Review: FlashForward — "No More Good Days"

Mark Benford3Don’t let anyone tell you differently; FlashForward is the show to watch this year. I was convinced of that within the first five minutes of the pilot episode, and I am still convinced. Not since Lost has there been such a perfect blend of mystery and character drama, and I can’t wait to see how the series expands and develops.

Before you watch the show, however, it’s important that you get one huge misconception out of your head. FlashForward is not the new Lost. Sonya Walger, who has appeared on both shows, sums it up perfectly: ” It’s a huge compliment being (mentioned) in the same breath as Lost. (But) I think the similarity begins and ends with big ensemble casts.”

There are still little echoes of Lost, the most notable being the opening moments of the series; a devastating highway pileup that is similar to the wreckage of Oceanic Flight 815. But the show quickly establishes itself as a different beast. It’s not about survival — it’s about solving the puzzle.

FlashForward is indeed its own unique beast; it barely even follows the novel it was based upon. The characters are much different than those in the novel; the very nature of the flash itself has been altered so drastically that I no longer feel that reading the novel (a great read, by the way) spoiled my viewing experience of the series at all. This isn’t True Blood; Goyer and Braga simply took the basic concept of the novel and gave it their own interpretation.

The characters of FlashForward are just as interesting as the premise itself. Mark Benford, played by Joseph Fiennes, is a relatable protagonist. A former alcoholic, FBI agent Benford is in a playful relationship with his wife, surgeon Olivia (Sonya Walger), and together they have a young daughter, Charlie. The dynamic between the two is fun to watch, and they surprisingly have good chemistry together.

Mark BenfordDemetri Noh (John Cho) is Benford’s FBI partner, and is slightly less experienced and more excitable than Benford. He also provides some of the comic relief through the fairly dark first episode, including a short monologue about why he doesn’t want to dance to “Islands in the Stream” at his wedding. Benford and Noh are supervised from afar by Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) and Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance), who later serve a greater purpose in the aftermath of the flashforward. Seth MacFarlane, best known for being the creator and a voice artist for the animated comedy Family Guy also has a role as an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, Olivia leaves Charlie in the care of the promiscuous babysitter Nicole (Peyton List), who has sexual partners in the Benford’s living room while Charlie is upstairs asleep. Olivia also has a troubled co-worker, Bryce Varley (Zachary Knighton), who is contemplating suicide prior to the flashforward. Mark’s friend and Alcoholic’s Anonymous sponsor Aaron (Brian O’Byrne) is also depressed, having lost his daughter in the war.

We meet these characters on the day of the flashforward, and only see them from the four-hour period prior to the flashforward onward. However, by the end of the pilot, most of the characters have become greatly relatable, especially after seeing their reaction to the two minute, seventeen second glimpse of the future which suddenly occurs during the middle of the day.

While I’m not going to tell you what any of the characters saw in their flashes, I will tell you that they’re definitely the most stylistic scenes I’ve seen on television in a while. Mark’s, which is featured the most prominently, plays like a Zack Snyder film on LSD — the film speeds up and slows down constantly, and is interspersed with random images of seemingly unrelated maps and diagrams. Though they’re not presented the way I would have presented them, they’re still very evocative and portray an almost-claustrophobia that affects the audience almost as much as it does the characters.

Mark Benford2That’s not to say FlashForward doesn’t have its faults. The acting is a little wooden at times, and I wasn’t always convinced by the sincerity of some of the dialogue. But all in all, these few negatives are heavily outweighed by the positive — especially the ending of the episode, an absolutely fantastic cliffhanger accentuated with a slowly crecendoing score that left me wanting to see more of the series, even as the ABC Studios logo rolled onto the screen to the same muted score. I actually stood up, pointed at the screen, and said to myself, “That’s what a cliffhanger is supposed to be.” If every episode ends like that, it’ll have viewers literally begging for more, especially since Dominic Monaghan doesn’t appear in the first episode (though I have a theory that we may have seen his character), and Jack Davenport only does briefly.

The show, through the first episode, only gave us a glimpse of what’s to come, and will hopefully continue to meticulously unfold into new layers throughout its run. As I’ve said before, if the rest of the series is anywhere near the level of quality that this episode is, then it’ll be one for the books.

FlashForward will premiere on ABC September 24 at 8/7c. Watch it.

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