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Series / The Event

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A commercial airliner hijacking. The discovery of a secret CIA prison deep within the mountains of Alaska, whose prisoners apparently aren't human. A presidential press conference that could put the national security of the United States at risk. The mysterious disappearance of a young woman aboard a crowded cruise ship.

None of these incidents are "The Event".note 

The Event is a drama/science fiction TV series by executive producer Evan Katz (24). Told in anachronic order, the series tells the stories of several seemingly unrelated people whose lives intertwine as circumstances propel them toward some mysterious future happening known only as "the Event". The show premiered in the United States in 2010 on NBC, and stars Jason Ritter, Blair Underwood and Laura Innes.

The series premiered very strongly, but ratings dropped steadily throughout its run, and it was announced as cancelled on May 13, 2011.


The Event provides examples of the following:

  • Action Mom: Vicky
  • Action Survivor: Leila becomes this by episode four. Sean is this from the start.
  • America Saves the Day: Thoroughly averted. America is actually making the situation worse as their unilateral approach is definitely endangering the entire human race. Made worse by the fact that every other nation is completely unaware that Sophia's people even exist.
  • Anachronic Order: Not only does the series (pre-retool) continually switch among the main characters to tell the story from their perspectives, but it often shows events in reverse order before making its way back to the present. Particularly funny as the time shifts are often seemingly done at complete random. Probably the worst is a flashback to Sean and Leila's first meeting being plopped into the middle of an exciting chase through a hospital.
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  • Ancient Tradition: Dempsey claims to be part of a tribe of "Sentinels" who have protected the world from the aliens for thousands of years.
  • Anti-Villain: Sophia after her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The aliens' home sun is apparently starting to go supernova. Depending on how strong it is, this could place it somewhere between a Class 5 and a Class X-2.
    • Sophia's plan is now to perform a Class 3a on humanity, in order to make room for her people—who came from Earth originally anyway.
  • Awful Truth: Apparently the whole basis of the series, and the reason why the mysterious future incident is only referred to as "The Event".
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Vicky and Carter pull one off in Episode 4 to fake Vicky's death and get Leila to call Sean.
    • In Episode 13, Sophia informs Martinez that Thomas is planning to teleport fuel rods out of a nuclear power plant, which would cause a meltdown. Martinez orders the rods removed from the plant, which is what Thomas wanted, so that his people could steal the rods from the less heavily-guarded convoy.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Sophia finds out that Isabel tried to have Thomas assassinate her. She then forces Isabel to maim herself in response.
    • Sean Walker. An unassuming computer programmer at the start, over the course of the series he manages to constantly foil many plots, take down many people far more powerful than he is, through sheer luck, Indy Ploys, and from being Genre Savvy. Dempsey even lampshades this fact, that whenever he puts an obstacle in front of him, Walker will find some way to destroy it. This leads him to believe Sean is The Chosen One who will save Earth from the aliens.
  • Big Bad:
    • Dempsey.
    • Thomas.
    • Sophia following Thomas's Heroic Sacrifice (yeah, villains can have heroic sacrifices as well)
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Thomas and Isabel find out that neither of them has quite what it takes to usurp Sophia.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Inostranka, the place in Alaska where Human Aliens are detained, means "alien" or "foreigner" in Russian. Even better, it means a "female foreigner", clearly hinting at Sophia.
  • Blackmail: Sean uses the existence of Vicky's daughter to force her cooperation. Eventually subverted, as Henri points out Vicky is far too competent to let him genuinely blackmail her, so she must be doing it for another reason. Sean then realizes she's attracted to him.
  • Blood from the Mouth: When the flight 514 passengers displayed signs of some unknown illness, it manifested by bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Thomas offered the President an antidote to the unknown agent causing the illness in exchange for the prisoners being released, but Martinez threatened to gas them all. They finally agreed on the antidote for Sophia's release.
  • Break the Cutie: Sean had a difficult time after he left Leila by his own will.
  • The Chosen One: Dempsey apparently believes that Sean is predicted to save the world from Sophia's people. Dempsey also claims to come from a tribe of "Sentinels" that have watched over the world to protect it from the aliens for over 3,000 years.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good:
    • Subverted in agent Simon Lee (played by Ian Anthony Dale), who seems genuinely interested in saving lives and is implied to be the person who leaked the files about the secret prison to President Martinez, although he is an alien and The Mole.
