In case you missed last week’s episode of FlashForward, “Blowback,” you can read a recap here.
This week’s episode, “Better Angels,” begins with a helicopter flying over the Ganwar Province of Somalia. Clad in Red Panda uniforms, Vogel, Demetri, Janis, Simon and a translator are making their way to the remaining tower. The translator teaches them a couple useful phrases, including how to ask what someone saw in their flash. He asks Janis what she saw, and she responds that she’s baking bread in her flash. Demetri says that he thought she was supposed to be “baking bread” this weekend. Unfortunately, Vogel’s field trip closed that possibility. The team lands and makes their move toward the tower. Simon asks Vogel for a gun, but is told that he’s just there to observe and guide; he should just stay close and out of trouble. Back in L.A. Mark brings Wedeck the information Lloyd told him about D. Gibbons, aka Dyson Frost. He shows Wedeck the illustration of the Hydra, and explains that Dyson Frost supposedly died in 1990. Mark still doesn’t know how this all fits in with what Charlie saw in her flash because she hasn’t told him yet. He wants to know what he should do? Wedeck tells him “Make like Hercules, and slay the Hydra.”
The team in Somalia moves toward the remaining tower, which is curiously marked with a “666.” “Beware all ye who enter here…” Simon begins to quote when gunfire rings out. Rebels, led by the warlord, Abdi (played by Owiso Odera) advance on the team. Vogel orders the translator to tell Abdi that they are aid workers and are protected under the Geneva Convention. The translator begins, but is stopped by Abdi. Abdi turns his gun at the translator and shoots him dead. He understands English so the translator is unnecessary. He orders his men to grab Simon, saying he saw Simon on Al Jazeera declare he was responsible for the blackout. But Simon is incorrect — God caused the blackout; Simon merely pushed the buttons. Abdi knows that the team is lying about their reason for being in Somalia, just like the foreigners before them. When he is asked, what foreigners were there before, Abdi responds that when he was a child, foreigners came to his village, promising to provide them with electricity by erecting five towers. One day, when Abdi was out of the village attending to the animals, he returned to find his whole village on the ground. He also saw a black camel, a symbol of death in Somalia, so he ran from the village. For Abdi, this was all part of God’s plan, it all had a purpose. He orders one of the team’s security brought outside. Once there, he is shot — the guard has served his purpose in the plan, just as the rest of the team will.
Back in California, Bryce is in the hospital bathroom vomiting (undoubtedly complications from his illness). He leaves the bathroom and literally runs into Nicole, spraying her belongings across the floor. As Bryce helps her pick them up, he notices her organic chemistry book. A heavy subject, he notes. Nicole has decided to try a pre-med class, but wants to keep it quiet secret in case she fails. Bryce tells her that he has faith in her, and that “Dr. Kirby” is a great doctor name. His original name was Martin Goathead, but changed it because Bryce Varley sounds better. The two laugh, but Bryce starts to cough. Nicole asks him if everything is OK. Bryce assures her that he’s fine, but he has to go tend to a patient. He’ll see her later.
The team in Somalia is watched over by a number of rebels. Demetri wants to do something; he’s not just going to sit around waiting for a bullet to be put in his head. “No, you’re waiting for three to the chest,” replies Vogel. “What did you say?” Demetri demands of the CIA agent,but Vogel just continues mocking Demetri’s impending death and the widow he’ll leave behind. Demetri punches Vogel in the face, and the two start a brawl. When the rebels move to break up the fight, Vogel and Demetri jump on them. Janis and the remaining CIA security guard take action as well and disarm the rebels. “I thought we said not to the face,” Vogel asks Demetri about their now-executed plan. “It was my ball to call,” Demetri contentedly responds. The team take the guns and make their way back toward the helicopter. They take out the two rebels there and equip themselves with better arms, including Simon, who now gets a gun. They hear something advancing toward them so they shoot toward the sound. Through the smoke, Abdi appears atop an armored vehicle. He doesn’t kill the team as he believes they have not fulfilled their part of the “plan” yet.
Olivia has her own plan. When Mark returns home for lunch, she shows him a flyer for a house in Denver. There are two hospitals there seeking a surgeon, and an FBI office, places for the two of them to work. This sounds great to Mark, but he can no longer deny his family’s connection to the blackout. He needs to know what Charlie saw, so he wants to bring her down to the FBI headquarters where she can talk to an agent who specializes in children. Olivia reluctantly agrees, but she wants the opportunity to speak to Charlie first.
