FlashForward: The Garden of Forking Paths

It’s the Ides of March, 2010, the day of Demetri’s supposed murder. Zoey talks to her client, Alda Herzog, trying to get her to spill the beans about Demetri’s death. Alda demands an emergency hearing before she’ll say anything. Remember Alda’s early appearances on this show when she was spooky and interesting, what with her Sufi parables and ominous threats about dark, powerful forces beyond everyone’s comprehension? All that has been stripped away from her. Now, she’s just an irritating butthead.

We see a flashback to six months before the blackout: Alda meets with that impeccably-suited blonde Englishman who was one of Flosso’s henchmen (I think he probably died when Mark raided the warehouse and saved Lloyd and Simon, but I don’t care enough to go back and check). His name, apparently, was Hellinger. Hellinger takes Alda to meet Dyson Frost, who has black and white dominos set up in elaborate patterns inside a warehouse (Frost explains that this represents the titular garden of forking paths). Frost assures Hellinger that, provided Lloyd and Simon discover dark matter (which seems like a mighty big provision, actually), the blackouts will go off as scheduled.

Zoey arranges Alda’s emergency hearing, so Alda tells Zoey what she knows about Demetri’s death: In her flash forward, she overheard that Demetri’s body was found in Building Seven, though she doesn’t know what that means.

As Alda’s being transferred to a holding cell post-hearing, there’s a big explosion. Alda dives out a window and escapes.

Demetri is tied to a chair, positioned in front of a huge blackboard with an enormous timeline drawn on it. There are wires all around him, and Mark’s gun, rigged up inside some elaborate contraption, is pointed at his chest. Dyson Frost talks to him: In the 1980s, at some place called Raven River, Frost and his cohorts saw hundreds of possible futures in hundreds of miniature flash forwards. The timeline he saw is recorded on the blackboard. In all of the possible futures, March 15th is a significant day, as usually --though not always -- both Frost and Demetri die.

At FBI headquarters, Mark and Janis question Charlie about her encounter with Dyson Frost at the carnival. It’s an uphill battle, because Charlie is simultaneously the world’s least observant and most unconcerned witness. Finally, they get some details out of her: Frost talked to her about Dr. Seuss -- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in particular -- then gave her a print of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s painting of Oedipus and the Sphinx. On the back of the print is a scrawled message asking Mark to meet him at Union Station.

Vreede stops by the hospital to talk to Olivia about the homeless man who was shot with Mark’s gun. The man had a disposable cell phone in his possession, which contained the mysterious text message sent to Olivia back in October: “Mark was drinking in his flash forward.” Vreede asks her to come down to the morgue to identify the man; Olivia insists that this doesn’t involve her in any way, but grumpily agrees to accompany him anyway. What is with the Benfords? Why do they all suck so damn much? Seriously, Charlie could hardly be bothered to talk about her encounter with Dyson Frost, and now Olivia is acting exasperated and disgruntled about having to help Vreede follow up a very important lead about the kidnapping and imminent murder of her husband’s partner and close friend. There’s nothing about her words, actions, or body language that suggests she’s in any way concerned about Demetri’s fate. This is the problem I’ve been having with this recent cluster of episodes since the show returned from its long winter break: Nobody acts like a real human being.

Olivia doesn’t recognize the man in the morgue. The autopsy showed he had an enlarged hippocampus, which might be a sign he was a savant. Among his possessions, he had an address book belonging to a doctor who works with patients with eidetic memories. Olivia accompanies Vreede while he talks to the doctor. Considering how reluctant she was to come down to the morgue in the first place, I have no idea why Olivia is still hanging around at this point; Vreede can probably take it on his own from here. Anyway, the doctor has no idea who the dead man was.

Olivia and Vreede stop at an outdoor coffee cart, where Gaius Baltar, of all people, ends up in line behind them. Baltar says Olivia’s coffee order at the exact same time as she does, then informs her that he’s seen her in this line ordering coffee hundreds of time before, thanks to the Raven River experiments. When Baltar starts babbling about the blackouts, Vreede suggests he come down to FBI headquarters and talk with them. Baltar gets weird and squirrelly and wanders off. Er… Vreede, you are in fact a federal agent. Maybe you should go after the strange man who just walked up to you and delivered a very important clue.

