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FlashForward: The Garden of the Forking Paths

“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to play out.”

“The Garden of the Forking Paths” is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. It’s insanely complex, and I think it’s one of Borges’s subtlest meditations on information, perception, and time. This episode also included shout-outs to Saul Bellow (the female terrorist’s last name is Herzog), Shakespeare’s Caesar, and Oedipus: they’re all stories of men doomed to an unpleasant end due to forces beyond their control.

The twist? It’s Frost who was the great man doomed to death and ruin. Demetri lives to fight another day. Hooray!

In other news, Frost revealed that the future is not immutable: he and his 1980s compatriots saw countless possible futures, and have charting (in colored chalk!) the possible paths and known outcomes out each timeline as its path becomes clear. But the observer effect matters in time-travel: once glimpsed, each future becomes more probable. Frost has seen many possible outcomes for the Ides of March, and the tension of this episode was whether or not the single possible future that our heroes saw would become the future. It didn’t.

That’s hugely important. Frost’s explanation of the rules of consciousness-shifting completely changes the way that we relate to the characters’ flashes. It also made the question of information important: finally, for 30 brief minutes, someone knew something that not everyone else knew, and we knew more than some of the characters. I wish that we were left in the position of knowing more than the characters, in a way that mattered: even though Janis is the mole, and only we know it, that hasn’t really mattered since we found it out. That kind of thing is where this show is faltering: it’s too in-your-face, and not great with the follow-up.

This whole scenario gave some depth to Frost’s character: he was playing with our heroes in an attempt to save his own skin. Guess all that ambiguity didn’t work in your favor, huh, Mr. Smarmy Pants? Speaking of smarminess, Gaius Baltar made a surprise cameo at the end of the episode. Yet another Brit speaking with an English accent: I thought he did a great job. Although the geeky flustered genius is…how shall I say this?...not the most original of supporting characters.

This episode was fast-paced. The score was all action-y and intense. The dramatic volume was turned up to eleven. We got more mythos: there’s a whole cabal and a 30-year plot that deals with these flashes, as well as some sort of dire outcome in five years. The man with the answers is now dead, and his own Big Board erased by a Rube-Goldberg sprinkler system. Why? Because we can’t have our heroes knowing the future, no matter how enigmatic the chalk drawings were. Wait, why? Um, cause, otherwise, why would we keep watching? The exigencies of television writing still feel like they’re trumping natural character or plot development. Oh, well. At least Demetri is still alive.


• Has the candy striper looked familiar to you, too? I just realized that she’s on Mad Men.

• Mark’s code name was “King-maker”? Isn’t that the nickname of the Earl of Warwick from the Richard II/Henry IV era in English history? (I’m not super-clear on that patch of time, so let me know in the comments if I’m dead wrong. Or let me know if I’m right: I’ll feel smart.) (And, is this entire show one big Tudor in-joke?)

• The back of the Polaroid read 423. A Lost shout-out? Come to think of it, this episode was filled with numbers: the countdown clock, Building 7, Highway 57…

• Mark looking in the trunk for Demetri, while shouting his name, was our unintentionally hilarious moment of the week.

• Did Gabrielle Union attend court wearing leggings? No way is that appropriate.

• December 12th, 2016. The end. Well, so the producers hope.

• Why are all of these people relying on Big Boards to plot out their knowledge? Is any knowledge worth having really reduce-able to ScatterShot words and lines?

Quotes: (well, one quote)

• Demetri: “No! No Dr. Seuss!”

Two and a Half Red Fish out of Four Blue Fish.

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


  1. I found this episode to actually be one of the strongest of the series. Maybe it's because it had plot in it that had actually been building for more than just a single episode, we actually saw things come together for once.

    More so then that, we finally have that "thing" that seems to be what will drive the show. "The End" is what will make or break this show at this point, but now that they have something to focus on more so than Mark's stupid "There's going to be another blackout!". Why? Because you said that exact same thing in your flash forward? That automatically makes it true?

    But yes, besides all the problems, I am still enjoying it, and its episodes like this that make it worth while to watch. So Josie, I may agree with your "2.5/4 red fish out of blue fish" rating when compared to, say Lost, when compared against the rest of this series this was a solid school of fish.

  2. Well Demetris impending death was for me the most interesting future event of them all so i would also rate this as the most interesting ep the show has done so far, even more then the spring premier of Revelation Zero. Too bad Frost got killed and his wall of crazy was erased, but at least there is an ominous supposed end date for i guess both the show and the world. Now i feel mildly bad that the end will probably be May 2010 not 2016.

    I have to reiterate something from my earlier comments: why did they have to pull a Boyd with Janis? She didn't even act mole-y with the building 7 clue.

    Oh anyone else dissapointed that with the ginourmous break they took the in-universe dates aren't correspoding with the airdates. By the time of the premiere i was like: nice April 29th is a thursday so i bet it's the day of the season finale or at least the ep where the flashforwards will come true or well... not. But now that's all out of the window.


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