Sunday, May 30, 2010

The End (of Lost) part I

After much thought, I've decided to divide this post into two parts. The second part, which is still a work in progress, will focus on the various questions that weren't answered and just how much those unanswered questions take away from the Lost experience. But I first want to focus on the end, as in "The End" the finale and the end of Lost in general. A good number of critics and fans took the position early this year that they were waiting for the show to end before commenting to deeply on what they thought of it. It was a smart decision because the real purpose of the flash sideways wasn't revealed until the finale and trying to make sense of season six without that understanding would be like trying to make sense of the early seasons without knowing that the flashbacks were actually events that already happened.

I've seen comments from numerous Lost fans who feel let down and wonder if they've wasted countless hours of their lives on questions with no answers and rabbit holes with no bottoms. But personally, I'm finding myself more and more fulfilled by the end of Lost. Yes, I've got my complaints (and I'll get to them below), but as a whole, the story paid off thematically and paid off as far as our characters go. Lost was unique in television history, where the search for meaning amongst the characters mirrored the experience of the audience. It's no surprise that John Locke was such a fan favorite, seeing as he was just as desperate to unravel the mysteries of the island as the viewers at home were. For fans, Lost often meant spending more hours on the show away from the television than in front of it. In a way, Lost was sort of an inverse Star Trek, where instead of pushing meaning well beyond the show borders, fans searched for meaning within the show's four walls. If you really think about it, it makes the ending to Lost a near impossibility. Lost fans can be a bit crazy, so if someone can come up with a better ending I'd love to see it, but I'm just not sure there's a better ending out there. Getting wrapped up in the mystery we sometimes forget that Lost is entertainment ... it's a story. And wishing we had more answers (or better answers) is one thing, but writing them into a cohesive and compelling storyline that fits the confines of network television is another matter entirely.

My initial reaction to the finale was good, followed by some doubts on Monday, but the cacophony of complaints I've heard sent me deeper down the rabbit hole and I like what I've discovered: The flash sideways were a brilliant storytelling device and the more I think about it, the more brilliant it seems. Again, let's return to Lost as entertainment. Damon and Carlton have mentioned in any number of interviews that they conceived of the flash forwards sometime during season two when it seemed obvious the flashbacks had run their course (none of course more obvious than season 3's Stranger in a Strange Land, where we learn how Jack get's his tattoos). Not having heard any differently, it makes me think they conceived of these flash sideways rather early on too, around the time they began to chart the end of the series. I make this point because it certainly seems as though this was the way they wanted to end the series and that these flash sideways were not some haphazard last minute idea when they couldn't figure out what to do after Jughead went off. As viewers (even the fans who saw Lost as a first and foremost a character drama) we tend to think most about mystery and plot, but Lost has always relied on these non-linear storytelling devices and for the writers, I can imagine those storytelling devices were part of the beginning of the creative process. If you're one of those fans who think the flash sideways were a waste of time, then what's your better idea? And does anyone want to make the argument that the flash sideways were "more of a waste of time" then the vast majority of the flashbacks? I'm all for nitpicking and we'll get tom plenty of that, but at some point you've got to appreciate the structure of the show for what it was.

If you really want to get down to it, the flash sideways was really the only way to end Lost's final season. It was a means of further exploring our characters and a means of returning to the off-island connections that tantalized us for the first several years of the show. And at a very basic level, it was the only way to end the show that would allow us to say goodbye to the characters we'd grown to love so much. Purgatory is the word that's being used to describe the sideways, but the sideways reality was much more than that. Yes, it was a place for our characters to meet before moving on, but my interpretation was that it was also a fully realized universe, albeit one where our characters retained buried memories of the previous life they'd lived. One of the more interesting ideas I've heard is that Hurley somehow created the sideways reality as part of his work as the new Jacob. But however it came to be, my interpretation is there was objective reality in the sideways. The notable absence of certain characters not in the church- Ben, Faraday, Eloise Hawking- tell us that the sideways reality was to continue after all our main characters moved on. The David character, Jack's son who didn't exist in the on-island storyline, represents the objective reality of the sideways, as does the image from the start of the season of the island sunk below the ocean. David in particular, is the son not just of Jack, but Juliet. So yes, from a storytelling perspective he represents Jack's resolution of his daddy issues, but the idea that Juliet would spend a decade and a half raising a son is also significant. Add in the fact that you have a baby Aaron "moving on" and it's a good bet that this is a fully realized independent universe and not one that exists solely for our characters.

