He who foresees calamity is doomed to suffer it twice over.
Two FBI agents, Mark Benford and Demetri Noh, are investigating a terrorist cell when an event called "the Blackout" occurs. Everyone on Earth blacks out for two minutes and 17 seconds. Twenty million people die. And more than that: during the two minutes and 17 seconds, the people didn't just black out, they had visions of what they were doing six months in the future.Janis Hawk, their co-worker at the FBI, has a vision of herself pregnant. Olivia, Mark's wife, sees herself with another man. Demetri doesn't have a vision at all, leading him to believe that he will be dead in six months. Mark himself has a vision of his own Room Full of Crazy with clues about what caused the Blackout (as well as him falling off the wagon). And Mark's daughter Charlie says there will be "no more good days."The series built a nice Myth Arc with a great HSQ. Based on the 1999 sci-fi novel by Canadian author Robert J Sawyer (who gets a blink-and-you-miss-it Creator Cameo in the pilot), though it shared little with the book other than the flashforward concept and a character name or two. This show is not to be confused with Flash Forward, which is totally (and tonally) different.Character sheet can be seen here.If you're just getting started on watching this show, know the Wild Mass Guessing page for this show has been divided into folders letting you read theories as you go without being spoiled.Despite having a strong start, ratings progressively dwindled throughout its run until it ended up with about a third of its original viewers, and it never made it to a second season, leaving fans pondering the season-ending Cliff Hanger. Zap2It declared FlashForward the most missed show after a poll determined that 46.3% of voters would miss it the most (by comparison, the runner-up, Ghost Whisperer, had 17.1% of the vote), and there were rumours that Starz might pick the show up for a second season, but it appears this has come to naught.
This show contains the following tropes:
Action Girl: Janis Hawk, who knows tae kwando and manages to disarm and snap the neck of one assassin and then shoot a second assassin dead even while bleeding from a gut wound in "Gimme Some Truth."
Anyone Can Die: Double subverted. At first, the fact that most characters have visions of themselves in the future seems to show that none of those characters are going to die before April 29. But after the Self inflicted death of Al Gough, it is now believed that the future can be changed and that anyone without a flash forward can still live, and likewise, any with a flash forward can still die.
Triple subversion, actually. Sure, Al's death proved this theory, but with the exception of Dyson Frost and (maybe) Mark Benford, all the main characters have Plot Armor thicker than a brick wall.
And 6th October 2009 - the date of the flashforward).
And 29th April 2010 - not just the date that people experienced in their flashforwards, but also originally meant to be the airdate for the final episode, until its scheduling was changed.
And 2 minutes, 17 seconds... keeps getting mentioned moreso even than the others (in the intro voiceover for every episode, as well as being mentioned in-episode multiple times) - 137 seconds, 137 Sekunden (the German - also used as one episode title). A lot of importance was originally attributed to the number by characters early on, but later this stopped being treated as important. One theory is that it is because 137 is very nearly the reciprocal of the universal Fine Structure Constant. (137.0359990...)
The Artifact: Zoe. Her role was originally supposed to increase later in the season, and in the second season that never got to be, due to Demetri's death as expected. Instead, the new showrunners decided to keep him alive since John Cho had become popular following the release of the 2009 Star Trek, and the ratings needed all the help they could get. As a result, Zoe has little to do after Demetri survives his would-be death beyond break up with him, and is gone from the series by the season/series finale.
The same goes for Dyson Frost. It even results in his death.
Benevolent Boss: Though he does not allow himself to be taken advantage of, Wedeck really cares about his employees. He most definitely comes off as A Father to His Men after Janis is shot, and sheds sincerely touching Manly Tears when Al Gough kills himself.
Berserk Button: Agent Noh and Olivia Benford do NOT care or want to hear what your flashforward was about, because neither of them want theirs to happen.
Demetri also REALLY doesn't like it when people tell him that he can't fight fate.
Don't accuse anyone of blabbing secrets to Olivia.
Simon is capable of anything when someone tries to manipulate him into doing something he doesn't want to do. Even murder.
Aaron does NOT like people messing with his daughter.
Call Mark a failure, question his self-belief and he WILL try to end you.
Big Bad: It seemed at first that it would be D. Gibbons, aka Dyson Frost, but it actually turned out to be Lucas Hellinger. Although, the finale implies that he was just a middleman and the realBig Bad was someone else.
