This week's Flashforward - "Better Angels" - had a gee-whiz start, a slam-bang finish, and a soggy middle. It was like Mark Benford served us a baloney sandwich on two slices of artisanal Tuscan focaccia.

"Better Angels" opens with Demetri, Vogel, Simon, and Janis going to Somalia. Simon wants a gun, Vogel isn't buying it. Simon opines, "Going to Somalia without a gun is like going scuba diving without an oxygen tank." It's a cute little epigram - it's nice of the writers to treat us with it from the get-go, as Simon spends the majority of the episode getting punched in the face.

The opening sequence is snazzy and exciting. The gang's faux-Red Panda humanitarian effort snafus when Abdi - the friendly neighborhood warlord - shows up, kills the interpreter, and kidnaps the CIA agents. The people of Abdi's village disappeared after the 1991 blackout, and his lack of a strong role model has made him a bit of a misanthrope. After the gang nearly escapes Abdi (thanks to some canny moves from Demetri and Vogel), the show then settles into its usual pattern of head-scratching characterization and seesaw pacing.

What was Abdi's flashforward? He sees himself as the uniter of Somalia. Janis uses the Mosiac website to convince him he'll rise to power via velvet revolution, quoting Lincoln's first inaugural address (the whole "better angels" spiel).


Abdi goes through an entire season's worth of character development in 60 minutes. He begins as a gun-toting strongman, transforms into a sympathetic ally of the agents, and is shot by Vogel after he discovers D. Gibbons executed his village. Why does Vogel shoot him? Abdi starts smacking Simon around. Goddammit, Flashforward, why do you have to pit two of the more interesting characters against each other?


In sum, here's what happened on the Somalia jaunt:

1.) Abdi is introduced, acts intriguing, and dies. His flashforward is nullified.
2.) Demetri may or may not have impregnated Janis in a moment of sexy altruism.
3.) At the episode's rad cliffhanger, we learn that D. Gibbons has left a message for Demetri via VHS from 1991. Whoa.
4.) We learn that despite living in the shadow of the mysterious tower for years, Abdi never, ever investigated it. Yeahbuhwuh?
5.) We learn Vogel's flashforward. He is speaking with another agent in Mark's backyard and says, "Mark Benford is dead." Incidentally, Vogel's flashforward coincides with Charlie's flashforward. She also divulges that she overheard Lloyd saying D. Gibbons lied. But what exactly did he lie about?


Back in the US, Mark refuses to move to Denver with Olivia to prevent his flashforward. He must prevent the second blackout! Now that we know flashforwards can be prevented, couldn't Mark do something a little more mundane to prevent his future? Like say, smash the mirror Lloyd writes on in lipstick? Or take a vacation on April 29? Or shave his head? To what extent does the butterfly effect of flashforward-reversing reach?

Abdi's death prevented the unification of Somalia and affected millions of other folks' flashforwards - couldn't Mark schedule a fumigation for April 29 and prevent the destruction of his marriage? Or a parent-teacher conference? Or a colonoscopy? Just get Olivia out of the house, for crying out loud.

That's the problem with this series - if some flashforwards are dismissible, why aren't all flashforwards dismissible? Is there a grand cosmic bean counter who determines which flashforwards are dismissible, or is it all just totally arbitrary? Or - horrors of horrors - are all flashforwards arbitrary?


On a final note, Bryce is coughing up something fierce. At least give us the Keiko meet-up, you cads.