Now, discussion of the sideways obviously devolves quickly into a philosophical death spiral, but these threads such as the island, and baby Aaron, and David's existence are not simply unresolvable loose ends, but launching off points for the discussion as to the nature of the sideways. What happened to all our characters was an awakening of their old consciousness and the recall of their old lives. But what does that mean for their sideways selves, some of whom led very different existences. The idea that Jack and Juliet's son would mean nothing is sort of nihilistic. It takes away some of the power of our characters meeting if this world where they experienced full lives literally had no meaning. The walking talking Christian from the end of the finale shows us that our sideways characters have already taken a step towards moving to their final destination. Perhaps in moving on, their island souls separated from their sideways souls, or better yet, the characters moving into the light are permitted the benefit of the experience of all their lives, while their sideways selves continue on. Either of those interpretations are preferable to the idea that the sideways somehow continues without our characters and a not yet ready cop named Ana Lucia has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of all those Oceanic 815 passengers.

Of course there is the question of why our characters experience their flashes of realization when they do and I have a theory on that. The island reality didn't start to bleed through until the moment of that crash, when they flew over the sunken island in LA X and up until that point our characters were stuck living their new lives. But after that point, we begin to see the literal bleed through, in terms of the wounds on Jack's neck and our characters are finally able to re-discover their former lives. Now as we see, our characters become truly ready at different times. I suspect Rose and Bernard made their discovery rather early on, which would explain Bernard's odd behavior when Jack goes to see him earlier in the season to ask about Locke's file. Jack on the other hand, takes awhile to give into faith in something beyond him, just as he did in our island story. And some, like Ana Lucia, are still not ready at our conclusion, perhaps because they still need to atone or perhaps because they have more of a spiritual journey to make.

In terms of our characters and the story, the real purpose of the flash sideways to explore the concept of fate and the role of Jacob and the island in our characters lives. Some things in life are fate and some things in life are coincidence. For example, Locke was always fated to be in that wheel chair, but he was not fated to have a lousy relationship with his father. Sawyer was always supposed to play by his own rules, but his career path (con man versus cop) was never supposed to lead one way or another. Ben always was supposed to be involved with Alex, but he was never fated to be a power hungry killer. And Sayid was never supposed to be with Nadia, which is why I had no problem with his reuniting with Shannon in the sideways (unlike some people, who really hated that particular reunion.) This is obviously a fairly superficial reading of the similarities and differences, but you could delve as deeply as you'd like.

To move on past the sideways, I have to say that upon further review, I'm even less happy with the on-island story this last season. On one level, almost nothing happened. We had weeks with our characters at the temple and weeks with our characters at the beach, before the plot finally got into gear toward the end of the season. And while most of Lost has involved our characters essentially being stuck on the beach, that was because that was where our characters made our home for the first four years of the show. I think this season and the latter half of last season proved difficult for the writers in terms of what to do with the multitude of characters who suddenly didn't have the same goals and the same home on the beach to return to. I'll go out on a limb here and say that the story became unwieldy at the point when the Oceanic Six returned to the island, as from that point forward most of what our characters did was a contrivance or a cheat of one sort or another. Season five managed to wrap itself up rather well, mostly because of the sheer strength of Jack's resolve, but I never quite understood why Miles or Jin were more than ready to detonate a nuclear bomb.

In season six, we did see any number of characters- Jin, Kate, Sawyer- go off on their own, but we wound up with all our characters in either Jack or Locke's camp, no matter how little sense it made for Kate or Jin to follow Locke around. But beyond the character contrivances, as I mentioned, very little actually happened. The on-island story of season six could be summed up as simply as this: Our characters go to the temple, Locke attacks the temple, our characters go to the beach, Widmore comes to the island, Jack meets Locke, Locke blows up sub, and Jack and Locke finally have it out. We did get a few neat moments early in the season- Sawyer finding the cave and Jack finding the lighthouse- but by the end of the season we just had Desmond being dragged around as a piece in motion for half a season in the manner that was typically reserved for the episode before the finale. Contrast season six with season three, which had the added hurdle of spending it's first six weeks in polar bear cages. We had Jack's relationship with Juliet and his operation on Ben, Sawyer and Kate's escape from Hydra island, Locke's quest into the jungle, blowing up Dharma stations and subs, the discovery of Dharmaville, Juliet leaving the Others and being a double agent, Locke joining up with the Others and challenging Ben, Naomi coming to the island and all the other events leading up to the showdown on the beach and in the Looking Glass.

