Sunday, March 22, 2015

Flash Forward (into a future we'll never actually fill you in on.....)


 
On September 24, 2009, ABC aired the pilot show for Flash Forward, a one hour series based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer. The book was adapted for television by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer, who would serve as two of the show’s five executive producers for the duration of the season.  Much to the dismay of loyal fans, in May of 2010 the announcement was made that the show would not return for a second season, forcing writers to wrap up an incredibly complex web of clues in what the network SOMEHOW deemed an acceptable package, and leaving viewers with perhaps one of the most unsatisfying endings in television history. 

 
The show’s premise had all the makings for a long-term love affair with serious viewers: a narrative that played with time and conventional notions of reality, a handsome FBI agent with a strained romantic relationship, stunt sequences that punched through the screen and gave a course of adrenaline satisfying enough to keep even the best action junkies on hook, and (best of all) a mystery.
 
Here's the set up:
On October 6, 2009, the entire world loses consciousness for 137 seconds. When that happens, chaos ensues. Planes fall from the sky, cars crash, doctors fall limp during surgery, swimmers drown. The world is on auto-pilot, but not everything has the software.

 
Upon waking and discovering the destruction caused by this blackout, the citizens of the world share with each other the "dreams" they experienced during their time in the darkness. Through a series of quick stories and character introductions, it is made obvious that these images were less like "dreams" and more like "visions." To be more precise, they were visions of the future. The entire world has experienced a "flash forward" to the exact same moment six months in the future -- April 29, 2010, 10:00 pm PST (yes, that will eventually become important).  In the aftermath, the FBI and other investigative bureaus from around the world gather anything that may lead to a better understanding of what happened that day. They compile a database for people to use to collect their flash-forwards in an attempt to piece together the past based on visions of the future. But what begins as the most complex puzzle imaginable comes to a screeching halt when footage from a baseball stadium security camera reveals the most intriguingly shaped piece of all: a masked man, awake while the whole world sleeps, who is definitely up to something. Enter, Suspect Zero.
The investigative team is led by FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) and his partner, Demetri Noh (John Cho).  Benford, whose flash forward was of his work on a case called "The Mosaic," dealing specifically with unraveling the people behind the flash forward, works tirelessly to uncover the clues that he remembers seeing on a ginormous bulletin board in the future.
After discovering the identity of the person behind the first name on his board, Mark and Demetri are rapidly introduced to a series of players in a conspiracy that makes Princess Di's murder, the second shooter on the grassy knoll, and the studio produced walk on the moon look like a second grade history project. The season's episodes launched viewers to Somalia, where a similar event took place nearly twenty years earlier, then to a seedy night club, then to Hong Kong to track down a woman with knowledge of hDemetri's impending death which left him with no flash forward at all. A tension-filled realtionship between Mark, his wife Olivia (Sonya Walger), and quantum physicist Lloyd Simcoe (seen in Olivia's flash forward as her lover and played by Jack Davenport) is made even more tenuous when it is discovered that Simcoe and his partner, Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan), may be responsible for, if not causing the actual flash forward, at least creating the technology to enable someone else to cause it.
Visits from an autistic man who says he not only knows the person responsible for the flash forward but has been a victim of this man's experiments in perfecting the time jump, an AA sponsor finding his long-dead daughter very much alive in Afghanistan, a mole at the FBI, and the ever illusive Dyson Frost, a mad man with a plan to do some very dirty work with the world's population continued moving audiences, one episode at a time, closer and closer to the date and time that the flash forwards predicted.

The finale(s)

In what was originally scheduled to be a two-hour finale, Mark, Demetri, and the rest of this tangled web of characters began D-Day at 3:00 in the morning. Although the flash forwards were not all happening in the way that each of them thought they would, they were happening. As the audience worked its way through the countdown to 10:00 pm, it seemed more and more likely that everything could go as envisioned, which would mean a dead Demetri, an about to be dead Mark, and a world that Mark's daughter said would have "no more good days."
 But in true Flash Forward fashion, part one of the finale, "Countdown" ended with a series of twists that meant things might NOT be set in stone. Mark, set to somehow kill his partner, fall of the wagon into a drunken stupor, lose the man responsible for creating the flash forward, and end up in his office being chased by a team of assassins . . . goes to jail. He's literally locked in a cell! There's no way he'll get out in time to do all of the damage he's supposed to do. There are THREE hours until the big moment everyone has been waiting for, and there MIGHT be some serious resolution here! 
But more importantly, there might be another flash forward. Lloyd and Olivia, while fulfilling their flash forward fantasies of a steamy kiss (shame, shame!) discover the answer to an equation that Lloyd has been trying to solve from his vision. Another flash forward is going to happen -- maybe several -- and soon. Dunh dunh DUUUUNH!