Mark loiters in Union Station and waits for Frost while Janis and Stan keep him under surveillance. A kid wanders up to Mark and hands him a Superman backpack, telling him some guy paid him fifty bucks to do it. Superman, huh? We’re not expected to subconsciously equate Mark with Superman, are we? Inside the backpack is a Polaroid of Demetri bound to a chair. “423” is written on the back. Frost calls Mark and informs him he wants to turn himself in to the FBI, but he doesn’t want the people he works for to kill him. Knowing the FBI is listening to Mark’s side of the conversation, Frost cautions Mark not to say anything except the word “Figueroa” if he understands. Mark complies. Stan, listening in, says aloud for the benefit of non-Angeleno viewers, “It could be Figueroa Street in downtown L.A.” Yes, Stan. You all work in downtown Los Angeles, and Figueroa is a huge, well-known street, so that was not terribly insightful. It’d be like in Law & Order: SVU if Benson told Stabler, “Central Park: That’s the big park in the middle of Manhattan.”

Frost tells Mark to set his watch to count back from four hours and twenty-three minutes: That’s how much time Demetri has left. By this point, the characterization of Frost has become so senselessly gimmicky -- the Morse code messages through chess games, the secret clues in Dr. Seuss books and Ingres paintings -- that he’s been stripped of all menace.

Mark starts running. Following Frost’s instructions, he throws away his phone and his gun in the mens room, then finds an access card to something called a Zoomcar. Zoomcar appears to be totally made-up, but let’s assume it’s something along the lines of a Zipcar. Mark finds the Zoomcar and zooms off to Antelope Valley, then, armed with a compass and a water bottle, sets off on foot across a barren stretch of the desert.

Frost meets Mark out in the middle of nowhere. He pulls a gun, tosses him a pair of handcuffs, and orders him to put them on. Mark takes a swig from his water bottle and spits it in Frost’s face. It turns out he’s replaced the water with gas siphoned from his tank, which is pretty clever. What’s not clever is the way the writers chose to explain this to viewers: by having Frost shout, “Gasoline! It burns!”

So Mark gets the drop on Frost, but it all comes to naught, because Alda Herzog pops up, shoots and kills Frost, and hops on a motorcycle and drives off.





In recent episodes, we’ve now had two improbable sequences where the plot has been moved along by someone hopping on a magically-appearing motorcycle and driving off (first Marcie, now Alda). Believe me, one such sequence would have been more than enough.

Mark rifles through Frost’s briefcase and finds a series of photos and a chart, all of which were on his evidence wall in his flash forward. He’s out of cell phone range, so he hops in Frost’s car and looks through his GPS settings to see where Frost has been recently (Mark very helpfully carries on a running monologue to clue viewers in to his actions: “Frost’s vehicle!” “Where have you been, Frost?” It’s pretty clunky and awful, but it can’t top the wretched poetry of “Gasoline! It burns!”).

GPS has a record of an address on Ingres street, which Mark figures is tied to the Ingres print Frost gave Charlie. He speeds off to the address. With four minutes left before Demetri’s scheduled death, he finds a cluster of abandoned army barracks. He runs around like a lunatic shouting Demetri’s name, then calls the FBI for help. They clue him in to Alda’s “Building Seven” tip.

Mark bursts into Building Seven and finds Demetri wired to Frost’s death trap. Demetri cautions him to be careful not to trigger the mechanism. “If you try to put anything between me and the gun, it fires,” he says. Yes, but since something will be between you and the gun, it won’t really matter if it fires, will it?

Anyway, Mark discovers that One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is a clue to the order in which the wires should be pulled (sigh). He disables the mechanism, and Demetri isn’t killed. When Mark pulls Demetri out of the chair, water comes down and washes Frost’s timeline off of the blackboard. In the midst of all of Frost’s ridiculous gimmickry, that’s a genuinely clever touch

Mark only remembered one detail from the board: All timelines break off on December 12, 2016, which is labeled as “The End.”

Er… No one involved with FlashForward really thinks this show has a shot at being around until 2016, right?

Comments

vallikat said…
I didn't bother scanning this time despite not having watched the episode yet. I realized that I really don't care if anything is "spoiled" and that your recap is going to be far more entertaining than the show anyway. :)

However I have to say that reading your recap makes me sad.

