David S. Goyer has written some great films, such as The Dark Knight, Dark City, and Blade. He has also written some terrible films, such as Jumper, Blade Trinity, and The Unborn. Along with Brannon Braga (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise; 24: Day 7), Goyer has created the newest show in the “what the hell is going on?” subgenre. FlashForward is based on a 1999 novel and given Goyer’s and Braga’s previous successes should be excellent. However, now four episodes into the season, FlashForward appears to be headed toward a cliff. Although interesting and watchable, FlashForward hasn’t yet established a voice, a compelling story, or much in the way of interesting characters.
The premise drops us in the middle of an ordinary October day where suddenly every person on earth simultaneously loses consciousness for 137 seconds. Planes and cars crash; fires blaze; people drown. Hundreds of thousands die. It is the largest catastrophe in recorded history, but that’s not all; during their blackouts, people experience strange dreams, and before long, they realize that these are actually prophetic visions of the future – specifically April 29th at 10pm. What the hell is going on? The rest of the season, and perhaps the series, will attempt to answer this question.
At the show’s heart is FBI Agent and former alcoholic Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), who envisions himself working on finding the cause of the blackouts six months later (and off the wagon) when several armed men break into his office. He and his wife, Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger) are in a loving relationship, but she sees herself with another man who just happens to be the father of a boy who came to the hospital after a blackout-related car crash. Their daughter, Charlie (Lennon Wynn), won’t tell them what her vision was except to say that it was deeply disturbing.
The Benfords’ friends have their own problems. Mark’s partner, Demetri Noh (John Cho), saw no vision at all, which made him think he would be dead by April 29. A woman calls him later and confirms it as she saw herself reading a report about his murder. Mark’s best friend and sponsor, Aaron Stark (Brian F. O’Byrne), sees himself finding his dead daughter alive in Afghanistan. Olivia’s intern, Dr. Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton), was standing on a pier with a gun pointed at his mouth when he had his blackout.
Some, like Olivia, ignore their visions. Others, like most of the characters, become obsessed with the future and begin to take actions to either prevent them or to ensure their realization. Mark begins following leads while Demetri tries to find his killer. Soon pieces of the puzzle begin coming together; the FBI finds a videotape of a man who was awake during the blackout and they start a website where people can post their visions of the future to confer with others.
Although the show has no set genre, the first few episodes play out with elements of medical drama and law enforcement procedural. It’s almost as if Lost, CSI, and ER had a baby together. When not in crime or medical mode, the show explores the various plotlines of the characters, and usually has one guest star per episode who shares their own vision, giving the show a slightly episodic feel. FlashForward pulls itself in several directions and seems like it’s not sure what it’s doing, or what it wants to be.
The biggest problem in the show is the dialogue. Goyer’s skill is sometimes evident, (Mark and Olivia jokingly say “I hate you” instead of “I love you”) but much of the other dialogue, especially the procedural stuff, seems forced and not very well researched. This is symptomatic of several one-dimensional characters. Mark is always super-serious. Olivia is always worried about her marriage. Demetri is always worried about his murder (okay, we’ll let that one go). Sure, these things should drive the characters, but they shouldn’t be the only things on their mind. Caring for, or even remembering, many of the characters becomes a chore.
Finally, the show has trouble logically resolving its own premise. If the blackout was a global event, why is the FBI the only agency working on it? If hundreds of thousands of people died, why isn’t there more of a global reaction? Why aren’t people rioting in the streets in every country? Perhaps the book thinks the consequences through more thoroughly, but so far the show does not. So, if you like being confused, frustrated, and often bored, then FlashForward is the perfect show for you. Otherwise watch some Lost re-runs instead.
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Jonathan Cho, Sonya Walger, Brian F. O’Byrne, Zachary Knighton, Jack Davenport, Peyton List, Courtney B. Vance, Christine Woods
Created By: David S. Goyer, Brannon Braga, Robert J. Sawyer (novel)
Airs: Thursdays, 8/7c