Part two, "Future Shock" bashed every single dream of resolution for the show's meager remaining audience. With an act that can only be described with a Homer Simpson "d'oh!," Mark's boss BAILS HIM OUT OF JAIL. Although he doesn't deliver the destined three shots to his partner's chest, he's free to stroll right into his office, drunk as a skunk after sulking in a bar for a while, followed by (you guessed it) a team of assassins, left to kill Demetri in any way that fate might have him do so.
With gunmen searching for him in the darkness of the FBI building, Mark enters the office of his flash forward, sits down at his desk, and takes a call from Lloyd. The next flash forward is coming, most definitely, within the next two days. The phone call triggers something within him. He suddenly realizes a series of mistakes made on his bulletin board brought to his attention by that crazy autistic guy, Gabriel (James Callis). A connect-the-dots moment gives Mark the answer he needs to potentially save billions of people: TENFOURTEENPM.
The next flash forward will happen in fourteen minutes (the amount of time remaining in the episode).  
Wait, what?! Yes. That's right. Just when the audience's fears of the annihilation of Mark Benford are about to come true, after he's called the President to send out the alarm and alert the world -- Hold the planes! Turn all the traffic lights red! Get out of the bathtub! -- Demetri enters the scene. Mark's life is in danger, that stupid Demetri is definitely going to die now (all because he just HAD to be a hero and come save his partner), and those pesky assassins have planted a bomb in the building. There's a chase, a string of gunfire, running in the darkness, Mark and Demetri break from their assailants, running for an office window that's been shattered by the bullets. There's a helicopter waiting for them -- escape is imminent! Freedom! Death averted! Mark leaps for the heli . . .
 

-- flash forward --

A montage of flashes flood the screen. We see many dates, many faces, many questionable futures. But the final one is of Mark's daughter, all grown up. "They found him," she says with a smile.

-- back to present day --

 
 
And the bomb goes off.
 
 
That's it. The end. No resolution. No filling in the time between that day and the next flash forward, which we are to believe happens five years later. No one to tell us WHO they found. And who THEY are. It's just over.
 
Much like the polarizing finale of LOST, the series finale of Flash Forward left fans either at peace with Mark's death in the blast (or maybe his discovery after some lengthy absence), or terribly, terribly annoyed.
This viewer was definitely a member of the latter camp.
The show's creators readily acknowledged that the season finale was shot BEFORE they knew they wouldn't be renewed for a second year. What began as a five year story arc was cut short by four years. The finale, designed to be a cliffhanger that would set the tone for the subsequent seasons (which would presumably fill in the gaps from Mark and Demetri's harrowing escape until the time predicted in the second flash forward), had to serve as the finale for the whole damned thing.
And I felt robbed. The best part about Flash Forward was putting together the puzzle pieces. Each episode meant getting to know one person, one piece of that puzzle, and working to make it fit. Sometimes it took only one episode to figure out how this move or that affected the big picture, but  at other times viewers might be pushed to remember clues from week to week, not having their light bulb moment until three, maybe four weeks later. I wanted to know more. Who were the people on Mark's board we hadn't met yet? What happened after the second flash forward? Would it be stopped? Was the entire world's future really up for grabs? LAME!
I remember sitting in my living room, my husband by my side, both of our jaws open (in more of a "huh" than a "whoa"), our brows furrowed, and giving a synchronized "For real?" It was just so... disappointing.
 
In my dream world, this show reappears this year. The first season was set in 2009 and started in 2009, the flash forward happened in 2010 and was shown in 2010 -- that was real. It was current and exciting and somehow made more so because it could be happening outside of our door.
 
The next flash forward was set to occur in 2015. By my watch (iPhone), it's 2015. Your move, TV.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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