In Somalia, the newly captured team tells Abdi that they are there to investigate the blackout. Abdi tells them that in his flash, he saw him speaking in front of a large crowd about the “better angels” which he has taken to mean the better warriors he will lead as conqueror of Somalia. He wasn’t sure how he will accomplish this fate, but now he knows. He will use the captured CIA agents (although only Vogel and the security guard are CIA) to get the U.S. government to ship him guns, tanks, planes and ships. When they refuse, Abdi kills the last security guard. He leaves them to contemplate their next move. Vogel refuses to make the call because he knows they are on their own; the CIA will not send the cavalry for this off-the-record mission. When Abdi returns and learns of Vogels refusal to make the call, he has Simon grabbed for execution. Just before the trigger is pulled, Janis tells Abdi that she knows about the “better angels,” but that Abdi’s prophecy is wrong. He pulls her into a separate room so she can explain herself. She tells him that he is quoting Abraham Lincoln’s speech about unity during the Civil War, and that is the message of Abdi’s speech. Abdi wants to know why he should believe her when she doesn’t know what he saw. Janis agrees, but knows someone who will know what he saw. She asks if Abdi has internet access, and when he provides her a computer, she calls up Mosaic. Janis finds someone whose flash describes Abdi’s speech. Abdi was actually speaking at a United Nations Peace Conference. Moreover, he was wearing a necklace with a large orange ball flanked by two smaller red ones (the episode’s title card flash). That was his mother’s necklace, but she has been dead since the blackout in 1991. Janis continues, telling him that his destiny is to stop the war in Somalia, and to do it without tanks and guns.
At home, Olivia interrupts Charlie’s successful game of Wii bowling. Using the example of Tim Tim & Squirrelio, Olivia tells her daughter that heroes help other people, even when it is difficult, and that she needs Charlie to be a hero and tell Olivia about her flash. Charlie is scared, but Olivia tells her that being afraid is OK and that she will protect her. Charlie still protests, saying that if she tells her mother about her flash, something bad will happen. Olivia assures her that it won’t, so Charlie begins. In her flash, Charlie hears Lloyd say that “D. Gibbons is a liar.” Dylan knows that people who lie are bad people, so “D. Gibbons is a bad man.” (Well, that was anti-climactic, no?) Charlie then sees some fireworks, so she moves to the kitchen door. She sees two men in suits outside. One of the men tells the other that “Mark Benford is dead.” This is what has been scaring Charlie so badly. Later, Olivia tells Mark about Charlie’s flash. Mark assures her that he will not be dead on April 29th as he will be in his office, but Olivia is clearly perturbed. When Mark asks her not to worry, she says that she’s not. It’s just that “this is the part where I tell you we can escape all of this, but you say you won’t.” Olivia rises to leave, when Mark tells her that there is going to be a second blackout. He needs to see this through and try to stop it from happening again. Olivia, not turning toward him, simply walks out of the room.
The team moves to the tower (marked 66:6 by Abdi, referencing the Koran verse that reads “O you who believe, protect yourselves and your families from the Hellfire whose fuel is people and rocks.”). Simon is awed because when he designed the tower, it was designed to be built in the future when the appropriate technology would exist. Looking up at the decades old tower, Janis replies, “Welcome to the future.” Inside the tower, Simon wonders how if he designed the towers in 1992, they were built in 1991. Maybe someone else came up with similar plans? No, the tower is built exactly to Simon’s plans. Searching the tower, Demetri finds a chess board with a video tape hidden underneath. Fortunately traveling with portable power(!), he turns on the old VCR and plays the tape. A young boy appears and is asked what he saw. He tells of a flash where he was playing a game, which came true soon thereafter. Next, a woman with a necklace of an orange ball with two small red balls appears. This is Abdi’s mother. In her flash, she was looking for Abdi. She couldn’t find him, but she hoped that he’d become a great man. Next, Dyson Frost (aka D. Gibbons) appears on the video! He remarks that the villagers had flashed to a time two weeks after their blackout. Vogel turns to Abdi and tells him that God did not cause the blackout, it was simply man.
Simon finds a trap door in the floor. He opens it, climbs down the stairs and moves down a long hallway. With the team trailing, he comes upon a nuclear-powered linear accelerator. He figures that each of the five towers had one as a power source. Further, the accelerators, acting in concert, are what caused the beta field that resulted in the village blackout. Demetri dismisses the idea that only one accelerator would be sufficient to cause a global blackout. Simon warns him that even though Demetri doesn’t know them, the rules have changed since this tower was first built. Vogel, in the meantime, has moved down a hallway and found a door. The team rushes after him to assist. They open the door and move onto a balcony overlooking a large room. When they peer down to the floor, the find a room full of skeletons. The villagers were not driven off by war — they were executed. As the team investigates the skeletons, Abdi finds his mother’s necklace. The loss of his mother a second time enrages him, and he wheels on Simon, blaming him for the blackout. He throws Simon to his knees and aims his gun at Simon’s head. Two shots ring out, and Abdi falls; Vogel has killed the rebel leader. “‘Better angels.’ This was not supposed to happen,” Janis laments.
Back in California, Mark finds Olivia on the living room couch. He tries to make nice, asking if she wants something to eat, but she only has one thing on her mind: getting away from what they saw in their flashes. “Yes or no, Mark? You can’t have it both ways,” she warns her husband. Mark explains that both he and Olivia save lives, that is what they do. He can’t just walk away when he might be able to stop the second blackout. “This is how it happens,” Olivia comments, predicting the reason for the end of their marriage. She repeats resolutely, “Yes or no?” The two are left with everything — their lives, their marriage — undecided.
