The First FlashForward – a review

C: Until V premieres in November (and by the way, the promo for it tonight got me even more excited; M: me too!!!) there’s nothing the Quibbling Siblings have been anticipating with such excitement as FlashForward, ABC’s new Lostian suspense drama in which everyone all over the globe blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds and has a “memory” of the future. These memories leave people hopeful, fearful, confused or flat-out devastated – the ones who survived that whole “blacking out” bit, anyway.

On a somewhat random note, I’ve just learned that one of this show’s two creators is a former writer and producer on various Star Trek series (showrunner of the lackluster Enterprise). His name is Brannon Braga. Writing sci fi was clearly that man’s second-best life career option, after being warlord of a fantasy kingdom. Awesome.

M: And the other co-creator is David Goyer, the writer of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (as well as Blade, and the less well known but very cool Dark City). Good signs!

C: Behind the cut you’ll find commentary on and reactions to the pilot episode, “No More Good Days.” It’s airing again tonight (Friday) at 8:00 if anyone missed it, or presumably you can catch it online. But first, here’s my impression of the pilot in four words: it’s got my attention.

The show opens with a close-up on our hero The Bard, cut and bruised, prying himself out from twisted mechanical wreckage as smoke and hysterical screams fill the air around him. It’s a striking opening, or would be if I weren’t too busy having Lost flashbacks.

E: So true! Clearly that’s why ABC bought the show in the first place – going after that vibe, that sense of urgency and mystery.

M: I felt the same way, great opening, but very similar to the opening scene of Lost, right down to the big explosion. Oh, and E, ABC picked it up without ever seeing this, they picked it up without seeing anything, which was a hell of a leap of faith for a TV network. Yay ABC!

C: Title card. We jump 4 hours earlier and now we’re in that immaculate, shiny suburb from The Truman Show. (E: Hee hee – I watched this with our parents, and Mom made the exact same comment, C.) In the following sequence of short scenes we’re introduced to what will presumably be our ensemble cast. There’s a lot of them to keep track of, so shall we take role call?

Here’s our hero Mark (Joseph Fiennes), a stalwart and appealing FBI agent with a cutesy relationship with his wife, but also a history of alcoholism. Here’s his wife Olivia (Sonia Walger), a doctor. There’s cute daughter Charlie; she’s here to say and do ominous things, because when children say and do ominous things it’s extra creepy. (E: Most ominous friendship bracelet ever! Friendship bracelet of doom!)

Oh look, here’s the pin-up girl nanny (Peyton List), who has sex with her boyfriend downstairs while the daughter (who looks too old for nap time) is napping. (E: Totally too old for nap time.) And Olivia’s coworker Bryce (Zachary Knighton) – he’s going to shoot himself. Then there’s our hero’s two friends: his AA sponsor, bearded electrician Aaron (M: played by a man with cruel parents, Brian O’Byrne), and his FBI partner Demetri, played by John Cho (at least, IMDb says his name is Demetri – I thought I heard someone call him Jim. M: No, it was definitely Demetri, Shakespeare called him that a few times, including when he was looking for him on the beach near the wreckage of Oceanic 815… or on the freeway, whichever. C: Maybe they said “Dem”? M: Anyway, I wouldn’t trust the spelling, as IMDb also has Mark and Olivia’s last name as “Benford,” but their daughter Charlie is “Banford”). Right, I think that’s everybody.

M: There’s also Mark’s other co-worker Janis (whose flash-forward has her gigantic, yet only 17 weeks pregnant), and his boss Stan, played by the fantastic Courtney B Vance (Jonesy from The Hunt For Red October!!). They weren’t introduced then, though, so let’s move on.

C: The Flash occurs and devastation follows. If the opening shot wasn’t haunting, there is one moment that truly was: Mark wandering through the wrecked street, surveying the destruction that occurred while everyone was blacked out, and coming face to face with a kangaroo! A fantastic visual image. It hops away, just another piece of the insanity, with an explanation we’ll probably never learn. (M: like the chicken in The Hangover, only much less comedic.)

E: I thought a lot of the visuals were stunning – the kangaroo is in a class of its own, but the pier at Venice beach was pretty striking, too (M: The sky was stunning. You don’t often see a daytime sky that looks that good.). Does anyone else wonder why so many buildings were on fire? Did they all have helicopters crash into them? I had seen the previews, of course, but it just didn’t occur to me how much devastation could occur in those 2 minutes and 17 seconds. I never thought of all the places where losing consciousness could kill you – surfing, walking down a flight of stairs, driving, walking near cars, just being in a bathroom where it might be easy to hit your head when you fell. The list could go on indefinitely. It’s pretty horrifying.

M: Oh, see, leading up to the premiere, whenever I thought about it I thought of how insanely damaging it could be. I started thinking of all the planes that were either taking off or landing, and while commercials in mid-flight would just go on auto-pilot, small planes or military jets wouldn’t. I thought of a lot of things, but I have to say, the surfers caught me off guard. That was chilling.

C: After this pilot, I’m definitely intrigued by the story. Most of it I’d seen in the previews, but the twist of the Man Who Didn’t Black Out captured my interest. What I’m not sure of yet is how much I’m going to care about these characters – right now there’s people I liked, but no one I’m expecting to love. John Cho’s character has likability potential, though – they’d better not kill him off!

