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'FlashForward': Why you should watch tonight's episode -- and scoop on what lies ahead

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My favorite new show of the year is ABC’s FlashForward, an immersive sci-fi mystery filled with poignancy and wit. It launched with a great deal of “The Next Lost!” hype, and I can say the show has at least one thing in common with its network sibling: the ability to encourage passionate even obsessive interest. At least for me. I am driven to rummage through its text for clues, but even better, I am deeply moved by its characters. The premise: On Oct. 6, everyone in the world blacked out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, causing global catastrophe, and during their inexplicable power nap, everyone got a quick glimpse of the same future date, April 29, 2010.

The best episodes of the series so far have been the ones that take the time to imagine, in detail, how this mysterious calamity would have truly affected the real world and its people. Tonight is one of those episodes. I got the chance to see it early, and it’s a top-notch outing. It focuses on Dr. Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton, pictured), who in the pilot was seen trying to shoot himself at the moment the blackout occurred. Since then, he has found reason to live, thanks to what he saw in his flash-forward. To date, all we know about his vision is that it involves a young Japanese woman and a Japanese character for the word “Believe.” Tonight’s episode, which is entitled “Believe,” will reveal the “heavy stuff” that drove Bryce to his suicide attempt and what he really saw in his vision. You will also meet the young Japanese woman — and if she has the same effect on you as she did on me, she’ll instantly become one of your favorite characters on the show. I’ve been one of those FF fans who’ve griped that the show has been slow in getting to this story. Having seen it, I can say it was worth the wait. Come back later and let me know if you feel the same — or don’t.

Last week, I had the chance to interview FlashForward co-creator David S. Goyer for a story about FlashForward that will appear in the new issue of EW, on sale tomorrow. He told me that tonight’s episode is one of his favorites of the season. “This was a story we always knew we wanted to tell, and we’ve been really looking forward to telling it,” says Goyer. In fact, he reveals that there was much debate within Team FlashForward about the proper timing for this episode. Some thought it should have come early in season; some thought midseason would be best. The defining issue: what kinds of stories would better hook people on the series — something mysterious that intrigues, or something emotional that moves. Goyer says they decided to play the mystery-intrigue card — hence early season episodes that had a more cop procedural vibe, as opposed to tonight’s more character-driven affair.

Tonight’s episode distinguishes itself in another way, too. For the most part, the series so far has restricted itself to moving in real-time, from the Oct. 6 blackout and heading toward April 29. But the opening act of tonight’s episode is largely set in the weeks and days before the blackout. Goyer says FlashForward will begin doing more of this, with upcoming episodes offering a deeper peek into the characters’ pasts and providing larger context for what exactly happened on Oct. 6. And for those who have been frustrated by the show’s pacing, I have two things for you: 1. Remember, first year TV shows often move slowly out of the station so that late-arriving passenger can run and catch up and hop aboard. Hence, a lot of repetition, a lot of over-explaining of premise, a lot of mystery-generating and very little mystery-resolving. (I am guilty of forgetting this and being overly harsh on a show’s early episodes; witness my snarky recaps of ABC’s V); 2. All that is about to change: Goyer says the show is about to accelerate the story and begin directly tackling some of its biggest questions. The ramp-up begins when the show returns in two weeks, on Dec. 3, with an episode that Goyer says will give viewers “a pretty major info dump” about what caused the global blackout. The story will also deepen the intrigue around Agent Noh (Star Trek’s John Cho), who saw nothing during his flash forward and believes he will be murdered weeks before April 29. “Our first nine episodes established the premise of our series,” says Goyer. “But with [the Dec. 3] episode, the game really starts to change.”

Come back to EW.com tomorrow, when I’ll have some more FF info for you, including a Doc Jensen geek-out on the show’s cryptic clues.

And for more teases from Goyer about what’s to come on FlashForward — including some choice intel on the show’s villains, season finale, that kangaroo that keeps popping up, as well as my big theory about what’s really happening in the show, check out the new issue of EW on stands tomorrow.

Photo Credit: Ron Tom/ABC