Friday, September 25, 2009

FlashForward 1.01: "No More Good Days"

“What did you see?!”

-Pretty Much Every Major Character (and some minor ones too…)

As you can probably tell from the somewhat tongue-in-cheek quote of the episode, the pilot to ABC’s FlashForward was not my favorite television viewing of the week. It wasn’t awful by any means, but there is definitely room for improvement. The premise and some elements of the pilot, however, worked well enough that I intend to give it at least a few more weeks in my viewing and blogging rotation.

In the pilot episode, everyone throughout the world blacked out simultaneously for approximately two minutes. Everyone experiences the event differently, but most see a vision of their lives six months in the future. When everyone regains consciousness, there is wreckage everywhere. Cars and planes have crashed, and people have died on the operating table. The show focuses on a group of survivors in Los Angeles, including a small group of FBI agents. These FBI agents are given the assignment of figuring out just what caused the flash forward. One of them starts a website asking people to record what they saw in their vision.

Before the pilot aired, there was a lot of Internet chatter about how some elements of the pilot were strikingly similar to the pilot of Lost. This is definitely true. There were two elements in particular that, as a pretty big fan of Lost, I recognized quickly. The first was the opening shot. The pilot of Lost begins with a close up on Jack’s eye. We then see the bigger picture, the destruction of Oceanic 815 complete with fires, explosions, and screams. FlashForward opens with a close up on the eye of FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Finnes). We then see the bigger picture, all of the car accidents and other assorted destruction that have resulted from everyone on earth blacking out simultaneously. The other scene that evokes thoughts of Lost happens near the end of the second act. Mark is frantically running towards the hospital where his wife works when a random kangaroo hops across the street. This makes me think of the random polar bear on the Island in the pilot of Lost.

Most of the problems I had with this pilot occurred in the second half. Once the episode gets past the initial shock of the destruction that resulted from the black out, it becomes very talky. And not the good kind of talky. I usually like talky shows, especially when the dialogue is witty. I love Aaron Sorkin’s trademark pedeconferencing, for instance. The second half of the FlashForward pilot, however, is talky in a way that is kind of lazy. Many of the scenes where the FBI agents are trying to make sense of what happened are a perfect example of telling instead of showing, breaking the first rule learned in any writing class. The one thing about that act of the episode that worked for me was when one of the FBI agents calls a woman in London with whom he was meeting in his vision, and she confirms everything he saw. That is how you show and don’t tell.

Another major problem I had with the plot was that I’m not yet emotionally invested in these characters. All I learned about many of them was their name, their job, and if I was lucky, a few facts about their personal life. The characters that were most developed were the Benford family- Mark, his wife Olivia, and their daughter Charlie. We see a few scenes from their family life before the full craziness of the black out hits. Those few scenes, however, weren’t enough for me to be really affected by one of the episodes biggest twists. It turns out that in Olivia’s vision, she was in a relationship with a man other than Mark. Sure I saw that Olivia seemed upset by this, but I think it would have been more effective if I had seen more of the Benford marriage before Olivia’s vision was revealed. I needed a reason to root for the couple other than the simple fact that they are married. I wanted to see why they were together in the first place.

There were enough things about the pilot that worked for me, however, to keep me watching. One of the things I found most interesting was Mark’s vision. He saw himself sneaking into a conference room at the FBI where he and his coworkers have set up a typical TV “conspiracy wall” in an attempt to figure out what caused the flash forward. A team of shooters, wearing really creepy masks, burst into the room, seemingly intent on killing Mark. This scene was intriguing and raised the stakes. It made me really want to see how Mark got to this point. I want to know why the FBI building seems to have been abandoned, and I want to know why scary masked guys want to kill Mark. Another thing that worked for me was the variety of visions and the variety in the characters’ reactions to those visions. Some characters, like the Benfords’ babysitter, see the flash forward as punishment. Others, like one of Olivia’s co-workers, see the flash forward as salvation. Then there’s Mark’s FBI partner Demetri (John Cho). He claims he didn’t see anything during the flash forward, and he is struggling with what that means. I’m wondering two things about that particular sub plot. If Demetri truly didn’t see anything, does that mean he is dead six months in the future? Or could Demetri be lying about not seeing anything because his vision involves some sort of betrayal?

If nothing else, the pilot’s final image makes me want to tune in for more. FBI agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods), has been compiling all the surveillance footage she can find from the time when everyone blacked out, and she has stumbled upon something intriguing, and (again) a little creepy. There is footage from a ballpark in Detroit that shows one man (in a trench coat, naturally) walking out of the stadium after everyone else has blacked out.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I completely agree with your assessment. I do like the quote you picked...makes me giggle.