Having finally caught up on my shows after our vacation last month (yes it took four weeks to catch up), I am totally hooked on the new ABC drama FlashForward, in part because I finally connected it in my mind with the novel by Robert J. Sawyer that I read more than a decade ago. Eerily enough, the novel is set in 2009, so the series launching this year is highly appropriate. While purists will point out all the ways the book and the television series are different (and yes, they are tremendously different), it is the reasons they are alike that intrigue me about the show.
Themes, Beautiful Themes
Thematically, FlashForward echoes the book. In the Sawyer’s work, the theme of free will versus predestination was heavily favored. It was also an argument of hope versus reality. Unlike the television series, the flash forward in the book took characters 21 years into the future. Those who saw no future were believed to be dead. While the flash forward created worldwide disaster with plane crashes, car wrecks and more (as seen in the television show) it also instigated depression in many of the characters who saw futures they didn’t want or futures where their dreams and aspirations weren’t panning out.
Were those futures set? Particularly when the suicide rate increased among those depressed skyrocketed. Can you imagine seeing 21 years into your own future and seeing a bleak future? What would you do? Would you work to change it? Can you change it? These are the challenges confronting the characters in both the television series and the book.
Fatalism versus Mutability
In the television series, Doctor Olivia Benford saw herself with another man in six months while her husband FBI Special Agent Mark Benford saw himself drinking, obsessed with the case about the flash forward while armed gunmen came to get him. Neither Olivia nor Mark is happy about the future they saw. Both are determined to avoid it, particularly Olivia who cannot image that she would cheat on Mark. But Mark is already becoming obsessed with understanding the flash forwards and using his own memories of his investigative board to pursue leads. So are they leads? Predestination? Is it fatalism? Can they change it?
Reality versus Hope
In the television series, Director Wedeck suggests that people are no longer motivated by what might happen, but by what will happen. For those who saw a bleaker future, such as baby sitter Nicole who saw herself being drowned, it is leading to questions of faith and effect. For FBI agent Demetri who saw nothing in his flashforward, it is a question of why not and what happened? He learns, through the Mosaic website connect with a stranger around the world, that he is murdered on March 15th. With very little to go on, can he solve or prevent his own murder before it happens?
For FBI Agent Janis, she saw herself pregnant and getting a sonogram – it’s a girl. But Janis is a lesbian and currently only lightly attached, not in a deep relationship. Then there’s the doctor who stood on a pier ready to kill himself just as the flashforward struck. When he came out of it, he is completely changed – he’s discovered that his future is not as bad as he thought and he is obsessing over that and using flashforwards to diagnose patients medical issues.
This is drama at its finest.
I adore every cast member of the show. Joseph Fiennes and John Cho are phenomenal, but arguably so are, Courtney B. Vance, Christine Woods, Gabrielle Union (love her), Gina Torres (adore her) Peyton List, Jack Davenport, Zachary Knighton, Sonya Walger and coming soon: Genevieve Cortese (Supernatural’s Ruby) and Dominic Monaghan (Lost).
I wanted to see the show for Joseph Fiennes before I realized the book connection, but truth be told, I am engaged in every storyline, every interaction and between the friendships, the bromances, the lovers, the fathers, the missing children and the heady combination of grief, determination and love – what is there not to love?
What Would You Do?
To be successful, any fictional enterprise – science fiction or otherwise – demands that you put yourself in the place of the characters. What would you do? What would you do if you saw your future? What would you do if you saw something terrible? Something wonderful? Or simply something you didn’t understand? What would you do if you saw nothing?
That’s why I am watching FlashForward. Are you?