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FlashForward: Queen Sacrifice

“Message received.”

Maybe I’m just naughty, but whenever I hear about moles infiltrating an organization, I picture Tobias in the mole costume from the second season of Arrested Development. Come to think of it, FlashForward could use a play-on-perspective giant furry animal destroying a tiny metropolis. Humor, pathos, shady real estate deals, no touching…the possibilities are endless.

Arrested Development always had a lot going on, and it did a great job of rewarding loyal viewership by picking up dropped threads months, even years (well, two) after we’d forgotten about them. But on FlashForward, I never get the sense that anything is happening off-screen, or even that present actions could have future consequences—rather, they have only present consequences, and there's never any subtext. Two weeks ago, we saw this most explicitly when Lloyd asked Mark what they were doing at his house. This week, we see it when the entire FBI grinds to a halt because Mark and Vogel want to find a mole. Sure, Janis copped to sneaking offsite to investigate her co-workers. But why couldn’t we have gotten hints of this earlier? Or hints that she’s a bad girl? Really?

It would have been far more interesting for them to stretch the mole-hunt out over a few episodes, and have a series of conversations between different members of the FBI team, in which each person was figuring out what the other person knew, or pretending that they were innocent, or trying to avoid seeming guilty. How sneaky and satisfying would that have been? And, they could have dealt with actual mythos stuff in the middle of it all, too.

Back in “Revelation Zero: Part I” I waxed ecstatic about the take-out menu and the simple elegance of its circularity. But Dyson’s Frost 1991 prophecies (in which the past speaks of the future to the present) just feel like a super-convenient plot device. It gives our heroes another thread to follow out of the labyrinth, since they’ve begun to exhaust the potential of the Big Board. But it also means that we’re now following clues that come out of nowhere, which leaves very little room for organic plot or character development. This episode undercut some of that Rambaldi-style suspense by having Mark figure out the Morse-coded chess games from the 80s (seriously?!) in mere seconds, but I’m not sure if that was a cheeky nod to this cliché-riddled plot-generating device, or just a quickie scene.

In other words, it’s not gelling for me. The storytelling is fragmented, and the character development is weird--it's not development at all, actually. Just changes. The opening flashback told us that Mark used to put his family first, but now he’s all about “There’s going to be another blackout.” Similarly, he used to think of his co-workers as his friends, but now he’s worried that one might be his enemy. Yes, we get it. FlashForward continues to belabor the obvious (numerous flashbacks to events that we probably haven’t forgotten, lots of exposition), even as some plot holes leap into the foreground. How, for example, did Marcie’s motorcyclist comrade know the exact moment to drive past one of the exits of the FBI building? Why on earth is Janis working for the bad guys? Would they really risk shooting their mole in the torso just to…do something?

Throughout all of this, we get the extended chess metaphor of the Queen Sacrifice, in which the most powerful piece is given up to gain the upper hand by a more devious method. Weddick though it referred to him (interesting, that he thinks of himself as a queen), but we’re supposed to think it actually refers to Janis’s betrayal of Marcie, the MockMole. Except that Marcie isn’t a powerful piece: the metaphor is both nerdy and poorly done. And, writers? Chess as metaphor for power plays and tricky machinations has been done to death. Wouldn't a lacrosse metaphor have been an interesting take on the tired old cliche?

Flashes:

• We got an all-FBI power walk. It made me think of the power walk in Angel’s Smile Time.

• Vogel singing Stevie Wonder.

• Warlocks of Avalon. Seventh-level druid. Invisibility. All on the taxpayer’s dime.

• Oh! The causality loop! Mark and Olivia can’t agree on how to avoid the future they saw in their flashes. They can’t figure out how to avoid splitting up, so they…split up?

• Keiko’s boss is the guy who helped Lloyd’s son on the bus in 'Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.' I like him.

Quotes:

• Simon: “What is this? I’ve not even had my coffee yet.” That’s exactly how I would react in that situation. Only, more of an "I haven't had..." because I am woefully American.

• Emil: “Koreatown’s further west.”
Keiko: “I’m not Korean. I’m Japanese.”
Emil: “Either way, you gotta get on the bus.”

• Janis: “This is really screwing with my trust issues.”

• Lloyd: “We were building a Quantum Entanglement Device.”
Olivia: “Good, that clears that up.”

• Simon: “I like a woman who knows how to handle a firearm.”

This episode wasn’t awful. But it just isn’t working for me: too many changes, but not enough development.

1.5 out of four ex machina ICE raids.

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

4 comments:

  1. What I'm guessing, is Janis could be trying to lure Simon out and acting as a mole so as to get him to give her information to help the investigation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Josie, If I may say this, you obviously don't like this show, so why not just stop reviewing it, instead of attacking it every week.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Ahmed,

    I really did like this show at first: it isn't until "Blowback" that was severely disappointed.

    I'm going to keep reviewing it for the rest of this season, both for consistency's sake and because I really want it to be as good as it can be: "Believe," the Dominic Monaghan section of "Revelation Zero," and a few of the earlier episodes were really good TV. Whenever I start watching a new episode, I hope that it will be good again--I'm not looking to attack it, just to review it honestly. For this episode, that meant a negative review.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ahmed,

    One thing that I think sets my site apart is that we're doing this because we love the shows. We don't do this because we want to dazzle our readers with our clever snark. Josie and I started reviewing FlashForward because we wanted to love it and were hoping we would. Josie chose to continue reviewing it after I gave up because she still saw possibilities in it and hoped it would turn around.

    Josie doesn't trash something for the sake of trashing something -- she is simply calling it as she sees it, which is what a good critic is supposed to do. She deserves to be commended, not condemned, for seeing FlashForward through to the bitter end.

    ReplyDelete

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