Saturday, May 22, 2010

FlashForward 1.18: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

“You don’t blend as well as you think.”


“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” certainly had its intriguing moments, but it wasn’t really enough to make me really mourn the fact that FlashForward isn’t getting a Season 2. The character development on the show has really been too little, too late. The focus (relatively speaking, of course…this is FlashForward, after all) of this episode was Janis, which is probably what made it more than tolerable, since Janis is one of the show’s more interesting, well-developed characters. I think this episode could have been truly great had the focus been even more fully on Janis. Instead we, as per usual, had multiple other competing stories to sift through, some related to what Janis was going through in this episode and some not at all related.

We get to see when Janis was initially recruited by the nefarious organization responsible for the blackout. That reminds me, I really wish they would give this organization a name. I used to think of it as Dyson Frost’s organization, but given recent events, he certainly wasn’t the man in charge. The whole conspiracy is much bigger than just him. Anyway, Janis was recruited because this woman she met the night before her first day in the LA FBI office happened to be a head hunter for the organization (I think that’s what I’m going to call it for now). Within a few days, Janis finds herself in a run-down pet shop, kind of flubbing the code line she’s supposed to give to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper gives Janis a fish tank (an excuse for future trips to the pet shop) and tells Janis that she’s supposed to stop by the shop at regular intervals to spill everything her FBI office has been up to.

In the present, Janis is still visiting the pet shop on a regular basis, and the shopkeeper is asking some very difficult things of her. The MOSAIC team discovered strange blueprints and photographs in Dyson Frost’s possession, and they can be traced to Afghanistan. Janis takes one copy of the blue prints to an antiquities expert (which she’s supposed to do) and another to the shopkeeper (which she’s most definitely not supposed to do). The shopkeeper seems disturbed by the fact that these blueprints have been circulated, and she orders Janis to get all the copies back and destroy all but the originals. Janis is less than thrilled about this because one copy is on the conspiracy wall in Mark’s office, and we all know how Mark becomes a huge drama queen if somebody dares to violate the sanctity of his office.

Janis successfully steals the copy and wipes all the computer hard drives that might possibly have a copy in the antiquities expert’s office, but Mark’s office is a significantly more difficult nut to crack. In fact, Mark catches Janis in the middle of the heist. Janis manages to concoct a plausible story for her presence there, although it does make her look like an incompetent agent, which she is most definitely not. Janis’ efforts were really for naught, as the antiquities expert took photos of the blueprints with his phone. He made a 3-D model of the device from the blueprint, and it’s some sort of time calculation device. It seems to calculate when black outs are going to occur.

When the antiquities expert leaves, Mark and Janis have a chat. Mark is concerned because Janis isn’t acting like herself. Janis tells him about how she’s having trouble with the baby, and her doctor said she might lose the baby if she doesn’t slow down a bit. Mark buys the explanation. He expresses his confidence inJanis, in what is a kind of sweet scene, and the two start joking about how Dyson Frost told Mark he’ll be saved by the lady he sees every day. This makes Mark think of the white queen chess piece on his conspiracy wall. The team picked it up during their mission to Pigeon, Utah. He breaks open the chess piece, and it contains a ring. Later, Simon and Lloyd are able to identify the ring as a Quantum Entanglement Device, the type of device needed to protect people from a future black out.

Janis isn’t exactly what she appears to be, though. Near the end of the episode, we see a flash back to right before she heads out to the LA office. Vogel approaches Janis about being a double agent. He feels that she’s a likely target for the organization, but she also has the integrity to remain loyal to her country. Maintaining her cover could come at a high cost, though. When the blackout happened, she was horrified and told the shopkeeper she wanted out. This request, obviously, wasn’t granted. At the end of the episode, Janis goes back to the pet shop. The shopkeeper isn’t thrilled about the fact that Janis has been failing her missions lately. She tells Janis that she can’t make another mistake. This is going to be a pretty tough standard for Janis to follow, considering her next mission is that she must steal the QED and kill Mark.

While all this is going on, Vreede has Olivia once again helping him on his own part of the investigation. Gabriel’s been freaking Olivia out, showing up at her house and telling her about all the moments of her life where he’s been present. He also warns her not to buy coffee from a particular cart, and when she gets to the cart, Olivia sees that a car has just crashed into it. Olivia goes through her photo albums and sees Gabriel in several photos. She shows these photos to Vreede, and they start talking about “Raven River,” which has come up at several points in the investigation. There’s an abandoned former psychiatric hospital in Arizona named Raven River, and that’s where Olivia and Vreede are headed.

Gabriel makes another appearance while Olivia and Vreede are at Raven River. The whole set-up really reminds me of that show that used to be on MTV, I think, where they had groups of people try to do these “paranormal investigations” at creepy places like abandoned psychiatric hospitals. It was called “Fear,” I believe, and it was indeed quite creepy. Gabriel, in a rather haphazard way thanks to his disability, explains what happened at Raven River during its heyday. The scientists there experimented on savants, forcing them to experience flash forward after flash forward and record in detail what they saw. These scientists were lead by Dyson Frost.

The third plot going on in this episode, which isn’t really connected at all to the emotional journey Janet is experiencing, is Aaron in Afghanistan looking for Tracey. At what must be the Middle Eastern equivalent of a café, Aaron is approached by a man named Malik. He is a contact of Wedeck’s, and he warns Aaron that Aaron doesn’t blend in to Afghanistan as well as he thinks he does. Aaron wants to find Tracey’s friend Kamir, and once Aaron draws a symbol he noticed in his vision, Malik has an idea. The symbol stands for “Eyes on the Mountain” a sort of medical humanitarian agency. Malik’s job is to navigate road blocks and keep Aaron out of trouble, and that succeeds for a while until they come upon a group of very heavily armed men. Malik barely has time to tell Aaron that the men aren’t from any faction he knows of before he’s shot dead. Aaron hides behind the SUV they had been driving in as another group of heavily armed men approaches and wipes out the first. This second group includes Kamir, who introduces himself to Aaron.

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