And that's not to mention we had Mr. Eko's death, Desmond's time flashes and visions of Charlie's death, Hurley finding Roger and the Dharma van, Sawyer killing Anthony Cooper, and Sun's pregnancy. I suppose what I'm really getting at are those wonderful intersections of plot and character which Lost used to be so good at. Even when "nothing" was happening, most seasons of Lost had so much going on, but this last season seemed to be a lot of pieces being moved around on a chess board.

Even though they abandoned the concept of the beach as home, season five worked in some ways that season six did not because you had two groups of characters, one off the island trying (or not-trying) to get back and one on the island just struggling to survive the time flashes. But this last season just struggled to tell compelling on-island stories. We had a few stellar moments, but far less than most other seasons of Lost. On one level, this is a problem unique to the end of a story, the end of this story. I'm not sure how else you could have utilized all the characters in this storyline and I don't think I really have a better idea as to how the on-island story could have been constructed differently.

Similarly to how I feel about the endings for our characters, I think Lost managed to do justice to it's many thematic elements in it's final season and final episode. Many fans hated Across the Sea, the Jacob and Man in Black back story, but I thought it was Lost storytelling at it's finest, basically giving these two God-like characters the Lost treatment and elevating the mysteries of the island as beyond even the two of them. If Lost has been about anything for six years it's been about the search for meaning, the search for answers, in our lives and the world around us. As viewers we were literally as Lost as our characters were, both in terms of the "why are we here?" and the "what is this place." it's no wonder that John Locke, the man most interested in the secrets of the island and the man most invested in the search for the meaning of it all became such a fan favorite.

To return again for a moment to "Across the Sea," what we learned in our mythological flashback was that Jacob and MIB were just as lost about the meaning of it all as we were. Jacob has faith in what Mother told him, but the ultimate explanations he's given us about the island are no more clear than MIB's assertions earlier this season (as Locke) that the island is just an island and nothing more. Protecting the island is a value judgment made by our characters, or in this case, Jack, and later Hurley. And protecting the island has been the rationale for all the conflict and drama on the island, from Ben turning that wheel, to the purge of Dharma.

Since the very beginning Lost has been about making these value judgments, about this search for meaning. You could be a man of science or a man of faith, but ultimately there were never any real answered to be had about the island, just as there are no answers to be had about our universe. Whether it's a magic light that needs protection or electromagnetism, we're just giving meaning to forces that we just can't understand. Lost works and the end of Lost works precisely because so much of the mythology of the island was cloaked in the same search for meaning that paralleled the journey of our characters.

There's plenty more to say, particularly in regards to the journeys of our characters, but seeing how unwieldy this post is already, we'll call it a day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Immigration Redux

For those of you who care about such thing, I am working on several Lost related posts and I should have at least one of them up at some point this weekend. But in the mean time I just wanted to return to this issue of immigration and the relative merits of Arizona's new law. Two points:

1- The argument that the Arizona law is only an attempt to clean up the mess left by the federal government is a decent argument, but I have trouble seeing how it differs from the reasoning given by many so-called progressive cities in their creation of I.D. cards and other mechanisms to bring illegals into the mainstream. In both cases you have localities dealing with the non-enforcement of federal immigration laws, albeit in very different ways and I have trouble seeing how one is a proper use of local authority in regards to immigration while the other is not.

It's important to keep in mind that the federal response to this "crises" could be, at any moment, to grant amnesty to all illegals currently in the United States and to open up the borders to all comers. Obviously, that's an extremely unlikely scenario, but that scenario or some watered down version of it, is always a possibility. The point is, solutions to the illegal immigration problem are diverse, with not-so-fringe voices arguing for polar opposite solutions. In that sort of environment are any strong state solutions really appropriate?

