We might as well address the elephant in the room before getting wrapped up in the episode review. Announced officially last week, Flashforward has been cancelled. ABC has decided that the 80's remake of alien/lizard people, invasion show V, is better value for money and so yet another perfectly good drama goes into the network graveyard.
As frustrating as this may be, it does give greater significance to these remainding episodes. Will the writers decide to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the web of intrigue, or will we simply be led down the Garden of Forking Paths?
Negotiation attempts to cauterise some of the more unnecessary subplots to make way for the second immanent global blackout, which seems poised to end the season. Much of the episode revolves around Janice's schizophrenic triple-agent role, that last week saw her faced with the task of killing her friend and colleague, Mark Benford. The way things are depicted on screen, leads the audience to believe that Janice will be compelled by the CIA to fulfil the deeply unpleasant assignment. The problem with this proposed set of events was that it was difficult to see any tangible benefits derived from Janice's duplicitous position. She wasn't relaying any intelligence, the flow of information was a decidedly one-way street, with her handler repeatedly reminding her that 'questions get you killed honey'. I was starting to wonder what on earth the CIA were ever going to get out of all the state secrets they were leaking. Needless to say, the teasing turned out to be an elaborate ruse, that as well as adding a mildly intriguing twist for the audience, had the more significant effect of forcing the mysterious organisation to reveal themselves.
Don't worry everybody, Janice is a sweetie after all and only lies to advance her career and defiantly refuses to murder her friends. Her web of deceit now revealed, Mark describes the moment he realised she was working for someone other than the FBI. This is portrayed in two flashbacks involving her enthusiastic suspicion of the first mole and strangely enough, a scene which we've never been shown. The reason for this was to keep the tactical misdirect a secret from the audience, but you can't use a 'remember when…' moment, using previously unseen footage. They might have well said:
"I first realised you were CIA last week, when you accidentally told everyone you were a mole, remember?".
But pedantic criticisms aside, this turn of events did provide a satisfactory conclusion to her confusing selection of identities and led to a giant leap forward for the Mosaic investigation.
Supporting the sinister organisation's nudge from anonymity is Simon Campos, who is now on the run from… well everybody, after a video of him standing in the Stadium at the moment of the first blackout is released to the press, revealing him as 'Suspect Zero'. I would have expected slightly more fanfare from this public revelation seeing as until now the civilian understanding of the blackout had been that no one had escaped its clutches. But I will forgive this neglect, seeing as the writers now only have three episodes in which to tie off all the loose ends. Simon is taken to a hotel room by an agent of the mystery organisation, who kindly has sex with him to pass the time as they wait for the arrival of the big boss man. I wish this would happen to me whenever somebody wants me to stay in one place for a while, but having said that, a hint of cleavage usually does the trick just the same.
This leads us on to perhaps the biggest disappointment of the episode, the identity of the Godfather of the conspiracy, who turns out to be a rather unremarkable British guy, who looks to be in his early to mid-thirties. It simply didn't make sense for this man to be the puppet master behind a global organization that had been operating since the 70's. We are informed via Gabriel that he had been working with Dyson Frost in the early experiments with the savant children. Unless this man was a rather accomplished four year old, I don't see how this could be possible. Maybe I am missing something rather significant, or perhaps it will be later revealed that the perfectly groomed man is yet another pawn, but still, it did make for a decidedly anti-climactic reveal.
The motivations of Simon Campos are still somewhat of a mystery and some of the episode's best moments lay in his refusal to be manipulated further. He seems to have nothing left to lose and his portrayal of a man pushed too far is exciting to watch and makes him one of the few characters that appears to have the power to avert disaster, especially now that he has the ring in his position. Hopefully he will reject the attempts to bring him to heel and put his intellect and the ring to have to good use.
Gabriel is now with the FBI, helping to connect the dots in the Mosaic investigation, both literally and figuratively. He has solidified himself as an extremely significant piece of the puzzle and link between the many forking paths and is still able to provide comic relief with his unpredictable behaviour and the juxtaposition of genius and childish naivety. His outburst in Mark's office is particularly amusing and gave us a welcome break in the often frantic narration.
The only other development of note surrounds Aaron Stark, who finally gets to perform his commando rescue mission and eventually arrives with his daughter at the location of his flashforward. As I expected it might be, this was deeply unsatisfying and a real missed opportunity. Instead of the 'Man on Fire' crusade it could have been, the only action that takes place, are two shots from a sniper rifle in the middle of the desert. For want of a better word, rubbish. This was a far cry from the promise of 'I'll kill anyone who gets in my way', but at least it concludes this sub-plot, which has grown more and more distant from the main story.
A strange episode in that, although there was a mass of startling developments, I still felt my attention wane at certain junctures. The amount that was crammed into the forty minute slot, made it impossible to give sufficient attention to each twist and turn, so that instead of feeling like we were on a path of discovery, it seemed like a late night cram session before the big finals. Obviously this is difficult to avoid, seeing as Flashforward doesn't have long left and with any luck, most of the work has now been performed, leaving the last two episodes open to concentrate on D-day and the second global blackout. Whatever the case, I'm sure Flashforward will go down kicking and screaming and leave us all wondering why only the good die young.