Last week, FlashForward returned with a cinematic, emotionally and thematically rich, mythologically substantial two-hour spring premiere. It was an impressive installment that inspired hope at least in this viewer that the under-appreciated, ratings-challenged ABC mystery drama could finish the season strong and perhaps earn another year of storytelling. But two discouraging developments have occurred since then. 1. The ratings report came out, and the numbers for last week’s sterling work represented an all-time low for the series. 2. Last night’s episode happened. It was called “Blowback.” And it kinda blew.
The word that comes to mind is exhausted. It was as if the show over-exerted itself with last week’s relaunch and left nothing in the tank to field a compelling follow-up. The drama was forced and melodramatic. Zoe’s (Gabrielle Union) desperate but noble bid to save fiancé Demetri Noh (John Cho) from his doomed fate was marked by trumped-up conflicts with Noh’s FBI colleagues/pals Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) and Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance). Aaron (Brian F. O’Byrne) went Rambo-Dark Knight as he declared a one-man war on Jericho, the private military outfit that he believes kidnapped his daughter, Tracy (Genevieve Contese). I thought the bit of business of leaving Tracy’s treacherous pal hanging upside down in the home of Jerich’so head honcho (played by Dexter’s dad, James Remar) was absurd, and I fear Aaron has been damaged as a credible character on this show. (I have to admit, I was distracted by Aaron’s beard; after the opening flashback sequence showing him clean-shaven in prison, I kept looking at the beard in the present-day scenes and wondering if it was real or fake.)
The episode’s “best” storyline involved Agent Benford taking Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport) to his house and asking him walk through his flash forward vision — a vision which included Lloyd in bed with Benford’s wife, Olivia. I dug the creepy subtext, and Lloyd was certainly creeped out by it… which made me wonder why he just didn’t tell Mark to bugger off and then leave. It wasn’t like Lloyd was under any legal obligation to do as Mark asked. Yet I did like how their shared experience seemed to facilitate some kind of truce between these predestined enemies. Benford in particular seemed to soften toward Simcoe and saw that he was a man a lot like himself, driven by a sense of mission to protect and preserve his family. This new graciousness flatters Benford; it’s clear that these new episodes of FlashForward are committed to enhancing the likability and accessibility of its chief protagonist.
“Blowback” was probably the weakest episode FlashForward yet, and certainly not an episode that would inspired a new fan to take up the cause or a lapsed viewer to rejoin. But for the committed, there were a few key developments:
++ Agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) convinced her doctors to hook her up with some sperm and get her pregnant. Yay! But first, she and Noh and Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan) are — finally! — headed to Somalia to check out the pylons that may be linked to the GBO conspiracy. Finally!
++ Noh went to destroy the gun that allegedly will be used to shoot him but found out it was missing. Saw that one coming a mile away.
++ Simcoe told Mark that he had written an equation on Olivia’s mirror using Olivia’s lipstick that he didn’t recognize or understand. Simcoe has suddenly become quite the cagey customer, and while he says he just wants to protect his son, I do wonder if the show is setting Simcoe up to become a villain. I continue to suspect that he knows more than he’s telling. Then again, maybe what Simcoe knows is that his future must come to pass because it leads to a positive benefit for all of mankind. Not that he wants to bust up the Benford marriage. In fact, I wonder when the fateful evening of April 29 finally comes if Mark, Olivia and Simcoe will basically resolve to play out the strange drama of their linked flash forward to facilitate the outcome it will produce.
++ “D. Gibbons’” real name is Dyson Frost (Michael Massee), an allegedly brilliant scientist who made a name for himself with research that Simcoe himself had done but had not yet published. My guess is that Frost has been using time travel for quite some time to swipe science secrets from the future (also see: the Somalia pylons, built from Campos’ research). But I also wonder if there’s a big twist looming about the second global blackout. What if everyone — or just a few people, including Frost — are going to flash backwards, maybe by a matter of decades? That means Present Day Frost could be under the influence of knowledge given to his younger self by his future self. Make sense?
So what did you think, FF fans? Dd you like “Blowback” more or less or about the same? As I write these words, the ratings are coming in — another dip. Are you committed to seeing the season through to the end or are you feeling like you want to throw in the towel? The message boards are yours.