The Future Is Here
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Why FlashForward Fails

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With this week's episode being the last we'll see for awhile of the show hyped as "The New Lost," it seems like a good time to look back at what we know about FlashForward and ask, What went wrong?

Theoretically, "A561984" should've left us hooked and unable to wait for the next episode of the show - which has now been pushed to March from its original January return, following production on the series being stopped by ABC - but instead, it left us frustrated at the characters and bored of the show's mysteries already. With audiences leaving the show in worrying numbers, it's a safe bet to say that we're not the only ones. But why?


Who Are These People?
While Lost may ultimately be about the mythology of the show (What is the Island? Who is Jacob? Why are these people seemingly destined to be connected to the Island? etc.), the show became a success because of the strength of its characters, and character interaction. Lost is full of great characters, whether it's Ben or Locke, Sawyer or Daniel or Juliet... and FlashForward has... uhhh... well, Mark Benford, the alcoholic FBI agent who apparently thinks so little before he acts that it's a surprise that he's made it this far in his career without being fired multiple times already. And Olivia, his wife, who's a good surgeon and... doesn't really seem to have any other character traits apart from getting exasperated at her husband. Or there's Bryce, who was suicidal but then found love and so now he's fine, apparently. Or Lloyd, who's a good man who loves his son, and... well, that's about it. All of the characters in the show seem like shorthand as opposed to people we can empathize and believe in; the only time someone steps outside of their one-line description, it's to serve a plot twist that may be shocking but doesn't stand up to analysis (See Gough's suicide in "The Gift": Where did that come from, given what we'd seen of him before?). Which reminds me...


What Is This All About?
Even without strong characters, a good plot can still suck you in. But FlashForward doesn't have a good plot, or even a particularly linear one. Instead, it's all over the place, mixing in terrorist threats with Blackwater-esque corporate conspiracy theories, star-crossed lovers and medical dramas, murder mysteries and soap operatics about marriages and alcoholic fathers relating to their long-lost daughters... everything except the science fiction behind the FlashForward, which has become the McGuffin that gets lip service every now and again. In fact, there's so much everything that the show feels not just unfocused, but incoherent. What's FlashForward actually about? Ten episodes in, I'm not sure that I really know anymore. And that's a pretty big problem.

Why Should I Care?
"The Gift," where FBI agent Al Gough kills himself and therefore proves that not all of the FlashForwards are going to come true, may have been one of the series' most talked-about episodes so far, but it's also the one that broke the show. If we know that the FlashForwards can be avoided, then the tension of the "fated" events is lost: Mark doesn't want to start drinking again? He doesn't have to. Olivia doesn't want to cheat on her husband? She doesn't have to. It breaks the engine of the show, the inevitability that the characters should be fighting against, and makes every fulfillment of every bad thing that happens into a failure of the characters' inner strength. Who wants to watch that?

(I would've loved it if we'd seen that Gough's suicide ended up being the event that caused the death of the woman he was trying to save anyway, thereby proving that the events will happen nonetheless - We know, on some level, that not everything foreseen will happen, because it's extremely unlikely that Mark will kill Demetri, but the "You can avoid fate!" card should've been saved until later, so we'd spend more time believing that he would.)

FlashForward is its own worst enemy; it's a show that has an interesting central concept, but has little idea what to do with it, meaning that it tries to be multiple shows at once, contradicts its own mythology (The future will happen as seen in the FlashForwards except when it doesn't, apparently?) and because of that, seems like a show that has no identity or purpose. Somewhere in the jumble of everything we've seen so far is a good show; it'd be nice if, in the second half of the season, they can find it.