The Mystery of FlashForward

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According to ABC, Thumbnail image for FlashForward.jpgFlashforward is supposed to be the second coming of Lost. While J.J. Abrams has no hand in it, it will never escape the specter of Lost's success and the pressure of the hype machine. It's three episodes in, I'm feeling this show is much less Lost, and much more Heroes...
J.J. Abrams knows how to use mystery. I never thought much about the concept beyond needing to turn the page to find out what happens next. Then I heard his TED talk and read his recent Wired Guest Editor issue, and it really made me think about what makes his shows work. Yes, a lot of it is mystery. It's getting people hooked on "What's going on?"

FlashForward
has mystery in spades.

  • What or who caused the blackout?
  • Why that long?
  • Why did it happen at that day and time and why did it flash forward to that time in the future?
  • Who's after Mark in his Flashforward, and why is he drinking so much?
  • How does Olivia end up in bed with the man she's never met?
  • Why doesn't Demetri see anything? Is he really dead?
  • Why was the young doctor, Bryce, suicidal?
  • What did the daughter, Charlie, see?
  • Who is the lone man awake in Detroit, a man who doesn't seem to be all that horrified that the rest of the stadium is down for the count.
  • Who else is awake, and/or how many are there?
  • How did Demetri's coworker manage to see that one man in that giant stadium amongst millions of video clips? (Answer: TV Magic)
  • And what Asian parent named their kid Demetri?!
Between all of these questions, Mark's map and the "Flashcards" on Hulu feeding us specific mysteries to look for, it feels like we've glimpsed what's inside the "mystery box."

Backing up: in J.J.'s TED Talk, he talks about the Mystery Box his grandfather bought him, and how he's never opened it. To him, the box is more interesting sealed as it represents limitless potential because of what your imagination puts in it.

Back to FlashForward. In an attempt to keep people from becoming confused--as so many feel or felt with Lost--we're being given clues to the story and the future.

I don't like that. They're literally spelling out the mysteries and not making you put things together on your own. J.J. Abrams' mystery boxes are always sealed tight. Sometimes too tight. After five years of Alias I still don't know what the hell the Rambaldi artifacts are all about, Cloverfield never explains the monster, Lost hasn't explained much of anything, and don't get me started on Fringe. The fun in the mystery box is making your own guesses and putting together your conspiracy theories. Let's face it, "the reveal" is often a letdown, deflating all of that fabulous tension built up over story arcs and entire seasons.

FlashForward
, in theory, follows the formula. Mystery after mystery has compounded in just the first three episodes, but it feels sloppy. They're throwing so much stuff at us hoping that something somewhere in one of the stories will hook you. You know what other show did that? Heroes. See where that got them?

It turns out mystery isn't the only part of what makes a show. It's not just "What happens next?" but also, "Why do we care?" The characters in Lost were given gradual introductions, but they would get entire episodes focused on them and their stories, creating a connection, establishing depth of character and making us care.

That's where Heroes went wrong. Threading ten story lines through 42 minutes just made things confusing. It also doesn't help that most characters have been reset multiple times--sometimes every season, sometimes twice a season. FlashForward is going the Heroes route, threading multiple storylines at the same time. We haven't been given any character backgrounds in FlashForward, so we don't really care that Mark's wife might leave him, or that Demetri may die in six months, and that's a major problem.

Letting us peek into the mystery box so early takes the fun out of the guessing game, and the shallow characters aren't helping the show at all. I'll continue to watch to see if it gets better, but I'm not hooked. However, there is one final mystery that I'm very much curious about. One question that may never be solved:

...How insanely gorgeous would Demetri and Zoey's kids be?!

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1 Comment

Hey, I still like Heroes... >_> But, I think it may slowly be taken over by Glee as my favorite show. ::gasp!!::

I've been meaning to try watching Flashforward... should I wait to see if it gets better? :P

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