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.
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.