    • Possibly played straight with Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Blake Sterling who kept the information from the President, though it's hard to gauge his motives without knowing who the prisoners are and why they're being held. Thus far Blake seems to be in the dark as everyone else regarding why the aliens are here, thus his stated motive to keep them until they talk.
    • Played with by the two FBI agents that capture Sean Walker. Though they don't believe a word he says, they appear to be sympathetic and not a part of any conspiracy. By the third episode, the female agent has been converted to Sean's side, by virtue of her field office and coworkers being shot up by baddies.
    • Played straight with Vicky, who was a CIA agent once, until her boss framed her to cover his mistakes, which cost her a job and almost ended her life. She then went freelance as a hired killer.
  • Cliffhanger: Assuming the series isn't renewed for a second season, then it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger - Simon reveals that his people used to live on Earth before humanity, a terminally-ill Leila is revealed to be pregnant, Martinez's wife is revealed to be an alien, and, oh yeah, Sophia has the alien's homeworld teleported into Earth's orbit. At least they knew how to end the season/series with a bang.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Thomas attempts to do this to Sterling.
    • Sean to a traitorous contact.
  • Cradling Your Kill: This happens to one of the Inostranka prisoners when he offers to detail the plans of the aliens living outside the compound in exchange for the release of himself and his girlfriend. His girlfriend, still loyal to Sophia, holds him close and tells him to keep imagining their future together while she stabs him to death.
  • Cut Short
  • Damsel in Distress: Leila tends to be this although she can also kick ass when she has to. After her rescue she graduates to Action Survivor.
  • Dark Action Girl: Vicky.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Thomas, who sacrifices himself to save Sophia so that she can save their people.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Many of the aliens have become this. For example, Simon has managed to become a prominent government agent. Also, a flashback reveals that Sterling's wife turned out to be a Russian spy. Despite his superior's orders, he wanted to run away with her. She tried to escape but was shot by the superior. Since then, Sterling has deep trust issues.
  • Defector from Decadence: Simon attempts to desert Sophia because of her new Knight Templar attitude. Unfortunately, Michael sells him out, and he's dragged off and tied to a bed.
  • Destination Defenestration: One of Sophia's people kills himself this way to avoid being captured by the government.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Sterling in Inostranka in episode 12.
  • Disney Death: Agent Lee, initially.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The secret prison conversation below is disturbingly similar to a certain compound for holding dangerous individuals that would frighten the public. Eerily played up further by references to Cuba in the conversation.
  • The Dragon:
    • Sterling was this at first for Martinez, but now, it seems as if he's become a failing Morality Chain for the President.
    • As of episode 16, Senator Catherine Lewis has become this for Martinez (and seems poised to become a Dragon-in-Chief — as it looks as if she might end up becoming Martinez' new Vice-President).
  • Dull Surprise: A common complaint about Sarah Roemer's (Leila's) acting.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Sean and Vicky working together to defeat Dempsey.
    • Sophia and Thomas put aside their differences to protect their people from the government.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In the season finale, Martinez tricks Jarvis into confessing to him that he was working with Sophia and poisoned Martinez. Martinez then plays the recording of that conversation to the whole cabinet, exposing Jarvis as a traitor.
  • Establishing Series Moment: The disappearance of a plane in the first episode: the first indication that this is a sci-fi series.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: Thomas's involvement allegedly helped to push ahead the development of the atomic bomb by several decades.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: According to Vicky, she decided to stop working for Dempsey, after she learned about his experiments on children
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: A dog on the street can tell something's not quite right about Sophia.
  • Exposition of Immortality: The extraterrestrials look just like humans, but live much longer and age slowly. Photos of these characters taken decades ago, but still looking just the way they do now, are often the only clue the human characters get that reveal the true nature of friends and family members they thought they knew very well.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Before the revelation that her planet was going to die and the death of her son Sophia was pretty benevolent. Now she's concluded that Humans Are the Real Monsters and will do whatever is needed to save her people including wiping us out.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subverted. Vicky gives Sean a sob story about having to kill her abusive stepfather, then five seconds later she tells him it was all a lie and that she was pretty much born the way she is.
  • Gambit Pileup: There are some serious plans going on in this show.
  • Genre Blind: Jarvis' one weakness. He is an excellent manipulator, constantly makes everyone swallow his Blatant Lies and keeps up his flawless act even when he is called out on it - but in the finale he falls for one of The Oldest Tricks in the Book.
