Catching up on FlashForward

We finally caught up with “FlashForward” last night, by watching the episode “Better Angels.” That’s exactly the quote you’re thinking it is, from Lincoln’s lips to the ears and prophecies of an intimidating, murderous Somalian. That’s not even the weirdest part of the show.

We’ve been watching “FlashForward” since it started. In the fall, the show was addictive — smart, even funny, with an outstanding cast and a fascinating premise: what if, during a 2 minute lapse of consciousness, everyone in the world saw a glimpse of themselves 6 months into the future? How would things change if you knew where you’d be?

The show took its time to ask that question of nearly everyone in the cast, and the answers were interesting. First, we have the central character, FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes, yeah: Shakespeare in LA), who sees a flash of himself working on the case of why everyone blacked out and saw the future. He uses what he sees to try and recreate six months’ of progress immediately, creating this interesting circle — is he seeing it in six months because he saw it in his FlashForward and then created it? Fun, right?

Benford’s wife, Olivia, saw something else: she saw herself in bed with another man. That other man turns out to be Lloyd Simco, the father of a young, autistic patient of Olivia’s, meaning her efforts to avoid him don’t amount to much. Simco turns out to be the guy who believes he was responsible for the blackout — he was conducting some kind of super science experiment just as the blackout happened. He works with Simon, played by Dominic Monaghan and known at my house as “Eeeeeevil Hobbit,” who showed up to give the FBI snotty advice but seemed, always, to have a secret agenda.

There were others: one agent saw nothing, and later found out he’d be dead within the next six months — shot by his partner’s gun. One agent saw herself at least 4 months pregnant, which was baffling to her — and her girlfriend. One agent realized he’d been in a car accident that claimed the life of a single mother, and so he threw himself off a building to prove that the future could change.

Since then, it’s been a swirl of conflict, between those who want the future to change and those who are counting on their flash-forwards to come true. It’s also, however, been a swirl of drama: All of the men on the show are increasingly turning into “stay the course” assholes, while all the women on the show are becoming weep-on-a-dime “don’t you want to save our relationship?” darlings. So there’s the main conflict in the story — the world may be hit by another destructive blackout, and this FBI team is racing to stop that — and then there’s the conflict created by all of the weird emotional stuff that’s happening.

That should be enough to sustain the story very well, but the writers haven’t been content to just leave it at that. Instead, there are new conflicts being introduced every week: a mysterious man shows up at the hospital who might have been guilty of drowning one of the interns in the future. Mark’s AA sponsor, Aaron, has an ongoing drama with his returned-from-the-dead alcoholic daughter.

The story keeps piling on backstory instead of dealing with its front story. Last night there were flashbacks to fifteen years ago and two years ago, just to set up the possibility that Aaron might be capable of getting into a prison-style fight. Did we really need all of that? No. But the writers apparently have such a big, talented cast that they feel the need to give them all something fun and meaty to do every week.

The show is getting too big for television, and it hurts to watch it hit the boundaries every single week. Yet they keep adding cast members: now we have a new CIA agent. How long will it be before we get his entire backstory?

Sometimes, they show that they can still combine the investigation and the drama into a neat package. The best scene of the week was, I think, between Mark Benford and Lloyd Simco, when Benford had to take Simco to his own house to walk through Simco’s FlashForward — yeah, the one where Simco’s in bed with Benford’s wife.

Hulu – FlashForward: The Formula.

But most of the time, instead of answering or even progressing toward answers for old questions, the show is introducing new problems and questions every week. That’s getting old, particularly as I assume its renewal for next year is probably not certain, so everything asked now isn’t going to get an answer.

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7 Responses to Catching up on FlashForward

  1. Laurie Lynn says:

    Can I quibble with this a wee bit?

    First, (throat clearing), it’s Shakespeare in Love, not Shakespeare in LA (don’t mess up the title of one of my favorite movies).

    We ARE getting new info: there’s what’s his name (who I want to call Charlie from Lost but was also in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy). They finally made it to Somalia. Now we know that Mark’s daughter saw him die in her flashforward–or at least the bad CIA guy (sorry, he’s bad; I think he’s part of the blackout conspiracy) said he was dead. We’ve got more info on DB Gibbens.

    Yes, it’s suffering a bit from the Lost Syndrome (more puzzles/twists/characters) but at least we are getting some new pieces to the puzzle, unlike Lost which is still, here in its final season, heaping on the new twists.

    I like the show, and one of the reasons I do is because there are so many interesting characters.

    Okay, said my piece! 🙂

    • Jenn says:

      I promise I know it’s Shakespeare in Love — but while he’s in FlashForward, JF is Shakespeare, in L.A. 🙂

      I agree there is some new info — and I liked the final twist with the videotape at the end. But some of the side drama has become so incredibly distracting that it’s hard to know where to even concentrate. I’ve completely lost interest in the hospital workers — the babysitter-turned-candy striper and the resident. They keep bringing in new things and then dropping them (a whole episode framed by the window-washer preacher who then vanishes?).

      I do still like it, I just wish they’d get it focused a little better!

  2. punterjoe says:

    I’ve become a commitment-phobe when it comes to broadcast TV series. Network TV has a track record of leaving fans in the lurch when a series underperforms and they just pull the plug. Or there could be a “Lost” situation where suddenly more episodes are ordered and the story arc is sacrificed to fill the extra space.
    NBC’s “Heroes” broke me of my TV Habit. What seemed derivative but interesting, spun into bloated meaninglessness. The premise seemed to be building to a clear climax pushpinned in the very first episode. However it disintegrated into something open ended & diffuse, and the presumed “climax” became instead a clumsily handled prelude to a new season of “adventures”. I chided myself for confusing storytelling with commerce and vowed never to make that mistake again.
    I get the same feeling from Flash Forward. I gorged on the first half season in one sitting via Hulu & wondered if I’d return. Either way, it won’t be until the broadcast series concludes & the reviews come in. Thank you for your commitment to the series. I’ll leave the final verdict on whether Flash Forward is worth the investment of time and attention to you & other loyal viewers. I hope it is, but after Life on Mars, Invasion, and other painfully disrupted addictions, I’m sitting this one out.

    • Jenn says:

      I have to admit, I’m developing about the same feeling for network TV that you have. It’s so likely to be canceled or otherwise messed with by powers-that-don’t-know-what-they’re-doing that it seems like a certain recipe for heartbreak. Yet every year, there’s a show that captures my attention enough that I forget.

      Oh, for an online-available subscription to HBO.

  3. Colin says:

    I’ve said the same thing you did about how we don’t need the back-story of every single character. If they were so great two years ago, then that’s when they should have set the show!

    • Jenn says:

      The stuff about Aaron was just stupid this week. I thought he covered it all really well just in the truck, when he gave his little talk about being in prison and “the animal” inside. We didn’t need any of the flashbacks, since he could explain it all so well.

  4. Laurie Lynn says:

    The forced wrap up to Life on Mars was excruciating–and pissed me off. And I’m still frustrated that Invasion was canceled. And really really pissed that Deadwood was dropped.

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