Thursday, May 6, 2010

FlashForward 1.19: The Stubborn Universe

FlashForward 1.19 was written by Robert J. Sawyer - author of the novel upon which the series is based - and a great friend for almost two decades now.   I say that in the interest of full disclosure.  But as I mentioned when I started reviewing FlashForward in the Fall, I'm not going to let that stop me from reviewing this fine series, extraordinary in many ways, and from calling things in the series as I see them.

The dominant theme in tonight's episode - appropriately entitled "Course Correction" - is the universe's stubborn resistance to changing its course, in this case, the deaths of people foreseen in the flashforwards.   It's a powerfully attractive theme.   I first began thinking about it when I read Stephen Hawking's "chronology protection conjecture" in the 1990s, which holds that, even if time travel were possible, the universe would not let it happen, lest it risk itself becoming unraveled by time travelers.  My 1995 novelette, The Chronology Protection Case (Analog Magazine), explored that theme in the context of a serial killing of scientists.

It's a theme bursting with paradox at every turn, which is what makes it so much fun.   In FlashForward, one could ask, is the flashforward what the universe "wanted," or was it something that happened contrary to the universe's original course?  Since human beings, who are part of the universe, caused the blackout/flashforward, we could well conclude that this is what the universe wanted (such a conclusion could be warranted in any development, caused by anything in the universe, since it's taking place, by definition, in the universe - this is part of the great paradox of this issue, and another name for it is infinite regress).   This, indeed, is what is assumed in FlashForward, which means that any attempt to prevent what was foreseen in the flashforwards is going against what the universe "intended," which provokes the universe to "correct" it.

Of course, we could say that any changes in the universe's plan are/were also part of the universe, so why would the universe be bent on correcting it?  You could say that, alright, but it's a quick path to driving yourself crazy (this is why I call paradox the root canal work of the human intellect).  In other words, you can only go so far with paradox - that's part of what makes paradox paradox.

On FlashForward, then, the universe seems to be correcting, by whatever means, the saving of people who were supposed to die.   This affects, most notably, Celia (the object of Gough's noble suicide and attempt to change the future in Episode 1.7) and Jeff Slingerland of Blue Hand fame.   Both end up dead tonight.  And, of course, squarely back in the universe's cross-hairs tonight is Demetri.   It's a fine turn  of events indeed, for now his brilliant rescue from the jaws of fate several weeks ago is in danger of being undone.    The mere raising of the universe as course corrector means Demetri is only in slightly better shape than he was before Mark saved him.

Other good moves tonight involve Bryce (who learns his cancer's in remission) and Nicole kissing,  and Lloyd and Olivia ... kissing.   Actually, I'm not so happy about that, I've become a Mark fan, and I also like Keiko, but the recouplings are good story telling.

But, whew, the paradox, that's the thing.   You can't find it served up like this any place else on television.

6-min podcast review of FlashForward

See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost ... 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability ... 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures ... 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House ... Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5 ... Across the Universe in FlashForward 1.6 ... FlashForward 1.7: The Future Can Be ... FlashForward 1.8: The Nightie as a Grain of Sand ... FlashForward 1.9: Shelter from the Storm ... Olivia Benford at Harvard in Flashforward 1.10 ... Flashforward 1.12 Parts 1 and 2 ... FlashForward 1.13: Aaron's Daughter, Mark's Gun, and Magpies ... FlashForward 1.14:  Somalia, LA, Fate Irresistible and Resistible ... FlashForward 1.15: Who's That Lady? ... FlashForward 1.16: Mark's Gun and Demetri's Wedding ... FlashForward 1.17: Mark, Demetri, and Hari Seldon ... FlashForward 1.18: Triple Forks

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