And 2- The defenders of this law have argued, simultaneously, that the law quite specifically does not permit racial profiling and that critics of the law are somehow removed from the everyday reality of illegal immigration in Arizona. But I'd flip both of those points around and ask supporters of the Arizona law how they think it's actually going to work. And no we're not talking about over-zealous cops who may be pulling people over for no reason. How is this law going to work when people are pulled over?

Say you have two cars full of older teenagers, one car of white teenagers, another car of Hispanic teenagers. If both cars are pulled over, who gets ID'd and who doesn't (Other than the drivers, obviously)? How are police supposed to exercise their discretion in those two situations in a manner that doesn't involve racial profiling? And if anyone, white or Hispanic, has left home and is riding around as a passenger without identification, what's the criteria for detaining that person to conduct an investigation into their immigration status?

This is why I make the point that this is an end-run national I.D. requirement. I just can't see, practically speaking, how this law could actually be enforced without the illegal and unconstitutional detention of American citizens, unless of course the police can magically detect which people without their papers are illegal and which people without their papers are not. I'm unclear on the detention aspects of the law, but without the ability to detain, the law has little effect. And as long as the law threatens the liberty of American citizens and works as an end run around federal law and the Constitution, I remain opposed to it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crazy In Arizona

I've had this post kicking around for over a week now, but just haven't had the time to post anything. I'm not going to link or get into any long explanations because unless you've been living in a news-less cave, you're well aware of the controversy over Arizona's new immigration law, requiring police officers to determine the immigration status, during lawful stops, of anyone whom there is reasonable suspicion about their immigration status.

Much of the reaction has been the expected. Many on the left and most civil libertarians have denounced the law, while anti-immigration folks of all stripes have rushed to it's defense. Surprising, perhaps, is the reaction from some segments of the right that don't typically tread into the messy area of immigration; That the Arizona law is perfectly acceptable because it mirrors federal law and because illegal immigrants, are, you know, illegal. I'll delve more into general theories of immigration law in a minute, but first allow me to address to really big, no questions about it problem with Arizona's new law: It is a defacto national ID requirement, circumventing Congressional authority in regards to immigration and threatening the Constitutional liberty of American citizens who travel without proof of citizenship.

Most of the laws defenders have focused on the laws impact on illegal immigrants, but let's talk about the effects on honest-to-goodness American citizens. If you are an American citizen, this law permits the police to detain you to conduct an immigration check. Most of the examples I've heard have been in regards to traffic stops, where, of course you should be carrying a drivers license that proves your citizenship. But carrying a drivers license is a requirement for driving a car, not for simply leaving your home. There is no national ID card and there is no law, federal, state, or local, that requires you to carry ID with you anytime you leave the house. What this law does is surreptitiously creates such an ID requirement. Can any of this laws defenders honestly say that American citizens of Latino descent in Arizona don't face illegal and unconstitutional detention if they fail to carry ID with them?

There's a larger issue here and that's about immigration policy in general. I've heard some reluctant defenders of the law make the point that this may force Congress to address immigration issues. I certainly have my doubts there, but the controversy surrounding this law illustrates some of the serious problems in regards to immigration issues. First off, why on earth should we spend precious law enforcement time and taxpayer dollars on illegal immigration. Yes, illegal immigration is illegal, but so is marijuana and plenty of other things that we don't make law enforcement priorities. Argument that illegal immigrants come and commit crimes or come and take advantage of American services are sort of besides the point. Illegally taking advantage of services not available to non-citizens is fraud and should be handled as fraud and I would hope law enforcement spends most of it's resources focusing on violent crime committed by both American citizens and illegals.

The focus on the illegal aspect of illegal immigration also ignores the problem of just what legal immigration is. Folks on the right have no problem critiquing the massively inefficient federal bureaucracy when it comes to say the EPA, or the Department of Education, but nary a word is said about the thousands upon thousands of immigration related regulations and a process that takes years to complete. Yes, most of my ancestors immigrated here legally, but they didn't need a lawyer and a small fortune to do it.