My first question was: why would Frost give them the clue that would save Dem?

But when I think about that, when I really think about that, I am forced to wonder Why, period.

Why was Frost trying to kill Demetri?

All of his dealings so far had to do with Mark. Killing Demetri served no purpose other than to fullfill the flashforward. It wasn't even done to frame Mark. So why?????? And Why then place the all important and very easily decipherable clue to rescuing Dem in their hands?

What about that gasoline? Didn't he see that coming in any of is many FF's? What about Alda? He knew he might be killed on that day so why not protect himself from Alda?

(I don't even want to get into how did Alda secure a gun and a motorcycle and know where Frost was at the time. Let alone the reason for killing him and/or saving Mark)

Perhaps the most important question is: why am I still watching? I have no answer for that. With only a few shows left until the end I'm finding increasingly difficult to hang in there that long.

As to the answer to your question, Morgan, I can't imagine that there is any plan to drag this show out until 2016.
Morgan Richter said…
Vallikat, my best guess is that we're suppose to conclude that Dyson Frost is just a brilliant eccentric and not think too closely about why he does whatever he does, because his actions make no logical sense. The whole business of kidnapping Demetri and giving Mark clues to finding him... I know it was supposed to raise suspense, but I just felt worn out and exasperated from watching it. And Alda killing Dyson, but very pointedly not killing Mark... There are so many unanswered questions, but the big problem with the show is that it's created very little interest in seeing any of them answered.

With only a few shows left until the end I'm finding increasingly difficult to hang in there that long.

That's exactly how I feel. I don't enjoy watching/recapping shows I dislike, especially when there's no reasonable chance of a sudden upswing in quality. If we weren't so close to the end, I'd give up on it.
Patrick said…
The writing is so bad.... when Mark is driving to meet Dyson and following his directions, he told to make a right from the paved road onto the dirt road. He makes a left ... but because the turn is filmed from in front of the intersection it is made to the right side of the TV screen. The writers, who must have supplied Dyson's voiceover while watching the footage see the car as turning to their right... so that's what they have the character say. No one even cares to check the continuity in this mess.
vallikat said…
We learned a while back that D. Gibbons was Dyson Frost. So why is the name on Mark's board from his FF still listed as D. Gibbons? For that matter if D. Gibbons was going to be killed (thus providing no answer) why was he still an intregal part of the investigation 6 weeks following his death?

Why is it that Mark Benford seems to be the only person on the planet even remotely aware of the GBO on April 29th? What I mean to say is that he sees himself investigating the FF. No one else is doing anything FF related. No one is having a FF party or talking about the FF or trying to avoid their FF or whatever.

--------------

Since next week is April 29 in real time, I want to have a stand alone episode of the relevant characters FF's including the circumstances before and after so we get some context. Then I want the last few eposides of FF to involve Hercule Poirot, Newton, and Lt. Commander Data sitting down in a room (perhaps a study with a nice roaring fire) and answer all the questions pertaining to the physics, the space/time continuum, the mysteries surrounding the cause of the GBO and neatly tie up all the other dangling ends. Perhaps they could bring in the other characters and give us the break down of what they saw and what their relevance was to the story. Sure it's far-fetched. However, it would probably be a hell of a sight more entertaining and at least I would learn something in the process.
Morgan Richter said…
The writing is so bad...

Exhibit A: "Gasoline! It burns!"

(I imagine the gasoline did just as much damage to the soft tissues of Mark's mouth as it did to Frost's eyes, but in a life-or-death situation, spitting gasoline isn't a bad diversionary tactic. But whoever was responsible for the line "Gasoline! It burns!" should feel very ashamed of him or herself.)

I missed the right/left turn snafu, Patrick, but it doesn't surprise me.

So why is the name on Mark's board from his FF still listed as D. Gibbons

My best guess is because the writing staff had no idea that D. Gibbons would turn out to be some dude named Dyson Frost, much less that his plotline would wrap up weeks before the events in the flash forwards, when they were writing the first half of the season. I can't tell if the writers had no solution in mind when they created many of the situations (like Charlie's "D. Gibbons is a bad man" proclamation), or if the original ideas just changed drastically, probably when the original showrunners left and the new showrunners took over during the winter break.

