For viewers on the verge of quitting FlashForward, frustrated by its tendency to ask questions without providing answers, “The Gift” should feel like a breath of fresh air. It not only definitively answers the question of whether the visions have to come true, it also sees fit to show us the nature of the Blue Hand and we find out whether Aaron’s daughter is dead or alive. But in spite of its new-found willingness to answer its mysteries, it is hard to brand this episode a success.
It transpires that the Blue Hand is not a secret organization conspiring to destroy the world but rather a suicide club for those without flashforwards. It is hard to believe though that people would wish to be electrocuted, water-boarded and otherwise tortured simply because they think they will die soon. After all, knowledge of your own mortality does not stop you feeling pain. The idea is an interesting one though and hints at the emotional devastation caused by the flashforwards.
Discovering a website that leads them to local get-togethers, Demetri, Mark and Al decide to go undercover and investigate. After gaining entry to the building in which the Blue Hand are meeting, the trio find themselves face-to-face with ‘Raynaud’ (Callum Keith Rennie, Battlestar Galactica) who presides over the Los Angeles meetings.
Rennie is chillingly good in this small role, particularly when revealing that the Blue Hand has been finding its members using the Mosaic website that Mark suggested. Incidentally, this is the second incredibly obvious subversive use of the website depicted in the last three episodes. This is exactly the sort of discovery that ought to have a repercussion for the team, or for the project.
This episode also saw Aaron finally discover the fate of his daughter Tracy whom he had thought dead until he saw her in his flashforward. Although it is nice to see the question of whether she is alive or dead definitively answered, the episode’s attempt to pull a ‘shock’ ending is all too predictable and falls flat.
In a minor subplot Nicole, the Bedford family’s babysitter, continues her quest to make amends for the terrible thing she believes she will do in the future by volunteering to help out in Olivia’s hospital.
After weeks of complaining that FlashForward does not develop its characters I suppose I ought to be grateful that we learn she grew up in Japan. Unfortunately it is hard to get past the sheer coincidence that the first patient she encounters is an elderly Japanese woman who speaks no English. Factor in that this takes place in front of Dr. Bryce, who is trying to understand a Japanese symbol he saw in his flashforward, and it becomes a storytelling convenience rather than credible coincidence.
Perhaps the most significant and frustrating of the problems in “The Gift” though is the awkward manner in which the episode dispatched one of the regular characters. After weeks of seeming perfectly okay and showing no sign of being upset by the content of their vision, a member of the team is driven to suicide. It is a moment that has surprisingly little emotional resonance.
Previous episodes have given this character little to do and although we learn a few things about them in this episode such as their favorite childhood food, the character’s life is ended in near anonymity. Without getting to know them it is hard to feel invested in their fate, and so, in spite of some consistently strong performances from the actor portraying the character, the sequence fails to have the impact it should have had.
Worse, a sentimental voiceover montage follows the suicide in which we see members of the team react and the dead character spells out their reasons for choosing to end their life. Instead of building emotion, the sequence only serves to emphasize the ineffectiveness of the moment itself.
This voiceover also spells out the implications of the suicide as though we are incapable of working out that if a character is dead then their vision of themselves in the future cannot now happen. Although it is good to know for sure that the events seen in the flashforward can be changed this is yet another example of the series choosing to drum a moment’s significance into its audience rather than allowing them to figure it out for themselves.
Where “The Gift” does succeed is in moving forward its plot and finally providing us with some answers. I enjoyed learning more about the Blue Hand, although it seems of little relevance to the team’s investigation right now, and it was good to see some movement in Aaron’s storyline.
If the series is able to sustain the plot momentum from this episode into future episodes there may still be hope for the show. Yet even with further plot developments, improvements are needed both in terms of character development and execution for this series to begin to reach its potential. For now I remain intrigued by the show’s premise but under whelmed and frustrated with its realization.
– Aidan Brack