One of the weird things that I've realized about The Event is that this series really shines when it comes to doomed romance stories. Last night's episode delivered emo love with a startling Sterling backstory. Plus batshit insane conspiracies. Spoilers!
The other thing that The Event does well is that it captures the explosive insanity of conspiracy theories, and actually tries to build plots that will make them true. Of course, that means the show has no attention span and is constantly grasping at the next secret person or organization who is really controlling everything.
So what is the damn conspiracy anyway?
Now that we've met Madeline, AKA random scary conspiracy chick who gives us the infodump, we can start to piece together what's really going on. Sort of. Because we can never really solve anything - this show is nutty turtles all the way down. So Madeline says that Leila's dad had "discovered something" about a powerful person who for "mysterious reasons - not political" was going to do anything to stop Martinez from revealing Sophia and her alien crew to the public.
I assume Mystery Guy is Hal Holbrook, who makes phone calls to the thugs who kidnapped Leila and grows genetically-engineered flowers menacingly.
So Mystery Guy set up Leila's dad as the pilot who would try to kill the president, thus assuring that the conspiracy would stay conspiratorial and the president would keep his mouth shut.
Why this is annoying
As I have said before, I am sick of this show introducing new conspiracies all the time. Though to be fair, this is the same conspiracy we've seen developing over several episodes - now we just know that Hal Holbrook is the head guy, and that he's not in this for political reasons. Still it sort of felt like "and now here's a new mystery for you" instead of "and now we've solved this let's move on."
Our three main conspiracies keep on truckin
We've got the government conspiracy to cover up the aliens, led by Sterling. There's the Mystery Guy with his non-political conspiracy trying to cover up the aliens, but also (as we discover later) to do freaky experiments on little girls in a pathetic bid to be as cool/creepy as the series Fringe. And finally we have the Sophia/Thomas/Simon conspiracy of aliens/future people/whatever which seems to be pretty straightforward: They want to get home, using nuke-powered teleportation.
Luckily this episode had a great romantic subplot
Just when you thought this show had no more surprises, we got a moving flashback about Sterling's love life. It amazes me that this show can be so cliched when it comes to conspiracies and alien stuff, and yet be continually fresh and interesting when it comes to romantic back stories (with the exception of Sean and slack-jawed Leila - ugh). If you recall, Lee's romantic story was tragic and moving. And so is Sterling's.
We find out that 14 years ago, Sterling fell madly in love with a woman he thought was a schoolteacher. Partly because Željko Ivanek is a great actor, we really believe that he's got this romantic, sweet side that he has to hide at work - but given the chance, he'll do anything for love. It was great seeing him get all kissy - and then to see his whole face fall when his boss reveals that his sweetheart of the past 10 months is actually a Russian spy who has been going through all his papers and stealing secrets.
Now Sterling has to kill her to save his career. But ever the romantic, he buys tickets to Buenos Ares instead, tells his sweetheart that he knows who she is but loves her anyway, and offers to help her escape. Basically, he's willing to give up everything to run away with a spy. Unfortunately, she's not into the idea and runs away - only to be shot by Sterling's boss, who has been hiding outside. So first of all, the two of them never would have gotten away anyway. And second, we know that Sterling chose the romantic route rather than the creepy government guy route - the only reason why he's Director of Intelligence now is because his old boss was willing to kill Sterling's girlfriend.
This humanizes Sterling to a certain degree, but also gives us a sense of why he doesn't quite trust himself when it comes to identifying who the spy is among his men. He thought it was Lee, but when Sophia's conspiracy plants some evidence fingering another guy, Sterling is willing to mistrust his own instincts - believing the evidence, rather than his gut. After all, his gut has been wrong before.
This officially makes Sterling one of the most interesting, three-dimensional characters on this show.
But let's not forget the counter-conspiracy
So remember crazy Madeline and her tales of "extraterrestrial biological entities" or EBEs? Well she also showed Sean and Leila a notebook from Leila's dad, which contained a list of women's names and weird numbers. To figure everything out, she takes them to the head Counter Conspiracy guy, whose main attribute is that he has a great apartment with really beautiful hardwood floors and a bunch of computers that are so sophisticated that they use LANDLINES and DES ENCRYPTION. I will let the crypto nerds among you laugh at the DES thing (actually I think they said CES but you know they meant DES).
Anyway, Counter Conspiracy guy tells Leila her dad is alive but her sister Samantha is "as good as dead." Then he runs some "custom searches" - wow! maybe with DES! - and finds out all the women's names are actually the names of girls Samantha's age who have gone missing. And the numbers are SEC identifiers for shell corporations in Los Angeles. Huh? Just roll with it, because Mystery Guy's thugs are beating in the door so Counter Conspiracy guy herds them out and blows his nice apartment up. Then he and Madeline disappear and we have to watch Leila whine for like 10 minutes.
And that leads me to this episode's CREEPY FINAL IMAGE
Samantha is brought to a room full of little girls by a scary syringe-brandishing lady in a van. When scary syringe lady says "Say hi girls," they turn around but they ALL HAVE THE FACES OF OLD PEOPLE!
Tune in next week when we annoyingly return back to the SAME EVENTS that happened in the first episode, but we'll see them in a whole new light. Seriously people the flashbacks to the same thing over and over really suck. Let's have more tragic romance! This time between Lee and Sterling!