I think it is high time Hercule Poiroit gathered everyone together in the Benfords' living room, twirled the ends of his immaculate moustache, and neatly laid out the solutions to all the remaining puzzles. It can be a special two-part episode, with a cameo appearance by Lt. Data, that wraps everything up nicely. And then we never have to think of this show again.
vallikat said…
My best guess is because the writing staff had no idea that D. Gibbons would turn out to be some dude named Dyson Frost, much less that his plotline would wrap up weeks before the events in the flash forwards, when they were writing the first half of the season.

Exactly!

I can buy, believe, and even expect that in many cases the writers don't know where the series will end up at the end of the season when they start writing the show. That makes perfect sense to me.

However, when you are writing a show that you know is going to heavily reference future events you have to have be able to realistically weave those things into current events. Changing things around after we have seen them is reminiscent of bad soap opera writing. (as is "Gasoline! It burns!") Not that I'm trying to dis the soap opera writers out there. However, I expect my nighttime dramas to be more compelling and intelligent than the mindless fluff that daytime tends to be.
levitatethis said…
Once again, thank goodness for your recap. I now treat this show the same way I treat "24". While it's on I read fanfic online. Seriously. Last night I went through "Oz" stories from six years ago.

I find it hard to pay attention to, and care, about the characters and their storylines. As you stated in your recap, one of the problems is that people don't act like people. I can't get a read on them because their actions and behaviour don't make sense.

Of course, I did yell, "Baltar!" when he showed up on screen.
Morgan Richter said…
However, when you are writing a show that you know is going to heavily reference future events you have to have be able to realistically weave those things into current events

Yes, exactly! One thing that bothered me with this episode is that all of a sudden a place called Raven River is pivotal to events -- Dyson Frost mentioned it, and Baltar mentioned it to Olivia and Vreede. Evidently they were conducting experiments with flash forwards there in the 1980s. So... why is this the first we've heard of it? It's obviously going to turn out to be pivotal to the climax (it's pivotal enough to have it referenced twice in the same episode from separate sources), so why didn't they lay some groundwork about this earlier -- a Raven River reference on Mark's evidence board, or some passing comment about it back when they first tried to capture D. Gibbons, maybe? I suspect the answer to that is because none of the writers knew about Raven River until a few episodes ago.

Of course, I did yell, "Baltar!" when he showed up on screen.

Oh, me too. And what cracked me up is that James Callis is... pretty much playing Baltar, only (slightly) crazier and with a different accent. Kind of like when Callum Keith Rennie showed up as the leader of that silly Blue Hand Gang earlier in the season, and he was pretty much just playing Leoben. That whole Battlestar Galactica gang is pretty much typecast for life.
Patrick said…
Hi everyone, just finished watching the episode. Halfway through I started reading Morgan's recap, and it helped me through the second half.

Welcome to this site, (other)Patrick! When I saw your post I thought I must have posted in some other timeline, but then realised that it is a reasonably common name. Welcome!
Morgan Richter said…
Heh. Patrick (Irish Patrick), I just assumed the earlier post was from you. Well, if we can have two Morgans posting, no reason why we can't have two Patricks as well. (Though Boy-Morgan seems to have given up on FlashForward several episodes ago, smart man.)
Patrick said…
I like Irish Patrick!

It now makes no sense for Mark to call Simcoe on the day of the FF and for them to discuss D. Gibbons - and for Simcoe to say 'The man you call D. Gibbons is a actually Dyson Frost' or something like that. In fact they wouldn't discuss him at all given that he is dead and events will have surely moved on.
Patrick said…
and if they don't discuss D. Gibbons there is no need for Dylan to write the words on the fridge, and therefore no need for Charlie to get all scared and say 'D. Gibbons is a bad man'.

In other news, one website I was looking at suggested that Heroes would get a 13-episode new season. The world is crazy!
Morgan Richter said…
Patrick, I've heard the 13-episode rumor in re: Heroes too. Since it's from an anonymous source, it's probably being floated by someone in the Heroes camp to get some positive word out there and thus might not necessarily be anchored in reality. Still, last week NBC's Angela Bromstad was sort of nonspecifically encouraging about renewal chances, so it could be true.