Brief Accent Imitation: Mark Benford's laughingly over-the-top English accent while playing with the egg in the kitchen with Charlie (don't forget that Joseph Fiennes who plays Benford actually is English, see Fake American below).
Breakout Character: Attempted with Demetri Noh. Originally he was indeed supposed to die midway through the season, and his fiancee Zoe would have gotten a larger role in the second season due to her belief that the FBI failed to prevent Demetri's death. But with the ratings slipping, and the showrunner replaced by three people early in the season, the writers decided to keep him alive instead in the hope that the extra popularity John Cho had gained from playing Sulu in Star Trek would help the show's ratings. Cho and Demetri were popular, but not enough to save the show.
Break the Cutie: Keiko, after graduating from the reputedly finest university in Tokyo and being employed at the workplace of her dreams, ends up having to serve tea because tradition demands a woman has to serve the tea and she is the only woman employed at the company.
And don't forget her mother's tantrum over Keiko's refusal to deal with an arranged marriage or put up with being turned into a waitress by her employer.
Also, upon arriving in the US to start her new life, she gets employed at a car workshop, only to be busted by the ISA on her second day at work.
Brick Joke: When Mark is taking Charlie trick-or-treating, they see a wild kangaroo show up from nowhere and then disappear. In the finale, shortly after the blackout, the kangaroo shows up again...from nowhere...and then disappears.
Bulletproof Human Shield: A variant on this. Janis shoots a man on a motorcycle in the chest from head-on and kills him, but the woman riding right behind him is left untouched.
Bury Your Gays: Janis is revealed to be a lesbian, and by the end of the episode has been shot and left for dead. However, this is later partially subverted when she survives, but is left unable to bear the child she now desperately wants.
Might have been completely subverted now that she might be is pregnant with Agent Noh's child
California Doubling: Mostly averted, since the show is set there, but Southern Somalia looked suspiciously like Southern California...
Mark's pistol, the one that was even predicted to murder Demetri Noh on March 15th.
Also, Dyson Frost's white queen, which contains the ring he used to stay awake during the blackout.
Chekhov's Gunman: Alda Herzog. Captured in the pilot, appears a few times throughout the series, then finally takes a major role in "The Garden Of Forking Paths" where we learn she was part of the group responsible for the blackout. She then escapes from custody and kills Dyson Frost.
The Chessmaster: Played with (briefly) then subverted at the end of the 2 hour recommencement special. In one of the scenes with Simon's 'Uncle', the quick can notice a chessboard on a computer screen being panned off-screen. He later ends up dead after admitting to being only the middleman, not quite the guy in control after all.
Played completely straight by D. Gibbons, who has seemingly planned for every single thing that's happened in the series because he's seen them all in his many flashforwards. And apparently, he became a grandmaster when he was fifteen.
Ultimately justified in that the entire building has been evacuated due to a bomb inside of it, set to go off immediately after the flash forwards were going to happen. It's never fully explained how no one else realized this would happen, though, given the number of extras who must have had flash forwards about it.
Downer Ending: You know that second blackout everyone spent 22 episodes trying to prevent? Happens anyway.
Wasn't completely a downer though, as they did manage to save millions by getting the warning out before it happened.
It was intended to be just the season finale, with the second blackout and the tantalizing glimpses of both the blackout itself and several flash forwards setting the stage for the second season. Which, as we now know, ain't gonna happen.
Dramatic Irony: The episode "Let No Man Put Asunder" begins with a flashback of Demetri, Marcie, Janis and Al's first day in FBI. Mark greets them with a speech about how they're going to give their lives to people who might not even know them, at which point the camera focuses on Al.
Evil Brit: Simon seemed to be this initially as he claims responsibility for the Blackout, but then in "A561984" he starts co-operating with the FBI, and his claim is thrown in doubt when he reveals he had no knowledge of the pylons in Somalia. Now possibly double subverted when we've seen that he was (albeit unhappily) working with the people responsible for the blackout as The Mole.
There's also Lucas Hellinger, the show's apparent Big Bad.
False Reassurance: Inverted: A Nazi war criminal is able to secure his release from prison by telling the main characters that, in his flashforward, a murder had been his "Get Out of Jail Free" Card. Once the paperwork had been filed, he then told them that he saw a dead murder of crows outside his window when he came to.
