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FlashForward

FlashForward is a drama based around an incident where everyone on Earth loses consciousness and sees a vision of their future. ABC 2009-2010

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Episode 5 - Gimme Some Truth

28 March 2012

Synopsis: The Senate Intelligence Committee convenes hearings about how each agency is investigating the blackouts. Stanford used to work with the President and butts heads with the chairman of the committee Joyce Clemente. He blackmails the President in order to ensure funding for Mosaic. Mark confesses to Stanford that he was drunk during his flashforward. Janis goes on a date with a woman and admits she hasn’t come out at work. The four agents in DC and Janis are all attacked by Asian gunmen and she is shot.

The Good: This is a tricky episode. If someone had handed me a plot outline of what went on I would have loved it. But the way it played out didn’t quite live up to its logical structure.

I was thrilled to see polygraph tests and senate hearings. I believe strongly that the more a TV show mimics reality, the more viewers it will suck into the story. Because viewers won’t be asking questions about why things are happening when they roll out the way they might in the real world. So the if you were building an investigation around people’s flashforwards, why not stick them on a lie detector and make sure they aren’t concealing anything?

Similarly, there would certainly be a big review of government priorities after such a global event. So the Senate hearings make perfect sense and throwing in the argument about China was good to see. Logically speaking people on the opposite side of the world would be asleep when the blackouts occurred and so suffer far fewer casualties. So naturally it would look suspicious to Americans that they suffered disproportionately.

We get a little background on Stanford even if it feels a bit thin and generic. However his blackmail covers one big logic hole. Why would one FBI field office be in charge of such a huge investigation? Here we see how Stanford was able to ensure that funding kept coming. But more than that we also see the understandable cynicism about Mosaic’s value. That would suggest that the FBI are only one of a number of agencies who will get funding to investigate the blackouts. So our characters can go on leading the investigation without being seen by the world as the office in charge. The attack on them makes it clear that they are on the right path and it did give the episode an injection of action after much talking.

A plot point that had passed me by was why Mark’s vision is so blurry compared to other peoples. That he was drunk is the perfect answer and bringing it out the way Senator Clemente did was good to see. It added a whole new layer to Mark’s doubts about whether he is doing the right thing and his desire to keep that part of his vision quiet. By revealing it to Stanford it places them both in a position to need to rely on the other even more than before. That relationship could be an interesting one to explore and their nod during the gun fight made sense as the start of a new shared bond.

Once more Olivia’s emoting was spot on. This episode did a good job of trying to emphasise the ramifications of Mark turning to drink once more. Her conversation with Aaron brought out her own fears about him becoming too stressed at work. I also liked her shamed reaction when she realises that Aaron knows about her flashforward. Of course she hasn’t cheated on Mark yet but it is as if she has and naturally she would feel ashamed around one of Mark’s closest friends.

Finally it seems Geyer the Nazi was right about Janis’ thumb ring. She is indeed gay but hasn’t come out to her work colleagues for fear of discrimination. It definitely adds intrigue to her pregnancy vision and why she would be so shaken by that. She too emotes well and comes across like a likeable person. The new alarm clock rolling around in her blood made for a memorable visual.

The Bad: The major problems remain firmly in place. First is that the show continues to insist that the flashes will all come true as people saw them. With that idea still in place nothing that happens here has much significance. We know Stanford will get his funding because we saw it in the flash. We know none of the agents is going to die in a gunfight because they are all alive come April 29th (well Demetri a little before that). It puts a real dampener on the episode because as logical as the story is it never becomes tense or unpredictable.

More than just this episode though, the show desperately needs to prove that the flashes won’t come true as predicted. Otherwise Mark’s alcoholic struggles and relationship with Olivia will become interminable to watch as they move toward their destinies. And that goes for everyone else too.

The second problem remains Mark’s acting and it’s getting to the point where I feel bad for bringing it up. But Demetri claims photo opportunities make Mark feel constipated. Well, judging by this episode that’s not the only thing which makes him feel constipated. “I hate karaoke” Mark says with a grimace so intense it’s as if karaoke killed his family. I loved him giving evidence to the senate with his hands on his waist. No one else would stand like that, he looked permanently defensive and almost contemptuous by standing as if listening to an errant child give an excuse. I do appreciate that he is under a lot of stress and hanging out in a bar must bring some uncomfortable memories and emotions to the surface. But I can’t quite remember a lead character who looked so uncomfortable in their own skin before.

He is not the only one though. The writers make a good faith effort to insert humour into the episode but time and again it falls flat. It’s difficult to explain why except that it feels forced due to the characters not seeming natural. Of course Mark’s jokes – “I did mention they were wearing masks” fall flat because he delivers them so intensely. Where as Janis and Maya’s lesbian fantasy jokes were about as obvious as you could get. Aaron tries to joke with Olivia about Mark forgetting their anniversary but again it all feels very dry. The humour not working is a symptom of the characters not feeling real or natural.

The Rolling Stone gun fight was a nice idea but I think it hit the wrong tone. In principal having the gun fight be a bonding moment for the FBI office is a nice idea. But when the music blared I think it just underlined to viewers that no one was in any real danger. Essentially it warned me that until Demetri gets murdered or doesn’t, no action scenes mean anything on this show.

Janis’ story has some weird moments which didn’t help her story. First she and Maya call a guy a douche for hitting on her. All he did was politely ask her out. Then Maya, on their second date suggests that maybe they are going to have a baby together because she read Janis’ post on Mosaic. While Maya essentially googling her and bringing it up makes sense, it came across as way too desperate and forward. If written differently it would have come across more realistically. I was also really amused at how half way through their first date Janis asked what Maya did for a living. Considering they met at martial arts class it seems preposterous that she wouldn’t have already found that out.

The Unknown: Who built the pylons in Somalia? What did the President see in his flashforward? Did Clemente really see herself as President and how? Who sent the Asian gunmen after the Mosaic investigation and why? Did the President have anything to do with it?

Best Moment: Probably Mark speaking before the committee. It was certainly interesting to watch for many reasons.

Epilogue: I do like the structure and pace of this show. The conspiracy is building and they are putting in place the logical pieces needed for the investigation to flourish. But the character issues remain as does the overall predestination paradox.

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  • I think we all know someone who truly hates karaoke!

    Posted by Frank, 03/11/2009 2:07pm (9 years ago)

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