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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 17 - The Garden of Forking Paths

27 April 2010

Synopsis: Charlie details her conversation with Dyson Frost and a meeting with Mark is arranged in Grand Central Station. At the meeting Frost tells Mark how to escape his surveillance and instructs him to come out into the mountains for a discreet meeting. Frost has Demetri tied up with a gun pointed at him and sets a countdown for when the mechanism will shoot him. Alda pushes Zoey to get her a hearing that day and uses the opportunity to escape. She follows Mark out to the meeting place and kills Frost. Mark finds Demetri and uses clues Frost left with Charlie to disable the mechanism and move the gun away from Demetri. Meanwhile Agent Vreede asks Olivia to take a look at the homeless man who Frost shot. He was the one who sent her the text about Mark's drinking. He was probably a savant and a friend of his approaches Olivia warning her about something.

The Good: From the moment we entered a flashback showing Frost working with Alda and company until the waters came down on the blackboard this was relentlessly tense. Ignoring the contrived and convoluted parts of the plot this was a terrific achievement. It's very rare that a TV show can keep up that very real sense of anticipation which keeps you on the edge of your seat. Again it's not that the drama was so exquisite or the acting was excellent. Instead it was just the simple fact that for about twenty eight minutes of the episode you felt like anything could happen, that people would die, that the events had real consequences and that you wanted to see it play out. Twenty eight minutes is a very long time to keep that level of tension going and I give the producers real credit for this achievement. Sometimes good TV is the simple exploitation of human anticipation, regardless of how good a story really is.

Along the way the show tapped into some really good stuff. Borrowing heavily from The Bourne Supremecy and 24 Mark was put in a position to have to move fast and alone. The old meeting point covered by police cameras scene was simple and effective. Then Mark chased further and further into the wilderness which made Frost seem smart for not allowing himself to be captured unless it was under his terms. As a good hero should, Mark outsmarted Frost and spits gas water in his face. Alda steps in to kill Frost and I thought his death was well acted and directed. He looked in tremendous pain and died quickly, standing in contrast to the usual TV visual of a relatively peaceful demise including a long final conversation. Good on Mark for asking as many questions as he could in case Frost said anything of value. Mark finds more of the clues from his flashforward in Frost's bag which added a nice sense of inevitability to the situation and even up to the last moment it felt like Demetri would die anyway.

I appreciated Frost's attempts to explain his bizarre decisions to Demetri. His attempts to survive the day was a plausible justification for the elaborate set up he made to keep Demetri's demise firmly on the radar. It was also interesting to see that he was being used by a larger organisation and that his attempts to contact Mark had been for a good reason. He was attempting to come in and help the Mosaic investigation bring down an organisation that now wanted him dead. Demetri showed good desperation as he tried to reason with Frost and the point was well made that he couldn't move or would be killed. The visual of the dominoes was impressive even if it was only a bit of fluff.

I enjoyed the Olivia sideplot too, if only in a clichéd way. TV shows have relied on this particular trick for so long that it managed to amp up the tension of the moment. So often when something intense is going on on one side of the plot, something seemingly mundane happens elsewhere. The usual juxtaposition ends up being that the intense plot is resolved peacefully while the mundane plot ends up delivering something violent. So with Agent Vreede moving very slowly, Olivia being reluctant to help and even a neuro-scientist enjoying a sandwich I was fully expecting something horrible to happen. In the end nothing did though a new player arrived in the shape of an apparently homeless and possibly savant man (James Callis) who may bring in more clues as to what is going on. It's ironic that my anticipation of a cliché actually enhanced the tension for me but it worked nonetheless.

I liked Stanford's subtle way of giving the Benfords a moment alone together. I also liked the way Charlie finally provided Olivia with some justification for her behaviour toward Mark. Now that Frost had creeped everyone out by approaching her, Olivia understandably wants her as far away from Mosaic as possible. So now she has a pretty strong reason to demand Mark move away from LA with her to save their lives and marriage. I liked the brief scene where Bryce picks up on Olivia's continued relationship with Lloyd and she ignored him.

The Bad: Though to be fair, if Olivia is that worried then why doesn't she move away with Charlie? I don't see how shacking up with Lloyd is going to make their lives any safer.

The trouble with the show, though not this episode, is that its way too complicated for its own good. In this episode the relentless tension covered up for the failings elsewhere. For example, how did Alda know where Mark was going? The most logical explanation is that Frost's bosses knew where he was and told her. But in that case why hadn't they already killed Frost? And why did they send her? Surely just having got out of prison she wasn't the ideal candidate and if they had failed to bust her out surely they would have sent someone else to assassinate Frost? But no instead they had to send her to do it, a successful assassination which required an implausible number of hoops to be jumped through for it to succeed. You would think such a powerful organisation would have more than one assassin on their books.

