The penultimate episode of Flashfoward tells the story of what really happens on April 29th before the events of the global premonitions. The individual stories of the central characters are addressed and while some people are nudged along predetermined paths, others are find themselves in situations contrary to their fate prophesied.
Countdown opens with Charlie (Mark and Olivia's daughter) waking after a bad dream. This acts as a literal wake-up call as to what day it is. April 29th is the date of the moments witnessed be nearly every person on the planet.
"Today's the day... Today's the day Daddy's gonna die".
Woah… what? That was a little 'Children of the Korn', did that usually adorably little girl, actually just say that? Well that's one way to set the scene I guess. Unfortunately, contrary to that creepy intro, the episode takes quite a while to find traction and the first half actually drags quite a bit. Some generic interactions between certain characters are shown, such as Nicole bringing Bryce cupcakes, or Mark consoling his daughter; all the while with a countdown appearing after every commercial break (I don't have the commercials so it just seemed to randomly appear every now and then). These scenes did help to remind us of what we are building up to, but there weren't enough recognisable situations that connected to the events we witnessed in the pilot. The first twenty minutes definitely felt a bit like it was stuck in first gear, which was strange considering there is now less than an hour remaining in the show's short life.
Some stories did need to be told, such as Simon Campos recruiting Janice and eventually Demetri, to help him try to avert a second global blackout. Simon and Janice are the most exciting characters to watch; they have been all season. Most of this can be attributed to great acting, but as the series has developed, they have consistently kept the audience guessing. Now, they have both reached a point of rejecting their respective puppet masters and have decided that their best chance is to throw the rule book out of the window and go it alone (albeit together). I should point out however, that there is one massive problem in continuity here. Simon Campos was never aware that Janice was really CIA, he only ever knew her as a second mole for the evil organisation. In reality she would have been the very last person he would have wanted to contact.
The story of Demetri's confession about sleeping with a lesbian was mildly interesting and Zoey's reaction was believable, but I still didn't feel like it added anything other than a reason for him to stay at ground zero. But the most shocking part of the episode is who turns out to provoke the most intrigue. Aaron Stark and his daughter finally came up with the goods! Not in the way I was expecting, with a John McClain style action sequence, but by finallyconnecting their plot line with the events surrounding the blackout. If you can remember, Stark's daughter Tracy had witnessed what she assumed to be the massacre of an entire village. This had then led her to being hunted by the perpetrators; a group called Jericho. Well, it turns out that this was actually another experiment, like the one in Somalia, and Jericho were actually interested in the fact that she had been utterly uneffected by the mini blackout [cue Twilight music]. This actually managed to get a goose bumps moment from me. Unfortunately, it only lasted until I began to realise that if she had only witnessed a blackout, then how exactlty did she know it was Jericho and why did they originally just try to kill her?
Anyway, we wont pick at that loose thread anymore. The second half of the episode does improve somewhat, with certain blocks falling into place, laying the foundation for what was seen in the original Flashforwards. Nicole eventually tells Bryce where Keiko is and Mark is handed a hip-flask by a random passer-by (if this ever happens to you do not, whatever you do, drink it! You will wake up in some guy's basement with your underwear round your ankles.) But as much as some people seem unable to avoid their fate, others find themselves in uncharted territory. Aaron Stark's premonition seems impossible now, after tonight's events and of course Demetri is still alive and kicking. This lead to an interesting contrast between what is determined and what comes down to free-will. However, it still hasn't really been developed enough for it to be thought provoking and philosophically speaking, it doesn't really make sense to portray it in a '6 of one and half a dozen of the other' kind of way.
What Countdown seemed to be trying to say in unfortunately uncertain terms, is that things need to occur in specific places in time for disaster to be averted. This is highlighted by Lloyd Simcoe's autistic son, as he tries to sort his father's papers into piles (please note, that he is not a savant that is recognising an actual mathematical pattern, but simply an autistic boy who wants to have the numbers together). Simcoe has an epiphany on hearing his son's words and realises that he must be with Olivia at 10 O'clock to be able to understand the equation he is trying to decipher. The big boss man (skinny, young white guy) also hammered this point home repeatedly, as did Dyson Frost. The architects of the conspiracy all seem to be trying to gain flashes of the future so that they can avoid some kind of cataclysmic event. It may very well be, that the mystery organisation is actually trying to save humanity, whilst the Mosaic investigation merely impedes their work.
Unfortunately, this is all something a second season would have addressed and this penultimate episode now becomes somewhat obsolete, creating more questions than answers. Due to this, I find myself quite disappointed by the events of a day that has been built over for twenty episodes. Obviously we have not reached the exact time of the Flashforward, but I would have hoped to see more of the paths begin to connect and slot into place.
In an episode titled Countdown, you would expect to eventually reach the moment we are counting down to, but we never do. The ending just fizzles out and I had to check the time code to see if it had actually finished or not. The final episodes had already shot before it's cancellation was made official, so it is a bit unfair to expect a complete conclusion to the entire story, but it is worrying to have so much to fit into next weeks forty minute finale.
Here's my Flashforward prediction (tautology?) Bryce will be with Keiko in the sushi restaurant, Simon Campos will inadvertently cause a second global blackout and the episode will end with Mark Benford bleeding out after being shot by the masked men; proceeded by a flurry of images as the world experiences its second, and our final Flashforward.