Thursday, October 8, 2009

FlashForward 1.3: Conflicting Visions and Futures

The riveting paradoxes of FlashForward continue to be lit most clearly in the person of Agent Demetri Noh, who in episode 1.3 sees his possible futures ratcheted up one additional, wrenching level. A foreign agent (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, Behrooz's mother of 24, Day 4 fame) calls Demetri and tells him she saw a report of his death in her flashforward vision. But Demetri's fiance - Zoey Andata (played by Gabrielle Union) - had a much happier vision of Demetri on FF Day: the two were getting married.

So which vision is true?

Now would be a time to point out, again, that when you're dealing with time travel - or, even vision of the future as in FlashForward - there is no way of telling which of competing visions is true, and therefore whether a given vision of the future that any character has is true. This is the case even when parts of someone's vision are confirmed. Even when someone's complete vision is confirmed. Even when everyone's complete vision is confirmed.

Why are such visions so unreliable? Look at it this way: Demetri has a vision of the future, call it vision 1 in reality or universe 1. Because of that vision, Demetri changed his behavior, acts differently, with the result that something is changed before the future in the original vision. At the instant that changes, universe 1 changes, and so, therefore, does vision 1. Demetri is now living in universe 2. If he has another vision of the future, that would be different from vision 1. It would be vision 2, etc.

The fun of FlashForward and all time travel stories which try to change a future already seen or experienced is figuring out what actions of which characters are resulting in which futures. Sometimes the very attempt to avoid a future causes that future to happen. Sometimes acceptance of a welcome future is the thing that prevents it from happening. Time travel's tricky - see my The Enjoyable Trouble with Time Travel and The Plot to Save Socrates for more.

The other part of FlashForward tonight was less paradoxical and more of Mark in deep research. The name and photo of an old Nazi - Geyer - was up on Mark's future wall. In our present, Geyer contacts the FBI and says he has information about the blackout. Turns out his most useful information puts Mark on the trail of a blackout that happened in the early 1990s.

Mark realizes that blackouts (with possible flashforwards) in the past could provide information very valuable to understanding his present predicament. Did those earlier flashforwards come true?

It was also good to hear The White Rose mentioned in this episode - the group that tried, with just a photocopying machine in 1940s, to spread the truth in Germany about the Nazi Government (see New New Media for more). The White Rose failed in the end, but they gave it a brave, noble try, and should what be done with a new medium of that time against overwhelming totalitarian odds.

Will Mark succeed against the seemingly overwhelming odds arrayed against him?

The problem - and the fun - of FlashForward is that success is different, even for the same person at different times, and so we don't even know what success in this time-bending context means...

See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost and 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer

8-min podcast review of FlashForward

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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