Recap – FlashForward 1.22 “Future Shock”

Did you miss FlashForward‘s penultimate episode, “Countdown?” Read a recap here.

The series finale, “Future Shock,” begins on April 29th, the day of the blackout, at 8:42pm (nice Lost shout-out with the time!). Mark is being held in the Los Angeles detention center. Olivia and Charlie are at the beach. Nicole is sad, staring at Bryce’s drawing of Keiko until she gets up to leave. Keiko and her mother are at the airport. Finally, Bryce enters the immigration holding center. He asks the security guard Keiko’s whereabouts, but all she can tell him is that she left an hour ago. Bryce asks if he can have a phone number for her, but the guard denies his request. Seeing that the guard is reading a cheesy romance paperback, Bryce avails the guard of his flash and how he is in love with Keiko without meeting her yet. The guard seems intrigued, “Is that really what you saw in your flash?” When Bryce affirms his story, the guard responds, “You know, in my flash, I found $100 in my pocket, and I had no idea how it got there.” Bryce, catching on quickly, fishes out his wallet.

In Afghanistan, Aaron sits over his daughter’s body. He doesn’t understand, because in his flash, he clearly saw Tracy alive. Khmair, looking to humor his new friend, checks Tracy again…and detects a faint pulse! Tracy is alive. Meanwhile, Demetri, Janis and Simon pull up to NLAP. Simon says that if he can get into the lab’s mainframe, he will be able to trace the blackout back to, and identify, Hellinger’s conspiracy. He has a device that he can use to decode the computerized locks for the building, but he needs to get a receiver close to a guard’s ID card. Demetri scoffs, wondering how they’ll be able to get close to the security guards when they are trying to avoid detection; Demetri does not trust Simon in the slightest. Janis asks Demetri to trust her, and Demetri agrees. Just then, Janis experiences some stomach pains — is there something wrong with the baby? Demetri wants to take her to the hospital, but Janis refuses. Taking down this conspiracy is too important to her, so they will get the information they need, and then go to the hospital. At the L.A. lockup, Wedeck enters Mark’s cell and hands him his gun and badge. “Don’t make me regret this,” he warns Mark as they leave.

9:02pm. Wedeck is driving Mark home when they receive a call. Numerous bombs have been planted at FBI headquarters. It looks like Mark is coming with Wedeck back to the FBI. At NLAP, an SUV rolls and crashes near the security post. A woman, Janis, is slumped over the wheel. A security guard runs to the car, with gun drawn, and orders Janis out of the car. She exits the car holding her stomach, complaining of problems with her baby. Out of sight, Demetri and Simon huddle near an entrance to the lab. Simon’s device won’t decode the lock unless Janis gets closer to the guard’s ID. At that moment, she collapses into his arms. The device reads the entrance code and unlocks the door. Janis, however, seems to be in real distress. The guard calls for an ambulance as Simon pulls a concerned Demetri into the building. At the beach, Charlie asks her mother why, when it is almost 10:00, are they not going home. Does that mean that some things can change? Olivia answers in the affirmative, when she hears a familiar voice call out for Charlie. It’s Dylan, with Lloyd trailing closely behind. Their respective security details took Lloyd to Olivia’s location. Lloyd tells her that they need to go to her house to recreate the conditions of their flashes. If they don’t, he fears he will be unable to make the breakthrough regarding the blackout, the formula, and the QED. Olivia protests, but Lloyd tells her that he can’t do it without her — she is part of the equation.

As Bryce leaves the immigration center, Nicole arrives in the parking lot. She apologizes for keeping the information about Keiko’s location from him. He apologizes for letting he relationship between he and Nicole get to the point it did; he has always been in love with Keiko, and now that she is in L.A., he needs to find her. He was given a phone number for her, a number that is for a sushi restaurant right there in L.A., the one he saw in his flash. Nicole smiles a smile of loss, but congratulates Bryce on his discovery, before rushing off. At the airport, Keiko and her mother get in line at security. Keiko’s mother sees that her daughter is visibly upset at the prospect of leaving her mystery man. Keiko’s mother tells her to be careful in her search, before slamming a nearby TSA agent with her bag. A scuffle ensues as Keiko’s mother yells in Japanese and creates a scene, a diversion for Keiko to escape. Upon reaching the bomb scene at the FBI office, Wedeck tells Mark to stay in the car (reminds me of Chuck!), and that he was able to contact one of Mark’s friends. Wedeck dials a number on his phone and hands it to Mark. On the other end is Aaron. Aaron heard that Mark was having some issues, so they should talk about that instead of the fact that Aaron is in Afghanistan(!). Mark tells him about how he lost it and drank. Aaron reminds Mark that they always have choice to do or not do things, but Mark is only half-listening. Mark spies Hellinger being led out of the building. He hangs up with Aaron and exits the car to confront Hellinger. Hellinger taunts Mark for his condition (and the fact that he, Hellinger, was right about the future he predicted for Mark). Mark is unable to get much information from Hellinger, but vows to take him down. When Mark leaves, Hellinger catches the eye of a couple bomb squad members. He slightly nods, and the SWAT guys return the nod. Hellinger has people on the inside.

