FlashForward episode 1 review

Billy has seen the future, and it's not good news for American actors...

1. No More Good Days

I’ll admit to being so tantalised by the ideas behind FlashForward that I’d watched the first 17 minutes of the show as released online. Created by David Goyer (Threshold, Blade, Blade II, Blade: The Series) and Brannon Braga (Enterprise, Threshold, 24) it presents the idea of a global event where everyone is given a two minutes and seventeen second glimpse of their future six months ahead. It’s based on Robert J. Sawyer’s sci-fi novel of the same name.

In the first 20 minutes or so the main characters are presented; Joseph Fiennes is Mark Benford, loving husband and father and FBI partner to John Cho’s Demetri Noh. The Benfords have a home help/baby sitter Nicole Kirby (Peyton List) who likes to have sex in their house while they’re at work. Less playful is Zachary Knighton played by Bryce Varley, a doctor who wants to commit suicide. His attempt to do this, and everyone else’s life on the planet, is interrupted by the flash, which presents them with intriguing snapshots of their future lives. And they may not be as idyllic as they’ve been portrayed so far.

Mark Benford sees himself pursued by killers while trying to unravel a complex case, while his doctor wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) sees herself having an affair. For some – those driving, flying or with a potentially dangerous occupation – the flash is catastrophic.

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Mark and Demetri come around in the middle of a huge interstate road accident, and this level of chaos is obviously widespread. Strangely, nobody mentions how insurance companies will react, and on this basis alone, I can see trouble ahead.

It soon becomes apparent that while the authorities are describing this as a ‘blackout’, many people can describe in detail what they experienced and even the date and time of the future they saw. Better still, two agents, one American the other British (played by Alex Kingston, who is Joseph Fiennes’ sister-in-law), can corroborate their flash, experiencing exactly the same vision.

More worryingly for Demetri, he saw nothing, suggesting he’s dead, potentially avoiding any schedule conflicts for Cho and the second Star Trek movie.

It was at this point that my disbelief in what was presented started to overtake my enjoyment of the slick presentation. What slightly confused me was that this particular FBI agency appeared to have no command and control from above, and so decided it was their job to solve the mystery. It was fun to see them working the problem, but the entire premise appeared to be that only they could solve it.

Before I could think too hard about that, the show then dragged me back to the different implications of the flash for each person. For some it was a revelation that confirmed their lives would improve, and for others the opposite. The weirdest impact is on Mark’s AA sponsor Aaron Stark, who claims to have seen someone who he knows to be dead! Are some mislead by their own expectations, or is the flash just part of a bigger strangeness?

Before the end of the first 42 minutes we get to meet Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport – Norrington from the Pirates movies) who is the father of a child Olivia saved, and the man she’s destined to be with. And then to finish with we’re given a huge slice of our own FlashForward into the series, where we get to see how events start to unfold, with the focus on some trying to achieve their futures and others desperate to stop them.

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What I noticed was that in all the experiences nobody was aware that the time and place of that event was significant, suggesting that they didn’t know what was going to happen at that point. But now they do, so surely that would alter events? I’m sure those that like to play with that particular time paradox will have a field day.

The basis plan of the show appears to be to envisage a world-altering event which combines the obscurity of Lost with the action potential of 24, and the sci-fi elements of Threshold, and to fill it with enough British actors to make it fly irrespective of any inconsistency in the writing quality.

For the most part, sidelining some of the overly convenient experiences that people had where they always saw the date and time, it achieves this. Yet I’m concerned that this might be a difficult show to maintain this edge, as there are lots of characters and there’s plenty of potential to become overly embroiled in their personal angst. Early on FlashForward needs to decide if it’s telling a big story or a very personal one, as trying to be both might be fatal for the show.

Yet despite the obvious flaws in the first show it didn’t put me off enough to not want to see more and where this interesting idea might take us.

And in my FlashForward, six months from now the show was still running, I recall.