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FlashForward, Five | reviews, news & interviews

FlashForward, Five

FlashForward, Five

Opening episode of Five's new sci-fi import promises metaphysical thrills a-plenty

Blame it on J.J. Abrams. With the success of the unfathomable Lost, Abrams altered the consciousness of American TV drama, and made it obligatory to think in at least four dimensions. Hence we had Heroes, in which people could fly, were indestructible, or could alter the course of history. Abrams himself is back on the paranormal beat with Fringe (due back imminently on Sky 1), a kind of X-Files-through-the-Looking Glass.

Now here’s FlashForward, Five’s big new buy-in for the autumn, and a series which many reckon looks uncannily like ABC's potential replacement for Lost. The brainchild of seasoned Hollywood operatives Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer, this first episode opened with an upside-down view from the inside of a wrecked vehicle on a Los Angeles freeway, as seen by FBI agent Mark Benford (an angstful, Hamlet-like Joseph Fiennes). Some sort of apocalyptic event has wiped the sun-drenched smirk off the city’s face. Columns of smoke rise ominously into the blue California sky, and a helicopter explodes in a blatantly computer-generated collision with a skyscraper.

A provisional normality is restored as everyone punches digits on their cellphones and trawls the internet for information, while TV pundits speculate wildly in the background. Benford's wife Olivia is methodically getting back to business in the operating theatre where she works as a surgeon. Yet everything has changed forever. It turns out that everyone on earth lost consciousness at exactly 11am, for precisely two minutes 17 seconds. Was it aliens? Terrorists? A Goldfinger-style heist using nerve gas to knock everybody out?

Just as Lost was superficially about a group of air crash survivors stranded on an island, before it dived down a rabbit-hole into a universe of interconnected individual stories, FlashForward aims to use its time-shifting device as more than than just the trigger for a sci-fi thriller. A definitive verdict is impossible after one episode, but it has given us our own flashforward of the philosophical and emotional obstacle course that lies ahead.

One thing we can feel sure of is that a little foreknowledge is an ambiguous thing. For instance, on the morning of the Event, one of Olivia’s medical colleagues took a stroll along Venice pier with a revolver, and was about to shoot himself when he was felled by the 11am time-out. His glimpse into the future showed him that he was going to live, and the knowledge has filled him with a new mood of optimism. Another character, Aaron Starks, is seesawing between euphoria and confusion after seeing - alive - the daughter he believed was killed serving with the Marines in Afghanistan.Meanwhile, Olivia is distraught after experiencing a flashforward of herself in a relationship with a new man, Lloyd Simcoe (Jack Davenport). Agent Benford also finds this perturbing, especially since his own flashforward revealed him to be back on the booze which had already threatened his marriage. But as Starks, his AA counsellor, tells him, "just because you saw that doesn't mean it's going to happen. Maybe because you saw it, you can change it." So the metaphysical battle is joined between free will and immutable fate.

So much for the moral maze, but we want to know who perpetrated the timewarp thing. Episode one ended with a smart little teaser when an FBI agent scouring CCTV footage found that at least one person had been conscious during the global blackout. On the terraces of a Detroit football stadium, a fuzzy, hooded figure could be seen moving among the unconscious bodies before disappearing down an exit tunnel. Assuming it wasn't one of J.J. Abrams' lawyers checking for copyright infringements, who the hell was that guy?

The metaphysical battle is joined between free will and immutable fate

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you missed the Lost tie in with the billboard for Oceanic Airlines - could be good, could be bad but probably be cancelled after 6 or seven episodes.

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