Well, I can honestly say that my worst fears were not realized in last night's episode of FlashForward; namely, that we would have another "Stranger in a Strange Land" situation. Did I think "Believe" was the great episode some thought it was? No. Was it a nice change of pace? Sure. Was it completely necessary? Absolutely. The risk FF waded into when the show was created and pitched as a sci-fi-ish, high concept serial drama (like it's big brother, Lost, and any other serialized show) was that the "weirdness" of the technical parts of the story (i.e. time travel, weird science experiment gone awry, flashbacks, etc.) might turn off a large segment of the viewing public. As series co-creator David S. Goyer points out in his interview with EW's inimitable Doc Jensen, this needs to be counteracted with a healthy dose of character development. Hence, after a few weeks of sometimes repetitive plot points (need to help the people who jump on the train late), we received almost an entire hour devoted to Bryce: how he came to the point of suicide, what he saw in his flash, and the ramifications thereof. This was really a great character study, and in a sea of great actors on this show, Zachary Knighton stepped up and proved he belonged beside them. We were given a sprinkle of plot for the other main characters, and I will touch on them briefly, but this was Bryce's (and Keiko's!) night, so let's start with them.
*The title credits picutre was of Keiko's wrist tattoo, received after she quit her job and was planning her escape to America. Anyone out there read Japanese? Did the tattoo say "believe" or are we all being hosed? Let me also mention here that my original hypothesis that these title credit pictures may be overarching-series-mystery clues might not bear any fruit. They appear to be just a flash of something important that will appear in that night's episode. I will keep cataloguing them, however, on the off chance that there is something super-cool about them all taken as a unit.
*We learn that four weeks before the blackout, Bryce is told that his renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) has moved to Stage 4, and has spread to his brain and lungs. When offered the possibility of another round of chemo, he refuses and proceeds to become distraught and unaware of his surroundings; which is made abundantly clear as he unknowingly backs into some jackass' hot rod. His sadness turns into anger as he continuously slams into the hot rod. Two weeks later, Bryce begins to zone out during surgery to the point Olivia tells him he should reconsider whether medicine is the proper field for him. He then goes to see a psychologist in hopes of dealing with his believed death sentence. Not receiving sufficient answers there, he turns to thoughts of suicide, the pier, a revolver, and a meeting with fate. I know what I just wrote is more straight recap than what I normally write, but what it illustrates is the path that leads a man to suicide. Bryce is obviously a smart guy who uses a fine-tuned body to perform complicated, meticulous surgeries that save people's lives. Now, cancer is robbing him of his mind and body, and as a doctor, he understands this reality all too well -- he will not be able to save his own life. This was all important background to understand why Bryce was on that pier. Nice grace note, by the way, of Bryce unconsciously putting his seat belt on when he got in his car. A nice little sign that he (or his subconscious at least) wanted to fight for his life.
*I think this was the first time we saw someone's whole flash. Bryce, who, in his flash, now speaks pretty fluent Japanese, met up with Keiko in a Japanese restaurant. He seemed very relieved to see/meet her (as she did, him), and caressed her arm, revealing her wrist tattoo. I got a great feeling of love and fulfillment from the pair during the flash. Bryce did, too, as this was enough to turn his outlook around, leading him to go in for another round of chemo and learning Japanese, despite being very sick. In his words to Olivia, after she saw him nearly pass out and disovered his chemotherapy mainlines, his flash gave him "something to live for." I loved the questions being recited by the Japanese language tapes while Bryce was throwing up, "How are you feeling today? I hope you are well. Can you give me the directions? I am lost. Who are you? What do you want?" These words perfectly summed up Bryce's state as they are the questions Bryce was surely asking himself on both literal and more thematic levels. Great writing. Olivia then gets Bryce into a trial for an experimental cancer drug in Houston, but with his time away from the hospital, he searches for Keiko. He finds his way to her home, but he is denied meeting her by her mother, who had kicked Keiko out of the house for insisting that she wanted a different life than the one planned for her, and wanted to marry for love. Distraught, and no doubt still believing that his time on Earth may be limited, Bryce called Nicole looking for support. Her advice, "Sometimes you just have to be patient." Which we will have to be, as well.
