FlashForward: Revelation Zero

Hey, remember this show? Started off strong last fall, then ran out of steam, then was pulled off of ABC’s schedule for a super-long break in the middle of the season for some extensive retooling? Then both the showrunners quit in rapid succession, remember? It’s back. Finally.

The two-part episode that aired last night was really pretty terrific. During the long break, the creative staff apparently got together, maybe cracked open a few beers, and had a good, productive chat about what had gone so horribly wrong: “Hey, remember in our first couple of episodes how a lot of really cool stuff happened and how we set up a bunch of really interesting mysteries, like those towers in Somalia and the man who was awake in the stadium during the blackouts? Our ratings were pretty good back then. And then remember how we had a whole bunch of slow-paced episodes that ignored all the interesting mysteries in favor of long, pointless detours like Bryce’s quest to find the woman in his flash forward, and Aaron’s daughter’s drinking problem, and Mark and Olivia’s marital squabbles, and our ratings pretty much flatlined? Maybe we should go back to having fast-paced, interesting episodes, huh? Does that make sense?”

I’m going to get the Nicole-Bryce plotline over with fast, because it was the only draggy part of an otherwise sterling night of television. While volunteering at the hospital, Nicole catches a glimpse of the man she saw drowning her in her flash forward. She also gets involved with a support group called Sanctuary, which is run by a former window washer named Timothy (Gil Bellows) who saw himself as a great religious leader in his flash forward. Timothy and Nicole talk about God’s role in the flash forwards for much too long. She then takes Bryce home to meet her eccentric mother (Lindsay Crouse), who wears angel wings over her bathrobe, sets Bibles on fire, and glues 1989 pennies to the living room wall. A little of this goes an awfully long way.

On to the good stuff: At the FBI headquarters, Stan bawls Mark out for his Hong Kong escapade, Janis and Vreede interview Olivia about Lloyd getting abducted right in front of her, and Simon searches for beer. The MVP award for this episode goes to Dominic Monaghan in a landslide. Coming in a distant second is Michael Ealy, making a repeat appearance as smug, mean, awesome CIA Agent Vogel, who joins up with Demetri, Janis and Simon to locate the men who kidnapped Lloyd.

On Stan’s orders, Mark meets with a department psychiatrist (Paula Newsome) to discuss why he’s been such an incompetent jackass lately. His shrink really doesn’t seem to care about any of that. She notes, as so many have before her, that Mark’s booze-addled memories of the events of his flash forward add up to considerably less than two minutes, and suggests he might be repressing some of his memories. Under the influence of memory-enhancing drugs, Mark remembers more of his flash forward: He was talking on the phone to Lloyd, saying, “I just wish you were standing behind the eight ball when I came crashing through.” He also remembers saying, “The man you know as D. Gibbons lied to you,” and, most dramatically, “There’s going to be another blackout.”

Demetri and Vogel team up to search a train yard, on the trail of the ambulance in which Lloyd was abducted. Vogel gives Demetri a snappy lecture on getting his act together and not hanging out with losers like Mark, so Demetri takes a swing at Vogel, so Vogel wrestles him to the ground and pins him down. Okay, these two are awesome together. May I suggest that Demetri be reassigned as Vogel’s partner permanently? Vogel’s fun. They find the bodies of the ambulance crew stuffed in a train car, along with a phone case, but no phone. They trace the phone signal to the abandoned ambulance, which is wired with a bomb tuned to FBI frequencies. When FBI agents approach it, their radios detonate the bomb.

Janis and Simon search Lloyd’s apartment for his laptop, hoping to find clues to his disappearance. When Simon sends her to find him a beer, Janis gets knocked out by masked men in the kitchen. When she wakes up, Simon is gone.

Simon is taken to an abandoned building, where he’s locked in a room with a disheveled and confused Lloyd (“Good, I found you,” Simon says upon seeing Lloyd). Lloyd and Simon are introduced to their captor, Flosso, who is played by--wait for it--Ricky Jay! Very cool. Flosso lights a cigar and says, “Only villains smoke. We know that, right?” Then he throws the lit cigar in Simon’s face and proceeds to interrogate Lloyd about his search for tachyonic dark matter and his plasma-wakefield acceleration experiments. This pretty much makes it the brainiest interrogation ever. The questions are solely directed at Lloyd, who conducted the experiment on the day of the blackouts on his own: Simon, we discover, was at his dad’s funeral. Flosso drops a bombshell: He knows Lloyd didn’t cause the blackouts -- he just amplified them.

