FlashForward Review: “137 Sekunden”

C: Another good but not amazing episode of FlashForward.  This show’s interesting, but lacks a certain something – I can’t put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s that our hero, Mark, lacks originality.  Maybe it’s that everybody’s relationships are so fraught, there’s nothing to cut the tension.  Maybe it’s that all the characters have their one schtick and don’t deviate from it.  The plot twists are consistently interesting, and most of the acting and writing is good.  What do you guys think? (E: That the writers or someone thinks the audience is dumb; when something significant happens, we get a flashback to what made it significant, even if it only happened ten minutes before.  I’m increasingly losing patience with this.)

“137 Sekunden” offered a few intriguing revelations.  Spoilers behind the cut…To my mind, the most significant element of this episode was that we saw three things which could possibly undermine our assumptions about the Blackout.  First off, it has thus far been corroborated that the visions match up – people who were together saw each other, etc.  But Demetri had no vision, which has made him believe he was dead by that time – as Shoreh Agdashloo’s vision, revealed at the end of last week’s episode, confirmed.  But Demetri’s fiancee (hello, Gabrielle Union! how have things been since Bring It On?) revealed that she saw Demetri in her vision, which was of their wedding.  So now we know: visions can conflict with each other.

We know that Mark’s AA Sponsor, who I’m calling Beardy because I forget his name, had a vision that his daughter was alive.  However, he had her grave exhumed and it turns out the body in it is hers.  (I couldn’t help thinking that the Army would have done a DNA test on her remains already if the body was unidentifiable, but whatevs.)  My money is on some governmental conspiracy and her being alive, though it would be more interesting to the questions of the show if his vision really were influenced by his wishes.  (E: My money is on his daughter being alive and missing a limb – didn’t he say in the pilot that the army sent very little of her back?  Wouldn’t that be easy if she’d, say, stepped on a landmine?) But it opens up a possibility: some visions may be verifiably impossible.

Finally, there was the incident of the guy who saw himself as a customs agent, and went out the next day to apply to be a customs agent.  Since another person saw him as one too, this could be seen as confirmation that the flashes can be self-determining.  This is bad news, because it suggests that what happens in the visions would not have happened if the person had not had the vision, ruling out the theory that these are a “warning” to change one’s ways.  Wow, that was difficult to phrase comprehensibly; I hope I succeeded.  (E: True, but on the other hand, isn’t being a customs agent a step up for this guy after being a pot head slacker?  Just as fascinating to me that Demetri had it in his hands to easily prevent this from coming true and didn’t.) Anyway, as I said, this could be seen as bad news, unless it’s true that visions can be wrong and people’s visions can conflict, in which case it doesn’t actually prove anything.

There were some strong moments here, particularly centering on Demetri; John Cho consistently gives the most compelling performance on the show.  We got to see Courtney B. Vance being inspirational, though, and learned that his wife (hi, Gina Torres! you’re awesome!) had an interesting vision of a child she had seemingly adopted.  (E: Hi, patronizing narrative technique, repeating her vision when she encounters the boy.) The main plot of the episode wasn’t so compelling though.  The idea of letting a Nazi off as a trade for information about the Blackout is repugnant, but having it be a foregone conclusion really decreased the intensity of the moral decision.  I found myself with a lot of respect for the female agent (why can’t I remember anyone’s names? E: Because they’re not really written as individuals – however, in this case it’s Janice) who didn’t want it to happen even if it was foreseen.  But the payoff, while intrinsically interesting, certainly wasn’t worth giving the Nazi his pardon.  The information he shared was that whatever caused the Blackout also caused all the crows to drop dead out of the sky all over the world.  SERIOUSLY. NOBODY ELSE NOTICED THIS?

It’s also a little convenient that whatever organization tracks crow populations (E: Audobon Society, they said) has apparently kept on diligently tracking them since the world went haywire.  (E: Yep.  V. silly.) However, their handy digitized data program leads our heroes to a fascinating discovery – that whoever arranged the Blackout tested it out in Africa in 1991.  The episode ends with a Lost-ish flashback to that localized blackout, as a young African boy on a hillside watches a puff of suspicious white smoke emerge from a really tall smokestack and all the crows fall out of the air; then he looks down at a small town, where all the inhabitants lie collapsed.  We’re left to wonder – was he beyond its range, or is he immune somehow?  And yet again… why didn’t anyone else notice this?

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2 comments on “FlashForward Review: “137 Sekunden”

  1. E says:

    I think the show is doing an uneven job showing how everyone’s recovering from the Blackout. They don’t make any noise about Mark flying, but – much more interestingly when they show Gabrielle Union (whose done tons of stuff, including film leads, since Bring It On) on a crash littered runway with a petrified airline exec. Are crows the only birds to do this? Did animals also black out? Is there someone about a crow brain that would cause it? I want them to hook up with some scientists next week to delve into it, but I doubt they will.

    It’s certainly interesting that it’s an artificially created event, though.

    And as for why no one noticed the city/village in Africa – well, they were in Somalia in 1991, and Somalia hasn’t had a functional government since then, which has helped hide pirates and could help hide other things. And, actually, could have helped cause the government to fall – good setting to pick, that.

    Generally, though, I’m super disappointed in this show. And where the hell is Dominic Monaghan?

    • C says:

      Your point about the patronizing narrative is very true, though I hadn’t put it together. It reminds me of what I’m always writing on my students’ essays: “Don’t repeat yourself – give your reader credit for paying attention.”

      I had been assuming right along that the Blackout was a created event (why else have a show?). But I do want them to answer why only crows were killed by it; if they don’t get into that, that will be very annoying. Despite all the mayhem after the blackout, the world media was able to put a lot of facts together very quickly in the pilot. If flocks of crows – and ONLY crows – were dropping dead all over, there would be lots of other people who would have come across big dead flocks of them. This WOULD have gotten a mention by this point, even if it was just on the Internet. Hell, how about the people at that German prison who had to clean up the crows? Having only that one guy think to mention it was just dumb.

      The lack of general world knowledge about the Somalia thing of course more plausible; the question of why no one has connected that incident to the recent Blackout – none of the village’s residents who presumably experienced both, for example – is not a flaw, but rather, a question which I am eager to find out the answer to.

      Dom was in the “in the coming weeks” preview – he might not show up for ages yet.

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