FlashForward s1 ep 22

And so we reach the end of the road for ‘FlashForward’, with an episode set on the flashforward day itself.  Last week, as you’ll recall, Penny was heading in the opposite direction to Miles.  This week, however, he manages to persuade her that the future of the planet depends on them recreating their flashforward, so come on back and get your kit off, Penny, there’s a good girl.  She doesn’t go quite that far.  Last week, the man with the beard’s daughter died.  This week, she comes back to life.  I’m choosing my words with care when I say that I have never, never seen a more pointless character in a drama series than the man with the beard.

Last week, Janis is busting Charlie out so he can do something with the faux-Hadron Collider, and Bryce and Keiko are looking for each other.  This week, Janis finds out she’s carrying a little Dem, and Bryce and Keiko find each other.  Nicole is left to her own devices and, presumably, her savant mother who we haven’t seen much of since she pitched up a few weeks ago.  (Ditto him out of ‘Ally McBeal’.) 

Last week, Shakespeare’s drunk and in a holding cell.  This week, Wedeck gets him out so that he can be in the FBI building when the men with guns arrive to kill him.  They shoot the set to pieces – won’t be needing that any more, I suppose – but even half-cut Shakey’s the man you want in a shootout, as it happens.  He’s also worked out that the next flashforward is imminent, and Wedeck phones the White House with the bad news, which gets transmitted around the world.  We are at least spared hearing “What?  Another season of this?” in several languages.  Then flashforward II happens, and just about all of it will remain unexplained.  Fin.

As an episode this was OK: the build-up to flashforward time was genuinely suspenseful.  As a series-ender, not so much: for anyone who cared about the season’s mysteries most remain unsolved, although the writers could presumably claim that they’d been banking on renewal.  And as a series: overall, hardly a success.  Nazis, dead crows, beards, poker games and a blizzard of new characters came and went with no sense that the showrunners had a grip on what was happening.

On top of that, they were unlucky with their big casting decision.  Sometimes you get lucky – little-known British comedian Hugh Laurie turns out to be fantastic at playing American Vicodin-addicted genius diagnostician House.  Sometimes you play safe: TV royalty Julianna Margulies enhances her reputation in the increasingly-awesome ‘The Good Wife’.  And sometimes your underwhelming lead actor (Josh Radnor) is rescued by a supporting cast firing on all cylinders (everyone else in ‘HIMYM’).  In this show the casting of Joseph Fiennes in the main role could have been a stroke of genius: instead, he looked uncomfortable from the get-go, and even his unforgettable delivery of the line “Because I was LOADED, OKAY?!” couldn’t save him.

Or the show.  When I reviewed episode 1 I said I would stick around; I did, and it might be argued that in doing so I tacitly accepted that the show was better than I sometimes gave it credit for.  Perhaps.  And perhaps it would have been better had the writers known from the start that they would only have one season to work with.  And not bothered with the man with the beard, or Joseph Fiennes.  Ultimately that, I suspect, will be the epitaph for ‘FlashForward’: given the intriguing premise, it could have been so much better.

FlashForward s1 ep 21

It’s about time, but you know what?  I really enjoyed this.  Fast-moving and purposeful; with the finishing line in sight ‘FlashForward’ has finally stopped throwing new characters and distractions at us, and started to concentrate on the ones it already has.

The show still has to cope, though, with the charisma vacuum that is Joseph Fiennes’s Mark Benford.  I can’t decide whether the part and script don’t suit Fiennes, or whether he’s just not all that good an actor.  Anyway, this week he’s being warned by last week’s new villain Hellinger that in all the flashforwards Hellinger’s seen, Mark ends up dead in his office.  I’m obliged to point out once again that I’d have been on the plane to Tasmania like weeks ago.  Mark, not so much – he smacks Hellinger about, gets drunk, goes fighting and finds himself in a police cell, which I’m guessing will be really handy for the office he’s supposed to get killed in.

There is, however, a spare plane ticket going anyway, because Dem’s actually managed to get his day off in the middle of the  biggest crisis to hit humanity ever, and decides to use it to confess to Zoey that he impregnated Janis, this being something else which happened in the missing episode.  Dem’s all, I thought I was going to die; Zoey’s all, I’m going to Hawaii without you; Dem isn’t all, whatevs: she’s hotter than you.  And a lot less irritating.  But he should have been.

The Keiko/Bryce/Nicole love triangle has a week to sort itself out.  I can see that it suits the plot to have Bryce chasing after Keiko, but dudeNicole?  Quit while you’re ahead.  While he tries to embrace fate, Penny’s trying to avoid it by running from an increasingly fed-up looking Miles.  It looks as if Team Llolivia might not get the win.  Jack Davenport, however, might well emerge from the wreckage of this show with an enhanced reputation.

And the man with the beard’s daughter dies.  If we have been following him and his hirsute intensity around for half a year just so that his daughter can die on us it’ll be just about pointless and annoying enough to serve as a metaphor for the ultimate failure of this show.  Not this week, though; this week was good.

