Flash Forward, at its core, is a show about epistemology. When everyone in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, each having their own vision of what they believe to be the future, the show asks its characters and viewers to constantly question the knowledge we’re being given:
- How do we know these are flashes of the future, and not something else, despite the fact that everyone flashed forward to the same date, April 29, 2010?
- How do we acquire the knowledge/facts to help us determine what we think we know?
- What is truth, belief or conjecture?
And from these central questions of epistemics, the show branches out into a Lostian exploration of fate and destiny, asking whether or not they exist, if the future can be changed and how much control we can exert over a predetermined course.
So far, I am into it. It’s slightly more penetrable than Lost, but still contains that show’s crucial elements of action, human drama and mystery to keep up interest in the show. Lost was reinvigorated when it introduced the flash forward structure at the end of season 3, and I like the idea of this show also having a similar endgame. It’s nice to know, as a viewer, that your showrunners have an idea of where they’re going and the experience of finding out if the flash forwards will come to pass is the same for us as it is for the characters on the show.
Because of that, we’re learning things in time with the characters, so all we know at this point regarding what may have caused the blackout is that there is a person of interest called D. Gibbons (who stole the credit card of DiDi Gibbons of DiDelicious Cupcakes) who was working on some major hack in a creepy-ass doll factory, and who made a call 30 seconds into the blackout to the only known person to not fall asleep: a man at a Detroit Tigers game, veiled in black, who walked away nonchalantly as if he knew this would happen. (For my money, I am sure he will be played by Dominic Monaghan, as I know my favorite hobbit has a deal to appear on this show and hasn’t yet done so.)
By the end of the second episode, we’ve unveiled almost all of the symbols on the flash of the Mosaic board that Joseph Fiennes’s Mark Benford was putting together in the future: we’ve seen the friendship bracelet his daughter gives him, the name D. Gibbons, the crime scene photo of the burned baby doll, but not yet the blue hand or the man with the star tattoos. John Cho’s Demitri Noh learns that there are other people who saw nothing in the blackout, but not five minutes after meeting one, she dies. He also receives a phone call from someone in Shanghai (I think) (Husband Note: It’s Hong Kong, but I shall correct my wife instead of editing the right answer in because I’m MEAAAAAN!) informing him that she was reading a report of his death in her flash forward, on March 15, 2010. Sonya Walger’s Olivia meets the man with whom she’ll have an affair (Swingtown’s Jack Davenport, using his natural accent), and her daughter Charlie recognizes Davenport’s son from her flash forward.
It’s too early for us to start building Lostian theories about the nature of the “future” or even what we think we know here, but I’m sure we’ll find out next week if Benford burning his daughter’s friendship bracelet has any effect on the future. If this show were to take a banal turn, I’d expect that little Charlie would just keep making them for her daddy, constantly, feeling hurt each time she saw him without it.
- How good was the opening of the pilot episode? The simplest images stood out: the balloons floating away, the kangaroo on the loose. These were a lovely, almost surrealist expression of the disjointedness of life after a disaster.
- Speaking of which, has anyone ever seen children playing make-believe versions of disasters on the playground? Watching a bunch of children play “blackout” while “Ring Around the Rosy” sang out was terrifically creepy, as was the repetition of the song in the doll factory. I ask about the validity of this exercise because, while I understand the notion of communal play acting as a method of coping, I don’t remember ever play acting those kind of current events as a child. We play acted the 1994 Lillehammer games, where the worst thing that happened was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee getting bashed in by Tonya Harding.
- Can Sonya Walger now only play women with children named Charlie?
- Nice FBI agent cameo, Seth McFarlane! (Husband Note: He’s coming back, which further pisses off everybody who hates his funny shows.)
- Seeing Joseph Fiennes on TV makes me mourn the unwanted pilot that was Ryan Murphy’s Pretty/Handsome, which was to be an F/X series about a man struggling with a gender identity crisis. The trailer for it was lovely, and I’m sure you can find it on YouTube. But know that when I try to see Fiennes as an FBI agent, I have a really hard time because I think of him surreptitiously fondling silk panties or, of course, unwrapping Gwyneth Paltrow’s bubbies.
The mystery is there, but the characters aren’t. The show has picked up some bizarre backlash in only its second week (with major complaints about Courtney B. Vance’s comic relief bathroom blackout story), but I think that’s just a gut reaction to having yet another deep mystery show on primetime, and this time people have their guard up. The themes and general questions being thrown about are, without question, fascinating, but I can understand some people being frustrated by some very one-dimensional character work. Right now, I’m only feeling Sonya Walger as far as emotions are concerned, because it’s tough for the rest of the show to work its procedural angle without losing some major character time, something from which most procedurals that aren’t named Bones tend to suffer. (But hey, at least Demitri Noh is an awesome name.)
But I’m not hating on the series so much as being distracted by my complete lack of connection, and after the first sequence of “holy shit,” things have settled into a procedural groove a tad too quickly.
The showrunners and writers must have a lot of information up their sleeves, because right now they’re racing through this mofo. Give me a reason to care other than the central conceit itself. Because I’m there, but I don’t know if others will stick around.