Flash Maybe

Like most television viewers, I first heard of ABC’s new mega-drama Flash Forward during Lost’s “The Incident” parts one and two last May.  The timing of its introduction coupled with the obvious connection between the title and one of Lost’s signature plot devices make comparisons between the two shows inevitable.

Is this fair?  Yes, I think it is.  ABC is clearly wants Lost’s fanatical fans to throw themselves into Flash Forward with equal dedication.  The fact that fan favourite Dominic Mohagan is slated to star in the series (though he was not in the pilot) should certainly help that cause.  Casting Sonia Walger as the main character’s wife will help as well.  (Does this signal that Walger’s already light duties as Penny will be even less needed in Lost’s final season?)

Even without ABC’s attempt to link the two shows, comparing Fast Forward to Lost is fair for the plain and simple fact that, over its five seasons, Lost established itself as the gold standard for intricate serial dramas (which I call mega-dramas).  To not compare the two would be like not comparing Tiger Woods to Jack Nicklaus.

But it would be unfair to judge one episode of Flash Forward against more than 100 episodes of Lost, so let’s not rush to judge Flash Forward.  Instead I’ll just note some observations without casting judgment.

What jumped out to me most about the premier of Flash Forward is that it seemed to cover an awful lot of ground awfully quickly.  Our characters learned that everyone on the planet blacked out for two minutes, seventeen seconds.  They also surmised that rather than merely dreaming, everyone had a pre-memory vision of where they would be at 10 p.m. pacific daylight time on April 29, 2010.  We even got several looks at what the show’s central characters saw.  This is obviously significant, they realize, and decide to investigate.  The final scene had two characters learning that someone was awake during the blackout in a cliffhanger that I have to admit left me with chills.

Think back to the beginning of Lost.  The pilot gave us a plane crash, a brief introduction to the central characters and a tantalizing glimpse at the mysteries that lurked in the jungle.  Then, the show spent another 23 episodes enduring us to the characters while dropping enough mystery morsels to gradually build our interest.

Flash Forward could have gone this direction, but it seems that the writers have not.  I can easily imagine a first season with episodes focused on each character’s glimpse into the future, each one weaving an ever-intricate web with the others.  Along the way we would get bits and pieces of the big mystery, closing the season with the big reveal that someone (or a lot of someones) stayed conscious through the blackout.

The fact that the Flash Forward writers crammed so much into the pilot doesn’t mean they chose to forgo the kind of in-depth character development that Lost is known for, but it does sound a potential alarm.  The pace of reveals in the pilot seemed forced, to the point that it was getting a little ridiculous.  If that keeps up, it could signal that the show won’t spend the time enticing its viewers with an emotional investment in the show, choosing to wow them with one plot twist after another instead.  Doing so would misdiagnose the reasons for Lost’s success.  Yes, it has mind-blowing plot twists, but without the painstaking – sometimes too painstaking – level of detail and devotion the show built up the fans would have long ago given up on the show.

To be successful, Flash Forward must find a way to give its viewers more than just a mysterious plot.  Last year’s Lost season finale had us all hoping against hope that Sawyer would hold on to Juliet in the mineshaft because we love Sawyer and wanted to see him happy.  The fact that I can’t recall a single character’s name from Flash Forward’s premier episode means the show has work to do before building the loyal followers ABC wants to keep tuned to the network when Lost ends.

 

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Keamy and the heart monitor

Keamy, the heart monitor and the time difference

I posted this on a Lost message board:

Earlier this season, a package sent to the island arrived 30-some minutes late, indicating that it was behind in time compared to the freighter. Then, a dead body washed up on the short of the island before the person died on the boad, indicating that the island had by then moved ahead of the freighter in time.

So why then did Keamy’s death immediately detonate the bomb on the freighter? I can think of a few explanations. One is that the time difference evened out. The other is that the freighter had apparently drifted closer to the island, close enough that Juliet could see it explode, and therefore was on “island time” so to speak.

That made me think of something else. What if there are two boats – the same way that there were two doctors, the dead doctor and the living doctor? One boat near the island on island time and another farther away in a different time. Might season five open with a boat that doesn’t explode?

Someone responded with:

Also remember that radio/satellite transmissions don’t seem to be affected by the island’s time differential. There have been a been instances where there was real-time communication via the satellite phone between the people on the ship and the people on the island when the ship was clearly outside of the island’s ‘time zone’

That’s a great point, and as someone else posted, this is probably the likely explanation:

About this – it’s possible that they can explain it away by noting that the freighter was moved closer to the Island in the finale (after the engine was repaired). It’s possible it got inside the electromagnetic field surrounding the island so that the transmission was, in fact, instantaneous.

