Chaos, when done right, can make for some of the world’s most beautiful imagery. And in the scenes immediately following the miraculous, catastrophic event that sets off ABC’s new series “FlashForward,” chaos is most certainly done right. Where the chaos goes from there, however, is not quite as perfect.
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It all begins when the world is going about a normal day. People are driving, flying, working and doing whatever else the global population does — until, that is, everyone passes out all at once. For 137 seconds, every human on this planet goes unconscious. The added kick? Each person gets to see a glimpse of his or her future at the same specific point: April 29 at 10 p.m., Pacific Time — about six months into the future from the momentary global sleep. Some see their lives falling apart, others see their lives revitalized. Many never come out of these visions, as the death toll from everyone on Earth passing out spontaneously is unimaginably high — there are thousands upon thousands of crashes, not to mention failed surgeries and falls from fatal heights, tumbles on staircases and many other unforeseen dangers.
This plot premise is undeniably unique in a fall lineup full of shows in easy-to-pin-down genres. It appears there may be some credence to the hype that “FlashForward” could be the next “Lost.” With epic music, big ideas and an accomplished cast, ABC’s new supernatural drama stands apart from the rest. It stands above most of them, too.
The star cast is led by Joseph Fiennes (heartthrob star of “Shakespeare in Love”) who plays agent Mark Benford. Mark’s vision: He sees himself making a breakthrough on his investigation of the event’s cause, only to be attacked by men in masks with sniper rifles. “FlashForward” appears to embrace time paradoxes, as Mark uses what he saw in his vision to get his investigation started.
A lot of the cast members, however, aren’t so lucky with their visions. Mark’s wife Olivia (Sonya Walger, “Lost”) sees herself cheating on Mark with a man she doesn’t even know yet. And Mark’s partner Demetri Noh (John Cho, Harold of “Harold and Kumar” fame) saw nothing at all. The cast is faced with the remarkable challenge of playing characters who know where they’re going but not how they get there, and every single actor steps up and meets this challenge.
The show succeeds in creating a constant sense of mystery. There are always new questions arising, and Mark will hopefully be able to solve some of them: What happened, what (or who) caused it and can the future be changed? “FlashForward” is, if nothing else, absolutely gripping. Every moment is suspenseful and carries the weight of being truly important.
But the true flaw of “FlashForward” is its focus on the investigation — not because investigating the event is a move toward the wrong plotline, but because the show only follows this single team. The group pass-out was a global event. The entire planet plunged into calamity, chaos, panic and turmoil. By having such a narrow focus, “FlashForward” doesn’t fully flesh out its own premise; the show might have set a bar too high for it to reach.
These problems could all be fixed soon, though. A lengthy string of preview clips from this season shows that the investigation will at least lead to a German theorist. If “FlashForward” makes a theme of international interaction, it could manage to meet the expectations it set up for itself. It already has the whole epic thing down. If it can put its immense coolness to use, only time will tell.