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D. Gibbons is a Bad Man

October 3, 2009


FlashForward may have the same marketing campaign as Lost, but the creators and stars want to make it clear that this show is not like Lost, not at all, well, maybe a little, but please don’t compare the two, kthanxbye.

Whatever. Show politics aside, FlashForward has all the trappings of a show that’s right up my alley: multiple storylines, complicated characters, non-linear storytelling, conspiracy theories, debates about the nature of fate, interactivity…all things that I know have turned some viewers off of Lost, and while complexity doesn’t intimidate me at all, I’m going to do what I can to make this compelling show accessible to others who might not have my memory for trivial details.

In case you missed it: last night’s episode “White to Play,” did a fine job of reassuring the audience that if you missed the pilot, there’s still enough time to catch up. Take advantage of this window of opportunity, folks, it won’t last long. The episode opens on good old Planet Earth, zooming in ever closer to Los Angeles while children chant “Ring-Around-the-Rosy,” finally landing on an elementary school playground of apparently unconscious children – all except one. Charlie, the daughter of Mark (Joseph Fiennes) and Olivia (Sonya Walger) stands alone on the blacktop, clutching her mutant squirrel doll. But before we start to worry for her sanity, the kids jump their feet. They were playing ‘Blackout’ and start to ask each other what they saw. (Visions of the future include Disneyland and ponies.) Only Charlie refuses to play, and she shoves a boy who tries to make her tell. When a teacher intervenes, Charlie makes a break for it, running down the block and straight into a blockade of tanks and soldiers. No, this is not another post-apocalyptic future, not yet anyway, just the government’s response to mass chaos.

Meanwhile Mark’s dealing with his own problems as an underused Alan Ruck starts whining during their AA meeting. Mark’s really bitter, and interrupts Alan’s share time. Mark’s sponsor Aaron (Bryan F. O’Byrne) starts commenting on how they’re all trying to deal, and how lucky they are to already have a support group, so Mark really should chill.

FBI Director Wedeck gives the team a peptalk, reminding them that the public will look to them for guidance and reassurance. The deputy secretary of Homeland Security (Lynn Whitfield)  strolls in with a bug up her butt – just where does the L.A. office of the FBI get off taking full responsibility for finding the cause of the flash forwards? Mark retorts that he’d be happy to turn the investigation over to anyone who has better information, but since he’s the one with the magic future board, she ought to drop it. Then Charlie’s school calls and he runs out while the others fill the secretary in on the Mosaic Collective, the website they’ve set up for people around the world to post their flash forwards. She’s not particularly impressed, until they show her the video of the man from Detroit who was awake during the blackout.

Mark and Olivia arrive at Charlie’s school and are ‘encouraged’ by the principal to ask her about her vision. Mark’s worried that Charlie saw the same man that Olivia saw, and thinks her family’s falling apart.  They promise to show her that everything’s all right – for now. Since the babysitter’s gone AWOL, Olivia takes Charlie with her to the hospital, and while Olivia patches up Charlie’s mutant squirrel doll (injured in the line of duty) she meets Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport), the father of the boy she saved just after the blackouts – and the man from her vision, the one she’ll be in love with six months from now when her husband’s gone back to drinking. Lloyd doesn’t recognize her, tells her that his son is autistic, and that he and his wife were separated soon after the diagnosis. He doesn’t know how to tell his son that his mother is dead. Olivia runs away as soon as she can.

Back at the FBI, Mark’s partner Demetri (John Cho) is upset that Mark’s wearing the friendship bracelet from his vision, because he thinks Mark wants the future to happen, though Mark assures him that isn’t the case, and is wearing the bracelet because his daughter gave it to him. Kids. He also mentions that the real reason Demetri’s pissed is that the more signs the visions are for real, the more likely it is that he’s going to die some time in the next six months. (He didn’t see anything during the blackout.) They stop bickering and refocus their attention on D. Gibbons, a name from Mark’s future board, right before she walks in the front door. Turns out she owns a cupcake shop and her vision involves FBI Agents Noh and Benford, her credit card company, and pigeons.

