Is FlashForward actually any good?


You used to be able to dip in and out of TV shows. Soaps aside, television writers were usually happy to helpfully navigate characters back to where they started by the end of an episode. And if you missed one, unless it was a two-parter, it made no difference whatsoever.

Now if you watch a programme, it’s like a relationship. There’s commitment involved. Lost and I split up after about six months because I didn’t think it had a clear life plan and was basically winging it. Heroes and I are still together, but we’re really just going through the motions at this point, with dead, dead eyes.

All of which is to say: will FlashForward betray you and break your heart?

Ideally, I’d now trigger a vision of myself six months in the future watching the finale to check whether or not I’m smacking myself repeatedly in the head in lieu of putting the remote through the telly. What with physics and all, that’s not really feasible.

So make your own mind up:

The good

  • The premise is brilliant. Loosely based on a 1999 Robert J. Sawyer novel, the action kicks off when the entire human race blacks out for two minutes. During the blackout, everyone on Earth experiences two minutes of their own life, six months in the future. Then they wake back up. There’s mass death and global devastation, because cars and planes can’t drive themselves for two minutes. And everyone wants to know – will the visions come true? How do I get to where I saw myself – with a different partner, unexpectedly pregnant or just dead? And most importantly for our FBI protagonists: how did it happen and could it happen again?
  • The execution of the premise is brilliant. Every episode so far has had some memorable apocalyptic visual, like an airport full of broken planes, a playground full of blacked-out children or hundreds of crows crashing earthwards at the same time. Basically, if they start floundering, they just need to get back to the central concept of the show – there’s so much potential depth there.
  • Joseph Fiennes, Jack Davenport, John Cho and Courtney B. Vance, among other great regular cast members, can sell even the lousiest dialogue, of which there is much. And even the tiniest roles are filled by good, classy actors, like Alex Kingston, Gina Torres or Shoreh Aghdashloo.
  • I think there’s actually a plan. The fact they’ve seeded actors like Kingston in meaningless roles early on suggests they’ll have key parts to play later, and that these have been thought through in advance. The creators have also said they’ll catch up to the flashforwards by the end of the first season, which helps keep the plot tight and contained, unlike Lost’s multi-season sprawl.

The bad

  • I still know almost nothing about any of the characters. It’s like they took some actors they liked and assigned character traits and jobs to them. “Hi, Joseph Fiennes, you can be an FBI agent who’s a recovering alcoholic.” “Oh, okay. What drove me to drink?” “That’s not relevant. Just look pained when anyone offers you a beer.”
  • Three episodes in, the investigation seems to be going pretty well. Bit concerned this will leave it susceptible to artificial, unlikely obstacles inserted to spin things out. Prison Break was particularly bad at this (“oh no, I’ve sustained third degree burns to the part of my breakout-plan tattoo that we need next – and I can’t remember what it said!!!”).
  • I know they’ve said they’ll wrap things up this season, but let’s be realistic – if it’s a hit, there will be more seasons. Which means more flashforwards. Which means I suspect this season, and future ones, will end with them solving the case only to find it part of a much wider conspiracy. At some point someone will probably say “it’s just like peeling an onion”. Beyond one season, this might get a bit tiring.

FlashForward is on Five on Monday night

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  1. fishforward says

    I’d much prefer it if I knew there were 12 episodes and that was it. Lost is such rubbish for having no direction, and the writers of this need to be brave and give it a definite ending. It’s the curse of American drama – they just can’t ever end anything. It even damaged Twin Peaks, and that’s saying something.

    (Saying that, I’ll watch anything with Harold out of Harold and Kumar in it. I hope he survives through the first series.)

  2. says

    That’s the problem though, isn’t it. They just can’t seem to commit to finishing these shows – just in case they become so popular that they can string them out for longer to make more money. Cynical!

    Last night’s episode dragged on and seemed to just be a filler episode so they could reach their quota for the season.

  3. James says

    I just hope it sticks to the 25 episode single season like planned. I can’t afford to get sucked into another Lost.

  4. Charles says

    I think I’d have been much meaner if I’d seen the most recent episode. It started doing all those lazy things, like the chief suddenly becoming much less interested in them cracking the case, because otherwise they’d just go to Somalia and, you know, *crack it*.

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