Going by ratings, though, there's no reason to expect renewal. I'm going to quote from a very long-winded email I sent to LevitateThis on this very subject:

"From what I've read online, the two main arguments floating around for why NBC might renew Heroes are: 1) if it goes one more season, it'll have enough episodes to go into syndication, and 2) the DVD sales are high. The syndication argument doesn't amount to much: Since the show is so highly serialized, it's not likely to do well in syndication, where it would probably air five days a week. In fact, the cable network G4 bought the first-season syndication rights immediately after season one finished airing... and it tanked in the ratings, so G4 dropped it from their schedule. And that was season one, which everyone liked.

"The DVD sales argument is much stronger (especially since Heroes is produced in-house, so NBC Universal gets all that money), but the primary way network shows make their money is still off of advertising, and Heroes no longer commands a high ad rate, due to its *incredibly* low ratings in the 18-49 demographic (which is the only demo considered in setting the rates).

"It's also rumored to be NBC's most expensive show, despite all the budget cuts, and it no longer has nearly as much potential to make that back through advertising. Heroes wrapped up this season long before May sweeps, and its ratings during February sweeps were record lows... so if it does come back in the fall, the ad rate will be set at those terrible February numbers. (Compare that to the start of season two, where the ratings were *almost three times* as high as they are now.) Serialized shows almost always lose viewers over time -- even a critically-acclaimed and popular serialized show like Lost has seen a dip over the seasons (15 million viewers in season one, down to 11 million in season five. Heroes dropped from 14 million in season one to 5 million in season four) -- so realistically, the ratings are never going to come up from those low numbers. In fact, they'll just continue to fall.

"My hunch is that NBC knew it was a goner as soon as they decided to burn off the entire rest of the season in January and February, in an earlier timeslot and with little promotion -- on two occasions, they even aired two episodes in a row -- to finish up the season before the start of the Olympics, long before any of their other shows finished. I think they knew the ratings would be awful, and they didn't even want to bother stretching out the season until sweeps. To me, that says they already had plans to cancel it."

Another thing to consider: NBC ordered a record 18 pilots this year -- totalling 14 hours of new programming -- to fill about six available hours. They certainly could still renew Heroes, especially if they're making money off of it overseas or from DVD sales, but apart from Bromstad's recent comments, they've given no indication that that's their game plan.

All that said, the chances of another season of Heroes are much better than the chances of another season of FlashForward. This show is all over but the crying.
Anna said…
The episode really made me realize I hate Alda. All she does is scoff, glare, grin evilly, scoff some more, etc. When she killed Dyson Frost, an equally cartoonishly evil character whose actor nevertheless managed to pull it off somehow, it was like FlashForward wanted to tell me something. I think it was "Stop watching."

FlashForward seems to be imitating Heroes' downfall - but faster. They've already arrived at the point where they retcon their ongoing storylines and quickly kill off their muchly built-up original characters, to replace them with stunt-casted BSG fan favourites, and we're still in Season 1!
vallikat said…
I finally watched the episode last night. I couldn't comment though because I was stunned. It was even worse than I expected after your recap, Morgan.

Ok, forget Hercule Poirot. We need to start watching this like Mystery Science Theater 3,000. You just can't take it seriously anymore so why even try?

The gasoline scene would have been so much better if they had not tried to "fool" us with it. It was enough that Frost didn't know. We could have been shown that it was gasoline by showing Mark siphon it. Thereby eliminating a horrible line, horribly delivered (though how that line could have been plausibly delivered is beyond me).

Both Olivia and Vreede needed a kick to the head. First Olivia: "I'd do anything to help Demetri, except well... looking through a box of stuff... well now you're asking a little too much. I mean come on?" Really, Olivia? Really?

Then Vreede standing there like he's in a drug-induced coma. Wake up, Vreede!!!! Here's a guy presenting a clue so blatant all it was missing was a blue paw print and he's really going to let this guy go because he tells him "can't touch this"? First he needs a kick to the head to knock some sense into him then he needs his badge taken away.

Here's the thing. There is no more time for this crap!! Vreede could have been having a bad day and let this clue slip through his fingers back in November, maybe, only to have it circle back again at this point to be pulled out for some last minute case solving. However now with this show breathing it's final breaths, we've already reached crunch time. No more playing around! We need to start answering questions instead of asking new ones!!

