FlashForward, Episode One: No More Good Days

Okay, wow, that was great. Really, really top-notch. In fact, the only part of it I’m a little noncommittal about is the title: Given the option of calling it either Flash Forward or Flashforward, they went with… FlashForward. Yeah. It just looks wrong, doesn’t it?

FlashForward opens on a scene of devastation in downtown Los Angeles: Joseph Fiennes, who plays FBI agent Mark Benford, crawls out of an overturned car calling out for someone named Demetri. Cars are overturned, people are lying unconscious… It’s madness.

There’s a flashback (FlashBack?) to four hours earlier: Mark and his trauma surgeon wife Olivia head off to their respective workplaces, leaving their young daughter Charlie in the care of babysitter Nicole. Olivia tries to get in touch with surgical intern Bryce, who is ignoring her call while wandering aimlessly around the Venice Pier, looking moody and soulful. He pulls out a gun and places it under his chin.

Mark sits in the back of an AA meeting, at which his sponsor, Aaron, relates the story of how his daughter was killed in action in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Nicole has sex with a hot guy on the couch in the Benford house.

Mark and his partner Demetri, played by John Cho (John Cho!) stake out an SUV, which is occupied by two men, Khalid and Omar, and an unidentified blonde woman, who are suspected of planning to detonate a dirty bomb. Demetri talks about his upcoming wedding and his distress about having to dance to “Islands in the Stream” at the reception. This actually seems like an extremely reasonable fear to me. That’s a terrible song. But catchy! Mark and Demetri get into a high-speed chase with the SUV. They’re skidding out of control, hitting cars, about to crash into a random oil tanker… and suddenly everything changes...

Mark finds himself in his office at night, swilling booze. There’s a bunch of notes and photos pinned to the wall: he sees what seems to be a case name, Mosaic, and some random crap, including the phrase WHO ELSE KNOWS? written on a calendar page for April 29, 2010. Mark wears a knotted friendship bracelet around his wrist. Masked gunmen burst into the office. One has a tattoo of three stars on his forearm. They’re about to shoot Mark… and then he finds himself back in the present, in an overturned car, with chaos erupting around him.

Bryce wakes up on the pier and sees everyone else lying on the ground, slowly coming to their senses. In the ocean below the pier, a surfer shouts for help: There are people lying unconscious in the water. Bryce runs to assist. Olivia regains consciousness on the floor of the hospital, in the middle of operating on a patient.

Mark searches for Demetri. The oil truck explodes and spews fireballs all over the place, as oil trucks are wont to do. Mark looks at the buildings of downtown Los Angeles, which are surrounded by billowing black smoke. Stuff explodes, buildings burn. A helicopter crashes into the… shoot, it used to be the Sanwa building, but I don’t think it’s called that anymore. That cool greeny-browny building on Wilshire and Figueroa? (Ah, I see it’s now known as Figueroa at Wilshire. Catchy!) Mark finally meets up with Demetri, and they survey the devastation.

Nicole wakes up on the couch with her boyfriend. She runs upstairs to check on Charlie, who looks thoroughly freaked out. Charlie claims she had a dream: “I dreamed there were no more good days.”

Mark and Demetri find the SUV they were chasing, with Khalid and Omar dead in the front seat, and arrest the unknown blonde woman. Demetri takes her into custody and tells Mark to go check on his family. Mark runs through downtown, through streets crowded with stalled traffic, avoiding downed electrical lines and looters. Bizarrely, a kangaroo hops down the street. In a shop window, televisions show scenes of worldwide destruction and chaos.

In the hospital, Olivia preps a severely injured young boy for surgery. Even though she has no idea who he is, he refers to her by name in his semi-conscious state. Bryce shows up to help.