*I guess I should briefly talk about Bryce's intended love. Keiko was introduced to us as she prepared for an interiew at a prestigous robotics company. We quickly learned that she was not intended for the conservative buisness world and society of Japan. She named Jimi Hendrix as an idol, and that she enjoyed playing guitar. She did not want to be set up with a man pre-approved by her mother, and when she was brought into a meeting to serve tea to those gathered because she was the only woman in the department, she exhibited her independent streak, and quit. This independence led to a fight were her mother when Keiko denounced her mother's plans for her. Keiko was kicked out of the house and she ran, with her guitar, to Los Angeles, on Bryce's plane! We saw that in her flash she will meet Bryce in a Japanese restaurant, but it is in L.A., not Japan. One other note, Keiko was watching a video of Bob Dylan's "Shelter From the Storm." This song is incredibly apt, as it speaks of a man "burned out from exhaustion" and "poisoned" who seeks refuge with a woman. Certainly sounds like our man Bryce, right? However, the song turns in its second half, when the man says "Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost / I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed." Does this mean that post April 29, 2010, Bryce and Keiko's relationship will falter? Will she not be his savior? I hope not, but we'll "have to be patient."
*In non-Bryce/Keiko happenings, we had Aaron trying to deal with, on the surface, that Tracy drinks and that he, as a recovering alcoholic, can't have alcohol around. What this really was all about, however, was that Aaron blamed himself for Tracy being in the situation that she is in. First, Aaron was in the military, and Tracy "enlisted to be just like me [Aaron]." Second, as alcoholism can be genetically passed to one's children, Aaron was worried that he may have "inspired" that in her, too. Obviously, neither of these are his fault, but he is acting as a parent, and wants to protect his daughter from all threats, both those he may have control over (Jericho), and those he doesn't (her enlistment, alcoholism).
*Mark, upon discovering the text sent to Olivia about him drinking in his flash, interrogated both Aaron and Wedeck (the only two people he told about is flash) about whether they texted Olivia. Both vigorously denied it. In fact, Aaron, stressed out about Tracy, blew up at Mark and told him to find another AA sponsor. Dang! Although, Mark did deserve to be slapped down (figuratively by Wedeck, and literally by Aaron); he was awful accusatory in tone and word choice.
*Did you catch Vreede's sideways look when the NSA agent told them that they traced a suspicious call back to one of their phones? Perhaps Jay and Jack's caller was right? Is he the mole?
*The call was the one Demetri received from the woman who said he was going to be murdered March 15. Audio analysis pointed them to the nightly Symphony of Lights celebration in Hong Kong. Wedeck, understandably, did not want them to go, but Mark has a plan to secret he and Demetri away to China to investigate the lead. Man, the L.A. FBI bureau has a pretty healthy budget.
*The NSA agent also todl the group that Suspect Zero's ring has an Alpha symbol on it. I loved the fact that Wedeck asked the question all of us were, How could a symbol on the ring be determined but not Zero's face?!? I love when shows do that. I went back to the end of last week's episode, "Playing Cards with Coyote," and yes, the rings that were given to Ricky Jay did have the same Alpha symbol.
From my preview for "Believe," well, we got what I expected, a Bryce-centric episode. There was no Janis at all (boooo!), no Lloyd or Simon, and little amounts of everyone else. There was some acrimony in Mark and Olivia's marriage, but it was short-lived, and while Aaron had the most screen time after Bryce, nothing major happened.
Prediction: As Suspect Zero had the missing ring, and Ricky Jay didn't seem to happy about it (evidenced by, literally, shooting the messenger) I predict Zero is actually a traitor to the group that caused the blackout.
OK, that's all for this week. Again, sorry for the more straight-up recapping, but FF took a well-deserved pause in the breakneck pace it was setting, and let us really get to know the motivation of one of its heretofor neglected characters. The thread of escape, Bryce from his illness/death, Keiko from a restriced society, and even Aaron from alcoholism and Demetri from fate, was woven well throught the episode. We were given something Ivory pure to root for (Bryce/Keiko's relationship) and we were able to reflect upon how profound the events of the blackout truly were on people's lives. To paraphrase Aaron, many people, post-blackout, are "not the people they used to be." For some (Bryce, Keiko), that is a blessing. For others (Tracy, and maybe Olivia and Mark) a curse. The episode allowed us to become reacquainted with the stakes of what occurred October 6th. With that in mind, I believe FF will move forward with a greater sense of urgency and consequence. Remeber to check out the FlashForwardCast with Jay and Jack, and we'll meet again over FF in two weeks time. Leve any comments or theories in the Comments section below, and, as always, thank you very much for reading.
I'm off to build a robot that can feed me jellybeans.