  • Genre Savvy: James Dempsey. Let's see, he understands that Martinez will be a good President, but further predicts both his and Sophia's shifts to Well-Intentioned Extremist. Even better, he successfully identifies Sean as The Hero, lures Sean in by putting his partner in UST in a deathtrap, and then offers him anything he needs to save the world. When Sean refuses to forget about chasing Dempsey, Dempsey kills himself so Sean will move on to the true threat.
    Vicky: Why are you so interested in Walker?
    Dempsey: Because every time I put an obstacle in his path, he destroys it.
    • Dempsey appears to predict the future based on some ancient scrolls, giving him an inside track on what's about to unfold.
  • Genre Shift: The show appears to be a conspiracy thriller (albeit one in Anachronic Order) until the very end when it shifts to science fiction when the kamikaze plane disappears into a big ol' ball of spacetime. On the other hand, the title itself is a pretty big hint. After all, you don't refer to things you understand (like terrorist threats or natural disasters) as "the Event." The initial promos for the show even stated this explicitly.
  • Government Conspiracy: Hiding the nature of the prison, the prisoners, and the assassination attempts on the President.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality:
    • The US Government built a secret prison to detain the aliens until they gave the whole story, but the aliens themselves are no paragons of morality either, especially Thomas's faction which has apparently decided to go the Alien Invasion route. Meanwhile there are powerful people behind the government that apparently want to augment their lifespans by studying the very long-lived aliens and keep it all in the shadows, killing anyone that opposes them. The only really "good" characters are Simon, Leila, and Sean, while the only truly evil character is Dempsey, and he is pretty affable... and as it turns out, even Dempsey only did all the evil things he did to stop the alien threat, or so he says. (Along with extending his lifespan using DNA from kidnapped Half-Human Hybrids).
    • The formerly peaceful Sophia destroys the Washington Monument, killing scores of people and injuring hundreds more, to protect her people from a government raid. Then, President Martinez has an absolutely stone-cold look on his face as he orders Apache helicopters in to kill dozens of the aliens in retaliation for the attacks. They both get called out on their actions by their own people, further muddying the issue of who the "good guys" are in this.
  • Guile Hero: Sean Walker in spades.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: It turns out some of the aliens that went to ground had kids. These are the girls being kidnapped, including Leilah and Samantha.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Sophia
  • Heel–Face Turn: Vicki
  • Heroic BSoD: Sophia has one after she had to commit an act of terrorism
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Simon Lee does this in episode six.
    • Maya in episode 12.
    • Thomas in episode 15, in order to save Sophia and their people.
    • Dempsey... sort of. After seeing that Sean and Vicky were so determined to kill him that they didn't care about stopping Sophia, he killed himself so that they wouldn't be preoccupied with stopping him anymore.
  • Human Aliens: The 97 prisoners and the hundreds of others who established lives on Earth.
  • I Choose to Stay: Most of the sleepers want to remain on Earth, mainly because their home world isn't viable anyway.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • When you consider that HIV (from SIV in apes), H5N1 (bird flu), H1N1 (swine flu) all managed to cross species into humans and have proven lethal... why on earth would Sophia test a "kill all humans" virus, on a hybrid?! The chances that it'd mutate to be lethal to her species is now 1 in 2?!
    • Really, Sophia? You honestly think that teleporting another planet into orbit near Earth is a good idea? So the precipitating earthquakes that have been felt worldwide wasn't a clue that such a thing would cause massive tectonic instability? Nor the fact that this will cause large tidal waves that will devastate coastal regions? Remember, this is the very planet you apparently want to colonise, why are you breaking it?!
  • Indy Ploy: "I'll find a way!" is nearly everybody's excuse for not having formulated a specific plan yet. See It's the Only Way for when someone actually does have a plan.
  • In Medias Res: The pilot episode begins with shaky news camera footage of the President's address as the jetliner hurtles towards it.
  • Interspecies Romance: Revealed in a flashback between the Human Alien Simon Lee and his human lover decades in the past. Later we learn that quite a few got to the ultimate conclusion; their offspring are the kidnapped girls.
  • Ironic Echo: In 1x12, President Martinez finds himself having almost the exact same argument as he did in the pilot regarding the Inostranka prisoners, only this time with him on the opposite side.
  • It's Going Down: The Washington Monument in episode 15, as a last-ditch attempt by Sophia to save her people.