Then you have Frost's attempt to fool the future into allowing him and Demetri to escape death. Whichever way you slice it it's going to seem contrived and ridiculous for Demetri to be rigged up to a revolver like that. Again the show is trying to compensate for its lack of characterisation through ever complex conspiracies and ever more dubious science. Mark's detective skills were also ludicrously sharp as three times he decoded Frost's riddles just at the right moment to find what he needed to.

The Unknown: Frost says Mark will be saved by "The lady you see every day." What did he mean by that? Who were his former bosses? What are the Raven River experiments? QED seems to refer to the rings which help people avoid blacking out but there is clearly more to the formula than that. How does anaesthesia relate to it?

Best Moment: Frost's death, uncharacteristically authentic and effective. He died in pain, shock and disappointment as real people do.

Epilogue: Flashforward's finest hour. They built up to Demetri's death all season and throughout the episode they made his life seem really important. The tension never let up and overcame the contrivances to present a really compelling episode. I doubt anything from this episode will carry over to make the show better but this was one of the most tense episodes of any television show that I have seen. Good job.



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  • @ Beth - the Anesthesia was one of the components of the Formula.

    It was a pretty good episode and I liked the pay-off. I agree Dyson's Death while well-done was unfortunate for the Show. He seemed an interesting character, maybe the Series' employment of Flashbacks will allow further exploration of the character. and his motives. I'd love to know why he had to rig the board to dissolve. I couldn't fathom why Mark didn't take any pictures with his phone but maybe it was disposable and he couldn't.
    I'm still disapointed with the way Olivia is written. Her timeline seemed ridiculously slow paced. Why didn't Olivia mention the Formula when they were discussing the talents of different Savants? Maybe this new character in the Coffee line is how we will circle back to fleshing out Frost's story. Maybe he is the one that wrote the formula on the mirror and he could even be the one assaulting Nicole, having possibly been caught leaving the Benfords by her in the Flashforward.

    Posted by Yogabon, 26/04/2010 7:19pm (10 years ago)

  • A few weeks ago, I posted the bad. Here are my unknowns, some of which can also be considered bads.

    - If Frost feels that Demitri is destined to die, then what’s the point of Frost telling Mark how to disarm the gun? What purpose does that serve? And why use an unreliable child as your means of communication when the whole future is at stake?

    - The rigged water mechanism that erases the chalkboard board. This is either really brilliant or really stupid. Given that Frost doesn’t seem like a stupid person, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. His soliloquy about the weight of the future and how it pulls people toward it was one of my favorite moments in this episode. This theory also gives some validity to the Lloyd/Olivia connection, as well as to the ill-thought-out decision for Mark to move out. *

    - Does the 2016 end date really mean the end of the world, or the end of the series? Do the writers really think that anyone will still be watching this show in 2016? Also, as a fan of the cheesy sci-fi movie "Knowing", about a man who knows the end of the world and cannot stop it, who will be our prophet if Frost is dead?

    - So is Janis a mole or not? It seems like a pretty important plot development, and yet it hasn’t come back up since its reveal two weeks ago. And if Frost is dead, who is she working for now? And where is Simon? If he knows she is a mole, wouldn’t it behoove him to tell someone?

    - If your client was a known terrorist and, while in your care, blew up a courthouse and escaped on a motorcycle, wouldn’t you be locked up somewhere and held for questioning?

    - How did the woman in China know that Mark would shoot Demitri? How does she fit in?

    - What is the deal with Flosso again? How is he related to Frost? Am I the only one totally confused by this subplot?

    - What was that business about anesthesia? Where did that come from?

    - Now that Demitri is NOT going to die, how is he going to explain to Zoey when Janis has an Asian baby? Zoey doesn’t seem like the most understanding of people.

    - Is there anyone less likable than Zoey in all of television? Honestly.

    Despite all of its flaws, I actually thought this was one of the stronger episodes since FF came back from its break. I especially liked Dyson Frost as the classic “prophet who sees the future but cannot stop it” role. It’s too bad that as soon as we get to know him, he dies. This show could have had more potential if he were a tragic protagonist instead of a generic bad guy.

    *Sidebar. I really enjoyed the Lloyd and Olivia plotline last week, and unlike many, I found it completely plausible. Even if it wasn’t consciously, Olivia knew what she was doing as soon as she decided to go to his house. Lloyd knew it too, and called her out on it with his “you could have just called” remark.

    Posted by Beth in Sacramento, 25/04/2010 3:59am (10 years ago)

  • At last, an episode with a reasonable degree of tension and believability.

    Posted by Mark B, 25/04/2010 1:52am (10 years ago)

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