I was going to recap the penultimate episode of FlashForward, but I was sidelined by an unexpected guest. The star of the show, Mark Benford, materialized on my doorstep drunk as a skunk and totally despondent about his show's cancellation.
It was a balmy Friday afternoon. The birds were warbling in the arbors. The muskrats were in the brook, waxing musky. I was curled on my couch with some kadhai paneer and Thursday's FlashForward - "Countdown" - on Hulu. Other than the shocking revelation that FlashForward protagonist FBI agent Mark Benford had recently fallen off the wagon, all seemed right in the world.
"Poor Mark," I mused. "I mean, he's so committed to preventing the second blackout that he hasn't taken the proper steps to stave off the prophesied dipsomania from his own flashforward. If I were Mark, I would've padlocked myself in my garage on April 29. Then no one would be able to tempt me with the bottle."
At that very moment, I received an ominous clamp-clomp on my front door. "Oooone minute!" I said in a sing-song falsetto. It was such a gorgeous spring day. How could I not speak sing-song?
I opened the door. Before me stood FBI agent Mark Benford. Not the actor Joseph Fiennes (who portrays Mark Benford), but rather the fictional character Mark Benford. I didn't bother asking how he had gotten here, since he was blotto and belligerent.
"It's all your fault, castrato," eructated Mark Benford.
"Mark Benford, what a surprise!" I said. "And you totally butchered the pronunciation of my name. What's all my fault?"
"The second blackout, Dyson Frost, Lloyd Simcoe, THE CANCELLATION!" It was patently obvious Mark Benford was making a laundry list of things that were bothering him.
"Oh, that's not fair, Mark Benford. I liked that episode in which you spit gasoline in Dyson Frost's face. And besides, I began recapping the show after the ratings went into a tailspin. If you had more episodes as singularly focused as "the Demetri death day" episode (and less festooned with distracting subplots like this week), viewers might not have switched channels to Community. Speaking of which, have you seen Community? That paintball episode was the shi-"
"Wait, wait!" burbled Mark Benford. "What was wrong with this week's episode?"
I poured Mark Benford a glass of Gatorade. Arctic Blast, naturally. "Well, for starters, this should've been your episode. Mark Benford's fall from grace. You've maintained a thin veneer of sanity recently, and this was the episode wear the latticework of your psyche explodes. The moment in which you took your first sip of booze should've been cathode ray-shattering. Instead, all we got is some guy on the street handing you a flask, you guzzling it maniacally, and then you getting in a bar brawl with a bunch of yahoos. Speaking of which, why is everyone celebrating Flashforward Day? 20 million people died during the blackout. That's in really poor taste."
"But...but those yahoos could've been Lucas Hellinger's agents!" Mark Benford cried.
"Yeah, but who is Lucas Hellinger? He's just some clichéd evil dandy who runs the shadow cabal, and his cabal is just one cabal inside of many. There's a whole matryoshka doll of cabals on the show. The villains exude no palpable menace precisely because they're so damn shadowy. Most shadowy nemeses are like Cthulhu, who's happy to tease us with a tentacle or shoggoth when appropriate. You are up against Azathoth, the Blind Idiot God, who is cloistered outside of space and time and is urinating into the pissoir of infinity."
Mark Benford stared at me goggle-eyed. I was becoming drunk off of his hooch-fumes.
"You killed Dyson Frost a couple episodes ago! Janis was outed as a double agent! Simon's so morally ambiguous we stopped caring! Vogel's a dick, but he's gotten zero screen time recently! The flashforwards obviously inspire dread, but they're either Final Destination-esque "course correction" events (see: Demetri's possible demise) or they're dismissible (see: Tracy's death this week). They're optional futures, and while that's the crux of the show's appeal, cosmic forces beyond our control make for a difficult villain...unless you're H.P. Lovecraft."
Mark Benford slugged some Arctic Blast. "Did you at least like anything about this episode?"
"I liked the fact that Bryce was pissed at Nicole for letting Keiko stew in the INS pokey. That reaction made sense, unlike the increasingly muddled Zoey and Demetri relationship. That airport meeting was some uncomfortable television. 'Honey, I knocked up my lesbian best friend in Somalia because she has to conceive because of some quantum physics pregnancy deadline.' 'Okay, I'm going to storm off to Hawaii. Peace, Sulu.' I also liked how Olivia made the very sensible decision to get out of the house on Flashforward Day. I've been preaching the paradoxical "avoid cheating on your husband by sleeping in a motel" option for weeks."
"I miss Olivia." Mark Benford was now draped over my ottoman like a slime mold.
"So does Desmond."
"I hate that fucking show. WE were supposed to be the new Lost. WE had a mystery too. WE had a hobbit too."
"Look on the bright side, Mark Benford. The last episode of Lost will fill millions with disappointment, no matter how good or bad it objectively is. (Yes, I know aesthetics aren't objective but hear me out.) Conversely, the FlashForward finale leave maybe 1/20th of that amount totally abject. You'll inflict a lot less misery and internet teeth-gnashing upon this world. Plus, Lost doesn't have the opportunity you do."
"What opportunity?" sniffled Mark Benford.
"Recapping a canceled show seems downright sadistic at this point. No, after next week's episode, we're going to write the ending to FlashForward. You and me, Mark Benford. You deserve a happy ending."
ON NEXT IO9 WEEK'S FLASHFORWARD RECAP: Mark Benford and I get calzones, he crashes on my couch for a week, we write the series finale.