Stan, the FBI director (played by Courtney B. Vance, otherwise known as the man who had the good sense and great fortune to marry Angela Bassett), assembles his staff in a meeting. They’ve determined that the flash forwards (title be damned, that's how I'm spelling it) affected everyone worldwide at the same time, and that they lasted for exactly two minutes and seventeen seconds. The devastation is massive: the FAA reports 877 downed aircraft in the United States alone. Mark points out that he wasn’t unconscious during that time -- he had a very clear, very precise vision, which he doesn’t believe was a dream. Everyone begins to realize they all had a vision of April 29, 2010, at ten p.m. -- about six months from now. One of the FBI agents found himself in London during his flash forward, meeting with a London field agent. He calls her in London and verifies that she had the same exact vision, thus confirming that it wasn’t a dream or a hallucination, but a vision of the future.

Everyone compares visions: Demetri, ominously, claims he blacked out and saw nothing. Fellow FBI agent Janis found herself getting a sonogram, even though she’s not currently pregnant (and has no plans to be, and indeed seems kinda bummed and weirded out by the idea). Janis suggests starting a website where everyone can record their flash forward experiences to search for patterns of events to help figure out the cause. Stan assigns Demetri, Mark and Janis to the investigation.

Mark tries to remember everything that was taped to the wall of his office in his flash forward: the word Mosaic, the name D. Gibbons, a photo of a burned doll, the phrase Blue Hand. Demetri and Mark start to assemble the wall according to Mark’s memories. Demetri feels a little squirrelly: he blacked out during the worldwide flash forward, which he figures means he’ll be dead in six months.

Olivia and Bryce discover the mother of the boy in the trauma ward died in an accident. Bryce tells Olivia about his suicide attempt. In his flash forward, he was alive. Thus, he’s not destined to kill himself.

Mark confesses to Aaron that he saw himself drinking again in his flash forward. Aaron can top that: in his own flash forward, he discovered that his dead daughter Tracy is still alive.

(Off topic, but at this point ABC showed a commercial for the remake of V, which starts in November and which looks pretty darn good. Wow, ABC is firing on all cylinders this season.)

Mark and Olivia nuzzle with their daughter, then nuzzle in bed. It’s kind of a draggy scene, actually, but the episode as a whole has been so bang on that I’ll easily forgive it. Olivia confesses that she was with another man -- one she’s never seen before -- in her flash forward. Meanwhile, in the trauma ward, the injured boy’s father comes bursting in to see his son and talks to Bryce -- it turns out he’s the man in Olivia’s flash forward.

Charlie tells Mark she had a bad dream and gives him the friendship bracelet he was wearing in his flash forward.

At the FBI office, Janis tells Demetri she’s been searching through surveillance camera footage of the exact moment when everyone worldwide passed out. She shows him tape of a baseball stadium in Detroit, in which everyone lies unconscious… except for one figure in a dark coat who is up and walking around.

Yeah. That was a great start. Very happy with that. High marks.

Comments

Dan said…
I have not yet read your recap, because I believe we're getting this episode FastTracked!!™ from the US early next week (Tue? Wed?)

But I'm very excited about this - and from the opening sentence I read of your recap - I may well be right to be so.

So I'll be back here mid-next week. Keep the comments flowing until then...
Morgan Richter said…
Hey, even if it's just you and me, Dan, we'll have our own weekly conversation about FlashForward. The opening episode was pretty awesome.
levitatethis said…
So far this is the strongest pilot of the new season. I thought it worked quite well and I really liked the pacing -- people realizing and accepting they'd had shared visions or saw the same date in the future. I'm excited to see how this moves forward.

BTW I saw the pilot for "V" at Comic Con. I didn't love it but I'll give it a shot to see if it pulls me in.
Morgan Richter said…
It was really clean storytelling: all major characters got a nice setup, the plot was firmly established, and we've already got a sound idea of where this season will go, even if the exact path is a mystery. I agree with you -- the pacing was spot on. Refreshing.

It's not often that I get to speak of my alma mater in a non-disparaging way, but the show's co-creator/showrunner, Dave Goyer, graduated from my degree program at USC's film school. (He was four or five years ahead of me, but I had dinner with him once with one of our professors -- at the time, he was best known for writing, I believe, Kickboxer 2, but he's since gone on to rule the world, one screenplay at a time.) You know how I'm sort of a martinet when it comes to the sloppy scripts on Heroes? I have no such problems with FlashForward. Goyer learned his craft well. That script was tight. Adhering to the rules -- or at least knowing the rules and knowing which ones you can get away with breaking without damaging your work -- makes a huge difference.