9:32pm. Olivia, Charlie, Lloyd and Dylan enter Olivia’s house. Charlie has a new goldfish to show Dylan, so they run upstairs. “My house is your house,” Charlie tells Dylan, a phrase that Dylan would repeat in his flash. Olivia remarks to Lloyd that they are only a few minutes form his epiphany. Should they jsut take their positions at 10:00? Lloyd says they should, “but I’ll keep my shirt on this time.” The two share a laugh. At NLAP, Simon enters the control center, but the door closes behind him, locking out Demetri. Demetri orders Simon to let him in immediately. Simon protests that he doesn’t know what happened, but Demetri doesn’t trust him. Again Demetri orders Simon open the door, which he does. Truly, Simon didn’t know what happened; Demetri is going to have to trust Simon. Simon extracts the QED ring, saying that it is Simon’s last bit of leverage. As a sign of trust, he gives it to Demetri. Back at the FBI, Mark is informed by Vogel that there are bombs on at least five floors. Mark figures they are coming after the Mosaic investigation, and if so, they will be going after Lloyd, too. Mark asks Vogel to secure Lloyd, who will be at Olivia’s house, according to everyone’s flashes. Vogel tells Mark that in his flash, he saw himself telling another agent that Mark was dead. Mark says he’ll be safe, Vogel just needs to secure Lloyd.

At Olivia’s house, Charlie comes downstairs to tell her mother that Dylan is doing something weird. They go up to Olivia’s bedroom and find Dylan writing a formula on the mirror. Lloyd notices that it links the QED, blueprints and blackout. It’s the formula for the Tachyon Constant, and Lloyd needs to solve it right now. In the FBI garage, the SWAT team meets up with the bomb squad. The bomb squad whips out some guns and mows down the SWAT team. After the massacre, they put on the masks Mark saw in his flash and make their way into the building proper. While Janis arrives at the hospital, Olivia remarks to Lloyd that she has now realized that although she has fought her flash, there they are, in the exact place their flashes depicted. “The future happened,” she remarks before moving in to share a kiss with Lloyd. Back at the FBI, Vreede and Wedeck are informed that Mark is inside the building. They follow in after him, and hear gunfire in the stairwell. They make their way toward the sounds in search of Mark, who is standing in his office, staring at his Mosaic board. “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” Mark notes to himself.

Bryce arrives at the sushi restaurant, but is denied entrance (despite his rather good Japanese). There is a private party so he cannot come in. Bryce pleads that he is supposed to meet someone there, but he is denied again. About to turn around, Bryce is stopped by the voice of a woman who recognizes Bryce as “Keiko’s man.” Upon hearing this, the manager lets Bryce in. Meanwhile, Keiko is trying to get to the restaurant, but is stuck in a tax in traffic. She eventually gets out and runs toward the restaurant. Nicole, upset at her encounter with Bryce, drives down a back road. An oncoming car swerves into her lane, causing Nicole to drive off the road and into a lake. Like in her flash, Nicole drifts deeper and deeper into the water.

