How FlashForward Got Its Act Together and Put on a Good Show
by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 29th 2010 11:07AM
Fans of 'V' should be worrying right about now. With all the promotion ABC has put behind their re-toolings of both 'FlashForward' and 'V,' it's not very encouraging that 'FlashForward returned to even lower numbers than when it left, before quickly slipping even lower to its worst ratings yet.
The real question is why. Did no one have faith that ABC could turn the show around and get it back on track? When did we become so cynical? Plenty of television series have gone through rough starting periods before turning into great shows. I'm not saying 'FlashForward' is suddenly the greatest show on television, but it's vastly improved over its slow and meandering first half.
The two-hour mid-season premiere was epic and fantastic, so I wanted to wait until after the second episode to see how the new 'FlashForward' was going to look. While it was scaled back to the more personal stories again, I again felt that sense of foreboding and tense anticipation that a premise like this should have.
'FlashForward' isn't 'Lost,' and that means we need to get some answers. Unanswered questions is a trademark of 'Lost,' but 'FlashForward' shouldn't be trying to be that. By clarifying Mark's half-forgotten flashback, we got to move events dramatically forward between him and Lloyd.
We still don't know why Lloyd was with Mark's wife Olivia in their house, but now we know that Lloyd's phone conversation was with Mark. While filling in some key holes, they still managed to bring up some new questions. We're still working toward D. Gibbons, and we got the line, "There's going to be another blackout."
In a surprising turn, considering it is one of the key mysteries of the series, we also learned who Suspect Zero is. Unfortunately, he's no more the mastermind of the blackout than all the unconscious people were. Instead, it was Simon being set up and used as a diversion by D. Gibbons.
When Dominic Monaghan first joined the cast as Simon, we were promised that he would be one of the most intriguing characters on the show, and he is. Unfortunately, he was woefully underused in the first half. By revealing more about his past and bizarre connection to the blackout, he became an even more integral and mysterious character than ever before.
Simon's capable of murder, and who knows what else, but he has no interest in the level of evil that whoever is behind the blackouts is looking to create. We learned that they have leverage on him, in the form of his sister, and that makes him all the more dangerous.
The Jericho Connection
One of the problems with the show was that it was unclear if and how all of the main characters' stories were connected. In a mystery ensemble serialized show like this, viewers can't help but look for connections, and if Aaron's story with his daughter, for example, has nothing to do with Mark's investigation then why do we care?
We still don't know for sure if it connects, but the military contracting company Jericho was suddenly established as a major player on the field of battle in 'Blowback,' while we finally got a chance to see what makes Aaron so dangerous a man to cross. For all the power Jericho provides, is it enough to withstand one-man army of rage? And what happens when Aaron inevitably pulls Mark into his crusade, and we learn of those connections between Jericho and the blackout.
More importantly, Jericho and "Uncle Teddy" gave us a villainous presence; a tangible foe for our heroes to be facing off against.
Show Not Tell
'Revelation Zero' took us back to the blackout itself; something that was largely glossed over in the first ten episodes. Here was this massive life-changing event, and we got to see only a few short scenes of it and then back to normal life.
By taking us back to that moment from time to time, to see the destruction, and how it impacted so many lives, 'FlashForward' keeps reminding us of the epic scale of that global event, while reminding us of the inherent dangers if Mark's claim that another one is forthcoming pans out.
The story of the window washer, that wove through the two-hour series return, added yet another layer to the tapestry of 'FlashForward.' We've already seen that Bryce gave up thoughts of suicide because of what he saw in his future, but here was an even more dramatic transformation: from window washer to preacher.
These visions had a huge impact on a lot of people, certainly more than what we've seen so far. Having an entire world population filled with people who had visions gives 'FlashForward' infinite opportunities to explore what some of those other visions were, and how it's changed lives.
The event was so unprecedented, it would not so quickly fade into the backgrounds of everyone's lives. Everyone would be either wanting to share what they saw, or find out what other people saw. It's human nature.
It was such a little thing, Mark's line from his flashforward that he wished Lloyd had been behind that 8-ball when he came crashing through. And it made absolutely no sense until that 8-ball on the building Mark suspected Lloyd was being held captive in. Those are the kinds of goosebump moments for the characters that no other show can give us. Everyone on Earth is a prophet in their own lives, and more moments showing those kinds of moments emphasizes the power of this premise.
'FlashForward' premiered huge because it had an incredibly compelling premise. Unfortunately, it got bogged down in distractions and trying to make Mark the most unlikable lead character. The show returned vastly improved, and finally living up to its premise. But does it matter?
Are fans unable to forgive a bad start to a series anymore, or is that specific to serialized shows? It's the same thing we've seen with 'Heroes.' Even though more recent episodes have shown improvement over earlier missteps, it doesn't seem that it matters. One bad run of episodes and you might as well throw in the towel. Maybe networks shouldn't even bother to try retooling shows to resuscitate them, or tweak them into achieving their potential if audiences are inherently programmed to refuse to give them a second chance.
A great test of this will be the return of 'V' this week. If it comes back creatively stronger than ever, and yet no one bothers to give it another chance, then we'll have an idea of the nature of modern audiences. Disappoint me once ... and you're through! I've got plenty of other things I can be doing with my time.
[To give it another chance, you can always find clips and full episodes of 'FlashForward' on SlashControl.]