  • It's the Only Way: Practically Sean's Catchphrase, though President Martinez and others have used it as well. One episode had two characters utter the phrase, in completely separate situation, before the opening credits rolled. See Indy Ploy for what happens when they haven't come up with an "only way" just yet.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Used by Sean on Henri to find out where James Dempsey is. Somewhat unusually for this trope, Sean is clearly disgusted with himself for doing it.
    • Also threatened against Dr. Lu from Simon to get the password for a computer with information they need.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Absolutely shamelessly; see Anachronic Order, above. Somewhat less of an issue since the Retool.
  • Knight Templar: At first it looks like Director Sterling is this. However as the series progresses his paranoia is looking increasingly reasonable and Thomas, who ruled in Sophia's stead looks like the unreasoning extremist.
  • Lady Macbeth: Isabel
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Both Sean and Leila are proving quite adept at this. President Martinez fits this as well (as of episode 15, when he started to grow a pair and became more of an interesting character.)
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Simon bumps into this hard when he has to leave the woman he plans to marry, then encounters her by chance about 50 years later. She's old and suffering from Alzheimers; he looks exactly the same.
  • The Mole: Simon served as one for Sophia, keeping her aware of Martinez's plans. And when he's discovered, he's able to escape the White House with aid from a scrambled voice on a phone, which would suggest that there's another mole in the White House (the President and Sterling certainly seem to think so).
  • Monumental Damage: The Washington Monument is destroyed by Sophia in order to get Martinez to back down during a standoff.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Michael Buchanan.
  • Necessarily Evil: Sophia after Thomas' death.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: President Martinez is explicitly based on President Barack Obama, who Blair Underwood (who plays Martinez) personally got to know when Obama was at Harvard Law School and Underwood went there to research his role for L.A. Law.
  • No Name Given: Not for a character, but for the entire alien race, as well as their planet. Instead it's always referred to as "our people", "Sophia's people", and "our planet".
  • Not Quite Dead: The passengers from flight 514.
  • Noughties Drama Series
  • Oblivious to Love: It's implied that Vicky has an increasing attraction to Sean, who on the other hand, repeatedly has no idea why she is still helping him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Jarvis has a moment bordering on Villainous Breakdown in the season finale during his Engineered Public Confession.
    • The Finale has an epic one. You think that Sophia's people are coming in ships through the portal... wrong. They instead bring their entire PLANET into orbit to be a second moon around Earth.
  • Omniscient Database: Sean is able to access any information on Earth in record time, no matter who holds it, no matter how secret, no matter how protected, with his Macbook Pro and a flawless, extremely fast wireless Internet connection that apparently works from anywhere, including Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
  • The Oner: A good portion of the escape sequence inside the collapsing warehouse is an impressively long one continuous shot.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Elias Martinez (played by Blair Underwood) is President Minority; he's Afro-Cuban, referenced by Sterling the DNI while he tries to dissuade the President from his decision to release the prisoners from their secret prison. Also seems to be a President Personable.
  • Out-Gambitted: Jarvis' clever plan to turn Elias' wife against Sterling and use her as a pawn to ensure her husband dies. It really looks like he successfully manipulated her- then we find out Sterling has already talked with her and gained her trust, and her going along with Jarvis was a ploy to buy time.
  • Pet the Dog: Vicky spared and adopted a child she was told to kill.
  • Playful Hacker: Sean used to be this, a skill set that has since come in handy.
  • Plot Hole: Viewers were led to believe that the flashbacks which had been part of the regular narrative would explain, eventually, how Sean got from the cruise ship Leyla was abducted from to the plane in the pilot, which implied there had been nine days between those two scenes. Since the later episodes dropped that technique, it was left hanging.
  • Police Are Useless: In the first few episodes, no-one seems willing to listen to Sean Walker, dismissing him as paranoid or delusional for his claims. This is despite the fact that any sane person should recognise that even if Sean is delusional, exactly what is the explanation for everything? Such as why a normal person engaged to be married, would commit a brutal murder on a Cruise ship, despite their being no record of him boarding the vessel? So why was he there? Or later, when he ended up in a hospital in Arizona after being seen boarding a plane in Miami, which disappeared completely on live news? There is literally no other explanation for how he could have arrived there in the time allotted?! There are far too many holes in this story, even if he was crazy!
  • President Evil: Raymond Jarvis after poisoning Martinez and ascending to the Presidency.