9:55pm. Simon can’t find the correct file on the mainframe. Seeing that Demetri is remarkably tense, he assures the agent that Janis will be OK. Noticing that it is almost ten, Simon notes that he needs to send Lloyd a text message of some sort as that is what Lloyd saw in his flash. Simon decides on sending Lloyd a bit of a “wave formula” Lloyd used to use as his e-mail signature. Outside in the city, revelers count down the final seconds before 10:00pm. 3…2…1…Happy Flash Day! Nicole is sinking deeper into the lake. Tracy opens her eyes with Aaron hovering over her. Janis receives an emergency sonogram. Lloyd gets Simon’s text, and realizes that the Tachyon Constant is a wave, but not a constant at all. He calls Mark to tell him the information, and, using the completed formula, determines that the second blackout is to occur April 29, 2010…tonight! Keiko runs into the restaurant and sees Bryce. Nicole is grabbed out of the water. Janis’ doctor tells her that the baby is fine, but that it is a boy, not a girl as Janis was first told. Olivia comes out of her bedroom and looks over the railing at Lloyd (shirted) sitting on the couch. Vreede chases some of the intruders, and uses the electronic lock to continue after them (as he saw in his flash). Wedeck makes his way into the bathroom, and hides in a stall (similar to his flash). Mark, in front of the Mosaic board, recognizes that, unlike in his flash, the red connecting strings are missing. He takes out Gabriel’s book and puts the strings up. Mark writes down the letters indicated by the strings’ end points. They spell out “Ten-Fourteen pm.” The next blackout is going to occur in about twelve minutes! At that moment, the masked gunmen enter the floor of Mark’s office. Vogel arrives at Olivia’s house and tells the posted agent that “Mark Benford is dead,” before continuing, “He ran into the building. He doesn’t have a chance.” (Note: was this comment made as if Vogel was recognizing the futility of Mark’s efforts, that he was sad Mark was about to die, or was Vogel involved in Hellinger’s plot and was assuming, triumphantly, that Mark was about to die? Discuss.) Everyone’s flashes came true, almost exactly.

The two men without a flash, Simon and Demetri, still work in NLAP. Simon discovers that the mainframe is actually running a clone, obscuring the real mainframe from Simon. Simon is able to break the clone, and access the information for which they were looking. He copies the information on the conspiracy’s leaders and NLAP collider access to a jump drive for Demetri. Back in his office, Mark’s phone rings. The masked gunmen immediately train their fire on the phone, utterly obliterating Mark’s office. Near the lake, Nicole comes to, and sees her rescuer hovering over her. He says that he saw himself save a woman in his flash, but he thought he failed in his flash. He was glad he didn’t. His name is Ed. Just then, Simon notices that someone is trying to access the mainframe remotely. The intruder begins the collider commencement sequence. Meanwhile, the gunmen finally complete their shootout, and inspect the office. As they look for Mark, Mark actually crawls out from a vent, and kills his two assailants. Grabbing one of their pup-action shotguns, Mark runs from his office, shooting other attackers in slo-motion. Demetri pulls his gun on Simon, but Simon insists that he isn’t the one who started up the collider. He is doing everything he can to stop the commencement sequence.

Mark finds one of the bombs and sees that there are only eight minutes remaining until detonation. Using the elevator as a distraction, Mark is able to kill the remaining masked men in his immediate area. Mark calls Wedeck and tells him to inform the President, NTSB, etc. that another blackout will occur at 10:14pm. More masked gunmen search for Mark as news of the second blackout is broadcast around the world. Mark calls Olivia and tells her about the second blackout. He tells her that he loves both her and Charlie. Olivia tells him she’s glad to hear from him, to be careful and that she’ll see him soon. Mark, however, simply says, “Goodbye.”

Simon tells Demetri that he can’t shut down the collider so he should put the QED ring on. Demetri didn’t have a flash the first time, so he doesn’t want the ring — he wants to see his future. As the collider fires and gets up to speed, Mark runs toward his office (and the helicopter hovering outside?). The -as-fast-as-light particles slam into each other, and the blackout occurs. Multiple images are seen, including one of New Year’s Day 2015. During the blackout, Janis, knocked out in a wheelchair, is taken away by an orderly wearing a QED ring. It’s Lita, Hellinger’s henchwoman who brought Simon to Hellinger in “Negotiation.” Back to the flashes, a young blonde woman is seen staring at a window. A male voice asks her if she is OK? She turns around and says, “They found him!” The flash disappears as a pair of young eyes are opened. They are Charlie’s eyes. At that moment, the bombs detonate, and the FBI building is reduced to rubble.

