FlashForward ALMOST had me there. I was almost kinda sorta getting into it in the last couple of episodes, when the series had this brief sense that it knew where it was going, and if the characters weren't going to get there organically, well, it was going to duct tape their mouths shut, throw 'em in back, and just force 'em to head out on the highway. Fortunately, after tonight's episode, I think we can all agree that FlashForward, the goofy, nonsensical show where nothing makes sense in anything like human terms, is finally back. There were moments in tonight's episode that put me in mind of things I've liked from other episodes, but those moments were just as quickly choked out by the show's sudden realization that it needed to kill time again. Think of this episode as the one where Mark Benford worked the duct tape off of his mouth somehow, then started ranting about how there was going to be another blackout and lurched forward into the front seat to apply his entire face forcefully to the brake.
Also, Gaius "autistic savant or something" Baltar stared at a hamburger with a ridiculous expression for something like five minutes, then gave us a complete rundown of everything he likes on a hamburger.
Hint: Not pickles.
The reason I can never fully commit to FlashForward is because of episodes like these. It's not that they're clumsily written or that the characters move around like puppets being jerked around by their puppet master writers or anything like that. Indeed, I can ignore those things if the story is moving forward and is suitably pulpy. It's the Heroes, season one, syndrome, where so long as the story is somewhat fun to see unfold, I'll forgive a certain amount of truly atrocious writing and/or acting. The problem with FlashForward, then, is that it will pause every so often and use an episode like this to just lay out what has been happening, telling us a bunch of things we already know.
Take, for example, the way tonight's episode had everybody involved catch up to the fact that Simon was Suspect Zero. Here's the thing: Mark was at least suspicious of Simon's involvement with the whole deal from very early on in the episode. A good show might have then locked Mark and Demetri and Simon in a room together and had the FBI agents finally browbeat the scientist into admitting his associations. All of this would have only told us stuff we already knew, but it might have done so stylishly, and it might have done so with conflict and drama. Instead, Mark suspects that Simon is up to something, gives him a few sternly worded tongue lashings, and then just lets him go, which, of course, leads to Simon stealing the ring just before everyone figures out his connection to the blackout.
Simon is one of the few useful regular characters on the show. As played by Dominic Monaghan, he's one of the series' more soulful characters, a young man who had his smarts and his everything else all used up by men he thought he could trust. When the episode started with him seeing his sister standing on the side of a bridge, little red laser sights dancing across her face, I thought we might be in for something good. It was clear it was going to be a "killing time" episode, but it might at least involve Simon jumping through ridiculous hoops, maybe even CAUSING ANOTHER BLACKOUT, just to get his sister back. Instead, he told some people at the FBI about a license plate, then spent much of the rest of the hour wandering around the Los Angeles metropolitan area before deciding to head out with the ring, even though Mark had rescued his sister. Maybe he's heading to another show? I mean, would you blame him at this point? And, honestly, the gang over on Friday Night Lights could probably use a ring that anchors them at a particular point in the timestream. Lord knows Coach Taylor is tired of waking up in 1947.
I think the thing that insulted me most about tonight's episode is that it brought back a character who might have been interesting - as Callum Keith Rennie's death-obsessed college professor, who had not had a flash forward, returned to play the role of Death in the Final Destination films. Seriously, it's incredibly hard to state just how stupid this whole plotline was. Rennie was stalking people who were supposed to die but then managed to avert their deaths in one way or another and killing them because of … well … something he'd read in his philosophy or Arthur Schopenhauer or whatever. Just don't ask, OK? He was killing them because they HAD TO DIE.
There are few twists I hate more on a TV show than having an intellectual come along and then suddenly become crazy and/or evil. For a show that is at least ostensibly about scientists trying to save the world from further destructive events, FlashForward sure doesn't seem to trust the learned. Better to be an FBI agent with a giant bulletin board full of random crap you think might be significant than a professor trying to think about what all of this means, amirite?
It's been obvious for quite a while that FlashForward would do the whole, "These people were meant to die so now they will die in other ways that are either ironic or surprisingly similar to the way they were SUPPOSED TO die" thing. I mean, how else are they going to get John Cho to look pensive every week? But it would be one thing if we were still seeing that nice lady Al Gough killed himself to save get killed by Dr. River Song instead. Instead, we're watching a dude DECIDE TO KILL THIS WOMAN BECAUSE HE SAW HER ON TV. Furthermore, she's the only person whose life was saved leading up to April 29 that anyone decided to interview? I get that there's a law of economy of characters, but c'mon, show.
But, Lord, was this episode filled with stupid stuff. Lloyd's whole interview with the TV host was just pointless and weird, right down to the whole thing where he responded to her question of whether there was destiny with, "Well, I'm just a scientist." When Lloyd and Olivia finally kissed near episode's end, it was the weirdest, creepiest kiss ever, as if they were just doing so because a guy who was - just hours before! - yelling at a hamburger from his hospital bed told them they should. And, as a matter of fact, that's what's wrong with episodes like this in the FlashForward canon. When the show is just moving to the whims of its plot, it does OK, simply because the master plotting on the show is generally pretty good. But when it does an episode like this one - an episode that's designed to show off big character moments - it falls on its face. The characters here are so bland that there's no good reason to care who's kissing whom.
- ALSO, BABYSITTER FOUND OUT THAT KEIKO IS IN THE HOSPITAL SOMEWHERE, AND THEN DOCTOR WAS ALL, "LET'S KISS," BUT SHE DIDN'T TELL HIM BECAUSE HIS CANCER IS LEAVING AND SHE WANTS TO BE WITH HIM AND I'LL BET THIS DECISION DOESN'T COME BACK TO HAUNT HER. Also, how will she react when she finds out that Bryce has been funding his experimental cancer treatments with crystal meth production?
- I was going to have a "Wit and Wisdom of Mark Benford" segment again, but he mostly just said things that we already knew with a serious expression. So if you want to quote him in your workplace tomorrow, just look at someone very seriously and then tell them something they already know.
- I've watched that scene where Olivia and Lloyd go over the scans of Gabriel's brain compared to the brains of people having flash forwards two times now, and I have no idea why it's supposed to be earth-shattering. Little help?