Subverted when it turns out that the murder of crows is indeed a clue that points to the possibility that a mass blackout has occurred before.
Flat Earth Atheist / Skepticism Failure : Several people are shown to be skeptical of the flash forward despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, calling them meaningless "visions" and getting angry at people who are considering the visions as true just in case because they could possibly save lives. Explained in that these characters were shown to have really awful futures they don't want to be true.
Idiot Ball: Come on, Mark, you don't recognize a unit tattoo when you see one?
Then we have anyone who thinks Tracey is dead.
Speaking of Tracey, it takes an idiot ball of exceptional size to tell someone that your daughter, who is thought by most to be dead and is in fact hiding from badass army types, IS STAYING AT YOUR HOUSE.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The mooks in the final episode. Mark runs in front of the group of mooks who are firing like crazy, and Mark manages to take out at least one of the mooks, and gets nary a scratch himself.
I Knew It: A rare In-Universe example. A member of the CIA in "Gimme Some Truth" has a theory that China is behind the blackouts with an incredibly shaky basis, which both the Mosaic team and the U.S. Senate dismiss outright. At the end of the episode, however, the Mosaic team is attacked by a group of Chinese gunmen, seemingly proving the agent's theory correct.
They seem to be dressed and acted more like gangbangers than professional hitmen, even the way they held the guns. More likely they were hired by Monaghan and Davenport to cover up the ones who are getting close.
And yet the autopsy of the few of them the Mosaic team manage to kill suggests that these men are trained professionals.
Ironic Nursery Tune: The second episode opens with "Ring Around the Rosie" and images of children lying completely still on the ground. Later on, the fake D. Gibbons has dolls which also sing the song. It's creepy.
Karma Houdini: Anyone involved in the global blackout apart from Dyson Frost, who's dead, and Hellinger, who's still in FBI custody as of the end of the series. Alda Herzog and Evil Pet Shop Lady are still on the loose, and no one apart from Aaron even knows about Jericho's involvement.
Loads and Loads of Characters: Switch "characters" with "factions" and you got it. There is the FBI, the Blue Hand, the men with the three stars tattooed on them, the man who acquired seven rings from them and promptly killed one of them, Simon and Lloyd who are part of a larger group, the Jericho Private Military Contractors and, judging from the woman from Hong-Kong who phoned Demetri, the Chinese. All these groups may or may not be connected.
There are quite a lot of characters too.
Lucky Translation: The "murder of crows"-pun only works in English. Luckily for the international dubs, the crowswere technically murdered. This way, the old Nazi's deception revolves around the fact that the murder-victims are not human, as opposed to the meaning of the word "murder".
Various characters seem to remember New Flash Forwards As The Plot Demands, or at least new parts of the one they had, on a regular basis.
Newspaper Dating: That's how they find out that the visions are supposed to show the future.
No Endor Holocaust: Strongly, strongly averted. One of the reasons for the investigation into the flash forward is that 20 million people died in the blackout due to car crashes, train derailments, doctors passing out during surgery, and plane crashes.
Actually, it could be argued that even 20 million is a rather low number of casualties considering the event...,
Well, the number of injuries are presumably much higher. People can survive some pretty brutal things. And China is mentioned to have suffered little damage due to it being past midnight there. Presumably same goes for India, sparing the two most populous countries the worst of the catastrophe. It is a strech but it is possible to have ''just'' 20 million dead.
Played straight at other times, though because it is firmly established that the entire LA area was one big traffic accident because of the flash forward. Every car on the road was in a fender bender at the least. However all the cars you see in the series are all pristine - there should have been plenty of cars with dents, scrapes and scratches (the body shop Keiko works in six months after the event should have been still cleaning up by doing body work!). And the long shots of streets and freeways - everything looks fine - no dented light poles, etc that weren't damaged enough to be replaced.
No Ending: Due to the cancellation of the series after a cliffhanger in the finale.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: The head of the Senate committee in "Gimme Some Truth" is practically the embodiment of this trope.
Redshirt Army: The Red Panda escorts. They even lampshade it, when the Somali warlord explains that the purpose of the Red Panda guys was to die in order to intimidate the hostages.
