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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 2 - White To Play

28 March 2012

Synopsis: Didi Gibbons arrives at the FBI office to tell what she saw in her flashforward. Mark and Demetri head off to Utah as a result. They track down the real Gibbons who escapes, but they learn that he called the man in Detroit during the blackout. Olivia meets Lloyd Simcoe, the man from her flash but he doesn’t recognise her. He has to tell his son that his mother has died. The boy asks for Olivia just as Charlie reveals that she knows Dylan and D Gibbons. Demetri and Janis both enter their flashes into the Mosaic project and he gets a call telling him he will be murdered in five months time.

The Good: For those who like fast moving dramas, it looks like FlashForward isn’t going to disappoint. The strongest element in the show so far is the looming deadlines. We know the characters have six months to work out what is going on before they learn if their visions will come true. Now we learn that Demetri will be killed one month before that. The impending danger of those dates keeps a sense of urgency and tension in each scene here as the mystery deepens.

Demetri and Mark play the contrasting roles of denial and acceptance as the future begins to unravel as their flashes indicate it would. Demetri rightly questions everything they do which is based on visions which he never saw. While Mark, as an addict, perhaps looks at each step as an inevitable road toward losing his wife and embracing his old demons. His cynicism over his wife’s claims of innocence are understandable. He saw himself drinking, so it’s no stretch in his mind that she would leave him for a man whose child she is taking care of day in, day out. His decision to burn Charlie’s friendship bracelet makes sense and is a nice act of defiance on his behalf in the face of growing evidence that the future is set in stone.

The ongoing investigation complete with Didi the cupcake lady gives a clue to how future episodes of the show will roll out. As we get to know the characters better more and more flashes will be uncovered and a picture of the future will begin to appear with all the intriguing possibilities it might bring. The sight of D Gibbins and his haunting quote that “He who foresees calamity suffers them twice over” is a nice scene to whet the appetite for future discoveries. Another result of these discoveries will hopefully be to bring out more characterisation for our FBI agents. Here it works well as Demetri and Janis have a nice scene together showcasing their personalities and discussing their flashes.

The attempts at humour remain faltering but mouth to mouth in the bathroom is a funny image whichever way you deliver it.

Lloyd Simcoe is a model of British politeness and plays his mourning father role in solid fashion. He shows enough inner turmoil to make it easy to imagine him drawing sympathy and affection from say a female doctor. The twist that he didn’t see her in his flash was actually very clever. It allows for him to potentially be completely innocent in any situation where he grows closer to Olivia. It was nice to see Olivia tell Mark immediately that she had met him. It would be deeply annoying to see their lack of trust grow because of that. It was a nice touch to have Mark mention probable cause when they arrived at the doll factory. He is still only an FBI agent, he doesn’t have dispensation to poke around anywhere.

Other details which I appreciated were: the children recreating the blackouts as a playground game. That made sense and was a good visual to kick off the episode. Stanford announces that eighteen agents have resigned since the blackouts which makes sense and is a nice reminder of the havoc that was unleashed. The notion that the whole world is united for the first time ever, because everyone saw a flash, is an interesting idea.

The Bad: The biggest problem for the show is Mark. Joseph Fiennes has so far shown almost no emotion beyond intense and the role is calling out for a wide range. He has an angry outburst at his AA meeting but plays it with cold intensity. He shuts down Anastasia (from Homeland security) with cool indifference. He has a soul searching, heart aching chat with Olivia but remains stolid and gruff. Their attempts at humour sound completely inauthentic. When faced with the news that Olivia has met Lloyd his understandable paranoia comes out as blank and generic. At no stage do I feel what he is feeling.

Is it just me or is there something strange about Mark and Olivia, both British by birth, affecting American accents that adds to the unconvincing nature of their chemistry? But while she emotes just fine, he doesn’t. If he remains as implacable and uninteresting the show will probably never rise to the heights that it is capable of. Unless the show expands its ensemble approach to give him less to carry or indeed he and the writers gets a better handle on his character.

Another problem which I touched on in the first episode was the lack of follow up on the trauma which would result from the blackouts. We get fleeting glimpses and mentions of the chaos but show needed a lot more to make it seem like the world had really been through such a huge trauma. Already the show is jumping forward to focus on the visions of the future and all the conspiracy theories which it brings. The result is a lack of emotional resonance which could end up rotting the core of the show.

After a very dubious logic jump in episode one where Mark immediately works out what a flashforward is we get another here. Apparently D Gibbons was hacking into various important computer networks. Demetri reckons he was searching for an explanation for the blackouts. Yeah maybe but that is just a guess and he could have been up to many other things. It is stated in such a way that it seems like fact and I wouldn’t want these convenient guesses to become an annoying hole in the story. And on a smaller note Demetri says that Sherrif Keegan was killed five minutes after telling him she had no flashforward. She was killed hours after telling him that so it seemed a very odd way to state it.

The Unknown: What exactly did Dylan and Charlie see in their vision? I don’t really want to get into the issue of paradoxes at this stage. They are an inevitable part of the show because Mark’s investigation is rolling out from what he saw. If the future comes true exactly then it will be difficult to avoid claims that the show makes no sense. The real question for viewers though is do the producers have a plan for this? Do they have an explanation in place before they start forcing questions on viewers? Again, it could ruin the show if they don’t.

Best Moment: Probably the Demetri and Janis conversation. They both agree to input their flashes in the hopes of finding out more about their future. It makes sense and they both show off the personalities lurking beneath their investigation. More of that would be very welcome.

Epilogue: This is an improvement on the first episode but the overall problems remain the same. Mark and everyone else needs more character development so that we will care about their lives. And there needs to be a consistent effort to show the world in trauma and crisis to add a sense of reality and gravitas to the shows narrative.

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