  • The Quisling: The Vice-President (though he comes across as Head-in-the-Sand Management).
  • Really 700 Years Old: Sophia and all the rest of the aliens.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Both Martinez and Sophia at first, but Blake Sterling stays this way.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Maya has killed a fellow prisoner to keep Sophia's secrets and gave her own life to save Sterling.
    • Thomas.
  • Red Herring: Subverted. There were suspicious gaps in her past that could prove the President's wife is an alien. However, it turned out that her family just had problems with immigration. Then, in the end of the final episode, she called the alien planet home.
  • Retool: The series was taken off the air between late November 2010 and early March 2011, notably missing February sweeps. When it returned, the flashbacks (which advertising for the show presumably assumed would be a draw due to comparisons with Lost) were gone, and the storytelling was now completely linear. Quite possibly done because they knew the show's plummeting ratings would guarantee the show's cancellation after season one, and so things were streamlined to Wrap It Up and give the show's remaining fans a suitable Grand Finale.
  • The Singularity: Near the end of the season/series finale, Simon reveals to Sean that "the event" is an evolution into a higher form for his people, but something that humanity won't survive.
  • Spotting the Thread: At a police station, Lelia is able to get a phone call to Sean to bring her over to help her. As she waits, she notices the photos on a desk and a cop noting he's been married for 15 years. However, when she bumps a computer screen, Lelia sees the screensaver shows that family but the father isn't the cop she met. She then looks at the floor to see drops of blood there and realizes to her horror these aren't the real cops.
  • Staged Shooting: When Leila gets the drop on Vicky, Leila manages to take her gun and fires, seeing Vicky tumble down the stairs from the impact. Later in the episode it is revealed that Vicky had previously loaded the gun with blanks, as part of a gambit to make her think she escaped so that she would call Sean.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The flashbacks do this.
  • Taking the Bullet:
    • Maya for Sterling.
    • Thomas for Sophia. Although this time it was the rocket.
  • Title Drop:
    • In an exchange between CIA agent Simon Lee and Sophia Maguire during the pilot episode.
      Lee: We may have a problem. He thinks he can buy his freedom back. Trade it for information...
      Maguire: What kind of information?
      Lee: He's going to tell them... about The Event.
    • At least some episodes titles are lines from that episode.
  • Tomato Surprise: Leila discovers that she and her sister are half-alien.
  • Too Dumb to Live: How did Sophia's civilisation survive this long without wiping themselves out, they're clearly all insane! Given some of the plans they come up with, you have to seriously wonder if the supernova threatening their planet wasn't their fault?!
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sean has been doing this throughout the series. Leila isn't quite there but she's catching up.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • The question of whether Simon survived a building collapse is abruptly answered by the next episode preview immediately following the scene.
    • The first episode back after the hiatus between February and March had a trailer for rest of the season rather than the usual next episode preview.
    • If you saw any of the pre-series trailers, you knew the Washington Monument was going down.
  • Tranquil Fury: Becoming more and more Martinez' default setting.
  • Vagueness Is Coming
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Thomas, the free leader of Sophia's people.
    • Sophia herself becomes one.
    • Arguably Dempsey as well, he wants to stop the aliens, but is very ruthless about doing it.
    • The Vice President both as first Dempsey's then Sophia's pawn thinks he is acting for the best interests of his country.
  • We Will Meet Again: Dempsey regarding Sean:
    Dempsey: It's just that I have a feeling that this Mr. Walker and I will cross paths again... soon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Where's Leila's sister?
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Simon Lee is angry at Sophia after she destroyed the Washington Monument
    • Sterling tells off President Martinez after blowing up two buses full of Sophia's people.
  • Xanatos Gambit / Kansas City Shuffle: In Episode 20, Shawn and Vicki stop one of Sophia's people from releasing a deadly virus into a shopping mall, but another one of Sophia's people infects a bus evacuating the area, killing everyone and giving Sophia the information she needs to properly weaponize the virus. It's the former for the hidden bouns and the latter for the distraction.
  • You Have Failed Me: Averted with Sophia, who, even after numerous occasions where the heroes get the best of her subordinates, forgives them and immediately trusts them to complete equally important missions. Even those subordinates who betray her get every chance to prove their loyalty and come back to her group. Likely justified by the fact that she deeply loves all of her people and wants the best for them, despite her ruthless goals.