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FlashForward: Blowback

“Irrational, erratic, and frequently stupid.”

Christ on a cheese platter, this was awful. I actually laughed out loud at some of the awfulness—loud enough to wake up the cat (sorry, boo). We had FlashBacks. ShoutingMatches. MovingBoxes. TrustIssues. And all under a new ShowRunner with a penchant for awkward indie music that seems to have been tacked-on at the last minute, without regard for the editing.

The Aaron/Tracy Plot:

Poor Aaron. Poor Brian F. O’Byrne. The writers don’t seem to trust this actor to actually portray the major human emotions of grief and love: instead, they’re forced to rely on physical expressions of those emotions: a fight with a jail guard, a drinking binge. That’s too bad, as I get this sense that O’Bryne might be a decent actor if the writers just let him, y’know, emote. He is, though, a fairly stupid guy. Even I saw Mike as a Jericho plant, but Aaron fell for it right away. Too bad that he raised his daughter to be equally dull: how did she not hear two men, a dolly, and a giant moving box sneak their way into the house?

It was the suspenseful shot of the boiling pot of water that did me in. I usually watch episodes once, then again to take notes for the review. But the shot of the boiling water…I stopped watching, grabbed the laptop, and started typing as the craziness continued on-screen.

I’m fairly ambivalent about Tracy. She and her dad fight, then she makes him dinner. They fight, then they love each other. I can’t understand how all of their fights feel so momentous if their relationship is so very strong. I can’t understand why the writers are comfortable relying on this weird vision of alcoholism to portray the angst of the relationship. This, my dear readers, is a problem of characterization, direction, and narrative coherence.

The Demetri/Gabrielle Union Plot:

There is no way—absolutely no way—that the Freedom of Information Act applies to classified documents pertaining to an on-going investigation, right? I’m usually fairly forgiving of leaps of logic, but this one really irked me. Especially as Gabrielle Union’s (does her character have a name?) goals were extremely unclear. Why does she think she’ll be better at this than a trained investigator? Is this just a ploy to get Gabrielle Union more involved in the plot?

On the other hand, maybe it is just Gabrielle playing every card she has to try to save her fiancé. She goes litigious; Aaron goes Charles Bronson. We all have ways of coping.

The Mark/Lloyd Plot:

All of the plotlines were interlaced, despite appearing to take place over several days (Aaron and Tracy) and several hours (Mark/Lloyd). The goal of that interlacing is to increase our interest by breaking up the stories at suspenseful moments (like suspenseful pots of water). In other words, the goal of that interlacing is to hide the fact that this episode sucked.

Interesting tidbit: the drive from Mark’s office to his house would take an hour in completely ideal traffic conditions (3am-on-Christmas-morning ideal). So Lloyd, bright boy that he is, would have realized that he was headed to Simi Valley well before walking into Mark’s home. All of which, by the way, makes his question of “What are we doing here?” absurd. He would have asked in the car. That the writers didn't realize this somehow cemented my conviction that this was an episode written by well-trained gerbils. They know what they're supposed to be doing (creating suspense, putting complex characters in difficult situations) but they're distracted by the pellets and wheel in their cages.

Even more out-there is the idea that Lloyd, who is either a Canadian or British national, would go along with Mark’s demands on his time. Yes, I know that they were supposed to go from enemies to grudging friends--but that's a need on the part of the plot, not the characters. Lloyd has, until now, seemed smarter than this: getting involved with Mark does nothing for him. A bigger question: does Lloyd remember what the equation was?

D. Gibbons—or Frost, whatever—is a thief. Lloyd and Simon both know him. Our scientists are getting involved in the investigation. Maybe they could just be the investigation? With Demitri and Janis as sidekicks?

The Janis/Baby Plot:

Janis wants this baby—the FlashForward baby. I sort of get that: she felt pregnant, she wants that feeling, and she associates the joy of pregnancy with one particular fetus. It makes a strange sort of sense, because it’s just nonsensical enough to feel human. Demetri and Janis are so great together, but the beauty of their scene was almost ruined by Janis’s horrible line about fighting for the future.

So, What Now?

I have an amazing ability to suspend disbelief. I firmly believe in the existence of Narnia, vampires, and a Mafia-CIA conspiracy to kill Kennedy. But, with the half-hearted exception of Janis, every single storyline in this episode felt completely absurd—a bunch of mini-cliffhangers designed to keep us watching. This wasn't art, or even decent storytelling. It was bait. It was a cheat. It was simply bad. I can’t think of anything else to say.

I told you, months ago, to keep watching FlashForward. Luckily, very few of you listened to me. For those few that did, I am so sorry. I was wrong.

