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The Feces-Throwing, Hobo-Ginger Step-Child of "Lost"

By S. P. Ashworth | TV Reviews | September 28, 2009 | Comments ()


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We open on Mark Benton (Joseph Fiennes, or as the Fiennes family refers to him, "Not Ralph") hanging upside down in the driver's seat of a car wreck. He drags himself to safety, stands, and stares. The highway strip is in mayhem: car alarms hoot in the distance, people scream and either drag a limp body to safety or cradle them in their laps. Mark stalks around, gaping, and yelling, "Demetri!" (because...Demetri? Did ABC learn nothing from "Lost's" character, Mercutio?) At any rate, the shit has hit the fan. Roll credits.

And so opens "FlashForward," ABC's newest sci-fi protégé. Written and directed by David S. Goyer (the good: wrote and directed Blade; the bad: wrote and directed Blade II, Blade Trinity, Jumper, and The Unborn) and co-written by Brannon Braga (the good: penned episodes of "24," "Enterprise," and "Voyager"; the bad: penned MissionL Impossible II), the pilot leads off a season based upon Robert J. Sawyer's similarly titled novel.

So let's get to it.

We're in Los Angeles. It's morning -- four hours earlier than the opening scene, in fact. We watch Mark say good-bye to his wife, Olivia (Sonya Walger from "Lost"), and his young daughter, Charlie (newbie, Lennon Wynn.) As he grabs his gun from his safe, a note is taped to its door from his wife, "You're a crappy husband. I hate you," and Mark smiles. Because they're in love, get it? Barf. Then, before driving to work, Mark greets Charlie's babysitter, Nicole ("Mad Men's" Peyton List). Side note: who else finds it weird to watch a "Mad Men" cast member not in a 1960's context? It's against the order of things, I tell you.

What follows is a set-up before the big bang. Nicole makes-out with her boyfriend in the Benton living room while Charlie sleeps upstairs. We meet Bryce (Zachary Knight), a California hottie slash surgeon who, on a pier overlooking surfers, places a gun beneath his chin. We watch Aaron, (Brian F. O'Byrne with a terrible Jersey(?) accent), giving a speech at AA about his daughter who was killed in Afghanistan. And who is in attendance at the alcoholics anonymous meeting, but Marky-Mark Benton, because what would a male protagonist be without a good drive to drink? (Fun Fact: Joseph Fiennes has a twin brother named Jacob - 'cause all we need is another Fiennes who looks like ol' Rat Face.)

We then watch Mark and his partner, Demetri (the wicked-awesome John Cho), carry out an FBI stake-out. They are following a man named Omar who is accompanied by an unknown woman (played by blonde bombshell Rachel Roberts.) And guess what? There's a car chase. I know. Fucking genius. And then guess what? A car flips over. And then there's an explosion. It is all very exciting.

But what's more exciting is the event we've been anticipating, and it occurs while everyone's doin' their thang: Olivia scrubs-in for surgery, Aaron services a telephone pole (that's what she said), Nicole keeps ridin' that pony, Bryce readies his gun beneath his chin, and Mark and Demetri careen into a tanker. And BAM.

Flash forward, bitches.

For Mark, that means a scatter of images including a poorly-lit office and a wall displaying a massive array of pictures, sticky-notes, and a timeline ("Heroes," anyone?) In his own flash forward, Mark looks a little rough around the edges as he pours over this evidence before doing what we never expected of him - ever: He sucks back on a flask. Aw, shucks.

And then we're back at the opening scene. Mark crawls out of his over-turned car and stalks around the shit show, everyone around him bleeding conveniently from their ears or noses. Well, that is except the poor schmuck who's totally on fire. That's a shame. But Mark has a thought, and he climbs to the top of a car to take a better look. Not only is this particular strip of highway a shit show, but the whole gad-dag city is. Smoke, fire, screaming, car pile-ups, even a helicopter is careening into a high rise. Explosion.

We then flip back to the other characters who are as equally freaked-out by what happened, picking themselves up off the floor (or hanging sideways off a telephone pole, like Aaron.) Back at Mark's house, Nicole runs upstairs to check on the young Charlie who says, I shit you not, "I dreamt there are no more good days." Oh, fuck off.

Needless to say we slowly, oh so slowly, find out that not just L.A. but the entire world experienced this unconscious flash forward - all 137 seconds of it.

Well, except Canada. And...can I be honest? We would have appreciated an invite.

At any rate, the FBI hold a meeting to find out what the hell happened. The agents listen to the man in charge, Stan (Courtney B. Vance), who lists off the body count resulting from these flash forwards. Meanwhile, Mark is recounting his own flash forward, which we should all get used to seeing. All of us. A lot.

Suddenly, as Mark's colleagues stare at him like fucking douche bags - slow clap for the FBI, people - Mark makes a leap, surmising that he wasn't just rendered unconscious, but had witnessed a glimpse of the future. And, thanks for that, Fiennes. No S-to-the-H-I-T, you dumb, British asshole.

We then spend the next five minutes watching a series of the most ridiculous plot devices unravel: everyone experienced the same day for their flash forwards, which, "as crazy as [this] sounds," was on April 29th, 2010. How convenient. And we're only half way through the episode, here, folks. Let me speed things up, which won't be hard because the show boils down to one thing: Goyer sucks goat ass from a sippy cup.

Actually, why don't I just throw facts at you? If Goyer doesn't believe in an audience making their own connections, why the hell should I?

Mark doesn't tell his wife that he was drinking in his flash forward; we watch Mark drink in his flash forward. Mark and Demetri compile a list of the evidence from Mark's flash forward; we watch Mark drink in his flash forward. Demetri realizes he might be dead in his flash forward; and if you haven't figured it out by now, we watch Mark drink in another G.D. flash forward.

And then we arrive at the two "twists" designed to keep us watching (and I double dare anyone to do that.)

Twist one: Olivia knows that her and Mark's marriage is dissolving on April 29th, 2010, but not because her flash forward involved Mark's drinking, but because - wait for it - she sees herself about to sleep with another man.

Twist two: Demetri watches a recording of a baseball game during the flash forward. However, (and I admit this is kinda cool), while everyone lies unconscious in the stands, one man saunters among them, completely awake.

Credits. And if that ending doesn't speak to everything that was wrong with the second season of" Lost," I don't know what does.

So the question exists: is "FlashForward" the poor man's Lost? The very, very, very, poor man's "Lost," as exhaustingly overwritten as it is? Or, is this only an example of a director with The Exposition Jitters, frightened of losing an audience from his decidedly sci-fi plot? Personally, I hope we're witnessing the latter. Finishing "Lost" next spring will be a detriment to many of our television schedules, so I'm happy to give "FlashForward" a chance (granted the smart writing we love from "Lost" surfaces.) But, the real question still lurks: can Mark Benton become the new Jack Shephard?

Well. You don't really want an answer to that, do you?

S.P. Ashworth is a fourth-year creative writing student from Victoria, B.C. with aspirations of screenwriting, but realizes that without penning the next Devil Wears Prada, she's pretty much hooped.



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