E: I was a little disappointed by just how much I knew from the previews. Honestly, I think the only thing of any significance that I didn’t know was how Olivia meets her potential lover (that was a cool surprise), or that Bryce was going to kill himself. They didn’t show the visual of the Suspect Zero, which was chilling, but the previews did show enough of the preceding conversation for you to know that there had to be someone awake in that stadium. I knew the premise, I saw the destruction, I knew most of what Mark saw, I knew about the sonogram (who calls them that, anymore, anyway?) I knew what Olivia saw and what John Cho didn’t see. I understand that they wanted to craft really compelling previews, but they almost made watching the pilot irrelevant.

That’s not entirely fair, of course. I didn’t know anything about the babysitter, or Courtney B. Vance, or the other FBI agent who saw Alex Kingston in London. Or the plotline with the little boy who, presumably, knew Olivia because she goes on to be involved with his dad. Shudder. And I totally didn’t know that Seth McFarlane was going to play one of the FBI agents. That was ever so slightly distracting to the mood. The plotline involving the AA mentor’s soldier daughter who might be alive after all? That one intrigues me. Really really cool.

At any rate, they definitely make you root for Cho to live, right off the bat.

C: I thought it was odd that the first thing Mark did was to start recreating his vision. Why go there? When the vision involves him drinking and – what I might be a little more concerned about, if I were him – men with machine guns closing in on him, why deliberately make any choice that could lead to that moment? Change one small thing and you might change everything – that would be my way of thinking.

E: To play devil’s advocate in answer to that very good point, he’s an investigator. That’s what he does. It’s not unreasonable that his method of coping would be to get as much information as he could.

M: No need for me to play devil’s advocate; that’d be the first thing I started doing, too. Try to recreate, gather information, and learn, and do things to alter it when you have more of an idea of what was going to happen.

C: Fine, but if you want to dodge your fate, the least you could do is set your Plot Points Board up in a different office!

E: Regardless, I’m sure he’s going to be haunted by doubts during the course of the season; was his initial reaction the right one? Or will he make that future happen by pursuing it? That’s got to be one of the great questions inherent in the premise.

M: Speaking of haunting… at one point during the show I felt very strongly that this show couldn’t have been made even a few years ago. It aroused in me far too many recollections of 9/11. (E: Yes.) The utter horror of what happened and the death toll, the fear of not knowing why or how it happened, and if it would happen again, the fear of regular, every day things that had now become unsafe. In the scene where the babysitter and Charlie sat watching on TV (as the reporters put pieces together WAY to quickly), and especially the scene where Stan assigns Mark, Demetri and Janis to the case, really put me right back there. If it hadn’t been 8 years ago, I’m not sure I would be able to keep going with this. As it is, it was still really powerful.

C: On an only mildly less distressing note, the potential-infidelity plot stresses me out. Some things can happen whether you actively choose them or not, but cheating on one’s spouse is not one of them.

M: I almost always dislike infidelity plots intensely. I can’t stand romances that start out with one of the couple married to someone else (Legends of the Fall, you sucked. poor Elliot! Sorry, I digress) (E: LOTF – ick. Bad premise, bad follow through – great actors, bad acting. Sorry, I digress too). Here, however, with the questions of how does it get there, and will it get there, I’m begrudgingly okay with it.

C: I’m intrigued by the questions it raises, but there are some eventualities I don’t believe Fate could lead you to without your cooperation. Also? Captain Norrington’s fun and all, but he’s no Shakespeare.

E: It’s the big existential questions that intrigue me, and make me excited for the rest of the season. What does it all mean? Is it a gift, like Scrooge’s visions, or a curse? Messages from God, or punishment? An inevitability, or one of many possible futures? Bryce and Aaron both need to believe their future is true; Olivia, Mark and Demitri desperately need to believe the future can be changed. Can we have some of the futures true and not the others? How does that work? You have to ask the question – how then shall we live?  And of course the infidelity issue fits in with the global questions; do you embrace the future, or fight it? Can you fight it? Is it more likely to occur because you’ve seen it? Could Olivia have feelings for Jack Davenport which are intensified or begun because they shared that same vision? You know, the way you can’t help playing with a loose tooth because you know it’s there. It becomes irresistible.

C: What I’d have the easiest time buying is if the things they saw are possibilities made probable – but not inevitable – by the fact that they foresaw them.  It makes it quite interesting that they were memories, not just visions, too… they felt the emotions, understood the significance of what they saw.

E: I will say this, though. Mark made a big mistake in not telling her he was drinking in his vision. I know why he did it, but he pushed her to share her shameful vision, and he should have made himself equally vulnerable. Now, okay, maybe that’d make her think she’d kicked him out because of the drinking, or that he’d gone back to drinking because she cheated, but either way, he should have been up front. You know it’s going to come back to bite him.

M: Couldn’t agree with you more, and at least after she told him he should have shared.

E: Exactly.

And ooooh, what does Jack have to do with our beloved Dominic Monaghan, late of Lost, Chuck and Lord of the Rings? Could DM be Suspect Zero? (M: I was thinking that!) Does this mean that Captain Norrington is evil in some way? So very many interesting questions.

M: But yet, unlike Lost, already a decent amount of answers, with more sure to come next week. I can’t wait!

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