7. The Gift
Beware, this review does contain minor spoilers!
Views on the virtues of FlashForward are polarising. There are those who, like me, think this was an interesting idea that’s been squandered by less than acceptable scripting and painfully slow plot development, and others who think it’s too early to call it.
I’d be the first to accept that there are shows where season one wasn’t very good, that later became classics. As I recall the first two seasons of Star Trek:The Next Generation were lumpy at times, before the amazing season 3’s Yesterday’s Enterprise and then the seminal The Best Of Both Worlds catapulted the show into another level. Yet, I’d argue that even in the awkward Encounter At Farpoint there were hints and gestures that Next Generation had something greater to give, even if it wasn’t realised for some considerable time.
Which brings me back to FlashForward, and what potential we’ve seen so far, or rather the complete lack of it. Let me be blunt, an interesting premise a successful show does not make. No, for that to happen you need to have characters you can relate to, situations you can follow and, in this particular context, some basis in reality to hold it all together. The scorecard on all those things is sadly lacking here, and episode 7 tries its hardest to get those numbers up.
The Blue Hand clues lead them to a group of people called ‘Ghosts’, who like Demetri had no flash and so assume they’ll be dead. They are drawn to complete their destiny in short order by topping themselves at private organised events.
These Blue Hand suicide parties are borderline interesting, but where The Gift diverts from previous stories is that for once we are presented with the death of a character that had a flash, entirely contradicting the future. This wasn’t exactly unexpected, because without it a terminally boring show this had become. I won’t say which one buys the farm, but the reason for it happening and how it changes the topology is significant. I just wonder why we’ve been forced to sit through the soul-searching junk of the past five stories to get here?
The only catch I found with this is, as it played out, I kept wondering why, having created Mosaic to store all the flash events, the FBI never bothered to check if any of the people who wrote their flashes on it were still alive?!
But actually, let me honest, why aren’t they inundated with people saying they saw a vase that they broke, or a car that got crushed or a finger they’ve just lost? Surely the inconstencies would have appeared by now?
Going back to last week’s story where Schrödinger’s Cat was very badly explained, the suggestion here is that each flash could have been two outcomes, and there is no guarantee that the one everyone saw was the real one. Statistically, the chance might be that 50% of people got the real deal, while the rest got a possible future that will not happen. As the character who died also shared their vision with someone else, they also must have got the alternate ‘fake’ vision.
Interestingly enough, if you roll with this idea, then the more people who share your vision, like being in a crowd at a sporting event or with people on a train, then the less likely you are to see an experience that won’t happen, presumably. And conversely, if you’re the only person present in your flash it’s statistically more likely to be erroneous, maybe.
And to cap off the twist of fates this death sets in motion, the episode ends with Aaron Stark getting a visitor that entirely twists his noodle, and makes much of his earlier appearances in this story utterly meaningless.
So what are the dumbest parts of The Gift? Nicole can speak and read Japanese fluently, but she’s working as a child minder. She’s also allowed to just turn up at a hospital and ‘volunteer’ because she knows one of the doctors. Why doesn’t she help out in OR, or do some brain surgery while she’s about?
It also bothers me that, while the FBI team is trying to put the pieces together, nobody seems remotely concerned that this might happen again, and kill another 20 million people. When you read classic books that have at their heart a global event, the writers have usually thought hard and long about the implications. So that when you read it you can imagine how that scenario would play out, and it’s, hopefully, believable.
This level of thinking was never done with FlashForward, and it shows.
Now that the show has managed to get over its first major hurdle in accepting that the flashes aren’t written in stone, maybe it can become something more.
I’m not convinced yet, and what made me less so was when I wrote down a list of positive aspects and in it I’d included ‘Not much Mark or Olivia’. Perhaps it’s time for another flash and a major character cull so we can focus more clearly on where the story might take us and ignore those parts that patently aren’t going anywhere.
Check out our review of episode 6 here.