moments will determine whether FlashForward is your cup of tea or
not: the opening of the premiere and the closing of the premiere. Both
carry huge amounts of promise, which the remainder of the series pursues
with mixed but steady success.
In order to make your way through the show's slower
patches, you need to be invested in where the producers are going, and
care very much about the mystery they present.
It's certainly one hell of a mystery. One fine sunny
day, everyone on the planet loses consciousness for a little over two
minutes. The premiere gives us a sudden, shocking look at the consequences
of such an event, as FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) comes to in
the middle of what had been a high-speed chase. He clambers out of his
vehicle to face a stunning shot of Los Angeles in chaos - wreckage on the
freeway, motorists in pools of blood, and several downtown buildings on
FlashForward gains strength in its early episodes
by thinking through all the particulars.
Planes fall out of the sky as their pilots pass out,
beachgoers drown in scant inches of water, and anyone in a moving car is
apt to have one hell of a bad morning. Political ramifications soon make
their way into the equation as well. Was this an act of terrorism?
A nation testing a new weapon? China was spared the worst of the ravages,
since the blackout happened in the middle of the night over there. Could
they be behind it all? The FBI quickly assembles a task force to get to
the bottom of it, spearheaded by Benford and his partner Agent Noh (John
But that's only part of the equation. For while the
blackout itself caused incredible devastation, it came with bonus
features: while unconscious, everyone caught a glimpse of where they would
be in six months' time. The veracity of those visions - whether they're
true and whether they can be changed - present unheralded challenges to
our ideas about how the universe works. Some characters fight their
futures. Others welcome them with open arms. A few are totally indifferent
(Benford's boss sees himself on the can), but still understand the
magnitude of what everyone has seen.
Series creators David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga keep
their central premise in mind at all times, allowing the characters to
work their way around it slowly from week to week.
It doesn't always make for a perfect fit. Benford turns
out to be something of a wet noodle and the subplot involving a future
rift between him and his wife (Sonya Walger) smacks of soap opera plotting
at its worst. Similar incidents pepper the first ten episodes of the show,
causing FlashForward to stumble more than once.
Supporting characters tend to do much better than the
lead, particularly those with serious questions like Noh (who had no
vision and thus believes he's going to be dead in six months) or those
with visions that can't possibly come true (like Benford's AA sponsor, who
sees his dead daughter alive again). When the show focuses on their
dilemma, it positively sings with inspiration. When it doesn't, you can
see its wheels spinning as it searches vainly for traction.
Thankfully, FlashForward also has a knack for
turning the entire concept on its ear from time to time . . . which brings
us to the second make-it-or-break it moment that closes the first episode.
I won't reveal it out of deference to those who haven't watched it yet,
but it reveals a glimpse of the greatness that this concept could be
capable of. FlashForward hasn't reached such heights yet - not in
the first ten episodes and maybe not ever - but its lofty goals allow it
to deliver reasonably solid sci-fi programming with a modicum of
THE DISC: The two-disc set represents a fairly
brazen attempt to drum up support for the second half of the season. ABC
has released only the first ten episodes on the DVD, saving the rest for
later. The discs contain a bare minimum of extras: two previews of the
second half of the season and a documentary detailing how they created the
immediate after-effects of the blackout. All three features are under ten
minutes in length.
WORTH IT? The episodes themselves are definitely
worth it, but since you only get the first half of the season, you'll be
left hanging when you're done. Those who want to watch new episodes as
they air and need to catch up should absolutely take a look. Everybody
else may want to wait until the entire season is released: either in a
complete package or with a "second half" DVD.
RECOMMENDATION: FlashForward is a reliable
TV show with a lot to recommend it. The DVD makes a good introduction so
long as you're willing to wait for episodes 11 through 24.
- Rob Vaux