Last night's episode of The Event took the show from shaky Lost ripoff series to explosively awesome conspiracy weirdness. There were still some rough patches, but for the most part the episode made all the right moves.
What was great about last night's episode, "To Keep Us Safe," was that it sucked us right into the heart of the story, and didn't leave us hanging wondering about Mount Inostranka and Sophia. We found out that in the 1940s, an airplane crashed in Alaska, bearing a group of people (including Sophia) whose DNA differs from human by 1 percent. Which is quite a lot, when you consider (as our characters helpfully did) that chimp DNA differs from ours by about 2 percent. Of course, at the time the humans couldn't sequence the aliens' DNA, but they did recognize that they were alien - especially when they barely aged at all during the subsequent 66 years that they were imprisoned.
But not all of them were imprisoned. Intelligence director Sterling tells President Martinez that all of the aliens were rounded up, but we see in a flashback that actually Sophia sent many of the aliens away, her eyes all tearful and saying things about how if they don't go on "there is no hope." So we think that those aliens must have gone on somewhere else, but then (in a pretty good plot twist) we find out that actually the other group has basically infiltrated human society. We see one of them, Thomas, meet with Agent Lee - who is actually an undercover alien - in a gleaming corporate office. Are the aliens part of a conspiracy? Almost certainly.
And Sterling is onto them. He tells Martinez that they have sleeper agents all over the place, and that they're incredibly dangerous. There seems little evidence to support the idea that they're dangerous, other than the fact that they refuse to say where they came from and what they're doing on Earth. And then there's the whole plane winking out of existence thing. Though Martinez was all in favor of announcing the aliens' presence on Earth and integrating them into society, the superweapon has made him suspicious.
Especially when Sophia won't tell him what it is, or who might have set it off. So Martinez throws Sophia and her alien pals back into the Inostranka facility, and she says her people are getting impatient. Ambiguous threats! Unexplained aliens! A prison facility that is a thinly-veiled reference to secret prisons where the US government holds alleged terrorists! I am very on board for all this.
Then there is the annoying plot with Sean and Leila. Blah blah flashback to when they met cute in a swimming pool and flirted boringly for five minutes of my valuable time. For some reason there are bad guys who kidnapped Leila, pinned a murder on Sean, and forced Leila's dad to pilot the plane into the president's shindig - though at least that was derailed by the ambiguous aliens, who ported the whole flight over to Arizona. I know this makes me sound like a lazy TV watcher, but are the bad guys part of the alien conspiracy or the human conspiracy? I don't know. Maybe both.
Anyway, the best part is when the people who've been sucked through the wormhole to Arizona start piling out of the plane and Leila's dad tells Sean what happened. Then a bunch of black helicopters appear on the horizon. Yes! Black helicopters! I love this show. So Leila's dad tells Sean to run for it, and then the helicopters - which Thomas tells Lee about, so they are definitely from the alien conspiracy - kill everybody.
Except Sean, who has now been arrested by a couple of cute Feds who think he's nuts because of course he's talking about being sucked through a wormhole and his girlfriend being kidnapped. (For some reason neither of the Feds bothers to even check his story by Googling his alleged girlfriend or trying to figure out whether a plane disappeared). The episode ends with Sean telling the agents that he was in a crashed plane - but when they drive past the area, they're told to take a detour by a local cop because there's a "toxic spill" on the road. As the camera pans back, of course, we see the downed plane. And Lee arrives, to discover all the bodies. Great place to end. Scary mass death, caused by black helicopters controlled by aliens!
Strangely, I was not as annoyed by the flashbacks this week. I'm starting to get the idea that The Event basically uses that "24 seconds ago" and "12 years ago" shtick as a fancy way of giving you backstory infodumps. The story is basically set in the present and there are no parallel stories unfolding in the past, so you don't have to keep track of multiple throughlines. A little over-stylized, but OK.
Definitely this week's episode was much better than the pilot, and I loved the way this show takes cheesy conspiracy stories, grafts them onto a fairly restrained allegory about secret prison facilities, and gives us a whopping dose of weird. What really makes the show work, for me, are Sophia and Martinez, who both convey such incredible seriousness even though they're sitting in the middle of such over-the-top plotlines. The Event strikes a nice balance between serious and fanciful. Plus, I love the idea of the alien conspiracy fighting the government intelligence conspiracy. Two conspiracies is better than one!