Somewhere in the FlashForward writers room, there is a calendar. Every day, the writers look over at it nervously, wondering when this season will be over, so the show can be canceled and they can find new work. On every Thursday is written a little note that says, "NEW EPISODE." I like to imagine the calendar has kittens or balloons or Mr. T on it. It's where they turn when they need the solace of knowing that things will get better soon, that everything will improve, unless those rumors that the show does so well overseas that it will have to be renewed prove true. A few months ago, the writers of FlashForward looked up, saw the words "NEW EPISODE" written on April 15 and realized, with a start, that that was just two weeks away from the fabled April 29. "Well, shit," they said, unlacing their hands and pulling them out from behind their heads, "better get the plots a-movin'."
To that end, this was yet another pretty dumb episode of FlashForward, but it was also more fun than the last few episodes have been. Finally, it seemed, the show was ready to stop being lugubrious, to stop clearing its throat, and just get down to the business of making the dread future become the actual future. Olivia and Lloyd kissed. Janis betrayed Demetri (or seemed to) all in the name of keeping her sweet, sweet conspiracy up and running. Mark and Demetri went out to figure out how to avoid his death, while Demetri ended up deciding to get married RIGHT NOW, so he could disappear. And Frost wandered around, tracking everyone and just generally looking menacing.
Look, I'm not going to claim that this was a great episode of television or something, but it managed to mostly hold my interest throughout, and there were a few scenes (mostly involving Demetri) that were genuinely enjoyable. There's nothing here on the level of the best episodes of the show, to say nothing of the show's general promise, but there's a sense that things are pressing forward again, that the show has just decided to completely give up on trying to make what the characters do believable and has, instead, decided to drag them all over the place, the better to make the plot as interesting as possible. When Lloyd and Olivia kissed, I didn't buy it for a second (much less his, "I hate to be the bad guy here, but I'm totally the bad guy" speech), but I was relieved the show was finally just going ahead and doing it.
I also like the way that the "Janis is a mole!" revelation kind of plays havoc with everything else she does. It doesn't really make sense, nor does it make me sit up and pay attention to the show's plotting, but the best way to instantly introduce tension into stories like this is to put the villain right there in the room and have no one else know what's going on. By having Janis there, just sitting around and interrogating Agent Lady with everyone else, the series is able to finally play its knowledge of just where it's going against its characters, something it's been rather unable to do (what with the whole "seeing the future" thing and all). Hell, I even got a little concerned when Janis was there at the wedding, and I realized that she had almost assuredly called in Demetri's abductor, Mr. Frost himself.
I mean, there was still plenty of stupid stuff here. I don't get why the FBI director is always reminding his people to get back to solving who caused the blackout, and I don't get why he treats his employees like they're a bunch of third graders (actually, I kind of get this one). I also don't get why everyone would stop everything for that wedding, no matter how much they like Demetri and why Demetri and his lady friend couldn't just get married at City Hall. (I know, I know. It's tradition, blah, blah, blah, but you'd think that his disappearance plan would go a lot better if he just limited the number of people he told.) What's more, Mark was his usual raving self, and depending on just how entertaining you find that, much of the episode might have made you kind of crazy. And, obviously, this was almost entirely centered on the FBI investigation, which is pretty consistently the show's worst single element.
But the scenes where Demetri tried to take control of his own destiny didn't totally suck. There's something about the way John Cho plays this character, the way he's always trying to avoid thinking about the fact that he's marked for death, that has always been a little better than the material, and tonight, as we got flashbacks to his first day at the FBI (featuring an appropriately overwrought speech from Mark) and saw him face off with a gunman who seemed as if he might be the guy who would gun Demetri down, Cho found lots of facets to play in every scene.
There's still a sense that all of this is oddly truncated. I would have much preferred an episode that laid out the early days of Demetri in the FBI, contrasting them with his seemingly doomed final missions, his attempt to find the gun meant to kill him so he could take it off the board before March 15. Like most episodes of this show, the whole thing moved in a stuttering fashion, and it would get distracted by following yet another disconnected plot in its giant ensemble (not to mention all of the dialogue that was just there to remind us of things we already knew). But I liked the Demetri stuff almost in spite of myself, and it made me like this episode more than some of the past ones.
As the episode ends, of course, Demetri is in the clutches of Dyson Frost, whose apparently the sole reason that the global conspiracy to make everyone see the future has chosen a random FBI office to target and terrorize. (The more we learn that everything has been planned out by these guys to a T, that even Demetri's death seems likely to be tied to them, the more it seems that they're not just really efficient scientists but legitimately supernatural, but I suppose Frost's visions give them some leeway to play around with this concept.) A lot of this was stupid, yes, but none of it was "random, tertiary character installs hydraulic lifts in the car of a racial stereotype she just met" stupid. Maybe I shouldn't be cutting it slack based on that, but, hey, are YOU still watching this show at this point? Or are you just reading the reviews to see what happens? Yeah, that's what I thought.
- I hereby dub this the thread where we also talk about the Human Target finale from last night because that was straight-up awesome fun, and I'm sad we didn't cover it.
- Aaron joined forces with exposition machine Courtney B. Vance to go off to Afghanistan and bring down Jericho, which is going to bring down the president or something. I prefer Aaron to Bryce and the babysitter, so I was pleased to have him around, even if he was doing stupid stuff.
- Tonight's CRAZY MARK BENFORD moment: Mark and Demetri are reenacting the murder of a homeless man who was killed with Mark's MISSING GUN (or something), and Mark makes his fingers into a gun and points it at Demetri's head while Demetri's laying on a cot in a homeless shelter. "Can you put that away, buddy?" asks Demetri. "You betcha," says Mark. It's more of a glowery craziness this evening, but it's a GOOD glower.
- I swear I will put a fist through my TV if the show ever features the characters saying the word "Squirrelio" EVER AGAIN.
- Anyway, now Frost is after Charlie too. Actually, come to think of it, the story of a man who sees the whole course of what's to come and needs to spend time maneuvering things into place to make sure it all comes true could make for an interesting TV show. Sort of Doctor Who with a more malicious intent (or Quantum Leap, I guess). This is yet another more interesting show than the FlashForward we actually have that is buried inside of FlashForward.