Sunday, November 8, 2009

FlashForward 1.07: "The Gift"

“Like a book club. With bullets.”


Anybody who is a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” knows that any episode of a genre TV series entitled “The Gift” will probably involve someone plummeting to the ground from a great height. The latest episode of FlashForward was no exception to this rule. That ending made this the most emotionally powerful episode of the series to date, although it was kind of a mess before the episode’s climax. I really think FlashForward would have benefitted from using the structure Lost utilized in its first few seasons, where each episode was centric to one specific character. I’d much rather follow Aaron looking for his daughter one week, Demitri coming to grips with his lack of a flash forward another week, Olivia and Lloyd being uncomfortable another week, Agent Gough coming to terms with “Celia” another week, and Bryce trying to find the woman from his vision in yet another week. Instead, we got tiny bits of each of these plots all smashed into this episode. It fragments the narrative overall and inhibits the story from really flowing.

One thing FlashForward does well is a haunting opening scene, and this week was no exception. There’s a scene shot in a sort of surreal style of a woman at a playground with her two sons. A narrator, who, upon hindsight, was probably Gough, is reading a letter to “Celia” who didn’t have a flash forward. At the end to the scene, Celia is given an invitation to the Blue Hands. Demetri is in his apartment looking at a website with the same symbol called “We Are Already Ghosts.” He quickly shuts the computer as Zoey walks into the room. She wants to be sure he shows up at their appointment to pick out wedding invitations that evening.

Mark and Olivia aren’t faring much better. They’re in the bathroom getting ready for work and deliberately trying to be as nice as possible to each other. It’s obvious they can barely stand to be in the same room. And the Olivia and Lloyd being awkward thing I mentioned? He goes to her office and says he and Dylan are moving back to the Bay Area and he wants a hospital transfer. Olivia agrees to push it through. That’s it. Seriously.

The focus of the FBI characters (minus Janis, who is taking a few weeks to recover) is now squarely on the people they found dead at the Blue Hand house, especially Rutherford, since they know his case figures prominently in Gough’s flash forward. Fiona Banks, the MI6 Agent Gough was meeting with in his vision, has come to LA to see if she can help with the case. Demetri introduces the concept of “Ghosts” to the group. People who had no flash forward during the black-out have been connecting via the We Are Already Ghosts website, and they’ve been holding events. The next event in LA will be held by Dr. Maurice Raynaud, and the instructions on how to find it are simply to “go Downtown and check the time.”

As I alluded to in my introduction to this post, we also follow the story of two more minor characters in this episode. The first would be Aaron. He is approached by Corporal Mike Willingham, who served with Aaron’s daughter Tracey. Readjustment isn’t going well for Mike, especially because of the economy. Mike is there to give Aaron Tracey’s pocket knife. Later, Mike returns because he felt guilty leaving Aaron with some hope by giving him the knife. Mike saw Tracey die. Aaron isn’t angry, though. In fact, he claims to have found peace, and he gets Mike a job working with him at DPW.

The other minor character developed in this episode is Bryce, the doctor who almost committed suicide in the pilot. Nicole has taken to volunteering at the hospital to alleviate her flash forward guilt, and Olivia has her shadow Bryce. When it’s discovered that Nicole speaks Japanese, Bryce asks her to help him interpret his flash forward. He is a talented artist and has drawn what he saw- a Japanese woman with a Japanese character behind her. Nicole points out that the character is half-finished. When whole, it means “believe.” Bryce and Nicole have pretty good chemistry together, but I have a feeling the story is pushing Bryce towards going to Japan to find this woman- that’s what Nicole wants him to do at least.

Gough and Banks are working together. They have some chemistry, too. Gough is kind of upset that the future is happening, but Banks is just smitten. Apparently, Gough gets a phone call in flash forward from his attorney. We hear Gough say, “I killed her.” He tells Banks, however, that everything was fine.

Zoey is pissed at Demitri for not showing up at the printer's to look at wedding invitations. Zoey shrugs off his “work was crazy” by talking about all the motions in limine she had to file for a pre-trial conference. FlashForward must have a lawyer on staff because that’s actually correct terminology. Zoe thinks Demitri is avoiding her- treating her like a stranger. Demitri storms out to go join the other FBI guys on the hunt for the next Blue Hand gathering. Even though it stings, it was kind of nice to see Demitri stick up for himself for once.

Now if this show took place in Baltimore, I’d expect the “time” clue would lead the guys to the Bromo Seltzer Tower. The creepy blue hue it gives off would be perfect. This is LA, though, so there’s a different big clock with a blue hand by the door. Inside, they’re greeted by an old man wearing a fedora who wants them to play Russian Roulette. Gough takes the gun and pulls the trigger. He survives, of course. The bullet says “Not Today.” The bullet is their ticket in. A bartender informs them that “the Raynaud” changes at every gathering.

The place is chaotic, and it looks painful. There is all sorts of crazy torture going on, people hanging from chains and being electrocuted. An alarm goes off, and everybody drones “Raynaud.” A man in black with a blue hand appears in front of the group. A spectator explains that the Raynaud “ represent[s] a portal, a gateway, from one understanding to another.” Raynaud brings out a gun, points it at his head, but FBI guys put a stop to it. While at the FBI office for questioning, Raynaud, who was a high school teacher, says he is convinced the future has already been written and is going to happen. Surprisingly, it’s not Demitri who tries to contradict him, but Gough.

Demitri does finally tell Zoey the truth. He tells her that he saw the Ghosts and he doesn’t want to be like them, waiting to die. Zoey is still convinced she saw their wedding. She thinks Demitri made a mistake. Zoey believes they can choose which vision to believe in, and she chooses hope. I can’t read the expression on Demitri’s face when Zoey hugs him- either he’s lying about his lack of vision and he’s evil, or he’s placating Zoe and still resigned to his fate.

I started to realize something was seriously up with Gough when he was sitting in his kitchen sobbing into a bowl of dirty rice (his favorite food that his Mama always makes for him). At the FBI office, he puts a note on Demitri’s desk. He tells Dem that he left something on his desk and leaves. Nobody suspects what’s going on until Dem opens the envelope in the middle of a meeting. By that point, Gough is standing on the roof of the building, ready to jump, and the pleading of his coworkers doesn’t change his mind. He shows them all that they can change the future. He wants Celia, whom he somehow accidentally killed in between the black out and the flash forward future that he saw, to spend years more with her two little boys.

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