FlashForward: “The Negotiation”

Flashforward Eve

“The Negotiation”
ABC, Thursday, 8
Teleplay by Byron Balesco & Quinton Peeples
Story by: Debbie Ezer
Directed by: Leslie Libman

Demetri: Do you believe any of this?

Mark: That the universe is pushing us towards one certain outcome? No.

Where the heck was this Mark Benford all year? Self-confident, relaxed, not even furrowing his brow as he watches Lloyd and Olivia together, or when Gabriel McDow (James Callis, Battlestar Galactica) keeps telling him that Lloyd and Olivia will “wind up” together. Even better, he outfoxes a mole in his own organization, with a well-planned deception that executes perfectly. We sure could have used this guy back in the Fall.

This episode is set the day before the blackout date, April 29. Everyone, even those who believe in free will, is uneasy about tomorrow. Wedeck orders a full lockdown, sending the FBI into siege mode (hey, what about us civilians out here, you know, the ones you were sworn to protect?). Mark is assigned to protect Gabriel, who is apparently a bridge between Mad Scientist Dyson Frost and the Flashforward, now coyly referred to as the GBO (Global Black Out). Gabriel produces his notebook, with a drawing of the Mosaic wall, and proceeds to “correct” it. Could it be that his “corrections” mean that Mark and Gabriel saw two different futures? Which would imply that there is no “fixed” future, only possible futures, and Mark and Gabriel saw different versions. Which is to say, there is no such thing as the universe “pushing us towards one certain outcome”.

Wedeck: Tomorrow is D-Day, the day we catch up to the flashforwards. Our future, both as individuals and as a collective, is upon us.

Meanwhile, some mysterious person has released a video of Suspect Zero, from a different angle, which is just pixilated enough to hide Simon Campos’s face. Mark and Demetri are still on his trail, but Simon has worse problems than that. Carline’s emissary Lita (Annabeth Gish, The X-Files) tells him that Lucas Hellinger wants him back, Hellinger (Neil Jackson, Stargate Atlantis) tells Simon that himself, but Simon’s having none of it.

Janis’s story is even more complicated. She’s been ordered to kill Mark Benford (probably by the fans of this show), and is having Second Thoughts. While she ponders her dilemma, she betrays Mark’s plan to take Gabriel to a safe house. A team of bad guys ambush the van, pulling Gabriel out—who turns out to be Mark Benford. Taking over the van and its drivers, the FBI team forces it to drive to the warehouse where Hellinger and his minions have holed up. Mark takes down Hellinger, but Simon gets away with his QED ring. (Another hobbit with a ring. This will not end well.) Does he plan to fly to Detroit tomorrow to do his bit on videotape?

Mark has finally figured out Janis is a mole and confronts her. She confesses that she’s been working for the CIA all these years. Three years. And apparently, seducing Demetri was part of the program. She whines a bit about her lonely, loveless existence, but Mark’s not crying. Surprisingly, he walks away, rather than arrest this traitor and take her in. I’ve given up trying to figure out Mark Benford.

Mark: You’re screwing a lot of things up, but the universe isn’t one of them.

Which begs another question: why are people worried about tomorrow? I would assume that every airline on the planet has ordered its fleet grounded. I would assume that all traffic is halted, no buses will be running, no operations will be scheduled, and that routine overhaul of the local nuclear reactor will be postponed a few weeks. Would this not be the prudent response of every government agency, not to mention every human being, who experienced the Flashforward? Even if you didn’t believe the future was fixed, you’d surely be aware that there are a whole lot of people out there who do believe it, and might be a little dangerous to be around on April 29. With so much paranoia riding on this date, I would probably take the day off, keep the kids home from school, stock up on supplies, line the house with mattresses, and load the shotguns. But no, the only people who seem to think they need to take precautions are the FBI.

The B story isn’t working out very well for Demetri Noh. His fiancée, Zoey, shows up in the opening begging him to drop everything and fly to Hawaii tomorrow. How stupid does this woman have to be? Oh, wait, she’s not stupid, she’s selfish. She wants her Hawaii wedding, and damn the rest of the world. Demetri has worse problems: Janis is pregnant with his child. And she’s a mole for the CIA.

Demetri: What do you think happens when the future you saw changes?

Gabriel: No, that’s not possible. It’s like trying to find a different path but you wind up in the same place.

People have been using the time-as-space metaphor since Saint Augustine. It is a metaphor so deeply embedded in Western consciousness that it is literally impossible for many people to discard it, and imagine time (or the future) in any other way. But just because it’s an old metaphor, doesn’t make it true. Time is not a road or a river, it’s the experience of life from synapse-spark to spark. And that experience is only filtered by a human brain. To get from one moment to another by a different “road” is to have a different experience along the way, which makes you a different person when you arrive. So Gabriel is just wrong, and I have to wonder why Demetri is taking seriously the words of an idiot savant—emphasis on the idiot. Gabriel insists that for tomorrow to work out “the way it’s supposed to be”, Demetri has to die. But if that argument had any merit at all, would it not mean that Demetri would have had to die weeks ago?

None of this makes sense. Why are we still watching this story?

Apparently, nobody was watching. On Thursday night, before the overnight ratings had come in, ABC cancelled FlashForward due to low ratings. It must have been obvious even to a network desperate for ratings that this show, while high on concept, was low on execution. Their first mistake was turning a science thriller into a run-of-the-mill cop show. The FBI is a worthy institution, but it is not fitted to explore a scientific anomaly. I won’t say that Joseph Fiennes’ acting sank the show, but his Mark was so wooden he destroyed any interest I might have had in him. Al Gough’s suicide in the seventh episode jerked the mystery right out of this show. After that, it felt as though the writers were searching for something, anything to hook viewers. They threw the kitchen sink at this unhappy show: romantic triangles, hospital drama, lost loves, lesbians, mad scientists, the Iraq/Afghan wars, father/daughter angst, autism, and downright mysticism. It would take a phalanx of crystal balls to figure out where it was all headed. And now, it’s headed nowhere. A cancellation this late in the day guarantees that the finale in two weeks will be a cliffhanger that never gets resolved.