FlashForward: The Complete Series
DVD, Box Set
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
From September of 2009 to May of 2010, the television drama/science fiction show, Flash Forward (separating the words in the title is my idea), was broadcast on ABC … twenty-two episodes in all, Now, I’m 61 and I’ve watched a lot of television over the years. Some of it has been good and a lot has been atrocious. Within the last several years and with the stiff competition of TV networks like FX, Sci-Fy, AMC, Showtime, HBO, and a number of others, the quality of many shows has gotten exceedingly better. In fact, many of the TV series are as good, if not better, than what you find on the big screen in movie theaters, and you don’t have to deal with rude people with crying babies, ringing cell phones, someone kicking the back of your seat, and constant talking. Some of my favorite shows over the last few years have been Deadwood, Damages, The Walking Dead: Season One, Justified, and Flash Forward. Two that I still want to see, but haven’t are American Horror and The Game of Thrones. These are coming out on DVD in the next few months. I think it’s fair to say that nowadays many of the new television series are downright excellent in content and acting and certainly worth staying home for.
Anyway, of all the shows I can remember seeing over the last fifty years, I consider Flash Forward to be the absolute best, and I don’t say this lightly. Plus, the series only ran for one season. Now, I applaud ABC for putting up the money for it. It took a lot of guts to finance this show. Unfortunately, though the pilot episode started off with a big bang, it lost a lot of viewers due to a three-month hiatus from early December of ’09 thru March of 2010. That was a huge mistake to my way of thinking. Flash Forward is definitely a thinking man’s show. You simply can’t afford to miss even one episode because something important is always presented to the viewers. You also can’t afford to leave a three-month gap between the first half of the series and the last half. A lot of television viewers move on to other things during a long period of time like that. I feel this was where ABC lost half the viewers for the series. I also think this show should have continued on for at least a second season, but ABC made the decision to cancel it.
Thankfully, all twenty-two episodes are now available in one DVD package. The show can now be watched without the commercials and with back-to-back episodes. I watched all of them during the course of a week. I can tell you that it was extremely difficult not to watch more than two shows on a work night. You simply wanted to continue on to find the answers. Though I saw the series when it was on television in 2009 and 2010 (they were recorded by my former roommate), I still got caught up in it again, finding that I’d forgotten a lot about what happened. This time, however, was infinitely more fun without the commercials to break the mood and interest that was created. I know commercials pay for the shows on television, but every time an episode breaks for a commercial to talk about Geiko insurance, cars, or tampons, you lose the mood of the show and only have a few minutes to get it back before the next segment cuts into still another commercial. I recently had this very problem with the Stephen King’s Bag of Bones mini-series, and I found myself hating commercials by the second night. I’m now waiting for that DVD to come out so I can watch it again, but this time uninterrupted.
The premise of the show is simple. On October 9th of 2009, the entire population of earth suddenly blacked out for over two minutes. Most of the people who were unconscious flashed forward to events that would transpire on April 29th of 2010. Some of the events were good, while others weren’t. A number of people didn’t see anything at all because they were already dead. Needless to say, it changed the lives of millions of individuals.
This is where the frustrating dilemma of fate versus free will comes into play. Can the future be changed if you know what’s going to happen, or is it set in stone? Do the things you do to try and change the upcoming events cause them to actually happen? The viewers find out as they follow the lives of a dozen or more people, some of whom are F.B.I. agents seeking an answer as to whom was responsible for the blackout (twenty million people across the world died during it), why the blackout was instigated in the first place, and if there will be another one sometime in the future? These are heavy questions, and I think the series does a fine job of attempting to answer them. As Gil Bellows says in the role of Timothy, a window washer who nearly died during the flash forward, but was saved by an outright miracle, “It’s a combination of fate and free will.” That’s the only way he can explain it. Of course, you have quantum physicists on the show who talk about parallel universes and the possibility that we’re really living several different lives at the same time, but in different universes or different realities.
Like I said, this is definitely a thinking man’s show.
Before I go any further, let me add that this is also a thinking woman’s show, too. The entire cast is truly excellent in their performances, but to balance out the strong male characters are an equally impressive list of females who hold their own and in some cases even surpass the men. I can think of several right off the top of my head, but there are at least a dozen more in the series who stand tall.
Sonya Walger plays Dr. Olivia Benford, the wife of F.B.I. agent Mark Benford, who leads the task force in finding answers to the above questions. In Olivia’s flash forward, she saw herself living with another man and everything she tries to do to prevent that from happening only draws her closer to this inevitability. To save her marriage, she even attempts to get her husband to quit the F.B.I. and to move away with her and their child.
Christine Woods plays F.B.I. agent Janis Hawk, who saw herself pregnant and near the time of the approaching birth. The only problem here is she’s gay and doesn’t want a child. Janis also has deep secrets she doesn’t want anyone else to know about and is tough as nails when confronting the bad guys, especially during a shootout when three assailants try to kill her.
