ABC's FlashForward came back last night with an all-new episode. You thought the show was cancelled, didn't you? It's an understandable mistake, after all, the show was so heavily promoted in the fall and before last night hadn't aired a new episode in more than three months. Oh sure, they've been promoting the return of the series, but come on, you kind of thought you were watching a repeat when those commercials came on, didn't you?
People will tell you that perhaps the show isn't going to do well as the recap episode they aired on Tuesday wasn't heavily watched. Of course, that was a recap episode, so you can't really go by that – if you're invested in the show there's an outside chance that you forgot everything and needed to recall what was happening, but not a great one. Plus, ABC has filled countless hours in the last five years airing pointless recap episodes of Lost, if there ever was a recap episode goose that laid golden eggs, the network killed it about 12 hours ago. So, the real question is how did last night's episode do? Not spectacularly well, truth be told.
Frankly, I don't think the programming strategy works – I think that when you have a show completely disappear for months on end, particularly a show in its first season without a long-term fanbase – but that's neither here nor there. No, what's germane is that it was actually a pretty good episode, and, as you may have guessed, I have a theory as to why that is.
The reason last night worked is that it was very light on Mark Benford. I have absolutely nothing against Joseph Fiennes, but the character, as written, is just incredibly unintelligent. Watching the show I can't fathom why this guy is an FBI agent, how the FBI possibly accepted him.
Taking a quick look at last night's episode, we saw a more complete version of Mark's flash. In it, he tells Lloyd Simcoe that if they don't work it out there's going to be another flash, that the whole world will black out again if these two men don't figure it out. Then, back in the real world, he told Wedeck, his boss, that there's going to be another flash, he left out the whole if we don't prevent it bit. I don't think he was saying that to get back onto active duty, I think he was saying it because he has absolutely no clue that there's a difference between "x will occur if y happens" and "x will occur."
The whole season with Mark has been littered with similarly poor use of logic. He has investigated leads on his mosaic board because they were on the board in his flash and then because he has investigated them he puts them on the board… whether or not they really seemed to prove relevant. Simply put, it's annoying to watch.
I don't think that the producers are blind to his stupidity either, I think that they're well aware of his character. After all, last night they had the CIA guy, Vogel, join the team to help keep them all in check, and Vogel was not shy about pointing out all the stupid stuff the FBI team and Mark have done. But, he was in the background last night and it worked for the show. Simon and Lloyd are far more interesting characters. Demetri is a far more interesting character. Janis is a far more interesting character.
I'm really curious to see where the show heads in the second half of the season and I'm hoping that ABC doesn’t pull the plug before the season comes to a close. My bigger hope though is that Mark becomes less of a major part of the show. I don't see that happening, but I'm going to keep hoping for it.