Sunday, October 11, 2009

FlashForward 1.03: "137 Sekunden"

“So the Earth farted and we blacked out? That makes sense to me.”

-Agent Vreede

This week’s episode once again followed several plot lines, the overall investigation of the flash forward and two character-specific plot lines. It also briefly introduced a new character and set up her arc for future episodes. This illustrates a problem I have with FlashForward. It lacks focus. I wonder if I might enjoy the show more if each episode focused only on the investigation and maybe one other character dealing with his or her specific vision. I’ve seen interviews with the showrunners where they gush about the sheer number of stories they can tell using the show’s premise, however, so I have a feeling this lack of focus is not going to go away.

The episode begins with an extended version of the phone call Demetri received where he was told that he would be murdered. It turns out that he will die from being shot three times in the chest. My mom’s reaction was basically “Then wear a vest! It’s not like he was shot in the head.” And I have to say I agree with her. If I were Demetri, I’d just spend all of the Ides of March wearing a bulletproof vest. Problem solved. He needs to stop moping now! Demetri doesn’t, however, take the outlook that I do. Or at least he doesn’t at first. His fiancée, Zoey, is on her way home.

Zoey’s flight home is another one of those rare opportunities to see the havoc wreaked on the world by the massive, simultaneous black out. Zoey’s flight is one of the first, if not the first, flight to take off from Seattle since the incident, and Zoey is one of only about 3 or 4 people on the plane. One of her fellow passengers is the CEO of the airline, and even he is petrified to fly again. When she gets home, Zoey has quite the surprise for Demetri. Her flash forward vision was of their wedding day, and Demetri was there.

Meanwhile, a group of other agents are reviewing intelligence reports from other countries about the flash forward. A report from Germany gets their attention. A former Nazi, locked away in prison for what should be the rest of his life, claims to have important information about what caused the flash forward. And he mentions Agent Benford by name. This combined with the fact that Mark remembers the Nazi’s name from his flash forward conspiracy wall, makes Mark desperate to fly to Germany immediately to talk to the guy. He manages to get permission for he and Janis to go and meet this Nazi. I find it interesting, and kind of a contradiction, how Mark is so gung-ho about making the future happen in terms of his investigation, but on the other hand, desperately doesn’t want the future as it relates to his personal life to happen. It remains to be seen whether or not he can have it both ways.

Soon enough, Mark and Janis arrive at a large, imposing looking prison in Germany. They are escorted into a room to speak with the Nazi, who seems more interested in riddles than actually disseminating any useful information. He wants to be released from prison and allowed to live the rest of his life in the United States. Janis is especially disturbed by this prospect, but Mark is committed to going forward no matter the cost. He gets his boss to make an arrangement with the State Department. The Nazi is going to give up one of the two important pieces of information he claims he has, and he will give up the second when his repatriation to the United States is finalized. The first piece of information isn’t all that helpful, or at least it doesn’t seem helpful. Using Jewish numerology, the number formed by the word Kabbalah is 137, the exact number of seconds the black out lasted.

When faced with the ire of both Mark and his German handler, the Nazi offers to sweeten the deal a bit. He describes his flash forward vision, where he is in an American airport having his passport checked by an American customs agent. Mark calls Demetri to corroborate the story. Demetri finds the future customs agent at the future agent’s house…dancing in his underwear. This scene was my favorite of the episode. Demetri’s reaction to meeting this sloppy guy is amusing. As he goes to leave the guy’s house, Demetri trips over a very large bong. I realized what was going to happen next about a split second before it occurred to Demetri. The future customs agent begs Demetri not to report the bong, because then he’d have no chance of ever actually becoming a customs agent. Demetri is solely responsible for whether or not this guy’s future is going to happen. You can see the wheels turning in Demetri’s head- of course he’s going to turn the guy in. Demetri desperately doesn’t want the future to happen. John Cho’s performance in this scene was especially good, and it was really the first time I connected with any of the regular characters.

With the vision corroborated, Mark manages to get clearance to repatriate the Nazi. Again, the information the Nazi provides doesn’t seem helpful at first. When he awoke from the black out, he looked out the window of his prison cell, and he saw dead crows littering the ground. At first, all the law enforcement officers in the room are furious, but by the end of the episode, the information has proven useful. Mark and Janis find out that there was a dead crow incident in Somalia in 1991, where CDC officials were called in to investigate reports of a mass black out in the area. Sound familiar?

The other character-based story of this episode was Aaron’s continuing journey to find out if his daughter is still alive. He wants her body exhumed so the DNA of the remains can be tested against the DNA the military had on file. To do that, however, he needs the permission of his ex-wife Kate, played by the wonderful Kim Dickens (most recently appearing on Lost as the mother of Sawyer’s child and on Friday Night Lights as Matt Saracen’s mom). Kate doesn’t want to have anything to do with Aaron’s wild goose chase. Aaron goes behind her back and gets Mark and Demetri to have the grave exhumed without Kate’s permission. The results aren’t what Aaron wanted to hear - the remains in the grave are a DNA match to his daughter. He goes back to the bar where Kate works to apologize to her. Once he tells her what he found, she goes from being extremely angry to sympathetic, and she takes a moment to comfort him.

One final guest appearance in this episode worth mentioning is Gina Torres (most notably Zoe on Firefly) as Agent Wedeck’s wife. Her flash forward was tucking a small boy into bed who called her “Mom.” She sees this boy as her husband is giving a eulogy at a memorial service for eight agents who died during the black out. FlashForward has certainly put together an extremely talented regular and guest cast, most with serious genre cred. I only hope they put them to good use.

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