FlashForward: Season One Pt.1 (2009)

Actors: Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Sonya Walger, Courtney B. Vance, Jack Davenport, Dominic Monaghan, and Brian F. O'Byrne
Format: Live Action, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 2
Studio: ABC Studios
DVD Release Date: February 23, 2010
Run Time: 420 minutes



Two moments will determine whether FlashForward is your cup of tea or not: the opening of the premiere and the closing of the premiere. Both carry huge amounts of promise, which the remainder of the series pursues with mixed but steady success.

In order to make your way through the show's slower patches, you need to be invested in where the producers are going, and care very much about the mystery they present.

It's certainly one hell of a mystery. One fine sunny day, everyone on the planet loses consciousness for a little over two minutes. The premiere gives us a sudden, shocking look at the consequences of such an event, as FBI Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) comes to in the middle of what had been a high-speed chase. He clambers out of his vehicle to face a stunning shot of Los Angeles in chaos - wreckage on the freeway, motorists in pools of blood, and several downtown buildings on fire.

FlashForward gains strength in its early episodes by thinking through all the particulars.

Planes fall out of the sky as their pilots pass out, beachgoers drown in scant inches of water, and anyone in a moving car is apt to have one hell of a bad morning. Political ramifications soon make their way into the equation as well. Was this an act of terrorism?

A nation testing a new weapon? China was spared the worst of the ravages, since the blackout happened in the middle of the night over there. Could they be behind it all? The FBI quickly assembles a task force to get to the bottom of it, spearheaded by Benford and his partner Agent Noh (John Cho).

But that's only part of the equation. For while the blackout itself caused incredible devastation, it came with bonus features: while unconscious, everyone caught a glimpse of where they would be in six months' time. The veracity of those visions - whether they're true and whether they can be changed - present unheralded challenges to our ideas about how the universe works. Some characters fight their futures. Others welcome them with open arms. A few are totally indifferent (Benford's boss sees himself on the can), but still understand the magnitude of what everyone has seen.

Series creators David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga keep their central premise in mind at all times, allowing the characters to work their way around it slowly from week to week.

It doesn't always make for a perfect fit. Benford turns out to be something of a wet noodle and the subplot involving a future rift between him and his wife (Sonya Walger) smacks of soap opera plotting at its worst. Similar incidents pepper the first ten episodes of the show, causing FlashForward to stumble more than once.

Supporting characters tend to do much better than the lead, particularly those with serious questions like Noh (who had no vision and thus believes he's going to be dead in six months) or those with visions that can't possibly come true (like Benford's AA sponsor, who sees his dead daughter alive again). When the show focuses on their dilemma, it positively sings with inspiration. When it doesn't, you can see its wheels spinning as it searches vainly for traction.

Thankfully, FlashForward also has a knack for turning the entire concept on its ear from time to time . . . which brings us to the second make-it-or-break it moment that closes the first episode. I won't reveal it out of deference to those who haven't watched it yet, but it reveals a glimpse of the greatness that this concept could be capable of. FlashForward hasn't reached such heights yet - not in the first ten episodes and maybe not ever - but its lofty goals allow it to deliver reasonably solid sci-fi programming with a modicum of originality.

THE DISC: The two-disc set represents a fairly brazen attempt to drum up support for the second half of the season. ABC has released only the first ten episodes on the DVD, saving the rest for later. The discs contain a bare minimum of extras: two previews of the second half of the season and a documentary detailing how they created the immediate after-effects of the blackout. All three features are under ten minutes in length.

WORTH IT? The episodes themselves are definitely worth it, but since you only get the first half of the season, you'll be left hanging when you're done. Those who want to watch new episodes as they air and need to catch up should absolutely take a look. Everybody else may want to wait until the entire season is released: either in a complete package or with a "second half" DVD.

RECOMMENDATION: FlashForward is a reliable TV show with a lot to recommend it. The DVD makes a good introduction so long as you're willing to wait for episodes 11 through 24.

- Rob Vaux



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