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Joseph Fiennes (Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC)

Forward glimpse

Television | New show offers an entertaining look at deep questions of sin and free will

Issue: "Save the unions," Oct. 24, 2009

What if everyone in the world got a glimpse into their future? Would it alter the way we live now; would we make different choices in order to change the outcome we saw, or would we resign ourselves to what looks like fate? These are the questions posed by ABC's new mystery drama, Flash Forward.

One day, the world's entire population passes out for two minutes and 17 seconds and sees a vision of what they're doing exactly seven months into the future. Some see troubling images. FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), a recovering alcoholic, sees himself falling off the wagon. His wife, Olivia (Sonya Walger), a surgeon, sees herself gazing lovingly at another man. Some see hopeful images, such as Mark's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who sees the daughter he believed to be killed in Iraq alive again. Perhaps the most troubled by the event are those, like Mark's partner, Demitri (John Cho), who see nothing. Does this mean he won't be alive on April 29, 2010, or that his particular future remains undetermined?

Ramping up the dramatic tension is evidence uncovered by Mark's FBI team that suggests the worldwide phenomenon wasn't supernatural but rather a man-made conspiracy. Once the chaos settles down, agent Tracey Stark (Genevieve Cortese), who saw a sonogram of her unborn child during her blackout, begins sifting through hours and hours of surveillance tape from all over the globe. In a splendidly eerie sequence, she stumbles upon footage of a Detroit Tigers baseball game. At the pivotal moment, when the entire stadium joins the rest of the world in passing out, one lone, shadowy figure remains upright and conscious, apparently completely unsurprised by the extraordinary occurrence he is witnessing. A short time later Mark, whose vision also showed him clues on the cause of the blackout, discovers that one other person was awake while the rest of the world slept-a person who was using his cell phone to call the mystery man at the stadium.

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Well-acted and briskly paced, Flash Forward is sure to rivet devotees of similar shows like Lost and Heroes, but its premise will hold particular interest for believers. Debates over predestination and free will have always marked our theology. And the seeming paradox that we all freely make choices that God ordained we would make from the beginning of time is a truth that can bend even the most advanced minds into pretzels. Flash Forward gives the philosophical question, if not a deep treatment, at least an entertaining one.

Mark and Olivia, in particular, are tortured by what they've seen during their hypothetical future, each wondering if they can avoid the sin that the visions showed them even as events start lining up that suggest they're heading directly into it. At first, Olivia doesn't know the man she sees herself cheating with. But when he walks into her emergency room where she is treating his son, she has to decide whether to flee or fulfill her professional obligations and whether or not to tell her husband about the meeting. For his part, Mark can't bring himself to reveal to his wife that his vision showed him drinking again-a secret that may drive him back to his sickness. It's easy to imagine families with older kids getting a lot of good discussion mileage out of the choices each character makes.

Based on Robert J. Sawyer's 1999 novel and adapted for television by David S. Goyer, Flash Forward shows more potential for addictive, appointment viewing than most new programs in the fall lineup. So far, the producers have refrained from including offensive content, and its strong early ratings suggest that fans don't have to worry about getting hooked only to find that cancellation of their favorite show is in their future.

Megan Basham
Megan Basham

Megan, a regular correspondent for WORLD News Group, is a writer and film critic living in Memphis, Tenn.. She is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide to Having It All.

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