Spawned from the strange pairing of Brannon Braga, of Star Trek infamy, and David S. Goyer, whose name has become more common since his involvement with Christopher Nolan, FlashForward was a spectacular concept that was apparently ahead of its creators. The idea was an instant hit with the sci-fi community and people waited with baited breath to see how a show that teased its characters by letting them live within a heartbeat of their potential, and quickly upcoming, future would handle the few months until that point. More importantly, how their knowledge of potential events would play into the seemingly inevitable outcome. Of course, they obviously didn’t think the philosophical aspects would be enough to carry it since we’re given FBI Agents as our main characters, ensuring a show beholden to plenty of action.
Chaos reigns in Los Angeles after a mysterious event causes everyone in the world to lose consciousness at exactly the same moment. Was it an act of nature? Something man‐made gone wrong, or something even more sinister? Whatever it was, every person on Earth blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds and sees a series of events from their own future, taking place on April 29, 2010 at 10:00 p.m. For some the future will be joyous and hopeful; for others, shockingly unexpected; and for a few, it simply doesn’t seem to exist. Knowing their fate will alter each person’s life in one way or another and poses the questions: Can destiny be changed? And by changing just one destiny, what effect would that have on those of others?
From the series’ very start we’re introduced to Mark Benford: FBI Agent; Husband; Father; Main Character, as well as his FBI partner Demetri Noh – played by Joseph Fiennes and John Cho, respectively. Of course, with John Cho’s breakthrough role in films as the weed fiend Harold Lee from “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle,” there was plenty of skepticism to be had with his particular role. By the first episode, however, his performance vanquishes any doubt of his ability for this role. The rest of the cast is filled out with “hey it’s that guy/woman!” actors along with a gaggle of unheard-ofs. Fortunately, despite a lack of big names to draw attention, there is still plenty of focus paid to each one throughout the run of the season – in fact, it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself caring more about their outcomes than the actual main character and his family (troubles).
Going back to the plot, which isn’t entirely unique in its basic premise; there are a plethora of alternative sources out there that prod at the philosophical impact of knowing one’s future, but FlashForward’s concept really stretches it into a league of its own. Moving beyond a lone individual dealing with temporal insight, FlashForward features the entire world’s population blacking out and living out mere minutes of several months later into their future. This obviously not only has a devastating psychological outcome for the world as the population is divided in what they take from their visions, as well as violent consequences as all of Earth’s people blacking out simultaneously isn’t necessarily good for active populations. Annoyingly, though, the latter consequence is rarely featured all that much past our introduction to Mark Benford and Demetri Noh, and is simply mentioned when someone has to make a bad guy feel… bad. The most unfortunate thing about this show is that it rarely ever seems as though the writers are up to par with a profound catastrophe of this magnitude. Although, what bugged me the most about this is that the writers frequently resort to a cadre of clichés for Mark Benford and his wife; rocky marriage, alcoholism, infidelity – the only thing they seem to have left out is another man claiming to be the father of their daughter.
The writers, however, seemed to have been replaced at the mid-season point. Literally at the start of the second half of the season, the show starts improving dramatically. There is still the occasional bout of the Benford’s Soap Opera to be had, the second half of the season includes some of the best development for Demetri Noh as well as the rest of the supporting cast. The first half frequently dedicated at least half of the story to the Benford’s clichéd blight, leaving the supporting cast little time to have the limelight – although some of the more talented shine through regardless. The second half is really where the concept feels as though it’s in the right hands and properly unfolds along a journey filled with twists and compelling subplots. Unfortunately, the last episode seems to have been written at the same time as the first few episodes, probably by the creators themselves, since it feels so separated from the second to the last episode, and ends the show on a frustrating feeling of redundancy.
Most feel that the end is disappointing because they didn’t get a chance to change it to a series finale; they assumed it would get a following season, and so they wrapped it up on a major cliffhanger. However, my feeling is that even if you remove the cliffhanger ending, it still doesn’t match up. The second to the last episode feels more of an appropriate finale than the actual last episode, as it concludes several storylines to endings that you had hoped for, or endings you never saw coming, all of which felt as though they naturally involved into something different and bring the show to a profound conclusion. It even retains some cliffhanger elements due to not everything having a chance to get answered. The end episode, on the contrary, decides to not only make all of the twist and turns throughout the season utterly redundant, but it even reverses what the previous episode accomplished. The worst part about it is that it does so in some cases without any actual explanation, leaving you with simply a hollow and jilted feeling.
