22. Future Shock
Six months ago the whole world stopped for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, the whole world saw the future, but nobody realised what a complete turkey this TV show would turn out to be.
But looking back now, there were already signs, even in the pilot, that the writers weren’t really as ease with the vagueness and ambiguity that Lost made its hallmark. I guess the problem they never addressed was that these characters weren’t on an imaginary and magical island, but mostly FBI agents.
Now we reach the final chapter where the characters actually get to meet their predefined futures, even if a good number of these have already been eliminated by anti-destiny events.
It all starts by, in quick succession, visiting all the running plot threads, some of which are possibly heading in the wrong direction and others more on course. This immediately reminds us that one of this show’s most annoying aspects, the flip-flop. We’ve had it previously where we’re told something is certainty, to then be told it isn’t, to then be told maybe it is.
Last week they told us Tracy was dead, but miraculously they now decide she’s alive, resurrecting, as it were, the Aaron plotline for no good reason. As contrived as this was, this piqued my curiosity, because I wondered if they might explain to us why you’d take someone all the way from the US to Afghanistan to interrogate them, rather than just asking them where they stood? They don’t.
Then again, so many things need resolving, because there is no season 2, and half way through I realised this was a big ask, especially when some of the characters don’t actually make a proper appearance, like Gabriel.
When we finally get to the allotted time and most characters are where they’re supposed to be, even though many of them resist the universe, it’s pointless.
This hints at the biggest problem I’ve had with FlashForward all along: destiny. The show tried to sell the idea that you can’t fight destiny, then showed you could, creating a whole new idea of destiny-ish.
The forces of the universe converge to push you in a certain direction, as long as you go along with it, and you believe in your destiny-ish.
In the run up to the final minutes before the flash, they build up a nice line in tension, with Mark fighting off evil henchmen who can’t shoot straight after decoding his evidence board to work out that the next blackout is only minutes away. That allows him to warn Stanford Wedeck, who completely unrealistically warns the world, and its dog.
The new flash is an unstoppable event and with it we get glimpses of events in 2015, when I presume the show writers intended for the series to reach a conclusion of sorts. Amazingly, with ten minutes’ warning, apparently, planes don’t fall out of the sky and millions of people don’t die, it also suggests. Having been Lost, and then having a stab at some other genres, the last episode is a 24 homage replete with clocks.
The big, and ultimately irrelevant tease is that we get to see a teenage Charlie who announces “They’ve found him”, which, it seems reasonable to assume, refers to Mark. And, with that the FBI building explodes and FlashForward, thankfully, ends, with a massive presumption of season 2 that was an inaccurate prediction of the future, ironically.
We’re left to ponder what actually happened to a show that started promisingly enough and then skydived into to the deck from 39,000 feet.
I’ve had digs over the season at the writing, production values and acting. But where the show really floundered was in giving us personalities we could relate and empathise with. In the end, I could count on one hand those characters I liked. Janis and Simon both provided some entertainment and Gabriel, when he belatedly arrived, but some of the others were lost causes from the outset. What was worse is that those characters with the least grace, they gave increasingly larger portions of the plot. And, yes, I’m talking about Olivia here.
By at least week eight I dreaded her repetitive appearances, whining about saving her marriage, but doing just everything to trash it. For a supposed intelligent person she acted like a pre-teen in the presence of Lloyd, and those emotional stares she used to respond to any situation sucked on my very soul.
But it wasn’t just her. Demetri was self obsessed with no obvious chemistry with the woman he was supposed to marry. Nicole had an entirely illogical lifestyle where she could speak Japanese fluently but did menial work to earn a living. Aaron was an Army vet who had the costume wardrobe he’d bought from the Master of Disguise. None of these personalities made any sense or were remotely believable.
So, where was this show actually entertaining? Looking back through my reviews I realised that every episode contained either a plot point or scene that was so bat-shit crazy that it bordered on brilliance. And each week I’d wait for that slice of insanity, as a reward for sitting through the rest of this trash.
The standout moments included: the FBI computers that could 3D model a ring someone in a blurry photo was wearing, but not a decent image of his face. The Aaron Obi-Wan outfit. The bridge scene where a single white van is the source for multiple laser dots from different angles. The brain that was removed without surgery. “I’ll make you gayer.” And so on…
Without these Pythonesque moments, FlashForward would have just been another badly executed show based on a mildly interesting idea that it failed to ignite. Yet, would I want it back?
No. Double no, with bells on. The thought of another dialogue-less moment with Olivia, Aaron’s inevitable gimp disguise, or the introduction of Mr Big-bigger-but-not-the-real-big-guy as the show’s nemesis is enough for me to pass on that.
I can take my Alpha ring off now, and meet the challenge of a future where I get to write about something better than this turned out.
Read our review of episode 21 here.