“There is No Normal Anymore”
November 10th, 2009
“You still don’t understand humanity.”
And neither does this show.
After a fairly solid pilot that did a good job of making this premise seem like it could be a good one for a television series if not actually demonstrating much in the way of examples of that potential, “There is No Normal Anymore” is the sort of failure that these types of genre shows (including FlashForward) tend to fall into. What goes wrong is nothing to do with the show’s premise and more to do with the fact that the writers seem unwilling to fully embrace that premise from the get go. There are interesting elements in these stories, but as a whole the writing and for that matter the performances just aren’t living up to that interest.
The episode tries to play up a sense of paranoia, but by ignoring the macro level paranoia in favour of the micro level paranoia the show becomes far less interesting than its premise. And, unfortunately for the show, nothing in the writing or in the episode’s forward momentum has me thinking this will change at any time in the near future.
There is a moment in the episode where Father Jack and Erica are both being interrogated, and in both instances they’re being forced to talk around what happened to them. It’s a really good idea for a scene, as both of them have legitimate reason to be questioned (Jack regarding the death in his Parish and Erica with the disappearance of her partner), but the problem was that there was never an adequate sense of tension. Perhaps it’s that everyone says absolutely every thought in their heads, which makes these scenes more breathless than claustrophobic. If the show was trying to create a sense of danger in those scenes, it failed. The dialogue was stiff, the direction decided that claustrophobia is defined by having people stand REALLY close to one another when talking, and the tension just wasn’t working.
The interesting part of the episode was the fact that the Vs were busy trying to guarantee diplomatic ties with the world so that they would be able to move freely within their borders and even gets Visas. There’s an entire episode to be found here where we focus more on the Second Estate, seeing how the world’s leadership makes their decision. I hate to play the “Torchwood: Children of Earth” card, but that miniseries was so great because of how it took an alien invasion and have us the political perspective. Here, we have the 1st Estate (the Clergy), the 3rd Estate (Common People, in the form of Tyler), and the Fourth Estate (in the form of the media coverage), but missing the political side in an episode that discussed an expressly political issue felt strange. It’s something that the episode, and the series, is missing as a whole.
The only way this works is if the new diplomatic position of the Vs really matters, or we get to see its consequences. However, in the other storylines, this never really came to fruition. Ryan’s journey to heal his arm was meandering and purposeless, and Tyler’s failure to be a good peace ambassador had no connection (even though one might have been there) to the larger V story. The media story was the episode’s best because it tapped into that story, but it also ended up reducing it to the idea that in some way one media source would be able to sway public opinion and in turn manipulate the government’s decision. By not showing us the government’s decision, the show is robbing us of the most interesting part of the story, and we don’t know these characters well enough for that to be worthwhile.
If the episode had told us something more about the characters, then perhaps it would have worked, but the episode didn’t do it. Elizabeth Mitchell was trying hard, but Erica’s interactions with her boss, with Jack, and especially with her son were shallow and nondescript. There is no real identity to this character, no reason why we should be following her more than anyone else. Father Jack is a more interesting question in terms of his religious affiliation, but he was so worried about really vague morals of “doing the right thing” and fearing the dreaded task force (Oh no, not a TASK FORCE) that he was never an individual. It’s one thing for Tyler to be uninteresting, because his teenage desires are meant to be at least simple (if not as boring as they are). However, we’re supposed to want to (at the end of the episode) watch Erica and Jack search one-by-one through a list of potential sources to slowly build an army, and I don’t see how these characters are going to achieve this.
It could be said that there is a show to be had here, but I don’t think that the series is in a position to find it. The few glimpses we got inside of the V politics were more interesting by half than anything we saw amongst humanity, and that’s something that’s a problem when so much of the show is going to be spent on the other side of this hero/Other binary.
- The writing was terrible throughout, don’t get me wrong, but I actually think the direction was worse: outside of the wide expanse of the V shots and the lighting therein, it was not setting any sort of consistent dramatic tone.
- Alan Tudyk appears to be back as the partner, and there’s a show I want to watch: seeing how a V reintegrates into society when people have discovered who he is. We knew the lizard inside didn’t die, but that dilemma is actually fascinating and far more unique than “OMG anyone could be a visitor,” which didn’t even do anything but make paranoia a theme.
- Morena Baccarin? Still the best thing about this show, although that can’t last forever.
- EDIT: Forgot to mention that if they make Rekha Sharma a V, the casting department deserves to go out the airlock.