press conference that would “change everything.”  We have Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, Joan of Arcadia) preparing to go on a Caribbean cruise where he plans on proposing to his girlfriend and trying to thwart the hijacking of a plane.  We see the mysterious Sophia (Laura Innes, ER) held in a secret detention camp being urged to warn the president of “the event”.  However, the president’s advisors, chief among them being CIA Director Blake Sterling (Zeljko Ivanek, Homicide:  Life in the Streets), strive against him finding out and has great suspicion of the origins and motivations of Sophia and the rest of her 79 detained brethren.

“Protecting the country involves the keeping of secrets.” –Blake

Against the backdrop of Guantanamo Bay, Blake is always seeking “alternative narrative” aka better cover up stories to explain away the activities of the government.  But secrets have a way of being found out and all sorts of innocents tend to pay the price of keeping the truth buried.  And his alternative narratives spring and foment mistrust of competing stories, propelling the need to negate them.  They end up missing the point of these identifying stories and failing to see that all their stories are actually quite similar.

For example, there is the story of aliens in a foreign land whose existence seems determined as crisis, struggle, resistance, and survival. That story, in turn, had been the source/inspiration of their art. The songs that bound them as a culture. The folk tales passed down that shaped them as a people. On a symbolic level, anyone can participate in this story, and, in fact, we all do. Especially since that was the story of the Old Testament Israelites. It is not as if black people have a monopoly on a story of crisis, struggle, resistance, and survival.  A story that defines us and continues to form us. When stories are reduced to law or dogma, their vitality is drained. When people no longer tell or listen to others’ stories, they become locked in their provincial mindset, cultural ghettos of their own making. In fact, when people become so removed from another’s story, they become compelled to destroy those (other’s) stories for they suggest other ways of living. Their stories become a threat.  Every people has a story to tell, but that does not negate our particular story.  What we can’t afford to do is let one story keep us from participating in other stories.

“I haven’t told you everything.” –Sophia

Science fiction shows with great deal of back story and mystery, from the X-Files to Fringe have enjoyed a great amount of recent popularity, especially as studios try to fill the void in the television landscape left by Lost going off the air.  We still don’t know if we’re dealing with aliens (a la V), future humans (a la The 4400), or alternate universes (a la Fringe).  The first few episodes work their way building tension, layering the mystery, and doling out answers with its backward and forward storytelling.  Show producer, Nick Wauters, wrote a show bible detailing the show out for three seasons thus hoping to avoid the second season drift of Lost and Heroes. The show also takes home another learned lesson from Lost:  it knows the true strength of the show lies in complex characters.  If the audience buys into them, they will buy into the show.  Even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense, uh, leaves a bunch of unanswered questions in the end.