Flashes:

• How does a boiling pot of water catch on fire?

• Lloyd had the good grace to look embarrassed about having used lipstick to write an equation on a mirror like a clichĂ© mad scientist. I buy this actor as smart, which is probably why I like him so much.

• I don’t think that Joseph Fiennes really knew what ‘adamant’ meant.

• The ‘Mirror Test’ doesn’t sound like physics to me. It sounds like Lacan for pets.

• James Erskin’s house was the set used for Shirley Manson’s house in one of the last episodes of Terminator: TSCC. Weird.

• A guy who works for the electric company going “off the grid” is funny.

• My review of next week’s episode (because I’m going to finish the season, even if it kills me) will be late. I have an exciting trip to Somalia planned—it’s a crow-attrition thing—and won’t be back until April 5th or 6th.

Zero out of four empty evidence lockers.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

10 comments:

  1. Josie, this review made me laugh out loud over and over. And then I read it again and laughed some more. In other words, I got more entertainment value out of your review than I did from the last episode of FlashForward that I watched. Which wasn't this one. We don't tend to do snark on this site, so this episode must have been epically bad. I'm sort of sorry I missed it.

    The gerbil line was my favorite. There have definitely been times when I was distracted by the pellets and the wheel in my cage, too.

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  2. Oh, good. I thought it was just me. I realized something yesterday as I woke with my DVR mysteriously paused on a close-up of Joseph Fiennes: I have never watched an episode of Flashforward without falling asleep in the middle of it. Never.

    I will wait to see if/how Demitri dies because I want to know if it will indeed feel like someone walking over my grave. Of course, there will still be no way to know for sure, since I'd have to die and have someone step over... Never mind.

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  3. Josie said: "I told you, months ago, to keep watching FlashForward. Luckily, very few of you listened to me. For those few that did, I am so sorry. I was wrong."

    For some reason, I find it strangely satisfying to learn that this series has completely gone off the rails. It makes me feel vindicated for quitting when I did.

    And then I feel guilty for being so mean-spirited. Just because I thought it was getting crappy, doesn't mean everyone did. I shouldn't secretly wish poor quality on those who hung in there. I should be hoping that those with faith in the show get rewarded for their patience.

    And yet, I find myself rooting for the show's demise (which appears imminent given the poor and dropping ratings). I've become like those people who root against "Stargate Universe" and "Caprica" because they've got anger about the endings of "Stargate Atlantis" (canceled too soon for some) and "Battlestar Galactica" (many didn't care for the writing choices at the end). Shame on me! At least my issues with "Flashforward" are actually *about* this show and not unresolved hostility from some other show. :)

    Thanks for the entertaining reviews, Josie. It sounds like a painful burden to bear, but know that your "I watched it so you don't have to" suffering is appreciated!

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  4. If you cook water long enough it will evaporate completely and then you'll have a pot sitting on a stove which will burn because there is nothing to absorb the heat (no water). I'm speaking from some experience. :P

    And we again have Dex's dad playing a bad guy and he's leading Jericho, where he played a recurring badguy. :)

    If FF had good ratings i would probably drop it, but if season 2 seems impossible i'll stick with it till the end to see the season-ending-another-flashforward-cliffhanger.

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  5. Firstly, grate name for a cat.

    It wasn't that bad. I've seen worse in the first season of Supernatural and they really have stepped up the game in the following seasons. Don't give up.

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  6. Gabrielle Union's character's name is Zoey

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  7. I cannot seem to find any comments about this, but wasn't one of Tracy Stark's legs blown off when she was presumed dead? Was that not how they got the DNA evidence that was presented to her father? It sure seemed like she had both functioning legs back again in this episode (maybe the last episode too ...cannot remember).

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  8. Hi Anon,

    There was a scene in some past episode in which we saw Tracy using a prosthesis.

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  9. Yes, Tracy has a super-prothestic which makes here move and walk exactly as if she has her real leg.

    Makes it a lot easier on the actress that way, although it doesn't explain how they crammed her into that moving box without taking the leg off.

    I was worried because they didn't seem to have breathing holes in the box.

    I think Aaron didn't mind betraying his daughter, since he KNEW he'd have to find her in Afghanistan on April 29th anyway.

    Otherwise, he's just stupid. Which would be fine, except he clearly is NOT stupid when he's working on finding her at the end.

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  10. "how they crammed her into that moving box without taking the leg off." Laughing my butt off at that!!

    I don't think this episode was quite as bad as others seem to, I didnt get distracted by dust motes while watching, which makes it among the better Flashforward episodes.

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