Left alone, Simon tells Lloyd about the events in his flash forward, in which he was strangling a man to death with his bare hands. Lloyd scrawls “Help Us” on the takeout menu for a cheese steak restaurant -- which is one of the pieces of evidence on Mark’s wall -- and slips it out the window. Flosso retrieve the menu and hands it back to him. He threatens to torture Simon, but Lloyd still refuses to tell him anything about his experiments.

Oh, and one of Flosso’s goons cuts off Simon’s pinky with a cigar slicer.

On suspension from the FBI, Mark investigates the clues on his evidence wall from his flash forward on his own. The Red Panda clue leads him to a humanitarian aid society that works in Somalia to supply clean water to the locals. He asks if he could possibly accompany them on one of their trips, but they shoot him down. When he returns to his car, a menu for the cheese steak place is tucked under his windshield. He visits the restaurant and discovers they recently changed locations. He asks for the address of the old place.

When Mark arrives at the abandoned restaurant, the door is locked, but he sees a gigantic eight ball painted on the window. Remembering his cryptic words to Lloyd in his flash forward, he drives straight through the window and has a big gunfight with Flosso’s goons. Simon grabs a gun, chases after one of the goons, says, “Word of advice: Next time, take the trigger finger,” and kills him.

See what I mean about Simon being the MVP? And you haven’t seen anything yet…

Paramedics arrive to transport Simon to the hospital. Flosso pops up in the back of the ambulance to chat with Simon: It turns out they’ve been in this together the whole time, though Simon hadn’t been briefed on the “cutting off fingers with a cigar slicer” part of the plan. Simon claims he’s done being Flosso’s bitch, and Flosso threatens to expose Simon unless he cooperates: Simon was the figure who was up and walking around at Detroit Oxide Super Stadium during the blackout.

Fun fact: “Detroit Oxide Super Stadium” is totally made up for the purposes of the show.

And we see what really happened to Simon during the blackouts: He was at his father’s funeral in Toronto, comforting his kid sister Annabelle. Then his driver whisked him away to a heliport and presented him with a ticket to the division playoffs at the Oxide Super Stadium in Detroit. Having just buried his father, Simon is in no mood for an impromptu baseball game, but the driver kind of insists.

At the stadium, he takes a call from the creepy man known as D. Gibbons, who instructs him to find his seat. There’s a container of popcorn at his seat, with a ring inside it. At D. Gibbons’s urging, Simon puts on the ring. The blackouts occur; Simon remains conscious, thanks to the ring. He walks into a tunnel and finds Flosso, who orders him to follow him.

Present day: Simon’s in the hospital, getting his pinky bandaged. Janis picks him up to keep an eye on him, but he feigns an allergic reaction to penicillin and gives her the slip. He flies to Toronto… and finds Janis waiting for him at the airport. Janis bawls him out for fleeing the country, and Simon quips, “Country is such a loose term. It’s Canada.” He asks for 24 hours in Toronto: His kid sister Annabelle recently ran away from home, and he wants to help his family look for her. Suspecting he’s up to something, Janis agrees. She puts a tracking device on his ankle, which Simon quickly deactivates. He slips away from Janice -- again -- and visits his former particle physics professor/mentor, only to find Janis waiting for him there as well. Because Janis can teleport, apparently.

Under Janis’s close scrutiny, he asks his professor if there’s any way to prevent a flash forward from happening again. His professor is not encouraging.

Janis has dinner with Simon’s family (his mother wonders why a nice girl like Janis hasn’t settled down with a boyfriend yet), which is interrupted by the surprise arrival of Simon’s Uncle Teddy… who turns out to be Flosso.

We see more of Simon’s adventures during the blackouts: Flosso/Teddy tells Simon he had Simon’s father murdered strictly to create Simon’s alibi: He was attending his father’s funeral in Toronto on the morning of blackouts; ergo, he obviously had nothing to do with them. Flosso has arranged for a private plane, unregistered with the FAA, to take Simon back to Toronto before anyone notices he’s been gone. He advises Simon to make up a good story for the events in his flash forward.

As soon as Flosso leaves, Simon murders Flosso's henchman with his bare hands, then later uses that story for his flash forward.