The original V was cheeseball good fun (I missed it when it first aired, in 1984 or whenever, but caught it in college and got inexplicably obsessed). I'm not expecting the remake to be any good, per se, but I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining the commercial made it look. I hope it pays off.
levitatethis said…
How cool about Dave Goyer! This pilot was very well constructed, interesting while being informative (yet still mysterious). Usually I'm not taken in by pilots (and I have to give a show a couple of episodes before I know if I'm in or out). "Lost" was a pilot I really loved...so was "Heroes". In terms of longevity that's one hit and one miss. I have my fingers crossed for this show especially since it sounds like the team behind it took cues from what worked and didn't with other shows of this type of nature.

I remember "V" the first time around! I used to watch it. Having seen the pilot, it's decent but there were parts of it that felt too rushed to me. It was as if the show felt it had to cram in as much as possible to move it forward.
Morgan Richter said…
I was struck by the gap in quality between FlashForward and the recent Heroes* premiere. I'm sure it helped that FlashForward obviously had a gigantic budget, what with fireball-spewing exploding oil tankers, but it's Heroes' own fault that its budget was slashed, thanks to the scary drop in viewership. I'd almost say the Heroes pilot introduced stronger characters -- I instantly glommed onto Mohinder and Peter and Hiro, whereas I felt agreeable but not strongly about everyone in FlashForward -- but the later character inconsistencies have pretty much sunk that show.

I think FlashForward has good potential to have a very strong, very involving first season. They might run into the Lost problem of trying to sustain viewer interest in a continuing mystery, but I think it's very smart that they've got a definite set point -- six months from now -- at which much, if not all, of the current mystery will be revealed. I'm in.

*Side note: Kring also went to USC's film school (not the screenwriting program, I don't think -- just checked my alumni directory and they left his degree info blank. They give his address as "c/o HEROES", though, which is kind of fun), so I don't know what his excuse is.
Morgan Dodge said…
I haven't seen it yet either, and if things keep going the way they are I'll probably see it about the same time Dan does (free time? What's that?).

However based on the previews I get the same feeling of being drawn in that I've only ever gotten from a few shows before. Heroes and Lost both had that for me, at least to start with. Glad to hear that I may be right in my assessment.

Now about that free time to actually watch it...
Ron said…
Not sure how the writers left this hole ... 4/29/2010 is daylight savings time in the US. This means that the time difference between London and LA is 7 hours, not 8. 10pm in LA should've been 5am in London, not 6am. Thoughts? Just a mistake?
Morgan Richter said…
Good catch with the time zones, Ron -- I hadn't even thought of that. I think the writers might be right, however -- the UK goes on British Summer Time (BST) instead of GMT beginning in late March, so there still should be an eight hour difference. I ran it through a time zone converter using April 29, 2010, and 10 PM in Los Angeles should be 6 AM in London.
Morgan Richter said…
Whoops, Boy-Morgan, I didn't see there was a comment from you, too. Didn't mean to ignore you there. I think you'll respond well to the FlashForward pilot. As we're all kind of saying here, it was pretty reminiscent of the Lost and Heroes pilots, in that there's definitely a sense of Something Important going on. I'd go ahead and boot it up to Must-See status. Mark it in pen on your viewing schedule.
Lou said…
Hurrah! At last, a show that lifted the sourpuss expression on my face since Monday's Heroes. It was intriguing and entertaining. I like the fact they've already woven in some mystery - who was that person walking around in the footage? Why didn't John Cho's character have a flash? (I just want to give him a big hug. I have no idea why.) Also I enjoyed seeing Seth Macfarlane in a cameo role. He can be quite handsome really (yeah I know, sometimes I have questionable taste, don't judge me)

There were a couple of moments that concern me though. I am slightly put off by the echoes of Lost. A billboard for Oceanic Airlines? (raised a chuckle but will get tiring if other tie-ins appear) An out-of-place animal (kangaroo) wandering around? And not to mention some casting crossover in Sonia Walger and Dominic Monaghan. I just hope ABC isn't going to be unoriginal because this show has real promise.
Morgan Richter said…
Aw, I missed the Oceanic Airlines billboard entirely! And the Seth Macfarlane cameo! Yeah, it definitely lifted me out of my post-Heroes funk, too. Nice to have a show where I'm actually looking forward to future episodes.
Lou said…
The Oceanic billboard was in the background when Mark & Demetri were on the stakeout in their car near the beginning of the episode. Seth was one of the FBI agents.