Red String of Fate: Three characters (Bryce, Keiko, and Olivia) see themselves in love with someone they haven't met yet in their flash forwards leading two of them (Bryce and Keiko) on a quest to find each other and Olivia doing everything she can to avoid her apparently-fated love interest. The recurring question of fate versus free will is never really resolved and it is heavily suggested that Olivia avoiding her match with Lloyd might actually doom the entire world.
Scenery Gorn: The first 17 minutes of the pilot is dedicated to showing what would happen to downtown Los Angeles if everyone blacked out for 2 minutes, 17 seconds. Helicopters sticking out of skyscrapers, freeways full of twisted metal and bodies... it's pretty darn Gorn-iffic. Gorn from around the world is mentioned through the rest of the episode, but not shown (700 plane crashes?!).
And it continues through the subsequent episodes. The earlier episodes had establishing episodes of damaged skyscrapers and burnt buildings. The number of these slowly reduced as episodes progressed and they were repaired but every now and then, there are still damaged buildings visible even in the most insignificant of background shots.
Screw Destiny: What Mark's trying to do by burning the friendship bracelet.
In episode 7, Al Gough does this by killing himself.
Olivia gets in on the act in episode 8 by throwing out the lingerie she saw herself wearing in her flashforward.
Mark again by getting himself fired in episode 10. Considering what he did (went to China against his boss's orders, then kidnapped a woman at gunpoint and got arrested and deported by Chinese authorities), it's not likely he'll get his job back in the next few months.
Simon: What I designed was theoretical. It could only be done in the future. And yet, it's been standing here for 18 years. Janis: Well, welcome to the future.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Who doesn't already believe that Mark and Olivia's marriage is going to fail? They seem to have grown distant already just at the thought that she will cheat on him. Even more so now that he knows she's met the man in her vision and she knows he was drinking in his Flash Forward.
The Blue Hand, not having flash forwards, realized they will be dead in six months and begin committing suicide. Make of that what you will.
The Finale goes to town on this one. So the second blackout was predicted by Gabriel's modifications to the board, who modified the board because he modified the board, because he modified the board, because he modified the board? Come again?
Senseless Sacrifice: Most likely Al Gough's. He kills himself in order to save a woman he would inevitably kill by accident if he had stayed alive. But several episodes after his death, she gets hit by a car, and the doctors say her chances of living are slim. We never did find out if she lived or died, but she most likely succumbed to the wounds.
Shipper on Deck: Gabriel is visibly distraught that Lloyd and Olivia aren't together, as them not being together affects the fate of the world. Somehow.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned that Al Gough is played by the guy who played Cyborg on Smallville which was developed by Alfred Gough.
The first thing that Mark sees after the epic tragedy of the blackout is an orange.
Smug Snake: Heroic variant in Marshall Vogel of the CIA. Most infuriatingly, he's most often right.
Lampshaded in "Queen Sacrifice" where Mark, Demetri and Janis all tell him to *** himself at different times whenever he suggests one of them could be The Mole . Turns out he was right about Janis, too.
Soundtrack Dissonance: A massive shootout (and Janis bleeding out) all to the tune of "Like A Rolling Stone" by The Rolling Stones. How does it feel?!
In "Black Swan", the flashforward occurring in Echo Park (with all the carnage that implies, specifically, an out-of-control city bus heading straight into a lake, running over several unconscious people in the process) set to Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet".
The Sponsor: Aaron Stark, who is Mark Benford's AA sponsor. As the series progresses, his focus shifts from helping Mark with his addiction to finding his daughter.
Several, including the stuff that was on Mark's wall of crazy. It'll drive you mad just thinking about the reason he put up those cards: he put them on the wall because he had a vision of them on the wall.
In the second episode, Mark puts up a picture of the burned doll on the wall. But the doll wouldn't have been burned (and he wouldn't have gone into the doll factory at all) if he hadn't had the vision of the burned doll picture in the first place. Oh no, I've gone cross-eyed.
Also, the Nazi war criminal from "137 Sekunden", who would never have been released if he hadn't seen that happening in his blackout.
However, it looks like this is about to be shaken up, now that Al Gough killed himself because of what he saw in his flashforward, where he was very much alive.
Stealth Pun: When the agents have to give cover stories about what they saw in their flash forwards, Janis says she was baking bread. Actually she was having a pre-natal sonogram, or in other words she had a bun in the oven.