Simon’s missing sister Annabelle calls during dinner, claiming to have run away to New York. While Simon’s greatly relieved mother talks to her, Flosso secretly shows Simon a video of Annabelle held at gunpoint. He takes Simon outside and shows him the body of Simon’s professor, stuffed in the trunk of his car. He says he’ll kill Annabelle if Simon crosses him again. Simon calls his bluff in a spectacular way: He knocks Flosso down and compresses his chest repeatedly, cutting off his oxygen. As Flosso dies, Simon says, “I’m cutting out the middleman.”

Comments

Dan said…
Have to wait until Wednesday for this, but I'm looking forward to it's return. From your opening paragraph or two, it sounds promising.

Now... V, on the other hand...
Morgan Richter said…
I was impressed, Dan. It was much, much better than it had been before the break.

V returns at the end of the month. I don't know if I have the energy to face it again.
Dan said…
Re: V - I'm still struggling to find the enthusiasm necessary to watch Ep2 before Ep3 airs tomorrow night.

On the plus side, I kinda like saying 'Re: V'
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah. I held off something like a month and a half before watching the fourth episode of V. Such is my enthusiasm for the show.

Episodes two and three will probably not change your opinion much, Dan, but episode four was, in my opinion, the first episode that could reasonably be classified as "pretty durn good."

FlashForward, on the other hand, was great this week. Granted, that is due roughly 93% to the presence of the hobbit, who really kicked it into overdrive.
Patrick said…
Good to be back! Enjoyed the double episode and agree that the writers clearly regrouped and revised the whole thing. Some aspects are cheats - for example, Simon's FF (which we saw before) being a fix, and Mark learning new things about his FF which just happen to assist him this week. But the writers seem to know where they are going - finally.
Morgan Richter said…
Patrick! How the heck are you?

Yeah, there were definitely some cheats (I didn't quite buy that Mark's shrink would even notice, much less be so concerned about, the events in Mark's flash forward not totalling two minutes and seventeen seconds. By the way, did you notice that the actress who played the shrink also played the shrink that Niki/Jessica attacks in the first season of Heroes? Apparently she's the go-to actress for this kind of role). But they made up so much lost ground with this episode -- I mean, stuff happened! -- that I'm willing to be flexible.

The ratings were very bad -- as in, show-killingly bad -- which is probably no surprise after the long break. I can't help thinking it was a mistake to show this double episode -- which really seemed like two very separate episodes -- in one night. If they'd just aired the first half this week, then even if the ratings were bad, the second episode might benefit from good word-of-mouth. Since that Simon-centric second part was as good as (if not better than) the first half, it might've been enough to generate even more good buzz. Instead, they essentially squandered two great episodes on a very small audience.

I hope the remainder of the season can keep hitting this level. It was a nice change from the general aimlessness of the past few episodes before the break.
Patrick said…
I'm good! I've been reading all the posts - but haven't had anything to get involved with.

I'm not sure if all of these awesome 80s movies reached Ireland - or if they did I missed them. In any case, my nearest cinema was 10 miles away and it closed in the early 80s. So until I went to college I was hardly able to see movies in the cinema - which perhaps explains why I still get excited by trips to the cinema!

Also, I don't watch Psych (I'd probably like it, but have never seen it). Funnily enough I follow - and enjoy The Mentalist - and am aware that there is some real tension between those shows. I've always thought The Mentalist owes an enormous debt to Monk, a show which I loved. However I did feel cheated by the finale which showed that the writers hadn't been playing fair as they clearly just made something up at the very end.
Patrick said…
My point is that I like puzzles - and I can forgive some misdirection and a tiny but of cheating - but not something that just makes things up as it goes along.

I guessed the twist in Perfect Getaway (which I saw in New York) will still watching the opening montage and before being introduced to any of the characters. I also worked out the twist in Shutter Island within a few minutes, if I'm allowed show off a little.

So I want my television shows to give me a fighting chance of working out what's happening. FF before the break cheated quite a bit. So I hope this new FF has a story arc worked out.

The tower in Somalia is very interesting. It was built - I believe - in 1991 - and used a design that Simon had seem genuinely surprised to see. My theory - then - was that this was built by a future Simon who was directing things from the past. Hence my view that the flashforward was created in the future and rippled back through time.

