FlashForward: Black Swan

Time again for a look at the latest episode of FlashForward (yes, I will be doing this sort of thing for other series too, but none of them have started yet!). If you haven’t seen episode four yet, there’ll be spoilers after the jump.

Dimitri and Mark chase some unimportant guy (don't quote me on that when he turns out to be really important at the end of the season...)

Dimitri and Mark waste everyone's precious time chasing some unimportant guy (don't quote me on that when he turns out to be really important at the end of the season...)

The episode opened with a flashback to the day of the blackout. “14 days ago” read the caption, meaning that graph showing crow populations in the last episode did turn out to be a mistake (or the computer having a flashforward of it’s own). I’m really pleased they showed us more of the blackout, it seemed to be brushed aside really quickly in the first episode, and the use of slow motion and Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet as a bus careened into a lake was the most creative thing the show has done so far.

Inside the bus was Edward “Ned” Ned, who later turns up at Olivia’s hospital. In one of the more interesting threads of the episode, he revealed he saw in his flash that he would be a black man in six months time, and was very happy about it. This seemingly impossible vision brings back the question posed in last week’s episode, are the flashes really of the future? While that is still a very pertinent question when it comes to Aaron’s vision of his dead daughter, in Ned’s case we get an answer. Bryce, the doctor who was about to commit suicide before the blackout, is certain that the visions are of the future and deduced that Ned must be suffering from Addison’s Disease, which makes the body produce extra pigmentation. Olivia doesn’t want her future to come true, and opposed his diagnosis until it eventually became clear as her patient got into a dangerous situation during surgery. This tension between those who embrace their future and people who want to escape it looks set to be a theme running throughout the show.

It’s slightly worrying that this little side-story in the hospital, which ultimately has nothing much to do with the “big picture” was one of the better parts of the episode. Unfortunately the rest of the episode wasn’t quite so good. The woman caught in the terror investigation in the first episode was wheeled out, now somehow some kind of Yoda figure cryptically spouting nonsense and explaining the concept of the Black Swan for no fathomable reason. She led Dimitri and Mark into a chase with a minor drug dealer which turned out to be both a waste of their time and ours. OK, yes, it led to Dimitri spilling the beans about his death date after they had a bit of a punch-up for some reason, but it seemed entirely inconsequential and a little out of character. By far the least interesting moments of the episode were reserved for the return of the babysitter, Nicole. She went to visit her priest, where we learnt that her vision was of herself drowning. Now, let’s all just pretend that we didn’t all instantly think that really she’s getting baptised, and then it won’t be a surprise if it happens…

While the scenes in the hospital provided some the better parts of the episode, they also bring up my biggest criticism. Because we are supposed to actually like Olivia, right? I think I get the idea that the writers want her to come across as a sympathetic lead character. Which makes it strange that they write her as an utterly dislikable person, particularly when she was refusing to listen to Bryce because of her wish to change the future, putting loveable Ned’s life in peril (not that it was really in peril, as we knew he would survive, reducing the drama somewhat). Sonya Walgner has shown in Lost that she’s a good enough actor who can portray a likeable character, so I’ll put this one down to the writing.

It’s not just a problem with Olivia, it’s even worse with our lead, Mark, and many of the others, as we’re asked to invest in relationships and characters that are very difficult to care about. Half of them, like the babysitter, could never be seen again and nobody would notice. So far, Dimitri and Zoey are the most likeable couple, their story much more interesting due to his impending death. But Olivia and Mark’s marriage is hard to care about, while Olivia’s attempts to avoid her future with Lloyd are much more dull than they should be.

Lloyd does get a lot more interesting at the end of the episode when he receives a phone call. On the end of the line was none other than our favourite ex-Hobbit and island-dwelling rock star, Dominic Monaghan as Simon. He asks Lloyd to meet, mentioning that they both were responsible for “the single greatest disaster in human history”. Unless both Dominic and Jack Davenport appeared in Eldorado earlier in their careers, that means that they were behind the global blackout. Yet again the show has delivered a great twist just when it was needed.

So, a good ending and plenty of promise for next week after Mark mentioned getting a hacker to get CIA information on the incident in Somalia. But there is still the same question again – when will someone finally ask why people are acting in the flashes as if they didn’t know it would be the moment they saw 6 months earlier???

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