Sunday, October 18, 2009

Counting crows (and swans)


"137 Sekunden"

A heinous criminal may have the answers Agent Benford is seeking to the blackout mystery. Agent Noh tries to uncover the identity of the woman who called him with news, and the exact date, of when he will die next year.

Joseph Fiennes is as tightly wound as usual as Benford. He still speaks in mostly a hoarse whisper (hey, he's The Hoarse Whisperer), like he was The Shadow or something. When his collegues are sifting through possible reasons for the blackout, one scenario claims it was gas erupting from the earth - Barry Shabaka Henley translates that as, "so the earth farted" - and Benford cracks a smile and laughs. Keep it up, Mr. Fiennes! (There was also a welcome "Spidey-sense" joke immediately after, probably thrown in by Executive Producer and uber-comic book fan David S. Goyer.)

The man with the intel I referred to above turns out to be a bonafide Nazi war criminal named Geyer. He wants a full pardon and release from his German prison in exchange for telling Benford everything he saw during his blackout. He tries to shine them on with some Kabballah crap, but Benford not being Madonna sees through this. However, Geyer does get his pardon, then reveals what at first glance seems to be nothing of value (a flock [murder] of crows had plummeted to earth and died outside his prison window), but it points Benford, with the help of Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) in a very interesting direction.

Demetri finally reunites with his fiance Zoe (Gabrielle Union) since the blackout happened. She tells him that in her flashforward she saw them married, with her walking toward him on the beach. He lies and tells her he saw the same thing. Why are the men in this show lying to their wives/fiances? This has to seriously bite them on their asses at some point.

And Benford's AA sponsor, Aaron (Brian F. O'Byrne), tries to convince his ex-wife (Kim Dickens) to have the remains of their daughter exhumed so they can re-test the DNA. If you recall, Aaron believes he was reunited with their daughter in his flashforward. His ex believes it was just wishful thinking. But the results do come back positive - it is his daughter. So what does his flashforward mean?

Guest star Curt Lowens does a nice turn as the slimy Nazi, Geyer. The German prison official was right to warn Benford that nothing is as it seems with Geyer and that he simply cannot be trusted. The look on his face after he receives his pardon and then divulges his (seemingly) useless flashforward information was killer. This evil man loves to deceive and manipulate people. Janis was right to voice her concerns to Benford. Where do you draw the line if you start making deals with evil men? I like that Janis is sort of the verbal conscience to Benford our man of action.

The episode ends with a chilling scene set in a small village in Somalia. We get another piece of information regarding the blackout. But is it really what it seems to be?


"Black Swan"

After Benford gets back from Germany, his partner Demetri Noh insists they follow a "more normal" lead closer to home gleamed from the woman Alda who was involved with the alleged terrorists the two FBI agents were pursuing when the blackout occurred.

Dr. Olivia Benford (Sonya Walger), still trying to avoid Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport), the man from her flashforward, and Dr. Bryce (Zachary Knighton) clash over treatment of a man named Ned who seems to be handling the blackout and the aftermath very, very calmly. And Nicole (Peyton List) the Benford's babysitter struggles with issues of faith as a result of her flashback which she finally reveals to Agent Benford.

This episode opened with a bang, or rather a huge SPLASH, as we flashback to the day of the blackout and a city bus drives straight into a lake, all perfectly set to the tune of Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet." It is here we meet Ned who calms rescues a fellow passenger. He comes to Dr. Benford's hospital nearly two weeks after the blackout because he's just now feeling funny. He tells Drs. Benford and Bryce that in his flashforward he's out at a hip nightclub he's always wanted to go to but was always afraid to try (Ned is -- well, with a name like Ned, you're not exactly Brad Pitt). In his flash, Ned is confident and, well, black, which is odd to the doctors as he is definitely caucasian.

After Benford and Noh's trip to a fast food joint in Indio, CA uncovers nothing but a small time pot dealer who thinks he's the next Scarface, Benford questions Alda (Rachel Roberts) himself. For someone who claimed not to know anything about the blackout, she appears to know SOMETHING. She tells Benford he's been asking the wrong questions regarding the phenomenon - "Who did it and how" -when instead he should be asking, "Why?" Alda also tells him the story of the Black Swan, a 17th century metaphor for an "high impact event so rare it's beyond the realm of human expectation." Scientists of that time had assumed all swans were white. They were wrong. So which of Benford's assumptions are wrong?

Lloyd Simcoe appears to make a breakthrough with his autistic son after some advice from Dr. Benford. He is playing Dumbledore for his son when he receives a call from "Simon" who tells the reluctant Lloyd that “Talking to me is just one of those little inconveniences you’re going to have to put up with now that we’re responsible for the single greatest disaster in human history.” And, boys and girls (and Driveshaft fans), "Simon" is played by Dominic Monaghan, who is rocking the evil in this brief appearance.

Four episodes in, I'm still intrigued by the flashforward phenomenon and the whole "is the future set in stone or can we change it" plotline. But I've noticed a problem with juggling the main cast. It seems like such a long while since we've seen Bryce and Nicole, even though it's only been a few episodes. Agent Benford's quest must remain the central driving focus of the show, so they've got to rotate the supporting cast members' stories around his. As we've seen with Lost, which had a huge sprawling cast in the beginning but quickly ran out of stories for characters like Boone and Shannon at the end of the first season (and Michael and Walt, and audience fave Charlie a few seasons later), if FlashForward gets to run for a few years I can see them dropping some of these characters and adding others.
They appear to be doubling up on some character themes/arcs: Bryce has a new hopeful outlook post-flash. Aaron was also filled with new hope about finding his daughter alive. I don't see how both characters can continue with (seemingly) similar arcs. Also Bryce seems to be leaning toward a faith explanation, which they appear to be preparing to explore with Nicole (apart from her visit to the pitiful t-shirt-giving priest), so they're (apparently) doubling up there. On the issue of faith I wish they would explore the religious impact of the flashforward on the world (most people, especially in the U.S. claim some sort of religious affiliation). Never in human history has something so earthshaking occurred yet everyone still goes about their normal business, which I think would be far, far from the truth. Perhaps if Demetri were religious, that could tie in with his fear of dying at a pre-determined date based on his flash.

I guess at this point I'm much more interested in who is behind the blackout, how they did it, and (yes, Alda) why. I do care about Mark and Olivia Benford and their personal situation and Demetri and his dilemma, but beyond that I'm not fully vested in the other characters. At least not yet. But with the addition of Dominic Monaghan and the hopeful continuation of previously seen Michael Massee as villains/threats/MacGuffins things are heating up.

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