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FlashForward: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

“I envy that you believe in the possibility of good.”

Let’s talk about FlashBacks. This episode had three flavors: the flashbacks to Janis’s life, designed to help us understand more about her; the flashbacks to events we’ve already seen; and the flashbacks that substitute for effective exposition and that little-known art of acting and directing. Some were more effective than others. But that’s rather the way of it on this show, isn’t it?

We’ve all noticed, and disliked, the flashbacks to events that we’ve already seen: Aaron’s flash, for instance, is imprinted on my brain, but every week I get to see it again. This week, our intelligence was further insulted by a flashback to Gaius Baltar warning Olivia about the coffee stand—less than a minute after we’d already seen it happen.

Sometimes, these flashbacks have the DoubleDuty of substituting for effective exposition: the montage of Janis’s reaction shots from throughout the series, when she considered Vogel’s offer to make her a double-agent, just made me laugh. I’d been keeping a list of irrelevant flashbacks, and I suddenly saw my organizational strategy falling by the wayside. There’s no way I’m going to parse out which of those flashes were from which episode.

But some flashbacks did give us new information: Gaius flashed back to his time in the experimental psychiatric hospital. Abandoned and graffiti-ed room, shouting savant, jerky camera angles, off-color flashes: this scene was too frantic, and I would have felt more for his character if he’d just been able to speak quietly about his trauma. James Callis is capable of it. But the show didn’t trust him to carry the emotion. Or maybe they don’t trust us to realize that big revelations can come in subtle packages.

And those flashbacks to Janis’s life? Oddly, they didn’t address the one thing I was curious about: why, exactly, did she decide to work for the bad guys? What was her motivation? Vogel gave us some hints, when he explained who she’d be bad-guy bait, but money…for something this big? More character development, please. I’m still not understanding this side of Janis.

On the plus side, we finally got a scene in which characters know more than they’re saying—I’ve wanted one of these for weeks now. Am I satisfied? Not really. Mark didn’t really ace it: he played the slips between suspicion and trusting too heavily when he confronted Janis as she was double-agenting. And then he just slipped into trusting. Oh, Mark. If only you were smarter, this show wouldn’t have to exist.

This was another huge episode, information-wise. A sigma ring has been hiding in the White Queen all along (why not just say that, Dyson Frost?). Dyson Frost played doctor and experimented on people—people who saw an alternate universe in their flashes. The baddies want Mark dead. Aaron is one roadblock closer to finding his daughter. Janis is spying on the good guys for the bad guys, and spying on the bad guys for the CIA. James Ellroy can make this sort of double- and triple-crossing make sense, with characters who get a rush from knowledge and the power that it brings. But what is Janis getting? What does she want?

Speaking of characters: Olivia and Agent Vreede (“Shel”) have been spending a lot of time together, usually in scenes involving Gaius. While I’m willing to ignore the pesky question of why Olivia has to go along with Agent Vreede on these treks, I also think their exchanges reveal the weakness of this show: despite the amount of time they’ve spent together, their relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Are they friends? Would she have his back in a tough situation? Do they argue about the radio when they’re in the car together? What are they like when they’re off-screen? No one character, and no one relationship, seems to have an interior life. Even Janis’s close friendship with Demetri (which, it turns out, is why she joined the FBI) got a schmaltzy hug this week.


• Annabeth Gish? Neat. I hope we get more.

• Vogel: “I’m still contemplating the unbelievable fact that we had the possible mastermind of a global blackout in our hands, and just before he’s able to divulge any real information he’s killed by a terrorist who, just mere hours before, was in our custody.” Who needs a previously-on when we’ve got Vogel?

• Olivia is a Pixies fan?

• Janis: “Yep. The US Department of Agriculture keeps a soil database.” Finally, a subtle acknowledgement of the weird databases that those forensic-science shows always seem to rely on.

• Prof. Corey: “When I do the math, I keep coming up with a date…” Doesn’t the “doing the math” part of that statement require an outside reference, like eclipses for the Mayan calendar?

• The psychiatric hospital—which Olivia said looks like the “settings of one of those slasher movies”—was also the setting of the Buffy episode “Killed by Death” and at least two other things that I’m forgetting. A Dexter episode, maybe?

This episode wasn’t particularly bad: it was what is now a standard FlashForward episode. So what’s my problem with it? It could have been so much better: the plot is actually pretty interesting, but the execution is such a tragedy, the actors are so wasted in their roles, the dialogue is so cheesy, that I just can’t get wrapped up in it the way I want to be—all of which leaves me dissatisfied and complaining.

Two out of four Antikythera mechanisms

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


  1. I've got the impression that Janis went mole because Vogel asked otherwise i bet she would just say no, she just has to pretend to be greedy when she's interacting with the baddies.

    In other news this blog needs an edit option or i need to learn to type better. :P

  2. Josie,
    You hit it completely spot on! I have been wondering why this episode didn't work for me. It was nice to see that Janis is a triple agent. She even had some Sydney Bristow moments. However, it all fell very flat. While I feel more vested in Janis than any other character, they've changed her character so much without giving us any heart-felt insight into her. We've rarely got to see her vulnerable or, hell, displaying any kind of emotion.

    I do appreciate the show trying to make this more of a one-character-focused episode, ala Lost.

  3. Good review. I try so hard to like this show, but I just find too many things irritating!. You brought up a couple of things from this episode - Ill add another - Why do the bad guys now want Mark dead when the female prisoner could have shot him last episode? Perhaps I missed something.

    Im only still watching just to see where they go with it, and to see more of the only two highlights of the show (Lloyd and Simon). I wont give up just yet, but its testing me..

    I guess flashforward just emphasises what a great show lost has been.

  4. It was more disappointing because last weeks episode was so strong. This week the show, like you said, fell into its old habits. This actually sat on my PVR till yesterday evening, that's how much I cared about watching this. Lost I have to watch live, but this can sit idle until I have the time.

    Not a good sign...


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