We've already discussed why we think FlashForward is going to be more satisfying this spring than Lost, as the former plays out the remainder of its first season and the latter tries to satisfy its legion of fans with a finale that's doomed to dissatisfy.
Last night's two-hour dive back into the post-blackout world in an alternate 2010 we think should win back some skeptics, even if, admittedly, Ricky Jay is sort of a shitty actor. Although, as you’ll see, that won’t be [spoiler alert] an ongoing problem.
"Sometimes we feel God's hand pushing us, on the back of the neck, toward something."
First we're introduced to a new character: Timothy, the window washer turned evangelist who founds a new religion of sorts called Sanctuary as soon as he wakes up from his flash forward dangling off the side of a high-rise. He's a soft-spoken, charismatic fellow, but because of the religious angle we can't help but feel like he's creepy, and Nicole seems to agree. Still she goes and hangs out with him in a coffee shop, and he manages to convince her that maybe she wasn't being strangled and drowned in her flash, she was just being "baptized." We also meet Nicole's mother — a totally charming loon with binder clips in her hair and a prophetic streak who says, "What some people call coincidence, that's God at work." Clearly, she is why Nicole is so God-obsessed.
"You've got a God complex."
What's with all the God already? Twenty minutes in and He gets name-dropped a dozen times. Mark gets sent to a therapist while taking a break from the Bureau without a badge or a gun, and her primary role is to advance the plot by injecting him with a special memory serum — for therapeutic purposes, obviously — that allow him to remember some of the blurry parts of his blotto flash, including who he gets on the phone with (Lloyd) and a couple more items from the bulletin board that just magically appeared since the pilot: a takeout menu from a cheesesteak place with the words "Help Us" written on it in blood, and a big bumper sticker from someplace called Red Panda Resources (a name which is used by the show's creative team for this interactive fan-forum site).
Red Panda turns out to be a company that specializes in bringing humanitarian aid to places like Somalia, where Mark would love to go undercover in search of black towers. Interestingly, the lady CEO of Red Panda refuses him, saying something about how half the people who work for them have police records, and so he's not really welcome, being FBI and all. As for the cheesesteak menu, we're getting to that.
"Only villains smoke. We know that, right?"
Ricky Jay, the magician who got tapped to play FlashForward's biggest bad guy to date, finally gets a character name: Flosso, which is a reference that creator David Goyer is making to a magician named Flosso in New York, whom Jay idolized in real life. And the cigar-smoking, emphysemic Flosso kidnaps both Lloyd, via ambulance in the last episode, and Simon, drags them back to his lair, and proceeds to grill Lloyd about how many "electron volts" their particle accelerator experiment produced. He throws around some physics mumbo jumbo about plasma wave-field generators, Tachyonic dark matter, and Cherenkov radiation, and ultimately has one of his goons clip one of Simon's pinky fingers off with a cigar cutter because Lloyd isn't talking fast enough. He says that he's only interested in Lloyd's testimony about the experiment because Simon was thousands of miles away at his father's funeral in Toronto at the time of the blackout.
But then WHAM! Mr. God Complex, Mark Benford, drives a car into Flosso's lair — which turns out to be the abandoned, burned-out shell of a certain cheesesteak restaurant that Benford connects the dots to find — thinking he's saving the day when really he just gives Simon the chance to shoot the dude who clipped his finger in the head. A head for a finger, we always say.
When Simon gets lifted into an ambulance and finds that Flosso, magically, is in there already safe and sound, we get the major revelation of the night: Simon is Suspect Zero. Flosso tells him, "You've been part of this since you were 13," and suddenly we have our first complicated and semi-reluctant villain, a particle physicist who's only a pawn of some unseen evil cabal.
"Country's such a loose term. It's Canada."
We flash back to October 6, 2009, and see that just before the blackout, Simon was indeed burying his father in Toronto. But then he gets whisked away in a car by a Flosso goon, put on a helicopter, and lifted to a stadium in Detroit where he's given a ticket to a baseball playoff game (and a black knit cap and trench coat, presumably). There, he takes a seat, receives a phone call from D. Gibbons, and is told to eat some popcorn from a random tub sitting in front of him. Inside is a box with a ring in it ("Some sort of quantum entanglement device?" he later asks), which he puts on, and as the rest of the world collapses in the next few seconds, he's wide awake and is told to stand up and walk into the tunnel nearby — thereby giving us the surveillance footage. Who's waiting for him but Flosso, who takes the two minutes and seventeen seconds to tell him, and we're paraphrasing here: "You were just flown here to witness this and try out one of our fun rings, and oh, by the way, this same evil cabal that's been paying the bills all these years also killed your father." We then see that the flash Simon claimed to have, strangling a man with a "neck like an ox," wasn't a flash at all: He did that on October 6 to the dude who killed his father.
But back to Canada Simon takes off there while under the custody of the FBI, and Janis follows him there, beating him to the Toronto airport but somehow getting charmed by him, despite being a lesbian, to let him spend the night and see his family.
He tries to shake her off again and runs to meet with his former physics professor, Philip, who's a kindly old man with a cat who collects blues records and recites Shakespeare (the St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V, to be precise). But Janis catches up to him, just in time to listen to more mumbo jumbo about decoherence waves and Tachyon bursts (a clever little quantum-theory catchphrase that also gets dropped in Land of the Lost). Philip confirms that yes, Simon's experiment could have caused the blackout.
Cue an awkward family dinner in which Janis is just trying to enjoy herself, but Flosso shows up under the alias "Uncle Teddy," a distant cousin who is a benefactor to Simon's family and responsible for moving them to Toronto when Simon was a prodigious 13-year-old. Janis doesn't get why Simon's such an asshole to his creepy Uncle, waving his bandaged and foreshortened pinky finger around and drinking too much wine. Simon's mother is equally clueless (or is she?), and just keeps talking about what a tough little bugger Simon always was as a kid. "He never let anyone push him around."
Flosso, it turns out, is now holding Simon's sister Annabelle hostage, and also, he kills kindly old Philip and shows Simon his body in the trunk of a car. Simon then presses on the emphysemic Flosso's chest until he croaks, figuring it'll look like natural causes, and saying this can be a "signal" to the dark overlord (D. Gibbons) that he's not going to be pushed around.
Tim Tim and Squirrelio
Let's leave off on a cutesy, if slightly crazy, note: That song that we hear Olivia singing with little Dylan Simcoe as she coaxes his little autistic self out of a corner and tries to comfort him about possibly being an orphan? It's a theme song to a cartoon that FlashForward's creators made up, just for the show. Early last season we saw Mark and Olivia's daughter Charlie carrying a plushy Squirrelio doll, and Olivia performs "surgery" on it when it rips. Now Squirrelio has both a theme song and a fan site of his own. You can't make this shit up, folks! Or rather, you can, and they did.