Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Further Flashes

It's getting increasingly hard to watch Flash Forward and have any real interest in what's happening. I discussed the problem with Gooder (who has already given up on it entirely) and we concluded that part of the probem is that the characters aren't really characters, just b;ank slates who have slightly different reasons for being grumpy. Whenever dramatic conflict shows up, it's not because two fully-realised individuals are dealing with the same situation differently, it's because their reasons for being grumpy are temporarily (or permanently) incompatible. More specific spoilers follow below, so be warned.




The other reason things are going wrong, though (and this matters more to me than the problems with characterisation, though as a general rule if I think a character is flat and lifeless, then something somewhere has gone badly wrong) is that the format just isn't sustainable. The show has pretty much ended up exactly where I feared it would; each week a new and pointlessly vague lead arrives, they follow it, and get just enough information to produce a lead for next time round. There are still reasonable things being done with the central conceit (having suicide parties for "ghosts" sounds exactly like the kind of ludicrous, self-defeating idiocy people would come up with once they "know" they're approaching death), but you can't just use that to flavour an otherwise fairly dull police-procedural show (a genre which I don't think is entirely suited to long running arc plots, or at least not without much more work going into the characters) and hope that will be enough.

One event that undoubtedly was interesting in this week's episode, though, was the decision of a major character to kill himself rather than allow his flash-forward to take place. Suddenly we discover that the future is not inevitable.

Some opinions I've read following the episode suggest that this revelation robs the show of whatever appeal it still had left. Now we know the future is not set in stone, there is no reason to fear it coming true. I'm not sure I agree. The key here is in realising that just because the future isn't inescapable, doesn't mean you will manage to escape it. The flashes might no longer be stations each charater's train is hurtling towards, but they remain magnets, or perhaps sinkholes.

In that sense, it's at least arguable that this has made the situation more interesting. Imagine the following two situations. In the first, you find out that in sixth months HORRIBLE EVENT X will occur, and there is exactly nothing you can do about it. Zip. Nada. Zilch. As horrible as the horribleness of HORRIBLE EVENT X unquestionably is, there can be some comfort from the fact that it's going to happen, that it always was going to happen, and there was never anything you could do about it. In that sense, it's no different from the fact we all know we're going to die.

Now consider situation #2: you find out that in sixth months HORRIBLE EVENT X will almost certainly occur. Anything you do to try and stop it might make it more likely, but equally anything you could have done to try and stop it but you chose not to might make it more likely. Every day the pieces of the future are falling into place, and you keep trying to rearrange them into a new pattern, but it never works, or at least you can never be sure that it has worked.

Once you throw in the tiny possibility of avoidance into it, you can't prepare for the inevitable, because it isn't inevitable at all anymore. The one thing worse than a situation with no hope is a situation with just the faintest glimmer of hope. Especially because every time you do something that brings H.E.X. that bit closer is now in some sense your fault.

And the only way you know of getting out of all of this is to kill yourself.

I'm not saying the show will do anything particularly inspired with that angle; frankly I strongly suspect Gooder has the right idea. It's worth bearing in mind, though.

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