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Blackout: Why "FlashForward" is Still Frustrating Me

Oh, FlashForward, I really do want to love you. But I keep finding that I just can't.

Last night's episode of FlashForward ("Gimme Some Truth") was the worst yet and underlined once again the problems that I have with the series, which seems to be coasting by on some lazy plotting, wooden acting, and an odd mix of tones that's ultimately frustrating. Despite its promising concept and a pilot episode that had one of the best cliffhanger endings in recent memory, subsequent episodes of FlashForward have been alternately dull and unintentionally hysterical. (What it needs to be is better.)

There are moments of cleverness, such as last week's Bjork-laden opening sequence but for the most part, FlashForward continues to chug along at an almost glacial pace, introducing new mysteries that aren't all that compelling and forcing many of the characters into situations that are just completely unbelievable. (Last night's example: having Aaron at Olivia's house just so she could overhear a conversation in which Aaron tells Mark to go to an AA meeting while he's in Washington.)

Last night's installment was almost sleep-inducing. At this point in the series, I should care for these characters but "Gimme Some Truth" did nothing to make them more three-dimensional or sympathetic. Part of the problem is that much of their dialogue is of groan-inducing variety (case in point: Demetri's "There's still time, my friend. There's still time") that doesn't work on the page, much less on screen.

Additionally, Joseph Fiennes still hasn't won me over as as FlashForward's leading man. His Mark Benford is so icy and dull that it's hard to root for him. I keep half wishing he would take a drink just so that he'd warm up slightly. Placing him in jeopardy in the opening moments of the episode didn't add any tension to the mix, as I knew we'd flip back to that point later. So the "flashback" to roughly 36 hours later wasn't surprising or compelling in the least; the writers would have been better off having the ambush (which, by the way, no one else seemed to be anywhere near) come off as a shock when it unfolded in linear time.

Likewise, it was blatantly obvious as soon as we saw Janis in her karate class that we were about to meet her love interest. (I actually called it out loud, turning to my wife and saying, "Love interest in 3... 2... 1...") I understand, given her jarring flashforward, that Janis would be questioning how she got pregnant but the sudden intimacy between her and Navi Rawat's Maya was off-putting. Sure, you might wonder about the person you're on your first date with but I found it hard to swallow that she would actually bring up her thoughts and feelings about a future relationship with this person on a first date. It should have been a signal for Maya to run but because she saw she was wearing a wedding band in her flashforward, she's all for taking a leap of faith as well.

Janis is one of the few interesting elements of the series and I hate to see her getting caught up in a surface-level romantic subplot already, particularly one that doesn't really make much sense. So in the next six months, her relationship advances to the point where she gets pregnant (artificially inseminated?) and gets married to someone she's only just met? Huh? Really?

The most shocking moment of the entire forty-odd minutes was the attack on Janis simply because we hadn't seen that play out in the opening. Her stunning moves, learned clearly from the karate class, saved her life, though still resulted in her taking a bullet, after which she felled her attacker and then fell to the ground on a deserted street and began bleeding out as a bejeweled alarm clock rotated in the puddle of blood forming around her, telling her to wake up.

Are we to believe that the attack leads Janis to believe that life is too short and she needs to start living now? Perhaps. But it's a tiny footnote in the grand scheme of things on FlashForward, which is kicking up all sorts of global mysteries, tension-ridden Congressional hearings, personal revelations, and relationship crises (Olivia getting the mysterious text). Which could be a heady mix of compelling elements if they were being handled organically, which they're not.

As it is, FlashForward is teetering on the edge of falling off my watch list. If the writers can't plot some tighter episodes, improve their dialogue crafting, and make these characters more three-dimensional, it doesn't take a flashforward to see that I won't be sticking around for much longer.

Next week on FlashForward ("Scary Monsters and Super Creeps"), Mark, Demetri and Wedeck investigate the links between all the attacks involving themselves; Demetri and Gough find a clue that was missing from Mark's flashforward; Lloyd is heartbroken when his son goes missing from the hospital.

Comments

AskRachel said…
Jace, I totally agree. What was one of the most promising new shows of the season has sunk into a black hole of too much exposition and weak storytelling. I don't really care about any of the characters and there's no suspense driving the story forward. I actually did fall asleep in last night's episodes and, most likely, will not be tuning in again.
MM said…
I agree about tonal shift. At the end of this episode we get sudden blasting rock music and the FBI guys shooting it up. I actually said out loud,"This is so bad." It absolutely didn't fit with the rest of the show and it was silly. There is such a great concept here but the show needs new writers and more creative execution (and no more rock and roll shoot 'em ups).
Anonymous said…
OK, I thought it was just me. I loved the pilot but it has been going downhill ever since and I just can't get into the characters that much. Going back to Bones live viewing and DVR FF at least for now.
Asta said…
Great recap of the series many problems. I'm very close to just giving up.