Mark accompanies Wedeck to impound the cupcakes Didi Gibbons brought as evidence, and bullies his boss into admitting the truth about his vision, which in an odd moment of slapstick, involved the john, and rescuing a fellow agent from drowning in a urinal.

Olivia decides to take Charlie to see Lloyd Simcoe, to see if Charlie recognizes him. She doesn’t, but does recognize his son Dylan, and freaks out at the sight of Dylan in a hospital bed. This is enough cause for Olivia to take Charlie over to the FBI. While Demetri discovers that someone cloned Didi Gibbons’ credit card and used it in Pigeon, Utah, Mark gets the news that not only did his wife meet the man of her dreams, his daughter knows the other man’s son. Olivia swears she would never cheat, but Mark doesn’t have time to hear it – he’s got to go to Utah.

D. Gibbons, the unsub, bought a bus ticket, but never used it, and all roads out of town are blocked. The local sheriff greets Mark and Demetri, and mentions that she wouldn’t mind someone telling her what to do. The town’s a bit like a headless chicken after the blackout, though she didn’t see anything herself. Demetri’s very intrigued by this. Their stakeout leads no where, and he wants to pack it in, but Mark spies an abandoned doll factory across the road, and since in his vision a picture of a burned and melted baby doll was right next to the name D. Gibbons on his conspiracy wall, they all go in to investigate.

It’s creepy, and there are dolls hanging from the ceiling with nooses around their necks, which turn out to be part of a burglar alarm set up by their unsub. The sounds of ‘Ring-Around-the-Rosy’ fill the air again, and the good guys charge in to find a man in shadows standing over two tanks seemingly filled with water – and computer hard drives. There are explosives everywhere. Though guns are drawn on him, the man only says, “He who foresees calamities suffers them twice over,” then drops lighters into the tanks of what’s probably gasoline, causing them to explode. He fires a gun through the fire, and hits the sheriff, then escapes while Mark and Demetri shield themselves from the blast that should, by all laws of physics, blow them to bits.

With the picture of the burned baby doll taken by one of the CSIs, another piece of the future falls into place. The sheriff has croaked, though she leaves a decent looking corpse (no fire damage), and Demetri’s really scared since the first person he’s met who didn’t have a vision is now dead, but he doesn’t want to talk about it.  He finds a chess piece – a white queen – and a fried cellphone. The unsub was a major computer hacker, and probably competition in the search for answers.

Back at the hospital, Olivia offers Lloyd some advice on breaking the news to Dylan before she takes Charlie home. Dylan seems to already know that his mother is dead, and responds to his father’s outpouring of love by asking to see Olivia.

The FBI are feeling pretty smug when they discover that the D. Gibbons from Utah made five phone calls right before the blackout, and then one during the blackout – a phone call to the man from the Detroit baseball stadium. Now there are two men known to have been awake for those very crucial two minutes and seventeen seconds. Meanwhile the Mosaic website is taking on a life of its own, and FBI Tech Janis, who saw herself undergoing an ultrasound in the future, is encouraged by Demetri (now a believer) to enter her own story, perhaps connecting with the technician who did the sonogram. She tells him he ought to make a post too – if he is going to die, maybe someone out there knows how, and he can prevent it. For reasons that are a little too convenient, he does so, only to get a phone call while walking to his car from a mysterious woman (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who tells him that according to her vision, he will be murdered on March 15th, 2010, and she’s very sorry.

Mark’s conflicted about the future, but tells Olivia that he’s glad she told him about Lloyd. They shouldn’t have secrets. Well, she shouldn’t have secrets. He decides not to tell her about the drinking in his future, or that he’s burning the bracelet Charlie made him because it’s an omen. When he goes upstairs to kiss Charlie goodnight, she asks him about the flash forwards, if they’re going to come true. Only the good ones, he promises. Oh good, she says, because D. Gibbons is a bad man.

All in all, an enjoyable hour of television, though I’m not particularly attached to Joseph Fiennes’s character. It’s nice that he loves his family, but he seems to be neglecting his job in a desperate attempt to keep them together. Which may be the point, but makes him a lousy lead.

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