Dyson Frost, we barely knew ye. We never should have known ye either. What the hell? They bring him on, totally screw everything we've known since the first episode and then kill him off??

I want to give up. Morgan, I know you want to give up. But please don't. I need you to hold my hand over the next few weeks. Finding this site is the only good thing to come of this debacle. I'm not ready to lose that yet. :)
Morgan Richter said…
Anna, I thought Alda showed a lot of promise as a character waaaaay back in the early episodes when she was still smirky and irritating, but somehow genuinely menacing, like she knew something huge and dark beyond Mark's comprehension. But here, I just found her tedious and ridiculous. It didn't help that her scene with Zoey was pretty much a repeat of the interrogation scene with Marcie a couple weeks back: two overly-smug, grating characters who deliberately withhold crucial information from the FBI just for the sake of feeling important and/or being a butthead.

Vallikat, like you, I was exasperated with both Olivia and Vreede. I have no idea why Olivia was acting so exasperated and long-suffering about helping track down Demetri's kidnapper. I did like Vreede pointing out to Olivia, above her protests, that yes, she damn well is involved in this somehow, since the murdered man sent her a very specific text message containing very specific information about Mark's flash forward. Of course this involves her.

Ugh. Just a mess of an episode.
Anna said…
Morgan, yeah... I tend to forget that she has been on the show since the very beginning, for some reason. Considering that she was introduced at the very start of the very first episode, she has not actually done much, or contributed much, and I never have the impression that the other characters ever think too closely about her, unless they are really bored, have run out of leads, or randomly remember that she exists.
Maybe it's because of rewriting and the showrunner changes, but Alda feels like a character who was introduced just to add some mystery flavour, not because she actually fits in the puzzle as an important piece.

But by god, I hated her delivery in that domino scene. I am sure the actress doesn't have much to work with, but...
Morgan Richter said…
Maybe it's because of rewriting and the showrunner changes, but Alda feels like a character who was introduced just to add some mystery flavour, not because she actually fits in the puzzle as an important piece.

Yes. I don't know what was the original intention behind this character, if anything, but it's hard to see any way Alda can become crucial to the plot in the remaining episodes.

It bothers me how so many of the bad guys on this show -- Alda, Marcie, Dyson Frost, Shohreh Aghdashloo's character -- seem to exist just to withhold vital bits of information from our heroes. The repetition is tiresome.
vallikat said…
I could have sworn that I typed this already. That's what I get for trying to post from work. Anyhow:

There is one question that I really want to have answered before the end of the show. I don't expect it to be answered satisfactorily but I want it answered anyway.

What was the point of orchestrating the Global Black-out/Flashforward/murder of millions of people in the first place?

Not a single one of the bad guys has indicated there is any reason for it whatsoever. No demands or declarations have been made. It's like a group of super-geniuses got together and decided to do this for fun just because they could.

Was that really the whole point?
Morgan Richter said…
What was the point of orchestrating the Global Black-out/Flashforward/murder of millions of people in the first place?

Vallikat, if you're right (which you probably are) and there turns out to be absolutely no point to the global blackouts apart from showing that it can be done, I'm going to be really disappointed in the show. I mean, more than I am currently. They've made some progress in establishing how the blackouts happened, and who was involved in them, but you're right: there's been no suggestion as to why they happened. We haven't even seen the FBI bandy about possible theories. There needs to be an explicit reason -- even if it's something kind of lame, like the people behind the blackouts (the Evil League of Evil) are planning on using the threat of the upcoming second global blackout to... I don't know, extort money from global superpowers or whatever. Something. Anything.
Anna said…
It could have something to do with that 2016 date. Maybe these conspirators are actually trying to stop the end of the world!

... which wouldn't explain why they're all so very, very, very evil. But, hey. It's FlashForward.
Dan said…
I know I'm weeks late and that it's all over in your nape of the neck of the woods. But...

... he's really going to let this guy go because he tells him "can't touch this"?

Baltar is MC Hammer?

This, I predict, is the clue that ties everything together. Can't wait for the revelation that Dyson Frost was working for Vanilla Ice.
Morgan Richter said…
Baltar is MC Hammer?

Dan, that makes as much/more sense than anything that happens on this show from this point forward. And if that had turned out to be the case, at least we could have been treated to some lively dance numbers. Alas, no.

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