I totally agree with you. Something to look forward to is nice, Heroes really isn't doing that for me these days...
Patrick said…
Loved the episode and the recap! I spotted the Oceanic billboard and was amused so immediately began looking for other things - Red Panda was on a bus, and on the board, and already a lot of sites (official and unofficial) are using that to discuss the show.

I had a few theories (this is the bit I love).

1. The terrorist group are good guys. They were out to stop what happened but were too late. The good looking woman will become an important ally of Joseph Fiennes (and more?).

2. Most if not all of the flash forwards will come true. Certainly the ones with Joseph Fiennes and his wife. The trouble with people changing their destinies is that it ruins the concept of the flash forward. For this show to last more than one season we need additional flash forwards. But if we learn that they can be changed easily enough then it ruins the dramatic tension. It also makes the future glimpses as reliable as a Heroes visit to the future.

I loved the relationship between Fiennes and his wife and all her little notes and texts to him. Really sad that it will go horribly wrong in the next few short months.

I don't believe that the guy who saw nothing will die. That would be a little too predictable, although fair play to them if they do kill him. I'm not sure about the coma option either. I had some crazy ideas - such as that he was the man moving around in Detroit after some kind of FlashBack or move back in time or something. But that seems unlikely. I think they'll have something clever to explain why he saw nothing.
Morgan Richter said…
I bet you're right about the terrorists -- just the fact that they were hanging out with a hot blonde woman is probably television shorthand that they were on the side of the angels. Yeah, I hope that the bulk of the flash forwards come true, just because it gets a little self-defeating, dramatically speaking, if they can be easily prevented. And I'm interested to know what the deal is with John Cho's character not having a flash forward -- when he was first claiming he just blacked out, I wondered if he did in fact flash forward, but it was too disturbing/unsettling/omnious for him to reveal. His later confession to Joseph Fiennes about how he thinks he's going to die, though, seemed genuine. I'll be interested to see how it plays out.

I'm glad they seem to be having fun with the show, what with leaving cool little clues for the audience to find. They're doing a good job of sucking viewers in -- and hopefully keeping them interested through the season.
Patrick said…
I also think the portrayal of the young daughter was brilliant - and a little unsettling - she seems to be very upset at how badly things turn out in six months. She seems profoundly disturbed, so I think that will prove significant.

I thought Jack Davenport looked a bit creepy when he was lounging on the sofa. No wonder Fiennes started drinking again.

I didn't want to use the words 'hot blonde terrorist', but yeah, she's important.
Morgan Richter said…
Oh, good lord. I'm starting to think I watched this with only half a brain. Of course that was Jack Davenport -- which probably would have never dawned on me if you hadn't pointed it out, Patrick. Yeah, speaking hypothetically, I'd probably start drinking if my (hypothetical) wife was shagging Jack Davenport.

That little girl was great. I absolutely agree. I'm interested in finding out what her flash forward entailed, since she seemed thoroughly wigged out by it. And the phrase "no more good days" is pretty evocative.

I gather this whole thing is based on a book, which I have not read, and will not read until the end of the season. But I'm curious to know how closely the series dovetails with the book.
Patrick said…
I haven't read the book either but I have read the wikipedia entry for it, much as I give out about wikipedia. A few names are similar but the stories are different.
Morgan Dodge said…
I did finally watch it, and decided to move things around so my TiVo catches it the first time around instead of on the Friday rerun.

I love little things to watch for like an Oceanic billboard, and a kangaroo wandering the streets. I feel like when stuff like that starts showing up I watch a show more closely to catch more of it. It also makes me more grateful for TiVo, so I can rewatch.