Flashforward ep 20

Jed’s reviewing a lot at the moment so I thought I’d take another turn with Flashforward this week, before it disappears into oblivion forever.  So much for the “new Lost”; winding down at around the same time as the current (and only) “Lost” is probably not what the makers intended, but flashes of genius in amongst acres of idiocy are probably not what they intended either.  Only two episodes to go though, and, seeing as we’ve come this far, it feels like we have to see it through to the end.

Unfortunately, the end seems to begin with Beardy battering around Afghanistan like a low-rent Jack Bauer, bringing back Tracy and, in the process, probably bringing down the President.  Is there some sort of connection between Jericho and the blackout (or GBO as Shakey was calling it this week; wtf?)?  Surely there has to be.  Otherwise this storyline is utterly futile as well as dull, stupid and annoying. 

But then, dull, stupid and annoying is a bit of an over-arching theme for this show.  Like Zoey demanding Dem take the FF day, the day they’ve been gearing up for for 6 months, the day at the centre of everything, as a holiday.  Really, Zoey?  Really??? 

Mind you, Zoey might be a pain, but at least she’s consistent about it. Dem’s all over the shop.  He wants to be a father to Janis’ baby now.  Dude, what?  How’re you going to square that with ole Zo?  Oh, wait, he’s changed his mind, now he’s angry with Janis for getting him involved in the baby business in the first place.  Dude, I say again, WHAT?  You offered.  You persuaded.  You impregnated.  Do you need a diagram?

Maybe Lloyd could explain it to you.  But maybe not.  When asked how he was this week, Lloyd said “Struggling with the decoherence equation.”  I normally say “Fine”, Lloyd.  As does Jack Davenport, I assume, given how embarrassed he looked.  Never mind, Jack.  It could be worse.  You could be poor James Callis who, as the unspeakably irritating Gabriel, actually had to keep saying “I have a huge hippocampus.”  Oh, dude.

Fair, however, is fair.  When Flashforward is bad – like it was for big chunks of this episode -it’s dire.  But when it works, it can be great, and in amongst the dross, there were actually a few, almost brilliant moments this week.  The van switcheroo, in particular, was fab, the new baddie Hellinger is completely intriguing, and, despite Simon’s utterly ridiculous hat – you’re no Noah Puckerman, Simon – his final scene this week could lead to something amazing.  Or not.  This is Flashforward after all.

FlashForward s1 ep 19

This week was about the universe’s impulse to self-correct its course if something happens to deflect it, like poor old Al Gough killing himself to ensure that he wouldn’t kill Celia.  Presumably Alex Kingston had a multi-episode contract because she came over from the UK to help in the search for someone who appeared to be killing Blue Hand Gang members who had lived past their expected death dates.  (Although she and Dem tried to save Celia by encouraging her to run about on busy roads, which seemed to me to have no more than a 50-50 chance of success at best.)  Remember the Blue Hand Gang?  I kind of did, because I thought that the idea of those who were destined to die before the flashforward date was one of the most genuinely unsettling ideas in the whole show. On the other hand I’m not even going to pretend that I’d remembered about Charlie’s kidnapped sister until she wandered back into view, demanding that he liberate the QED ring as a ransom.

Romantic developments elsewhere:  Penny and Miles, or Llolivia as I believe we are to call them, seem to have decided that the irritating savant has a point about them belonging together.  And poor old Keiko might find herself out in the cold as Bryce and Nicole have bonded over his chemotherapy.

The key moment in this episode, though, came halfway through: “You’re not even listening!” bleated Miles to Charlie.  And neither, I realised with a start, was I.  Something about those silly rings, I think.  I didn’t bother rewinding; I’m finding it increasingly hard to care as we reach the end of the line for this show and the rules keep changing.  So position 1 was: the flashforwards will happen!  Position 2 was: the flashforwards might not happen!!!!  Position 3 was: the flashforwards are only one of a range of possible outcomes!!!!!111111!  And now we have position 4: the flashforwards might kind of happen after all as a sort of anthropomorphic will-of-the-universe thing, depending on how we feel next week and whether we get renewed for a second season (which we won’t).  And I’m sorry but I need to ask the crucial question – does anyone give a fuck any more?  That’s not rhetorical.  Seriously – anyone?

FlashForward s1 ep 18

It’s never a good sign when the man with the beard is in the ‘FlashForward’ previouslies, because you know that much of the next hour is going to be taken up with him being all, where’s my daughter? while being unlikeable, intense, unsympathetic, and beardy.  And so it proves. 

On a more positive note, we get to see the Janis backstory, which is well-written and well-acted, and pretty much redeems the episode on its own.  It seems that the showrunners are going for double-agent, and thus a little bit of retconning instead of a vast, show-rewriting amount, and while this didn’t particularly surprise me the identity of her recruiter certainly did.  But it felt just about plausible, rather than flat-out ridiculous, which can’t always be said of unexpected developments on ‘FlashForward’.  On the other side of that argument, though, we had Shakespeare managing to solve Dyson “D Gibbons” Frost’s puzzle.  Now why didn’t Frost just say, “You know the chess piece in your office? Crack it open…”?  Because he’s an evil genius who talks in riddles? 

