Episode 14 - Better Angels
2 April 2010
Synopsis: The team land in Somalia and are immediately captured by Abdi, the boy (now a man) who survived the 1991 experiment. He recognises Simon and insists that they tell him what they are there for. Janis uses his flashforward to convince him of the need to investigate the tower. Once inside they find the corpses of the entire village and Abdi tries to kill Simon in revenge but Vogel shoots him instead. They find video of D Gibbons interviewing villagers about their flashes and then later he talks directly to Demetri despite being filmed eighteen years before. Back in LA Mark convinces Olivia to ask Charlie to explain her flashforward to them. She says that she heard agents claiming that Mark was dead. Nicole decides to start studying to become a doctor and Bryce confides that he may not be around to see that happen.
The Good: A mixed bag once more, some good elements but some messy ones too.
Let's start with Demetri's proposition to father Janis' baby. It was such an outrageous suggestion that I was momentarily stunned that the show might go in that direction. I suppose Janis's tears at the baby's healthy growth could well be linked to the father, her now dead ex-partner Demetri. Certainly his own impending doom is a reasonable excuse for him to offer to be a sperm donor. But the way it was laid out, that he might do it behind Zoey's back and that they would actually have sex seemed farcical. I suppose it depends on how they handle the idea from here and indeed whether they went through with it. I have little faith that the show will adequately handle what could have been a pretty interesting story.
The trip to Somalia was instructive and interesting if not as satisfying as it could have been. The cliff hanger with D Gibbons talking to Demetri was quite the moment. It immediately raises loads of questions (see The Unknown) and was definitely a surprise and a good note to end on. I liked Demetri and Janis lying to their translator about their flashes, that made sense and was a nice insight into how people might have to lie about what they saw to a complete stranger. The black camel surviving the 91 blackout reminded me of the mysterious kangaroo which Mark has seen hopping around and it does beg the question of whether other animals fell asleep also. The continuity of the young boy with the scar becoming Abdi the gangster was a nice idea and he was presented as no fool. His recognition of Simon was a nice way to cut through the lies and get straight to the interrogation. It was also pleasing to see him put his Muslim faith at the forefront of his thinking about the blackout as doubtless for many that would be a more relatable explanation for such a catastrophe. I enjoyed the way his flash had informed his behaviour and how that was used against him. It had emboldened him in his criminal behaviour but once he understood what he actually saw it gave him a new perspective. Finally seeing one of the guards lose control of his bodily functions in the face of a loaded gun was a very nice touch. The real emotional consequences of facing death are almost never addressed in drama shows like this.
Back in LA it was nice to see Olivia making a proper effort to research the options of moving. It showed her willingness to keep their family together and avoid the fate that they saw. She also questioned Charlie with sensitivity and it was about time that her flash was revealed.
The Bad: The Somalia trip was of course a missed opportunity to get gritty and really focus on the characters. The immediate killing of the translator dissipated the tension rather than increase it. When someone unimportant dies that quickly it's a signal to viewers that the writers want to put on a show of violence and danger but nothing important will actually happen. With each dead henchman or security guard that impression was reinforced. The scene where Abdi rolled up in an armoured car shooting into the air was ridiculous. His men were under attack and a bazooka had just been fired yet he remained so amazingly in control that he didn't fire a single shot at them. No he had the confidence to drive into their fire, kill his own men for no good reason, and leave the important characters unharmed. After all the bloodshed our characters looked pretty stupid getting all chummy with Abdi and wandering around the remaining pylon without watching him closely. It was also odd that Vogel felt the need to kill Abdi after they had been so careful not to kill his men and when a clout round the head could have been sufficient.
The video which Demetri found was powered up way too quickly, then happened to begin one interview away from Abdi's mother which all looked incredibly convenient. The room full of skeletons was a poor piece of set design. The skeletons all looked far too clean and unblemished and the room was empty of all other traces of carrion. Where were their clothes? Where was the blood and other mess that such slaughter would have created? It looked very fake.
Olivia came off as pretty unreasonable in asking Mark to chose between LA and Denver. He was offering to try and save the world and their marriage and she was drawing an artificial distinction between the two. It was as if she was saying that it would be his fault if she now shacked up with Lloyd. There was no depth to their discussion either. Mark didn't make the case for why saving the world from another blackout was so important and how he couldn't live with himself if he didn't help out to the best of his abilities. Nor did they discuss their friends, relatives, hobbies or other reasons why LA might be their chosen home.
Though I appreciated the effort to liven Bryce and Nicole's conversations up, their dialogue felt very cookie cutter. Bryce's suggestion that his real name was Martin Goathead felt very forced. Or it made him look like a very cheesy guy, neither is an ideal result.
The Unknown: So how on earth did Gibbons know where Demetri would be in eighteen years time? Is that why they left the pylon there? Why does Vogel think killing Mark is part of his job and not worth admitting to anyone? Is the CIA working its own angle on this? Did Demetri and Janis have the weirdest most awkward sex imaginable?
Best Moment: Demetri's indecent proposal. Seriously weird territory for such a straight laced show.
Epilogue: Vogel's flashforward is a good example of where the show goes wrong. There is no shock or intrigue at him helping Mark be killed unless we care about him or Mark. This episode could have been used just for Somalia and focussed on Vogel's personality and why we should or shouldn't like him. But instead we had a mix of revelations, some interesting and some not but none of which can turn the show around.
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