Back in a second.
Patrick said…
But the new direction of the show is that there exists a shadowy organisation which has been involved with Simon since he was 13, having recognised his genius and potential. That means they have been involved with him since around 1989.

I don't believe the 15 year old Simon created the design for the Somalia tower, but the organisation certainly seems to have benefitted from his input. Not sure what this means. Still suspect a future Simon is a head of the organisation.

I agree that the two new episodes show that the writers have been told what works and what doesn't work. Mark is no longer as self-absorbed as he was - and he accepts that he was a jerk in the older episodes. He behaves well towards his wife and there is none of the tedious 'you cheated on me in the future' nonsense.

Nicole is still in it - but mainly to appeal to a certain demographic. I did notice that she seems to fancy the doctor now, something that wasn't there before.

Mark was reinstated super quickly! But necessary for the development of the show.

So cautiously optimistic, but what Morgan said about the ratings has been worried.

Enjoying Lost though! Hope it ends well!
Morgan Richter said…
One of the things that frustrated me about the first half of the season was the way key pieces of the mystery (little Charlie saying, "D. Gibbons is a bad man," the towers in Somalia, the video from Oxide Stadium) were put on a back burner, to the extent that our heroes seemed to have forgotten entirely about them. In their efforts not to reveal too much about the big mysteries too soon, I think they botched the pacing quite a bit.

It's definitely interesting to see how far-reaching and long-term the bad guys' apparent plans for Simon have been. They've had ties with him since he was a kid, they murdered his father just to give him an alibi on the day of the blackouts, they kidnapped his sister... In comparison to Simon, Lloyd now seems sort of bumbling and peripheral.

I greatly appreciate the writers mellowing Mark out a bit. Good move. I like imperfect heroes, but Mark was growing increasingly twerpy, what with his jealousy and moodiness. I have sort of a low tolerance for twerps.
levitatethis said…
Great recap! I didn't love this episode as much as you, but I blame that on what feels like ten months between this one airing and the previous one -- it took awhile for my brain to switch into gear.

However, I definitely want to second your props for Dominic who was fantastic. I was surprised at how impressed I was by him and his storyline.

With that said, I want to know whose job it was to decided what Toronto would look like on screen. I'm thinking mostly of the airport with the huge maple leaf(s). Seriously? No. But I loved that Toronto featured in the story because I'm a loser like that and my city doesn't reguarly pop up in shows/movies. And Simon went to UofT (my university) which also made me grin.

Yeah, I can be easy like that.
Morgan Richter said…
That Toronto airport was also the darkest, grimmest, bleakest airport I've ever seen, maple leaf decor aside. Is there some big Canadian power shortage I should know about? Because apparently the Toronto airport doesn't believe in keeping the lights on.

(This is telling: I was typing loose notes on the episode while watching it, and for that scene I initially typed "Simon arrives at the bus station..." until Janis showed up and specified that it was an airport. It just looked so grungy.)

Dominic. Yeah. He stole the episode(s) entirely. Simon is a nice blend of brainy, smug, dangerous, and likeable -- that's a hard combination, and he's pulling it off well.
Dan said…
Grim news. Turns out FF is not returning to Australian screens tomorrow night after all. In fact, there seems to be no word on when it is returning.

Annoying. If it maintains the current quality, I might have to look at, ahem, alternate methods of watching it.
Morgan Richter said…
Well, that's no good, Dan. OTOH, I'm sure this upswing in quality is a temporary thing, and within the next few episodes it'll go back to being passably entertaining, if kind of slow and contrived. So it might not be a huge loss for Australia.
Jed said…
Came across this while searching for a line you quoted, 'cause I couldn't quite hear it in the show itself. Thanks for the quotes!

I disagree about what works in the show. I liked all the slow character stuff (Bryce's Japan episode is probably my favorite ep so far), and I've always found Simon really annoying; probably my least-favorite character on the show, so to have this much time devoted almost entirely to his story didn't increase my interest.

I also found this one annoyingly repetitive: how many times can Simon give Janis the slip, then get refound/captured? I think it's great that Janis keeps finding him--I like it when they show her being competent--but annoying that she keeps losing him in the first place. (Come on: you're a smart and capable and resourceful FBI agent, and the guy who's trying to get away from you suddenly claims to be having a penicillin allergy attack. Do you: (a) dial 911 on your cell phone, or (b) run away around the corner looking for help?)