Gabrielle Union plays Zoey Andata, who is living with F.B.I. agent Demetri Noh. Demetri had no flash forward and is told later that he will die on a particular date. Gabrielle, whose character is a defense attorney, does everything in her power to get Demetri to change his path so they can get married and have a future together. Demetri, however, is like his older partner, Mark Benford. He’s stubborn and determined to see everything unfold to its very end, hoping to find a solution to his dilemma before April 29th.
Yuko Takeuchi plays Keiko, a Japanese engineer who really wants to be a rock singer and to meet the man of her dreams … the man she saw in her flash forward. She goes against her parent’s wishes (which is a no-no in Japan) and flies to the United States, hoping to make her flash forward come true.
Ah, and there’s the seductive Annabeth Gish who plays Lita, a killer for the organization that caused the blackout and who will use her powers as a smart, beautiful woman to lure both men and females into her dark web of intrigue.
See what I mean about strong female characters? And these ladies are just the tip of the iceberg.
The show was created by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer (he wrote and produced the three Blade movies with Wesley Snipes, and directed the third one). Goyer directed the pilot episode of Flash Forward, and did an amazing job with it considering this is television. He put everything he had into the pilot, knowing it would catch millions of viewers and leave them in awe.
It did me.
The male cast includes a list of fabulous and intense actors to fill the roles of the characters in the show. There’s Joseph Fiennes as F.B.I. agent Mark Benford, Courtney B. Vance as Stanford Wedneck, who is Mark’s boss. Then there’s John Cho as Demetri, Mark’s partner, and Zachary Knighton as Dr. Bryce Vance (he works with Dr. Olivia Benford as a surgeon), who was getting ready to commit suicide when the blackout occurred and his flash forward saw him still being alive and meeting Keiko six months later. Jack Davenport plays Lloyd Simcoe, one of the scientists who inadvertently created the means to bring about the blackout and who is the man Dr. Olivia Benford sees herself with while her husband is being assassinated. Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings and Lost) plays Simon Campos and is a physicist with a high three-digit IQ, who’s utterly arrogant with those around him, not to mention he’s Lloyd Simcoe’s partner in scientific research and is a man who will do whatever it takes to keep those he loves alive. You hate Simon one moment and then like him the next.
Last, but not least, is Brian F. O’Byrne who plays Aaron Stark, who is Mark Benford’s sponsor at AA. More importantly, Aaron is ex-Marine Recon. In his flash forward, he saw himself in Afghanistan with his dead daughter actually alive and badly wounded. Nothing will stop him from making that come true, not even the security consulting firm that put a bull’s eye on his daughter’s back and is now after him.
I want to say that both Courtney Vance and Dominic Monaghan somehow manage to steal the scenes whenever they’re in them. These are two top actors who bring their characters alive in ways that make you hate and then like them, and then cheer for them, which is a hard task for any actor to accomplish. They both play their parts to the absolute hilt.
You should also know that each episode of Flash Forward ends with a strong hook, propelling the viewer forward into watching the next one so they can find out what happens. It did that to me in spades even though I still remembered the basic storyline of the show. The hooks are usually whoppers and make you jump up and yell, “Wait, don’t stop yet! I need to know what happens next!” With the DVD set, you can immediately go to the next episode and continue on with the show. No commercials to wade through or seven-day waiting period for the next episode to air.
At the end of one episode, you discover that not everybody blacked out and had a flash forward … that there was a mysterious man awake at a baseball stadium, watching everyone else pass out around him. This is Suspect Zero, who the F.B.I. now wants to find. Another episode has a man jumping to his death to prevent his flash forward from coming true where an innocent woman is killed. An episode that blew me away had an F.B.I. mole getting caught and then grabbing a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun from a fellow agent and shooting six of her team members in a couple of seconds before trying to make her way out of the building, killing anyone who gets in her way. That looked totally real. Still another episode ended with Dr. Olivia Benford meeting the man who would eventually take her husband’s place in her home and bed.
Like I previously said, these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Every episode is great with its performers, direction, location sets, filming, and special effects. This is certainly a show you’ll want to watch more than once. The sad part is the first season ended with several kickers that you’ll never know the answers to. You’ll left hanging in the wind with no recourse.
I thank ABC for that.
Oh, before I forget, the show is based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer, though little from the book was used in the series except for the flash forward premise.
The DVD set also has over a hundred minutes of behind-the-scenes information, which isn’t enough in my opinion. I was hungry for more tidbits about the show, its creation, and its performers.
So, if you enjoy excellent dramas with a science fiction premise, then this is a show you’ll want to see and you won’t have to deal with bloody commercials. Highly recommended!