Timey-Wimey Ball: Some of the events in the flashforwards were themselves caused by the flashforwards (see above). However, apart from a throwaway line mentioning a party in Times Square, none of the visions show any awareness that this was the moment they all foresaw. And now someone has apparently died despite the fact that he was alive in his flashforward.
Except Bryce, he says, "so you're really here" to Keiko, referencing that this is the moment he saw.
Token Minority: Mostly averted, as there are three of the six regular cast members playing FBI agents are black, as is Demetri's fiancee. Lynn Whitfield and Gina Torres have also appeared. Still only one Asian regular, but he's co-lead and has been getting Character Development, so...
Now the Japanese girl in Bryce's vision, Keiko, seems to be getting a bigger role.
Took a Level in Badass: Aaron Stark, in "Blowback,". When his daughter is kidnapped by Jericho, he proceeds to beat information out of the mole, tap the phone in the head honcho's house, and leave the mole TIED UP AND HANGING FROM THE CEILING in the Big Bad's house...with "Happy Birthday" written on his chest.
Also, to many, Mark Benford. In the first block of episodes, it wouldn't be a stretch to say he was in the running for most hated character. After the hiatus, he has become much more level-headed, proactive, decisive and mature about his responsibilities.
About half the episodes qualify, to one degree or another. "A561984" is probably the biggest one yet, even more so than "The Gift". Just about every point of the meeting with the woman in Hong Kong is its own mini-wham, and then you have Simon working with the Good Guys and the things he reveals, plus what happens to Lloyd (and his son and Olivia!) at the end.
"The Garden of Forking Paths". Dyson Frost isn't actually the Big Bad. And now he's dead. And Demetri's successfully managed to Screw Destiny by not dying on March 15th. Or has he?
"Countdown". Oh, boy. Where to begin? Everyone's future goes severely downhill and strays very far away from the flash forwards: Mark is expelled from the bureau after beating up Hellinger (something the latter had just predicted it would happen), starts drinking again, gets in a bar brawl and is thrown in jail for good measure. Zoey departs for Hawaii alone after Demetri tells her he impregnated Janis, who in turn might have lost her baby while handcuffing Simon. Lloyd can't complete the tachionic equation since Olivia decided not to let her flash forward become true. Nicole reveals Bryce she knew where Keiko was, but he misses her (again) because she's returning to Japan on immigration agents' watch. All of this mere hours before the moment of the visions. What else? Oh right. Too bad for Aaron, Tracy is dead.
And then all of that gets totally reversed soon immediately after. Except for Demetri.
Wham Line: "Message received." Spoken by Janis, revealing that she's a second mole in the FBI.
The episode before: "Hello Demetri. My name is Dyson Frost. I am recording this message in 1991. [pause] Got your attention, didn't I?"
Dyson Frost again: "Hello, Charlie! :)"
Evil Pet Shop Lady to Janis: "We need you to kill Mark Benford."
What Happened to the Mouse? - Early episodes mentioned the Vice President being the new president in her flash forward, implying the old one would die. However, the April 29th episodes focused entirely on LA and Somalia, and even then, you'd think we would have heard if the president died.
Or get his impeachment. We saw her flashforward, it was a little unclear. What more interesting - what about Arabian boy who was seen by Wedeck's wife? Did writers forget about him or something?
What the Hell, Hero?: Janis, Olivia and Wedeck have all given this treatment to Mark. Demetri has gone as far as punching Mark in the face, although that was more his Berserk Button going off.
You Are Too Late: In the finale, Lloyd and Mark discover when the second blackout will take place. Unfortunately, it's due to happen just minutes from when they found out, so they're unable to stop it.
Slightly subverted in that they managed to save millions of lives by getting the last-minute warning out.
Special Agent Jett Jackson Al Gough just proved you can fight it and Screw Destinyby killing himself, even though he had a vision of himself six months in the future after he had accidentally killed a young mother.
However, in episode 19 she dies suffers massive injuries in a freak car accident. Chance? No: The universe correcting itself. It is implied that the she will still die on April 29 and the events of Al's flashforward will happen to someone else.
On the other hand, Demetri survived so you can fight fate, but have to overcome a sort of historical "inertia" to do so.