FlashForward Review: White to Play

M: In her review of the second episode of The Good Wife, E talked about how fitting and appropriate the title of the episode was.  When I looked up the title of the second episode of FlashForward, “White to Play,” I didn’t have the slightest clue what it meant.  Oh, and by the way, I’d already watched the episode.  Having gone back through parts of the episode, the best I could come up with is that its a reference to the white queen chess piece found left behind the new baddy.  If that’s not it, I’m lost on the title.  Fortunately, title aside, the episode itself was another solid hour of TV.  To note, with the expectations I have had for this show, I’m not sure how long “solid” is going to keep me involved.  (E: Exactly.) Fortunately, there were a couple of moments, especially the final line, that pushed passed solid into goosebump territory.

We start out seeing what looks like a school playground during the blackout, except that one child is still standing. (C: Again with the children-being-creepy!) Turns out it’s Charlie Benford, the daughter of our leads Mark and Olivia, and the other kids are “playing” blackout.  She gets into a fight over not playing, and then as can easily happen at any reputable school for small children, she runs away from the teacher into the street and gets several blocks away before almost getting hit by a tank.  Not an inspiring start.  (C: Yes, one can put such faith in a teacher who breaks up a fight between Kindergarteners by roughly grabbing one child and shouting at her!) The scenes with Charlie perk up, though, providing the really tense moments.  More on that to come, but this episode is centered around two things:  the honest-to-goodness start of the investigation into what cause the blackout, and the introduction of Olivia Benford and the man she saw in her flash forward.

The investigation, jump-started by a visit from a woman whose name, D. Gibbons, was in Mark’s flash forward.  They find that her identity was stolen, which leads to an abandoned warehouse in Utah, and a suspect with a massive computer array and an apparent ability to be awake during the blackout and talking on the phone with Suspect Zero from the Detroit baseball stadium.  He escapes, but not before killing a local cop (E: We’ll call her Sheriff Red Shirt) who, like Agent Noh, had no vision during the blackout.  He also leaves them with the previously mentioned white queen, a cell phone, and the nugget “He who foresees calamity suffers them twice over,” which he said to them right before setting off all kinds of nasty booby traps.  (C: And blew up a bunch of dolls.  Children’s toys are creepy too!)  Sounds like something that will come back to be important.

In our other plot, Olivia runs into Lloyd Simcoe, played by Jack Davenport, who my sisters keep calling Norrington, but since I don’t remember him that well from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I’ve taken to calling him Mrs. Norris, after Filch’s cat from the Harry Potter series.  (E: Who’s named after the mean aunt in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, fyi.) Anyway, Lloyd is the father of the patient who knew Olivia’s name when being wheeled in in the pilot, and the man in her flash forward.  He doesn’t recognize her, but we find that his estranged wife died in the blackout, that his son Dylan is autistic, and that Mrs. Norris hasn’t particularly been involved in Dylan’s life.  Interestingly, in one of the better scenes of the night, we find that Charlie is deeply disturbed by seeing Dylan in the hospital (E: freaky!), and that she saw him in her flash forward.

Some smaller things gleaned, and good moments along the way…  we find that the boss at the FBI, Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance), is going to be used for comic relief, as that was his purpose a few times through the episode, including a somewhat discomforting scene where after the blackout he had to give mouth-to-mouth to an agent that had been drowning in a urinal.  (E: And we got to see Cameron from Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off in the AA meeting!) They also provided a Homeland Security counterpart for him to provide some tension, professional or romantic.  We find that Mark isn’t resigned to doing everything that will make the flashes come true, as he burns the friendship bracelet that Charlie made for him.  We see a touching, well-acted moment where Lloyd explains to Dylan that his mother died.  We find that Olivia’s co-worker Bryce, who was going to kill himself right before the blackout, is grabbing his new lease on life with both hands.  In one scene he gives Lloyd some Gandalf-ian advice (E: loved it!) , saying that the flash forwards were a gift, and “the test of who we are now is what we choose to do with what we’ve seen.”

E: I think for me the problem is that the characters so far have been vehicles for the plot.  I still love the concept, and I’m enjoying seeing them flesh it out, but the characters aren’t really people to me yet; they’re just issues raised by the premise.  I’m hopeful that can change, of course, and I’m sure that the show is being handicapped by my high expectations.

M: In the two big moments at the end of the episode, though, we get some less uplifting news.  Noh, after posting that he saw nothing on the FBI’s “mosaic” website set up to try to correlate people’s visions (C: …and did anyone else groan in disbelief when the FBI agent said “we’re calling it the Mosaic Collective”? Like the government would ever give such a hippie-dippy name to anything it funded), gets a phone call from Shohreh Agdashloo warning Noh to beware the ides of March, because in her flash she saw in intel report that he, like Caesar before him, will be murdered on that day.  Makes you wonder if her character will be a soothsayer.  But that wasn’t even the big “oooohhhh” of the night.  As Mark wakes Charlie when kissing her goodnight, she finally opens up a bit and asks about the flashes.  He lets her know the bad ones are like warnings, and she replies that she doesn’t understand her warning, explaining to her shocked father that “D. Gibbons is a bad man.”

And with that, the screen cut to black.  I half expected to see “LOST” come up on the screen, because, like Lost has consistently done over its five years, this episode stuck the landing.  That’s a pretty hopeful sign that it will someday advance past solid.

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3 comments on “FlashForward Review: White to Play

  1. C says:

    Just finished the episode and I did enjoy it a lot, though like E says, I’ll like the characters more if they start to feel less like puppets of the plot. The problem with this concept, I’m starting to think, is that it raises so many interesting questions – you have to wondering things like, “will the character who didn’t see a flash get killed?” “will Mark start treating Olivia as if she’s already guilty?” – and then, of course, they happen. It’s like the story’s being scripted by our own expectations/speculations, so it never quite surprises.

    Though the final line from Charlie was a surprise. I still don’t think they write her convincingly (everything she says is waiting for a DUN DUN DUHHH!) but that was truly unexpected. Also, did you notice that she and Dylan seem to have gotten a lot more data out of their flashes than the adults?

    What’s E on about with Cameron and the AA meeting? I literally just watched it and I don’t remember such a scene.

    • M says:

      The AA meeting is the first scene after the title sequence (the scene with Charlie being allowed to run away from school out into the streets is before the title), and Alan Ruck (when Cameron was in Egypt’s land… let my Cameron go) is drunk and sharing and Mark interrupts him.

      As for the characters, honestly, I might be ok with them being vehicles for the plot if they do that correctly. That’s how Law and Order is, and how ER was the first couple years, the plot revolved around the cases or the patients, the characters were almost there just to react and move the scenes. It can work, though I think it is harder to pull off. And of course, having really good characters can;t be a bad thing, so that would be good, too. 🙂

      • C says:

        Oh, and I have another question. Was Olivia lying when she said Norrington might not have seen her? Because in that moment they showed her looking down at him from the balcony, but earlier in the episode they showed a flash of them both in the bedroom together and him saying he had to take a call.

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