Tuned In

The Morning After: FlashForward, Over and Out

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Brief spoilers for FlashForward’s SeasonSeries finale coming up.

It is cheap and too easy, I realize, to cite FlashForward as a comparison point to Lost’s finale. If you believe Lost failed, then another show’s greater failings do not make it any better. But in the end, it’s still instructive. Having a plan from the beginning does not mean having a show one will actually want to spend time with. And “real, scientific answers”—when they come down to “this ring is a Quantum Entangling Device!” or “It’s the tachyon constant!”—are not inherently any more plausible, effective or satisfying than “there’s a magic light at the bottom of this waterfall!”

But I’m not here to critique, or unpack, FlashForward’s mythology and science, even if I felt capable of it. I went into the screening of the show’s pilot almost a year ago today wanting it badly to work, but in that pilot I could see what I’m still seeing today: a show that simply didn’t have it together on the simple level of writing and character. Since then, I’ve kept up, though I didn’t catch every episode, and I felt it improved over time—partly thanks to a heroic performance on the part of Dominic Monaghan.

The finale, though, showed that most of the characters had not evolved beyond the types and chess pieces that they were in the pilot. And while FlashForward was commendably ambitious in its scale, the season finale it came up with was rote both in its writing (once more, we got to hear characters use the phrase “In my flashforward I saw…” 500 times) and its action–right down to the familiar guy-with-pump-action-rifle-outshooting-a-squad-with-machine-guns sequence. (Sidebar: if you were spelling out a date using red strings on a bulletin board, why would you go through the trouble of spelling out the numerals? It’s a sin to waste string!)

It also provided little in the way of closure, but I don’t blame FlashForward for that: there wasn’t much chance to prepare a series rather than season finale. So we got a second blackout, moments after the events of the first flashforward, and some glimpses of what must have been meant to be the future series’ arc: a reference to New Year’s 2015, a letter dated March 14, 2011 and a grown or teenage Charlie saying “They found him.”

That those will all be dangling threads forever—or until the DVD commentary—is not FlashForward’s fault. What’s a shame is that, a year after I looked forward so strongly to its pilot, I’m not the least curious about what would have happened.