As I've pointed out in this blog since I first started five years ago, it's just plain dishonest to play the "I support legal immigration" card while not voicing any opinion on how the process actually works. It's like saying I support nuclear power while supporting regulations that make the creation of new nuclear power plants nearly impossible. Generally, folks on the right don't play those word games when it comes to nuclear power and they shouldn't when it comes to immigration. Our problem in this country isn't the individuals who want to come here to make a better life for themselves, our problem is government bureaucracy, bad laws, and over-regulation.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Capitalism ... Some Sort Of Something

So I realize I'm a year or so late to the party, but last night, my wife and I finally sat down and watched Michael Moore's latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story. The obvious way to review the film (or any Michael Moore film for that matter), is along partisan lines. If you're on the left, you probably enjoyed it and if you're somewhere in the area of the free market right, you're thoughts probably echoed the Wall Street trader who's advice to Moore outside the New York stock exchange was to stop making movies.

Personally, I think Michael Moore is a doof, but you've got to admit, he's a fun doof. And he tells compelling stories, or at least, he throws out an awful lot of images and ideas into a relatively brief film. In terms of Moore's documentaries, I've always enjoyed Roger and Me and I thought his follow up, The Big One, was rather underrated. I never watched Fahrenheit 9-11 and refused to watch Sick-O because Moore could have made the exact same movie from the opposite perspective and have been just as equally unconvincing. Going into Capitalism, I expected to be thoroughly agitated by Moore's confusion about just what capitalism was, but despite the expected confusion, I found the film entertaining and even thought provoking. Like my favorite Moore film, Bowling for Columbine, Capitalism is awash with a number of great images, full of statistics, numbers, and history, and touches on any number of facets of America that I'm not even sure Moore knew he was getting at. Like Columbine, Capitalism is more than the sum of it's parts and is certainly more than hodge podge narrative Moore has stitched together. Ultimately though, it's not that Moore is wrong about what the meta-narrative of his film should be, it's that there is no meta-narrative that encompasses the sum total of our political system, our economic system, and our culture.

Michael Moore's Flint Michigan roots always have intrigued me because his Michigan focus seems much more conservative than progressive, longing for an idealized world from the past that neevr actually existed. dd in the religious element- Moore includes interviews with a number of Catholic priests who are highly critical of America's economic system- and you've got the makings on an interesting story that contradict some of the simplistic ideas we have about politics.

At the end of Capitalism, Moore brings up FDR's proposal for a second bill of rights, guaranteeing basic economic "freedoms" to all Americans. Other than in the minds of some academics, FDR's second bill of rights was never implemented in any legal or practical sense. But Moore spends a portion of the early part of the film lamenting the Flint Michigan of the 50's, where a union-working father could earn enough to buy a new house and new car for his family, and where the rich were taxed at rates of 90%. Yes, there were high tax rates, but this was still a world without that second bill of rights. And more importantly, as Moore himself points out in the film, the post war economy of the United States only boomed for such a long period of time because the rest of the industrial world was so wrecked by World War II. It's fascinating because, as Moore tells us at the end of the film, the point is to find a new economic system. Yet the only picture Moore gives us of what that might look like is an idealized view of a world that was an accident of history.

Various portions of Capitalism weaved in stories of foreclosures, meant to highlight the heartlessness of capitalism. And yes, a system where people are thrown out of their homes certainly appears heartless. But as my wife pointed out throughout the film, we were given no context as to why these people lost their homes. And even more importantly, Moore gives no indication of what sort of system we should have. Interestingly enough, the night after watching Capitalism, I caught a news story about Nicholas Cage and how he's faced foreclosure on a number of his homes because of his extreme mismanagement of money. Forget for a moment the practical consequences of "no more foreclosures" and you've got to ask yourself, where would we draw the line even if we had a no foreclosure rule? Should Nicholas Cage get to keep all his mansions that he can't pay for? Should the middle class family that can't afford the half-million dollar home they overpaid for during the housing bubble get to stay in their home they can't pay for. And of course, the obvious, practical problem of no foreclosures would be only the very rich would be able to buy property- after all, what bank is going to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars when they have no recourse when the lendee doesn't pay.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Moore's film is it's focus on politicians and government. We see the stock exchange, but the villains of the film are the various members of the Fed and the Treasury Department and their ties to Wall Street. That Moore's critique is really the ties between big business and government, or crony capitalism, has been made by many free market reviewers. But more interesting to me is the intensity of Moore's beliefs. Moore wants an end (or a change) to capitalism because this is how he sees capitalism. In a way, the free marketers defense of capitalism echoes the leftist defense of socialism and Marxism. Just as the United States is not an example of a true free market, the Soviet Union was not an example of true communism. Each side sees their ideal as a possibility, while the system they oppose is simply impractical. Libertarians and those on the right can't see the possibility of a communist state not bing oppressive and leftists don't see the possibility of a free market where big business isn't in bed with the government.

