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Flash Forward, Episode 103 “137 Sekunden”

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Sorry I’m a few days late in getting this commentary out – real life intervened, not to mention I didn’t get to watch the episode until late Friday night.  Anyway, getting on with the third episode, entitled “137 Sekunden”.

I was a little disappointed with this episode, in that I thought (from the previews) we were actually going to get some interesting answers up front from the strange German man.  In reality we got nothing but more questions.  More on that later…

Three separate subplots were contained in this week’s episode, surrounding Mark and Janis’ trip to Germany:

1) Demetri, who is mostly absent this episode except to investigate the mysterious phone call from the equally mysterious woman about his impending murder, meets his fiancee at the airport and together they spend some quality (?) time together.  She recaps her flashforward, supposedly of the two of them being married on D-Day (March 29, 2010) on a beach somewhere.  Demetri, of course, should have been able to see this as well but sees nothing so is understandably confused.  He doesn’t tell her that they visions don’t match, so we’ll see that secret carry over for a while…  I thought her description of the flashforward and confidence that it was Demetri she saw was a bit vague, like the assumption someone you expect to see in a certain place and time is indeed that person.  I wonder instead if it isn’t Demetri at all, and the visions do indeed match.  A closer examination of her vision might cause her to reconsider who it actually is, but Demetri isn’t about the rock the boat just yet.

2) FBI Boss Wedeck is uncomfortable about leading an upcoming eulogy for agents that died for various reasons during the flashes (I’m assuming car wrecks, airplane crashes, etc).  His wife, Felecia, who we meet for the first time, dishes with Olivia about her flash, that she will be taking care of a young child six months in the future, and we see this child as the son of one of the dead agents.  How this transition from other parent/guardian to Mrs. Wedeck remains a future plot point.

3) Mark’s AA mentor Aaron (notice how AA is part of his name?) continues to investigate his own flash, that of seeing his presumed dead soldier daughter alive again.  He tries to convince the girl’s mother Katie (last seen as Sawyer’s old flame Cassidy from LOST in yet another actor crossover) to have the remains exhumed and DNA tested, which she refuses.  Seems mom is a run down barkeep in a run down bar somewhere ‘cross town… and the two of them aren’t on the best terms.  Aaron enlists Mark’s help to get it done anyway, and the rests are conclusive – the remains of his daughter are actually in the grave.  All this proves to me is that (sorry) some pieces-parts of the girl were blown off during an attack, and she was captured by the enemy.  Whatever was left on the battlefield was recovered by the military and assumed to be all that was left of her, which were buried.  I’m assuming most soldiers maimed on a battlefield aren’t typically captured and tended for by the enemy in real life, but if I were a dad I don’t think I would rest until I was sure my child was dead – no matter what was returned.  Well, to a certain point.  I’m not sure I want to continue thinking about this, so let’s move on…

…To the main plot.  Mark and Janis get a tip through their international networks that Rudolf Geyer, a former Nazi who was only recently captured after fifty years on the lam, has information from his own flash that would aid the investigation.  Since the man supposedly asked for Mark by name, they travel to Germany to question him.  In exchange for information on why the 137 second length of the blackouts is significant (which Mark remembered posted on his big board in his flash) Greyer bargains for his own freedom.   Here Greyer relates his own actual memory of what happened after the flash, when he woke up.  He noticed crows lying dead all over the prison courtyard.  Having tricked the agents into what seems to them to be worthless information, he wins his freedom.

I’m not sure I expected this resolution to the man’s story – I was waiting on something to explain the duration – being used to LOST’s magic 108 number being the sum of the other numbers (4-8-15-16-23-42) – I expected some fancy numerological explanation, but only some vague mystical ramblings about the Jewish Kabbalah are all he provided.  Perhaps it will be significant later, but from what we’ve seen so far (and will see later in the episode’s tag) I believe we’re looking at a technologically-caused event and not one with supernatural implications.

Back in the states, after cross-referencing lists of mass bird deaths in history, the agents find other strange instances where large numbers of birds died.  In particular, we are shown a scene from history of a young child out in the fields.  He hears a strange noise and looks off toward a village in the distance.  Massive amounts of birds (crows from their calls) that were only moments before circling in great flocks all begin plummeting to earth.  The child looks at the village and up to the top of a great spire, from which a shock wave can be seen reaching outward to disrupt the sky and clouds above.

What this seems to indicate is that for many years someone or some group has been experimenting around the world with a technology that will induce blackouts and flashforwards, and a consequence of the pulse (sonic? electromagnetc? psionic?) is total disruption of the neural pathways of crows, causing them to instantly die.

A couple other random thoughts as we progress to next week:

1) Alan Ruck of “Ferris Bueller”, “Star Trek: Generations” and “Spin City” fame, a fairly recognizable face, has a brief role in the beginning as a participant in the AA meeting.  It seems to be a throwaway part and the character does not appear again in the episode, but it’s odd to use such a recognizable actor in a small role – even if he is a character actor.  Sometimes when shows do that it throws me off a bit because I expect to see the character have more significance than it does.

2) Was there ever any evidence that the blackouts affected any animal species other than humans (and now crows)?  Are we to assume that dogs, cats, birds, monkeys, elephants, horses, etc all went on about their business during the blackouts?  Maybe this is why there were so many Missing Pet posters on the wall that Olivia and Charlie saw last week – their owners were out walking them, collapsed for 137 seconds, and the dogs ran away.  Did people who happened to be on horseback just keep riding until they woke up again?  I feel sorry for the poor random zookeeper’s tending the lion cages or shark tanks at the time…

3) Speaking off, the ramifications of a world-wide 2-minute blackout continue to fascinate me.  I’m a bit surprised at the number of random plane crashes away from airports (takeoffs and landings needing necessary full-time concentration) but surely your average plane would survive a 2-minute coast, whether on autopilot or not.  Just don’t call me Shirley.

Also, it occurs to me that every man, woman and child who happened to be in a swimming pool likely drowned that day.  It’s one thing to be caught in the surf like the guys on the beach in the premiere episode where your body can be tossed around in the waves, but swimming a lap at the Y and suddenly plummeting to the bottom for 2 minutes…ulp.  And even in baby pools… ok, again. I’m, switching topics.

But you see what I mean.  Even with a 30-second mass blackout, the casualties from car wrecks and falls would be astounding.  With over 2 minutes you take into account drownings, airplane and chopper crashes, large equipment failures, factory malfunctions, power plant overloads, chemical spills – any dangerous or important job requiring full concentration would be jeopardized.  I’m surprised the world looks as good as it does…