As I said, they wanted to make this have plenty of action, and so there are a horde of villains to keep things on edge for our characters. The show starts out with a mysterious approach to the behind-the-scenes villainy, which eventually gets boring as it’s carried out without much development into the second half of the season. When we finally do get more development, though, it really takes off into an interesting collection of subtle baddies. Some of which leave you guessing their intentions, but it’s fortunately through clever writing rather than sloppy gimmicks. Most of the action is hit or miss, though. As with the rest of the show’s aspects, the action is best handled within the second half of the season, easily leaving the first season’s action sequences to look amateur. It still retains some entertaining impact, though.
Overall, despite my harsh feelings toward the mediocrity that plagues the first half, and the proverbial face-slap that is the finale episode, I have to recommend this as a Rental. If you have NetFlix or something similar and need something to watch without worrying that you’ll feel sorry for the lack of further seasons, it’s definitely worth checking out. Inbetween the disappointment there is plenty of decent action and humor to be had, along with the efforts of the supporting cast to appreciate.
Disney packs the complete series onto five discs inside of a standard Amaray DVD case housed inside of a slick slipcover. It might stand out a bit on the shelves due to its giant Requiem for a Dream like eyeball that is dead center in the packaging…but it’s really quite a boring and mundane cover to be honest. I get what they were going for, but it’s just really quite meh (which is exactly what I said about the season 1 volume 1 release). Disc art is the same and menus are…well, slightly better, but still not amazing. Video is thankfully nice and clear, although the compression ratio is a bit up there as they still didn’t spread the episodes out across the discs as much as they could have. Audio is a DD5.1 mix and while it is very action driven show for the first couple installments, the farther the series goes on the more typical the mix gets. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some nice directionality and LFE output…but it’s mostly all detective work and question positing so it ends up being a crystal clear front channel delivery, more than anything.
ARCHITECTS OF DESTINY – This cool behind‐the‐scenes bonus feature takes audiences from the filming of the pilot episode through the excitement of the season premiere and production of the entire first season, taking an in‐depth look at each of the characters
BLOOPER REEL ‐ A hilarious reel, highlighting some scenes that didn’t quite go as planned
MEET YÛKO ‐ Meet one of Japan’s biggest stars Yûko Takeuchi as she travels from Tokyo to LA, to play Keiko, the love interest Zach sees in his FlashForward. Yûko gets a taste of Hollywood with a tour of the Walt Disney Studios where FlashForward is filmed and her first meeting with the series’ cast and crew.
FLASHFORWARD ON SET ‐ An inside look on set of FlashForward with the cast and crew that make each thrilling episode.
• Tempting Fate ‐ An Inside Look At The Blue Hand Club
• A Day In The Park ‐ On location at MacArthur Park
• When Nature Calls‐ Courtney Vance’s Bathroom Scene
• Crash Forward ‐ Car Chase from Course Correction
• Emergency Operations ‐ Make‐up and Special Effects at the hospital.
KANGAROO? ‐ What’s up with the Kangaroo? Find out in this humorous piece.
INTERVIEWS FROM THE MOSAIC COLLECTIVE
• Tokyo, Japan
• London, England
• Cocoa Beach, Florida
• Los Angeles, California
CREATING A CATASTROPHE: THE EFFECTS OF A GLOBAL BLACKOUT – takes viewers behind‐the‐scenes of the pilot, to discover what went in to creating FlashForward’s most iconic scene, the freeway disaster. Viewers will explore through interviews with David S. Goyer and his on‐set production team how destruction is developed and explosions are executed.
“COULD” ‐ A dramatic look at the second half of FlashForward, narrated by Dominic Monaghan
The extras are pretty meaty looking, but quite a few were ported over from the previous half-volume release so it’s not as impressive of a list as it could have been. The special effects piece is mildly entertaining simply because of Goyer’s input. For some reason the “Could” piece is included here, which was a preview of the second half of the season, but…whatever.
Considering there are really only a few extras focusing on the season as a whole, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend much time with this set once you’re done with the episodes. As is I’d say go ahead and Rent it—only buy it if you plan on reliving a show that could have been great but ultimately ended up buckling under its own ambitions.
FlashFoward – The Complete Series arrives on DVD on August 31st.
Season review by Andrew
DVD review by Zach Demeter