Where Moore offers hope to those of us who believe in free markets is not his nonsensical meta-narrative of an attack on capitalism, but in the bits and pieces. What do foreclosures say about our economic system, our culture? Why is Wall Street such a big mystery to the extent that it promotes conspiracy theorizing? Moore's brief look at the robotics company and the bakery organized as cooperatives were fascinating, but incomplete. Why do those business models work in some ways and not in others.

But perhaps the most telling statement of the entire film was from the striking worker at the window and door plant in Illinois (and I'm paraphrasing here): "We'd like to open up the plant and run it ourselves, but we just don't have the money." Thank God there are capitalists who do have money. When it's convenient to his story, Moore loves to talk about the individual little people. Yet Moore is quite specifically not a technocrat- the latter half of the film is an attack on the supposed experts who attempt to run the economy from Washington. Maybe Moore just wants "the right people" running things, but he never comes out and specifically says so. It's really the only hope free marketers have- That folks on the left can realize that markets work for them, the ability of government to do good is limited and that capitalism really is a love story that provides the most hope for the most people.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Brief TV Power Rankings

I'm way behind, but there's just too much good stuff on right now to resist.

1. The Pacific (Currently two episodes behind)

It's just really, really good. I can't remember a war story that's been so broad in it's focus as to the consequences of war. The fighting has been terrifying, but the human cost has been even scarier and provided such depth to a genre than can, at times, be too focused on the immediacy of combat.

2. Breaking Bad (Currently caught up)

Bryan Cranston is really, really good. And so is Aaron Paul (Jesse) and Dean Norris (Hank). Sunday night's conclusion was shocking and all the more visually gripping because of the abrupt change from the 40 minutes of drama that had proceeded it. The Mexican cousins remind me a bit of the bad dude from No Country For Old Men, but Larissa had a better take: They're creepy-scary killing machines like the alien bounty hunter from the X-Files.

3. Lost (Do you really have to ask?)

I'm all in, obviously. Lost is the most ambitious television project ever, the likes of which we'll probably never see again on network television. Yes, I'm overflowing with critiques and nitpicks in the show's final season, but just keep in mind, that's only because the show's set up has been so good. I'm not sure about what will or what won't get answered, but I think we're headed for a tremendous final five hours.

4. Treme (Currently two episodes behind)

Don't take Treme's ranking as somehow indicative of it being at all lacking. I love that the show is real, a real place, populated with real people, and all sorts of real music. Yes, it's a bit slow, but it's a character piece and that's sort of the point. Just sit back and appreciate the intricate tapestry that David Simon is weaving.

5. South Park (All caught up and done for the spring)

Last week's finale was a mixed bag, but overall, this has been a great run this spring. It occurred to me the other day that South Park at this point has surpassed the Simpsons in terms of numbers of quality seasons. The Simpsons fizzled out after a decade, but South Park is still going strong.

6. Parks and Rec (All caught up)

NBC's little comedy that could, the most unappreciated of it's Thursday night offerings that just keeps getting better. While the Office continues to flounder with poor writing choices and a lack of characters with any depth, arks and Rec continues to prove that you can add layers while still keeping things funny.

7. 30 Rock (All caught up)

Will Forte's performance of Jenna's Muffin Top song was hilarious.

8. Community (All caught up)

They did an entire episode centered round chicken fingers. Nuff said.

9. Fringe (Currently three episodes behind)

The continued development and improvement of Fringe is why I've stuck with other sci-fi shows like Flash Forward. If there's any doubt that writing is what makes or breaks television shows, just look at how Fringe has been transformed from a midling sci-fi procedural to a much broader drama. I've heard some good things about the episodes over the last few weeks, but the last one I saw, the story about Peter and Walter, was just amazing.

10. Flash Forward (Currently three episodes behind)

I'm only just now catching up, but I continue to be impressed by Flash Forward since it's return from hiatus. It's a lot of little things, but the writing is just plain better. The mystery and intrigue seem a bit more organic and the dramatic tension between characters seems a lot less forced. I was on the verge of dropping Flash Forward, but I'm certainly all in now.