Additionally, Joseph Fiennes still hasn't won me over as as FlashForward's leading man.

I've really enjoyed some of Joseph Fiennes film work, especially his performance in "Shakespeare in Love". And I loved the 'cheesy Shakespeare of dads' line from last weeks episode. I have to assume it was a shout out to his previous role. But his performance in "Flashforward" is, to put it bluntly, not good. I do wonder if maybe having to do the American accent is hindering his performance? Many British actors on American TV have discussed how it's, at times, difficult to have to worry about your lines, performance, AND getting the voice right.

I also felt the President having a secret girlfriend and love child was excessive. Not to mention, in this day and age, could something like that be covered up?
Mrs. James Ford said…
I completely agree with you Jace. The Janis storyline last night was ridiculous and that last scene with the music blaring was beyond lame.
Kevin Sole said…
Fundamentally bored by this show. Catastrophic in my boredom. I am devastated, because the book is SO GOOD. I finished it in one day because I just could not put it down.

Honestly, this show would have been better as a limited-series; maybe that's the problem. They've tried to write this series as though it could go on for several seasons (though I'm sure they have SOME sort of time limit in mind) when it would be served much better -- in my opinion -- by being a quick get in get out.

This would have helped the series with it's biggest question/problem: What caused the FlashForward? In the book it's laid out quick, it's not THAT big of a mystery -- in fact, it's quite secondary to the characters, which is probably why the book is so successful.

Instead, they're weaving some MASSIVE story about what caused it, involving.. crows? .. and that it happened previously, but exclusively in some distant portion of the planet and somehow nobody noticed?

It's just not working. And I'm not even getting into the TERRIBLE acting and the TERRIBLE characters. My god. They are all absolutely damned BORING. BORING!
Hey Star Trek! said…
Hi I just found your post through a twitter RT. Wow, Jace, you've given this hunk of junk a lot more of your attention than I ever did. I was out after the pilot, because the amazing 20 minute opening quickly degraded into the complaints you've posted here.

I wrote my thoughts on the pilot for trekcast.com http://www.trekcast.com/?p=4088
SearchingforCharliePace said…
Has anyone else noticed that they keep on showing Charlie from Lost in every promo just to keep our attention? Its really beginning to seem like they needed a show to keep Lost fans watching once the show ends
SearchingforCharliePace said…
Has anyone else noticed that they show a clip of Charlie from Lost in every promo but he's never a part of the episode? That makes it seem like ABC just is trying to find a show to keep LOST fans interested after the show ends.
HipHopAnonymous said…
Personally I don't even want to like this show anymore. It simply irritates me now, and I look forward (forgive the pun) to its speedy demise. The fact remains that the creators (namely Goyer and Braga) were simply never qualified to handle an A-list project like this due to their C-list sensibilities and mediocre track record. Heck, Braga almost managed to kill 24 in just one season.

Too bad we can't get a do-over from ABC and have them launch V in the place of FLASHFORWARD. I'm not saying V will necessarily be great, but at least with Scott Peters running the show we can expect something in the neighborhood of 4400. Not on the level of LOST admittedly, but at least there was a level of quality and professionalism in the storytelling on that show that deserves a place on television. Not so with the people behind FF.

The only part of FLASHFORWARD that actually had some potential was taken from the novel, while all of the original elements created for the pilot seem to be reheated leftovers from other shows. If everyone involved with FF hasn't figured out a way to create a single hour of truly involving television after this many weeks, it's hard to imagine that they ever will.
Page48 said…
I took the "3 episodes and out" route.
Audrey said…
The only thing that keeps the show going is the cliffhanger at the end of every episode. Other than that, the episodes have been bland. Particularly Fiennes, who doesn't seem to shine as a leading man. Hope with a new showrunner, this show will improve. Frankly I'm a bit fed up with all the discontinuity of the cliffhangers (ie what happens next?). Last week's cliffhanger was not even alluded to.
OldDarth said…
Totally agree! And the parking garage scene was a total cheat! Do they really expect us to buy the guys not only all got out of the car, but got far enough away so that none of them were touched by the grenade rocket that torched the car?!?!?

Come on! What a hackneyed action sequence execution meant to elicit suspense. I burst out laughing.

Oh and with the girl. The assassin has already hit her once, has her dead to rights, and instead of finishing her off, he takes off and tries to run away? Second guffaw in a row.

Brutal, just plain brutal.

Goodbye FF. If you are not to going play honest, so be it.

I am moving on.
Vasilis said…
Flashforward is an interesting show with a decent plot and good acting. What do you expect from a television series? I will follow the plot and I hope it continues to be as good as it is.

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