Flash Forward

The rear-view mirror of a Mazda 626. It shows ...
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I was really enjoying this show’s pilot episode until the very last scene, more about that later.  The premise:  one weekday afternoon all people in the world lose consciousness for a little over 2 minutes.  Initially called blackouts, people quickly realize that they all moved forward in time almost 6 months.  These dreams were shared so they were not actually dreams but instead flash forwards in time.  The main characters are a husband/wife.  He is an FBI agent, of course, and she is an ER doctor.

Before turning to some theorizing about the show, a few notes about production.  The show seems to have cut some corners, there is a bit of sloppiness throughout.  It strikes me as unlikely that the carnage would be as complete as the show depicts.  Not to doubt some catastrophes after a 2 minute blackout, but the destruction to downtown LA seems nearly total.  And yet there are signs everywhere of poorly placed props as completely demolished cars and corpses are laid next to cars that show no damage, not even a minor collision.  When looking through the windshield at the main characters the rear view mirror has been removed yet the mounting bracket remains in place.  I cannot help but wish that this was intentional, a statement about the obvious lack of a mirror to track our lives through.  As the world is immediately coming to grips with the event, a manager at the FBI asks, “has the Pope chimed in yet?”  As though that would be entirely preposterous.

I could not help but groan as we learned the professions of the main characters.  The initial premise of the show will eventually be subsumed by the professions and the traditional genres of prime time drama.  Given the global nature of the event it would seem the show would not track such well-hewn lines.  But, alas, that is the state of TV these days.  Of course, there is another reason the show’s producers did choose these occupations: the last scene reveals that instead of an act of divine intervention there is surveillance coverage of some people not losing consciousness like everyone else.  An FBI agent will then be able to uncover the mystery.  I wish this attack of the airwaves had not occurred.  The show, however, helps identify why these genres are so successful: they uncover and also conceal a fundamental anxiety of Americans.  These professions all happen while at work because the work never ends.  These shows are, fundamentally, about labor and how we do not like to labor.  Instead we watch shows about people who have little leisure and yet they love their jobs because it gives them a sense of purpose.

A little bit about the event.  It is global.  It is a flash forward.  It is therefore not technological, it is not the result of a human manipulation.  It would instead be the one true miracle.  All other supposed miracles are events of interpretation and hence disputable.  This event, however, has shared affects.  But not only does it represent a true transcendent intervention but it also is an event of representation.  During the event people are forward in time looking back upon the event.  The remembrance of the backward looking flash forward is then used to propel some people forward into that very leap.  The intervention acts back upon itself as not only a signified but also as a signifier.  What then do we call a transcendent signifier and signified?  I would contend that is the very definition of God.

The main question I am vexed with is about the direction of the show.  Will the show remain one of sci-fi/fantasy or will it turn instead into a tale of government conspiracies and become a mystery?  I am hoping for a fantasy setting.  I want to see people not obsessively grapple with “what happened?” but instead “how do I deal with knowing my future?”.  I will give it at least two more episodes.

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