In light of last night's midseason return, things seem to be looking up for FlashForward. At least I hope so. I remember the pilot episode being similarly promising and then having that promise dwindle into a fond memory. Hopefully FlashForward is going to break the cycle of painful monotony that characterized the first half of the season and really (finally) get the story going.
FlashForward has made some changes during the hiatus and these may be the key to finally giving this show the kind of awesomeness that it really wants to have.
First, there are some excellent additions to the cast. Nothing against the talents of the main cast members who've been around since the beginning of the season, but some of the characters just haven't been cutting it. These new adversaries and foils might just be the trick to giving FlashForward the strength in character-creation that it has been lacking thus far. Michael Ealy as CIA Agent Marshall Vogel is a fantastic match for Demetri Noh, counterbalancing the goodness of the latter with the kind of dickishness I just love to hate to love. And he and Paula Newsome, as an FBI counselor, are teaming up to help explain the kind of character that Mark Benford is actually supposed to be...because, frankly, he's not been particularly effective at that himself. (I'm sorry, Joseph Fiennes. You are so good, but you are not good at this. We really do need other characters to say things like "You've got a God Complex" and "He's a loose cannon" to understand that you're not actually a whiny freak mysteriously capable of fantastic feats of crime-fighting.)
Another change that can only be qualified as an improvement is that Simon Campos is finally being utilized. It turns out that he's actually REALLY important (read: Not only more interesting, but more central to the main story than Mark freaking Benford). Case in point: Simon Campos = Suspect Zero. Also, he's related to one of the bad guys, he's been more or less in their clutches since age 13 because he was a genius kid, he has actual emotions and a family, and he's unpredictably violent. We've seen and heard the promise for this since Day One and at long last it has come to fruition. Dominic Monaghan is freaking AMAZING. He's been given an opportunity to branch out way beyond his previous characters (although he can't seem to escape magic rings or injuries on that one spot on his forehead). And my major criticism of his work on FlashForward so far, his in-and-out accent, has even been satisfactorily explained, so there's really nothing but good here. He's not totally perfect at every moment. But come on, who in the world can deliver the line "Don't be so magniloquent" in a truly genuine way?
Speaking of Simon, this brings me to the Number One Major Improvement that FlashForward has made in this second half of the season, the improvement that may be the show's salvation: There is an actual villainous presence now. Part of the weakness of the first half of the season was that the antagonists were adversarial at best; the potential insidiousness was buried in so much mystery that it was weakened rather than magnified. But D. Gibbons finally has a face, and so do several of his followers - faces not covered in clown masks. They're talking and acting and representing as a villainous force. And, bonus, one of them is a really hot blond Brit.
Things are finally starting to get the good kind of weird on FlashForward. It may actually manage to live up to the standard of its genre legacy from shows like The X-Files and Lost. The show still has its weaknesses, to be sure. For instance, Olivia Benford still has terrible taste in men. Worse, it turns out, than we even realized. Nicole, who (with Bryce) lends the show its only amount of adorableness, may or may not be falling under the Religious Fanatic Umbrella. Aaron Stark is nowhere to be seen, although it's been promised that he will at some point become much more interesting and important to the overall plotline.
All this in mind, I just have one request for FlashForward: Please PLEASE don't screw this up. You finally took the gloves off. DO. NOT. PUT THEM BACK ON.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)