We’ve seen a bit of an explosion in strange transposition storytelling techniques since Lost became so immensely popular. However, this sort of storytelling always leaves me in a lurch unless there’s a very good reason for it—and Lost really was not. We’ve seen it in stories like Day Break and Flash Forward to better effect. Now there’s a new NBC sci-fi television series to add to the list: The Event.
The pilot introduces us to two separate story arcs that still appear to be disconnected. In one of them a character named Shawn Walker who happens to lose track of his girlfriend (she mysteriously disappears.) While there’s the “leader” of some unknown and vague sect of people visiting with the President of the United States—the sect also seems to be currently detained in a Guantánamo-style facility in the blinding white north of artic Alaska. Who they are or what they’re about is left totally undisclosed.
The plot is revealed almost entirely in unfettered flashbacks. “8 hours ago,” “23 days ago,” so on and so forth. It does form a cohesive narrative, but it’s headache inducing in that it’s spends all of its time in flashbacks and none of it forming the current narrative. Although the first thirty seconds and the last thirty seconds are the current time.
The story begins with a news broadcaster screaming that the ground is shaking and then we see an aircraft flying very slow—presumably about to crash into the Presidential manor where he’s meeting with the leader of the mysterious detainees.
I subscribed to this one merely because it contains an extremely powerful sci-fi element that’s rather inescapable from the end of the first episode. To reveal that, however, would be a massive spoiler. Although, it was extremely tedious to watch the show up to that point.
Can this show probably save itself from becoming another punctuated dramatization soap opera like Lost?
It’s very likely.
However, it seems to me that it really just wants to hook the viewers with these manufactured mysteries that are developed now out of natural investigation but flashback storytelling—always keeping the viewer out of the loop so that they can’t grasp the moment. It’s a little bit insulting to me as a viewer. This is not Memento.
The show’s producer has promised that future episodes will use flashbacks more for character development than plot development but I’m almost too far gone to care at this point. As long as it doesn’t fall down the ever deepening rabbit hole that Lost found itself creeping through (but never reaching Wonderland) we might have a good deal in this show.