Opening with a chilling sequence set to Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” that served as a reminder of the devastation caused by the flashforward, “Black Swan” begins strongly. We are introduced in that opening sequence to the character of Ned (Keir O’Donnell), who we subsequently see is a patient of Olivia (Sonya Walger).
Ned saved a young woman from a sinking bus in the aftermath of the incident but subsequently found himself suffering from medical problems. Asked by Olivia’s fellow surgeon Bryce (Zachary Knighton) about what he saw in his flashforward, Ned tells them that he saw himself at a trendy club and that in his vision he was an African American.
In previous episodes we have seen Olivia struggle to deal with what she saw in her own flashforward, in which she appeared to be having a relationship with the father of another of her patients. When Bryce suggests that Ned’s vision could indicate that he has Addison’s disease, Olivia refuses to allow possible information from Ned’s flashforward to influence her diagnosis.
Meanwhile Olivia’s husband, Agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), and his partner, Demetri Noh (John Cho), revisit an old lead from the terrorism case in the first episode that takes them to Indio, California. Demetri shares with Mark that he has learned that he will be murdered and that he is trying to catch his murderer before that happens.
Mark and Demetri’s storyline essentially is a giant red herring while Olivia learns nothing that we as an audience did not already know. Ultimately neither of the episode’s main story threads takes us any closer to answering the question that has dominated the early episodes of this season – did the flashforward show us an inevitable future or merely a possible one?
Clearly not every episode of FlashForward can significantly advance the plot, yet “Black Swan” also fails to add to our understanding of these characters. We learn nothing new about Olivia’s feelings about her flashforward, nor about how she feels about her husband. Likewise, we’ve already seen Demetri’s anxiety about his possible murder play out over the previous two episodes. Aside from the conversation he has with Mark, little of importance occurs to his character here.
These deficiencies in plotting and character development were somewhat offset by the show’s excellent production values and good casting. Sonya Walger is excellent as Olivia, refusing to accept the inevitability of the flashforwards. Likewise, John Cho continues to do well in the role of Demetri, desperate to find a way to save his own life.
Where “Black Swan” really missed however was not in its unexciting plotting or lack of revelations, but rather in its final moments as the writers attempted to spring a surprise on us.
As the episode drew to its close a character received a phone call from someone named Simon (Dominic Monaghan) who proceeded to state “we’re responsible for the greatest human disaster in history.”
Introduced in the final moments of an episode and including a character we have yet to get to know properly or grow to like, rips the sequence of the shock value it should have had. Besides, surely if these characters really did orchestrate a giant act of terror they wouldn’t be bragging about it in a telephone call which would suggest that all is not as it seems and that we shall discover that the statement is actually misleading.
Most criminally of all, it was a terrible line. Can you imagine anyone beginning a conversation in such a way, fourteen days after the incident? It felt so out of place, so clearly designed to surprise an audience that it really detracted from the ending of this episode and from the appearance of Monaghan, a superb young actor deserving of a better introduction.
Four episodes in, FlashForward still has a lot going for it such as its strong cast and excellent production values, while its mysteries remain interesting. Unfortunately “Black Swan” delivers neither plot revelations nor significant character development, falling short of the high standard set in the previous episodes. The show can do better than this and hopefully will see a return to form next week.
– Aidan Brack