The immediate drama over, Janis and Demetri share a drink given to them by Abdi’s men in thanks for killing Abdi and changing their destinies. “To another flash not coming true,” Janis ruefully toasts. Janis is sad that she’s not going to meet Willow, her unborn (nay, un-conceived) daughter. “She’s never going to get here.” Janis laughs, saying, “We just saw a mass grave, but all I can think about is my mythical baby.” She and Demetri laugh. He notes that the weekend isn’t over yet, and that he can take one for the team and get her pregnant. “First off, gross,” Janis says, “Second, I’m gay.” “And I’ll make you gayer,” Demetri replies. When Janis asks about how Zoey would take it, Demetri responds that chances are he won’t be around in a couple months, but Willow would. “Are you serious?” Janis sincerely asks. “Uh-huh,” Demetri responds.
Outside the tower, Simon walks up to Vogel, displaying the new rifle he procured from the rebels. Vogel doesn’t think Simon, a scientist, would know how to use such a weapon. Simon warns him that in his flash he was killing someone, and it wasn’t with a gun. He asks Vogel what he saw in his flash. Vogel thinks about it: he’s in a suit, talking on a cell phone. He walks up to another suited man, and says, “Mark Benford is dead,” before seeing a little girl inside the house he’s standing near.
Back at the hospital, Nicole is collecting graham crackers for a charity. Bryce sees her and tells her that since she cares so much about other people, she is going to be a great doctor. Not if she can’t pass organic chemistry, she notes. Bryce has the remedy: his good luck calculator that got him through every exam he has taken. Nicole is touched, and remarks that after four years of college, four years of med school and four years of a psychiatry residency, they might finally be able to work together. Bryce reflects on this, and admits to Nicole that he lied to her earlier. He’s not sure he’ll be here in twelve years, due to his cancer.
Demetri, while packing up the evidence found in the tower, is playing the remainder of the video they found. Simon enters and asks Demetri what he’s doing up so late, noting the fuzz on the monitor. Demetri begins to respond when an image returns to the video. It’s Frost. “Hello there Demetri.” Frost is speaking to Demetri from 1991! “Got your attention, didn’t I?” ends Frost.
OK, now this is more like it. After last week’s big step backwards, FlashForward, took two steps forward this week. Although there was no real character focus (like the second hour of the spring premiere’s focus on Simon), its lack was compensated for by fast-paced action and some great twisty plot development. Of course, I’m speaking of Frost’s Speaking to Demetri from 1991 and Demetri’s possible impregnation of Janis. The former opens up a lot of interesting questions, including, how did Frost (this is the third name for Michael Massee’s character, but we’ll call him Frost instead of Gibbons) know Demetri would watch the video? The Occam’s Razor answer is that Frost himself flashed 19 years ahead and saw Demetri in the tower, but there may be a more complicated explanation. For the second time in the series, it has been noted that Simon designed the plans for the towers in 1992, but the towers were built in 1991. Has time travel been introduced into the series? How else can Frost’s knowledge be explained? Any ideas out there?
On the second twist, a popular theory may have come to pass: that Demetri is the father of Janis’ baby. I thought this was played very well by Christine Woods and John Cho. They didn’t play the possible cheap jokes that Demetri would want to have sex with a lesbian, or that Janis thinks male parts are gross (although she did make one joke about it). I truly believed Demetri’s desire to have a legacy if he is to die soon. Similarly, I completely bought Janis’ sadness that she might not know her daughter; she’s so sad that she’s willing to sleep with a man, and an engaged man at that! Speaking of, when Demetri doesn’t get killed (do you really think the series is going to kill of John Cho? I don’t think so.), he is going to have a fun time trying to explain this one to Zoey. This is, of course, all assuming they did conceive a child. I’m glad they left this as an unknown for at least this episode.
Finally, I have to draw attention to another great development: the relaxation of Joseph Fiennes. A major criticism that has been laid against the series is that many people have been distracted by Fiennes’ performance as Mark. The audience just doesn’t buy him as 1) an American, and 2) an FBI agent. Personally, he hasn’t really bothered me much, but it is a sign when his (over)reading of “Because I was LOADED, OK?” has become one of the most notable and remembered parts of the series. What I have seen since the series’ return, however, is a more comfortable, and natural, Fiennes. I don’t know if it is the new showrunner, or just the actor having an opportunity to take a break and analyze his peperformance that has caused the change, but it is a welcome one. As an illustration, look at any Mark/Olivia scene from the fall and compare it to the Mark/Olivia scenes from this episode. Fienne’s restraint and subtlety are drastically improved. It is a very positive sign for the series — a series’ lead actor can’t be seen as a weak link in the acting department is a show is to survive.
Alright, that’s what I have for “Better Angels.” What did you think? Were you as jazzed by the plot twists as I was? How did this episode compare to the other episodes since the show’s return? Do you notice any improvements? Anything that still doesn’t work for you? Do you think, like I am beginning to more and more, think Bryce and Nicole are completely superfluous? Please leave your questions, comments and theories below. Be sure to check out TVOverMind over the next week for photos and promos for next week’s episode, “Queen’s Sacrifice” (wow, I’m really intrigued by that title!), and for all of your TV needs. Until next week, I’m off to fix the satellite TV.