And even more remarkable – if hardly surprising – is the show’s ability to surpass expectations by introducing, at this late stage in its life, another new character who is every bit as annoying as all the other annoying characters.  Step – or, rather, shamble – forward, Gabriel the savant.  It turns out that he’s been stalking Penny for years, so she and Vreede – apparently getting a cast promotion – head off to disused mental hospital Raven River, where life was just one great big flashforward back in the 80s.  Gabriel burbles on a bit more about how Penny is always with Miles in all of his flashforwards.  This might be the justification she needs to give her daughter a new daddy, I suppose.

Meantime, back in the real world the writers are still dropping big hints about just how good a second season would be.  The problem, it seems to me, is that past bubble shows saved by vociferous fan campaigns (‘Chuck’, ‘Jericho’, ‘Friday Night Lights’, and so on) had relatively small but largely devoted audiences.  Most people who watch ‘FlashForward’, meantime, are fairly meh about it.  I might be wrong, but I still think it’s doomed.

FlashForward s1 ep 17

Some time ago a friend told me about a TV programme she’d seen the previous evening, in which women were buying a beauty treatment which involved having a layer of skin burned off their faces for apparent cosmetic benefit.  Her view – with which it was difficult to argue – was that this on its own provided compelling evidence that the human race was doomed, and that we were in the End Times.  I had the same thought this week while watching ‘FlashForward’.  I’m not averse to a bit of silliness: far from it.  But this show has been so flagrantly, voluptuously, almost decadently absurd, it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.  And in case there’s anyone out there wanting to mount a counter-argument, two words: Demetri’s chair.  Not just Demetri’s chair, though: the use of a Dr Seuss reference to disarm the chair deserves a special mention when we look back and wonder at which point our civilisation hit the tipping point.

Which isn’t to say that this was the worst episode of ‘FlashForward’.  I mean, it was watchable enough, and it didn’t feature the man with the beard.  Both Dominic Monaghan and Jack Davenport were also given the week off, presumably to meet their agents, so this week we were all about The Day of Dem’s (Predicted) Death, with Shakespeare on point dashing around the country in response to clues from D “Dyson Frost” Gibbons, who retcons that the flashforwards foresee only one of a number of potential outcomes.  Hence the special Demetri chair (I think.  I’ve omitted a couple of crucial steps in Frost’s reasoning).  So if they only represent things which might happen, why were we getting so worked up about the flashforwards in the first place, eh?  And does this mean that Shakey can be discharged from the duty of being the only cop in the world who can investigate it just because he foresaw that he would be investigating it?  Presumably in other potential flashforwards he’s in a hot-tub with twins.  Perhaps if he got to leave now he could avoid a return to alcoholism and save his marriage, before Miles comes smarming back into Penny’s life?

Soon-to-be-single Zoey, meantime, seems to be acting for one of the conspirators in what might just be a conflict of interest, although one which resolves itself when the suspect gets sprung – and who would have seen that coming?  It’s not as if they telegraphed it or anything.  Janis the part-time mole helps out in the search of Demetri.  And we get introduced to yet another new character: Gabriel the savant (apparently played by a ‘Battlestar’ alum – they’re cropping up all over the place), who burbles on for a while about the Raven River experiments and seeing Penny lots of times before.

In the margins of all of this, there’s a rather hopeful plea from the producers.  Dyson “D Gibbons” Frost has covered a blackboard with his flashforwardy ramblings, including his projected end-of-the-world in December 2016.  Now, it seems pretty unlikely that the show’s getting another season, let alone another five, but is this the writers’ way of saying “Spare us for another year and we’ll give you a ‘Dollhouse’-type epilogue which will startle everyone with its brilliance?”  It seems unlikely at this stage, though, that the end of ‘FlashForward’’s world will come in 2016: it’s coming much sooner for the show, I reckon, and for the rest of us as well.

FlashForward s1 ep 16

Marginally less silly than last week’s episode, but no more entertaining: as ‘FlashForward’ approaches what seems to be its inevitable demise, it still isn’t managing to raise a gallop.  Poor old Demetri is reminded by Marcie, the lesser of last week’s moles, that he’s going to be killed in LA in three days, and there isn’t anything he can do about it.  But wait!  The glimmerings of a plan are starting to stir in his mind.  Perhaps he could – no, wait, it’s coming to him – leave town?  Does that sound silly?  No, says Zoey; let’s go.  Okey-doke, says Dem, but I need to hang about for a day or so so that whoever wants to kill me can have a great big chance to do so.  And he does; and, frankly, he deserves everything that’s coming to him.  Meantime Janis – whose own talpine tendencies were, um, unearthed last week – is up the stick by unknown means.

Other people not trying very hard to evade destiny are Miles and Penny, who decide to avoid having an affair by making out.  Might not work.  Wedeck tracks the man with the beard down, tools him up, and sends him to Afghanistan to find his daughter and do a bit of spying on Jericho; this last so that Wedeck, who seems to be remarkably well-connected for a mid-ranking cop, can help the Vice-President in her quest to topple the President.  Who is also buds with Wedeck, as you might recall from an earlier episode.  And Dyson “D Gibbons” Frost is back, although with only six episodes left to go and viewing figures plummeting he’d better get on with whatever it is he’s doing.