(Also: I suspect Janis is going to end up having Simon's baby. Feh.)

But the thing that I really disliked about this episode was Teddy/Flosso. He's Pure Cartoon Evil. He goes to ridiculous lengths, killing several people and torturing Simon, in order to get one single number out of Lloyd. Has he considered calling up (or breaking into) Lloyd's lab and looking at the data? Has he considered posing as a fellow scientist on the verge of a breakthrough and asking Lloyd for the number? No, he has to engage in a ridiculously complicated and deadly plot, just so the audience can see him being Pure Evil.

Likewise with what we learn about his role in Blackout Day. They kill Simon's father, arrange to have the funeral on a specific day, spirit Simon off to the US (crossing an international border for no good reason) just to put him in the stadium so he can appear on-camera, then fly him back to Toronto without the FAA knowing about it. An organization with the resources to do this could surely just doctor a security tape if it's really that important to them that Simon be seen on tape by the FBI. And why provide him with an alibi if they're going to make sure he's seen? Or, if it doesn't have to be him who's seen, why not just put someone else in clothes like his and have them wander around the stadium?

The whole setup starts to sound like something an insane Bond villain would put together.

Also: Flosso's Evil Organization Of Pure Evil has been watching Simon since he was thirteen. They're all-knowing and all-seeing. And yet they think that killing Simon's father and his mentor and threatening his sister are the way to get him in line? Haven't they observed the fact that Simon's mother proudly says explicitly: that Simon hates being pushed around, and takes revenge on anyone who does? This again just feels cartoony to me.

Anyway, I'll stop now. I'm glad to see that so many people liked this episode, 'cause I'm interested in seeing where the show goes and I would hate to see it canceled before we find out what's going on. And there were some things I liked about this episode, and it sure did have an awful lot of plot advancement. But overall, I'm pretty disappointed with the episode.
Morgan Richter said…
Hi, Jed. Simon's my favorite character currently, but if he's not your thing, I can easily see how this episode would seem pretty underwhelming. I think your points are reasonable; personally, I don't mind the big, overblown, ridiculous, cheeseball Bond villain nature of the Evil Organization of Pure Evil, because I like overblown, ridiculous, cheeseball Bond villains (there's something kind of fun about bad guys who are just that bad: They killed Simon's dad! And his kindly professor/mentor! And kidnapped his sister! And cut off his finger!). But point taken about their way-too-elaborate scheme to get Simon to the stadium and give him an alibi.

I liked this episode mainly because, hey -- stuff happened! It felt like wheels were starting to spin at last on some of the interesting developments that had been set in motion back in September-October and then largely forgotten.

Ratings this week were even lower than last week. I imagine it'll finish out the rest of the season, unless ABC has something ready to stick in its place, but I don't think there's any reasonable chance of renewal.
Dan said…
Hey! Finally watched this. I loved Cartoon Evil Flosso and his Evil Overganisation of Pure Evil. A little bit sad he was terminated so quickly. I can see all Jed's points and they're wholly valid. But I still found his ludicrous schemes jolly entertaining.

Even his name. "I'm Flosso! From the Evil Organisation of Pure Evil Dentists."

I was less a fan of Simon eluding Janis with his feigned allergies and other antics. Yes, Janis redeemed herself a little by refinding him each time and teleporting back to his side. But showing Janis as stupid doesn't make Simon seem smart. It just makes Janis seem stupid.

CIA Agent Vogel, OTOH, totally brought the awesome. CIA agents must get extra training in Superior Crimesolving Dickery that FBI agents don't get. I like that and if given the opportunity will apply to the CIA over the Feds.

And, of course, Mark solving crimes from future clues that he receives only after solving the crimes? I don't think I'll ever tire of that paradoxical nonsense.

Hell, I even liked the priest dude.

All in all, very happy with the return.

And, ergo, totally annoyed that the quality allegedly takes a serious dip from here.
Morgan Richter said…
CIA Agent Vogel, OTOH, totally brought the awesome. CIA agents must get extra training in Superior Crimesolving Dickery that FBI agents don't get. I like that and if given the opportunity will apply to the CIA over the Feds.

Vogel is my second-favorite FF character, right after Simon. He brings the awesome AND the dickery. Despite not actually being an FBI agent, he has in recent episodes more or less taken over the FBI's Los Angeles bureau. I'm not sure how that works out, honestly, but I'm glad of it.

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