Commentary

And so it goes, FlashForward is no more. I have to be honest, I kind of upset about that, especially after this final episode. Although it bounced around between the different stories incessantly (something I have complained about a number of times before), in this case, the bouncing actually built up a lot of tension leading to the second blackout. The reveal that the second blackout was going to occur that night was pretty good. With the exception of Mark’s ridiculous running style (what’s with the open hands??), I thought everything about this episode really worked, and was FF at its best. Yes, there wasn’t much character development, per se, which is what the first half of the season lacked, but, at least for me, seeing how these characters arrived at their pre-seen futures was intriguing and well-executed. Further, I thought they introduced some really interesting ideas that would have been fun to see play out over upcoming season. Was Vogel on the side of the conspiracy? What was going to happen to Janis, now in the hands of the conspiracy? Heck, how would have the Bryce/Keiko and Nicole/Ed relationships worked out (yes, I even enjoyed those, now that Bryce and Keiko were together)? And of course, what happened to Mark and who was the male voice with Older Charlie (although, didn’t Older Charlie look a little too old for what current Charlie would have looked like in five years?)? Would the show really have kept Mark apart from his family for the next five years? These questions were all important enough, and well-established enough, that for the first time in a couple weeks, I was actually upset the show was cancelled.

Now, why was it cancelled? Well, I think a few elements conspired together to do in the show. First, was the initial marketing plan to try to establish FF as the replacement for Lost. Maybe no particular advertisement said “FlashForward is the new Lost!” but it was clear that was how ABC was pushing it. From casting two Lost vets (Dominic Monaghan and Sonya Walger) to putting an Oceanic Airlines ad in the first two minutes of the pilot episode, to numerous Lost Numbers references, the comparisons were inescapable. When the show didn’t hit the same creative high notes as Lost, the show was at an initial, and major, disadvantage.

Now why didn’t it hit the same high notes? Well, Lost first and foremost, was a show deeply committed to character development. Yes, it can be argued that it got lost in its own mythology for a huge chunk of the series, but that was only after the characters had been developed (for the most part), and the best episodes were always those that revealed more about the characters themselves, and how they reacted to the mythology around them. FF was so clearly enamored with its concept from the beginning, that it never took time to develop any of its characters during the autumn part of its season. I mean, really, who were you connected to at the end of the first ten episodes? Me? Really no one, but if I had to pick, I’d say probably Olivia, Janis and Demetri. Unsurprisingly, these were the three strongest acting performances given. These actors took the very thin gruel of character development that was written into the scripts and made the most of it. Still, these characters were more defined by the concept (Demetri had no flash; Janis is a lesbian, how is she pregnant in her flash; Olivia is with another man in her flash), than by any actual character development. This problem was brought into relief when the show returned in the spring because there was a sudden, marked and welcome shift to character development, starting with the episode about Simon. The episodes were much better in the spring, but by then, it was a little too late because of…

…the Danged Hiatus. This is a trend that I am really not enjoying. As you may remember, FF debuted in September 2009, and finished its “fall season” the first week of November. It didn’t come back until mid-March. That was four full months without the show. Moreover, ABC didn’t really promote it at all during that break. Yes, as the spring debut got closer, there were a few commercials, but for the better part of those four months, casual viewers would have had no idea the show existed. Now, FF was not the only show to do this; Glee had a similar (and actually longer) break. Fox, however, was smart about this. You couldn’t go longer then a couple hours without hearing about Glee. There was the controversy over NBC rejecting a Glee float during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A DVD of the fall season was released. A CD was released. The actors did a mall tour. Sneak peeks of the spring season were leaked months in advance. All of this was done to keep the show in people’s minds throughout their hiatus, and that doesn’t count the numerous commercials, bus stop ads, magazine ads, even flash mob performances, also used to promote the series. Fox did right by their freshman series on hiatus; ABC did not. These mid-season breaks make sense with established series that have a following, and I know that the series wanted to re-tool itself creatively (thank God it did), but when a show is looking to find its footing, banishing it from the airwaves for four months with no promotion is television malfeasance.

So, if the characters were a little more developed, and the show didn’t try to be the next Lost, and such a long break didn’t exist, would FF be coming back next season? I think it would have. The concept itself was actually pretty cool. Remember, the debut of FF did a great ratings number, so the interest was there. It was just a number of missteps both creatively and in management, that did in this once-promising series. And oh yeah, a leading actor who could do a convincing American accent would have helped, too. (I kid! I kid!)

There you have it folks. The end of FlashForward. What did you think of the final episode? Did you see potential in where they were going with the show? Would you have continued to watch? How would you have improved the series? Please leave your questions, comments and theories below. I’m still scouting out the new fall shows to see what piques my interest in the “serial mystery” genre, but The Event on NBC looks interesting. Is there anything you have seen that you’d like to start a discussion about? Please let me know via Twitter (twitter.com/MikeNJD) or email (michael@tvovermind.com), and we can start a community here at TVOvermind for our new favorite TV obsession (and all your summer TV news!). Until then, I’m off to swear to all the glorious choirs in heaven.

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