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Flashforward: Season One - Part One
Studio: ABC Television Studios
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 430 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 – Enhanced for 16X9 TVs
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Review Date: February 24, 2010
"How can I have faith in something I'm not even sure is real?"
The Show: 4 out of 5
The entire world blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds. Planes plummet to the ground; cars smash in to each other, buildings and railings; office workers drop in the aisles – everyone everywhere falling unconscious at exactly the same moment for exactly 137 seconds. When the world awakes; devastation. In Los Angeles, chaos rules the streets and freeways as buildings burn, disorientation casts a fearful shadow over life, and those who have survived are faced with the question; what caused the blackout – and perhaps more perplexingly – why did the world seem to share the same vision during that black out, a vision of events from the future; April 29, 2010 – at 10p.m.
The concept is superb science fiction fodder. Based upon Robert J. Sawyer’s 1999 novel of the same name, Flashforward mirrors the conceptual conceits which gave LOST its powerful lure; the show entices with its core mystery, and layers in to that central question of what caused the blackout an even deeper mystery of the shared vision. In these first ten episodes, we meet the principle players investigating the event, and the people in their lives, as well as a few characters shrouded in mystery. Primarily, the investigation is led by an F.B.I team, one of which had a vision of an investigation in full-swing, which then provided lease to begin the investigation in the way it was seen. Cause and effect, or effect then cause? The eternal chicken and egg conundrum is dangled on several occasions and that serves up plenty of opportunities for hypothesizing and pondering. Regardless of why this investigation begins, and is run with the people leading it, it eventually produces a wealth of neat reveals through the first half of the season (which I am trying to stay away from, lest I pepper this review with spoiler tags).
The impressive cast is led by Joseph Fiennes as FBI Agent Mark Benford, and John Cho as his partner Demitri Noh. Fiennes’ character is troubled; a recovering alcoholic affected by the disappointing and frightening future that he saw for himself. Benford’s wife, played by Sonya Walger, has a complicating vision of her future, which ultimately ripples through her marriage in the here and now. Cho’s character, Demitri, faces a relatively unique emotional distress from his vision, which he hides from his fiancé, played by the wonderful Gabrielle Union (though she is utterly underused). Benford and Noh report to Stanford Wedeck, played by the authoritative Courtney B. Vance. Wedeck rather expectedly serves as the doubter; the challenger to his agents ‘common-sense’ thinking, or the adversarial figure to their cowboy tactics. Its familiar, but it works.
LOST alumni Dominic Mognahan serves up quite a delicious antagonist performance as brilliant scientist Simon - a somewhat shadowy character with dialogue that seems handily encrypted to hide more than it reveals. Jack Davenport (the third Brit on the cast with Fiennes and Walger), plays Lloyd Simcoe - a role purposefully undefined and connected to other characters in interesting ways, does quite well as the man with the question mark over his head (is he a good guy, or a bad guy).
The remaining cast members are each given ample time even in the first half of the season to display unique storylines, and again, much like LOST, this parade of characters with their unique threads is the substance, or the canvas, upon which the mystery is ultimately played out. Consider Dr. Bryce Varley (played by Zachary Knighton) whose vision changes his life (or rather, saves it), inspiring a search across the globe for a person he’s never met, or the junior agent in the FBI, Al Gough (Played by Lee Thompson Young), so troubled by what he saw that he takes actions which shake the foundation of the world’s understanding of what occurred.
The triumph of the first ten episodes is sustaining the core mysteries while adding into the mix revelations which don’t necessarily chip away at the central mysteries, but rather add dimension and possibility to the answers which we hope will be out just of reach for now. And there’s great potential in the idea of an irrefutable future; an unchangeable destiny that we all march towards like needles in the grooves of a record. What would that mean for the millions who saw futures they did not want to see, and what does that mean for those who saw nothing at all. And if the future is changeable, is that comforting or frightening? Great notions to perplex and play with, and Flashforward has taken some steps in to those areas, though not as boldly or dramatically gripping as perhaps it could.
Flashforward is event television; modeled after the cleverness of LOST, though without as much dramatic conviction, it is steadily building characters around intriguing ideas, and carefully finding its groove by dancing in great mystery, while teasing out revelations that are building a mosaic of answers for fans.
Episode 1 – No More Good Days
Episode 2 – White to Play
Episode 3 – Sekunden
Episode 4 – Black Swan
Episode 5 – Gimme Some Truth
Episode 6 – Scary Monsters and Super Creeps
Episode 7 – The Gift
Episode 8 – Playing Cards with Coyote
Episode 9 – Believe
Episode 10 – A561984
The Video: 4 out of 5
ABC Television Studios presents this half-season of Flashforward over two discs and is presented in its filmed aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16X9, and enhanced for widescreen televisions. Solid cinematography, almost movie-like, provides solid grounding for good image quality, and these 10 episodes represent that well. Some softness exists, however the image is mostly sharp, clean, and while catching this on ABC HD is the best way to watch for the highest quality video, this DVD release is a fine way to relive, or experience for the first time what this show has to offer.
The Sound: 3.5 out of 5
Flashforward’s first 10 episodes come with a relatively good Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option. As with many television dramas, the show has a tendency to use an ambient rumble to set an ominous atmosphere. That, coupled with only a functional dramatic score by Ramin Djawadi (who has delivered far better before) which brings the audio to life frequently, does manage to come together producing a good audio presentation.
The Extras: 2 out of 5
Creating Catastrophe: The Effects of a Global Blackout (7:05): A closer look at the phenomenal visual and special effects sequence displaying the carnage and aftermath of the blackout in Los Angeles.
Flashforward: A Look Ahead (4:47): An extended scene from an upcoming episode of Flashforward.
Could: A promo spot for the latter half of season one.
Flashforward doesn’t quite achieve the gravity or dramatic excellence of its television inspiration, LOST (in which this show could share a universe!), but it certainly delivers enough intrigue to spur water-cooler conversations and hooked fans energetically churning theories (I have more than a few myself). David S. Goyer, producer of short-lived television series’ Blade and Threshold, and creative contributor to box-office behemoth The Dark Knight, served as executive producer on these episodes before exiting the series to focus on his film commitments. Star Trek: TNG, Voyager, and Enterprise writer and executive producer Brannon Braga serves in that capacity here, lending a genre experience which seems to be good for the show.
Flashforward is entertaining television filled with good mystery, effective characters, solid visual effects, and slick production values. These first 10 episodes have some flaws, but hopefully nothing more than a few growing pains. One thing’s for sure; I’ll be eagerly tuning in when the show returns to ABC on March, 18. I am not a fan of split season releases, though I can appreciate how it can make good business sense or provide potential fans with a way to check the show out. Fortunately, this two disc set comes with flyer indicating owners of this release will have access to a $15 coupon off the full-season release (on DVD or Blu) in August.
Overall Score 4 out of 5