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The episode begins with the sweaty brow of Demetri Noh. It’s March 15th, the date of his prophesied death and he’s tied to a chair with the gun that is supposed to kill him pointed at his heart. Simply put, things are not looking good for Demetri. The previous installment in the series suffered from a choppy and distracted narrative that, although moved almost every plot-line forward significantly, failed to effectively create tension and suspense. However, ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ corrects almost every one of these criticisms and provides a thrilling and captivating forty minutes that plays out like a more intelligent version of a 24 episode.
There was no doubt about it, ‘Let no man put Asunder’ tried to fit too many developments into one episode and clearly the writers have addressed this, with tonight’s episode maintaining a single focus; the fate of Demetri Noh. The countdown to his demise paced the episode perfectly, with the majority of the show’s primary characters pooling their resources in a frenetic attempt to save their friend and co-worker.
A couple of things previously neglected are revisited, such as Alda, the blonde woman that formed part of the uncovered terrorist plot. Zoey (Demetri’s fiancé) confronts the incarcerated sociopath in an attempt to uncover details of her future husband’s disappearance and in doing so, sets off a series of events that has serious repercussions for the Mosaic enquiry. I’m not going to lie, I had all but forgotten about this character and truth being told she still doesn’t fit in neatly with the narrative, even if she did act as a convenient tool in which to connect some of the more distant dots in the storyline.
The real star of the episode was the deranged but brilliant Dyson Frost, who has previously been little more than an evil genius cliché, dripping clues and teasing the audience with hints at the future. Tonight, however, we are treated to an insight into the character’s mind and are left wondering whether he really was a villain after all. These scenes with Dyson Frost were excellent; they were intelligent, insightful and really developed our understanding of the way the flash-forwards operate. Although stopping short of providing any tangible real-world science, we are treated to a more complex overview of the movement of time and its shifting direction. This was a much needed inclusion to a show that was beginning to feel like a shallow attempt at Sci Fi dressed up as an action drama.
The theme of the forking path was prominent throughout the episode, with some quite intelligent metaphors revolving around the domino effect and determinism. Really it’s nothing that hasn’t been touched on by other shows, but I respected the decision to step away from audience hand-holding and instead provide imagery which acted as structural support for some of the more far-fetched concepts.
There are plenty of sub-plots which were totally ignored, such as Aaron Stark’s search for his daughter, or Olivia and Lloyds’ kiss last week (although there is noticeable tension between her and Mark), but their absence is never felt and their inclusion would have been a mistake. The only plot-line I felt they maybe could have addressed is Janice as a mole. I would have welcomed some insight into her feelings about Demetri’s disappearance or just a helping hand, in reconciling the idea that she is a traitor.
But really these are all very minor points in an episode that was perfectly paced and excellently crafted, being both exciting and informative. The hint at what is to come at the conclusion of the episode raises the stakes and instills a sense of urgency that the early part of the season lacked. I hope they can maintain this kind of escalation whilst still resolving some of the other story lines which are often a distraction to the main plot.
The show should definitely follow this episode’s lead and focus predominantly on the possibility of impending flash-forwards. As interesting as some of the character’s individual exploits can be, there are far too many to adequately cover every week and any attempt at doing so has failed. Hopefully, ‘Garden of Forking Paths’ signals a change in direction and pace, because as far as I’m concerned it has been the best episode yet.