Someone else brought up the notion that this would mean there are two of everything, one on island time and one on regular time.  If that’s the case, then there could even be another Oceanic 815 somewhere.

Let’s run with that.  The flash forwards clearly indicate that an alternate plan did not make it to LA.  So perhaps there is a second plane out there at the bottom of the ocean?  We know from Widmore staging wreckage that no one ever found any real remains of Oceanic 815, but if this theory is true and there is a second plane out there somewhere, if it is ever found that would create major problems for Widmore and the Oceanic Six.

How did Ben know what he was doing?

Ben seemed to know exactly what he was doing the moment Locke told him they had to move the island.  How?  In the first hour, Ben chided Locke for not remembering that Ben always has a plan, but all that led to the frozen donkey wheel didn’t seem like a man following a plan.  It seemed like a man following directions.

This brings me to a gripe I have with the show.  Not really a gripe, I suppose, maybe just a request.  I’d like to know what Ben knows about the island.  That’s all.

I say “that’s all” as if I’m asking for a glass of ice water, but after four unbelievably loyal seasons of Lost viewership, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.  At some point in or over the course of season five, I’d like to have Ben’s full back story.  Specifically, how he learned what he knows about the island.

After season four, we are caught up to current time.  The producers have said that season four is about leaving the island, season five about getting back and season six about what happens when they get there.  Season five will also have to include what the hell happened to the island when Ben turning the frozen donkey wheel made it disappear.  I think his back story can be told during the course of this explanation.

This leads right into my next section…

Ben trying to get them back to the island

Ben always has a plan.

I posit that Ben trying to convince Jack of the need to go back is a clever manipulation to find out where the island is.  What we know about post-move Ben is that he’s vowed to avenge his daughter’s death by killing Penny, Widmore’s daughter.  If you make the assumption that Penny contacts her father after finding Desmond, I see Widmore sending Penny – and Desmond – back to the island, either with their knowledge or by manipulation.

Ben would surely know this.  With the determination we saw in his nighttime talk with Widmore, I don’t think he would let anything get in the way of his revenge.

This theory bolsters my prediction that Des and Penny are Adam and Eve.

Casting, especially Keamy

There are criticisms, legitimate or not, of the acting on Lost.  However you feel about that, you can’t argue that the casting is nearly perfect.

Keamy is a great example.  He’s got the muscled body of a post-military mercenary, but also a kind of boyish cuteness that allows him the charm that you wouldn’t expect from such an evil person.  Or maybe you would expect it.  But the actor selected for the role does it perfectly.

Michael Emerson is another perfect cast in the role of Ben.  Can you imagine Ben without those piercing, beady eyes or those tightly pursed lips?  No way.  Or the way his eyes get wide and he holds the rest of his facial features completely still when he delivers a crucial line.

The climactic scene of the season was obviously Ben turning the frozen donkey wheel (this name comes from the producers’ code phrase for the finale) and thereby moving the island.  Emerson did a wonderful job of conveying two very different emotions in this scene.  First, the obvious physical strain of turning this massive, frozen wheel.  This added to the dramatic build up of the scene.

But he also added a second emotion, one that I wasn’t expecting.  Turning the wheel was, for Ben, like making the decision to break up with someone you love.  You hate having to do it, but you do it because you know you have to and it kills you inside.  You could see it in his eyes, he was even crying by the time the scene washed out.

Taking himself off the island was the last thing Ben would ever want to do, but he did it anyway for the island’s sake.  Seeing the heartbreak on his face added a level of sadness to, perhaps, the most dramatic scene yet in four seasons.

Back to my original point, I’m hardly enough of a television watcher to make this kind of claim, but I will anyway:  If there’s been an actor who has done a better job in primetime this season, I’ll be damned.  Michael Emerson has been awesome.

Jack the Other

I’m watching the Lost pilot, which oddly enough I don’t think I ever saw.

It only confirms my suspicion that Jack is on of “the others.”

Why else would Jack wake up inland and not soaking wet?  Am I supposed to believe he just landed in the grass?

The pilot.  Jack, Freckles and Charlie found the cockpit and the lone surviving pilot, who was eventually pulled from the plane by the monster.  When Kate and Charlie run away, Jack stays behind, the monster disappears, the pilot ends up in the trees and we are supposed to believe that Jack ducked behind a bush?  No.

Jack is at most an Other and at least a representative of the Dharma project (the Others and the Dharma project could be one and the same).  It/they have to have a person on the inside to keep them informed of what happens and to direct the survivors in the direction that the Others or the Dharma project clearly wants them to follow.  This person is Jack, but don’t expect the show to reveal that anytime soon, if ever.