There were parts of it that tied in directly to the Lost opener. Regaining consciousness in a strange place, with a disaster around you, the big explosion, and a big fat flash back to before the incident. Pretty much exactly how Lost started. I think I'm okay with that since there's no island, no smoke monster and the addition of a worldwide experience of the events. Still, I can't help but feel like someone, some where really studied the Lost opener when putting this together.
The billboard is funny.

Let the theories fly. I think they will find more than just the one person didn't black out. But why?
Morgan Richter said…
I thought the kangaroo hopping through the streets of downtown Los Angeles was such a cool image that honestly I don't care if it never ties in with anything else ever again. Loved that.

I don't think I've formed any good guesses yet as to the cause of the flash forwards. I sort of suspect we're going to end up in 12 Monkeys territory by the end of the season, i.e. an impossibly cool time-shifting mystery where, as you go along, you start to realize the solution won't be quite as awesome as the initial setup would indicate. Still, it seems like they already have a very clear endpoint to move towards, and that's going to help a lot in terms of keeping things from falling apart late-season.
Dan said…
Gosh. I'm not sure there's much more to add. Y'all seem to have covered everything already. Definitely evoked the Lost pilot (which many years ago I received via CD from a particularly generous US type whose initials may or may not be MR). And, yeah, that's no bad thing at all.

The final mystery of the awake man was just enough to get me salivating for next week.

I read somewhere that this initial FlashForward mystery will be done by the end of Season One (which makes sense). I'm curious to see where they go next. I also read they'll need two seasons to bring everything to their ideal conclusion, so at a minimum they want three seasons. But they can stretch the middle...

Referring back to Lost, assuming FF is a success, I strongly recommend they set an end date ASAP. Don't stretch those middle seasons too far. If there's an episode where we discover how one of the FBI agents got their tattoos in Thailand, I will be cross.

And I don't know why you think a kangaroo's so odd. We see them hopping down the Sydney CBD every day.
Morgan Richter said…
Heh. Dan, I'd forgotten I'd sent you the Lost pilot (and, in the same shipment, Sorority Boys. Important viewing material, all of it, and I saw no reason you should be deprived just because of geography).

Yup. I'm hoping they don't follow the Lost model too closely, of the "awesomely involving first season/filler filler filler filler/awesomely involving later seasons." At least I've heard (from multiple trusted sources) that the later seasons are awesomely involving; I bailed out during one of the filler seasons and never quite got around to returning. I hope FlashForward avoids that pitfall.
Dan said…
One of these days, Morgan, I'm going to get a whole heap of commenters from here together and we're going to give you a Lost intervention...

But back to FlashForward. You know what I would absolutely love? If one of those very first cards that Mark stuck on the wall turned out to be only stuck on the wall six months from now because he'd put it there now because of the flash forward he had. ie, they meant nothing at all, other than completing a meaningless time loop.

That would make me far happier than anybody could reasonably expect.
Morgan Richter said…
One of these days, Morgan, I'm going to get a whole heap of commenters from here together and we're going to give you a Lost intervention...

I know, I know. Someday soon, I'll break down and Netflix all those seasons I missed and watch them all in one fell swoop. But today is not that day.

You know what I would absolutely love? If one of those very first cards that Mark stuck on the wall turned out to be only stuck on the wall six months from now because he'd put it there now because of the flash forward he had. ie, they meant nothing at all, other than completing a meaningless time loop.

I could support this 100%. I hope that's what happens. Because time loops are much more entertaining if there's a healthy dose of self-amusement thrown in the mix.
Jason Gilman said…
We have a winner. Finally caught the opening episode at lunch today and it's definitely good and promising. At this point I've dropped Heroes (aside from Morgan's recaps) so I've got an open slot for a quality show upgrade like this one.
Morgan Richter said…
Ideally, Jason, everyone will get to the point where they're no longer watching Heroes but just reading my recaps. That will free me up to just make up preposterous lies about what's happening.

But FlashForward, thus far, is off to an awfully good start. I think it might be a keeper.

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