A flashforward (also spelled flash-forward; also called a prolepsis) is a scene that takes the narrative forward in time from the current point of the story in literature, film, television and other media. Flashforwards are often used to represent events expected, projected, or imagined to occur in the future. They may also reveal significant parts of the story that have not yet occurred, but soon will in greater detail. It is primarily a postmodern narrative device. In the opposite direction, a flashback (or analepsis) reveals events that have occurred in the past.
Examples in literature
An early example of prolepsis which predates the postmodern period is Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, in which the protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge is taken forward through time to visit his funeral. The subsequent events of the story imply that this future will be averted by this foreknowlege.
Examples in television
Every season of Damages makes an extensive use of flashforwards, revealing the outcome of the season to the viewer. The whole season then revolves around discovering the circumstances that led to this outcome. For instance, the first season starts with a flashforward of the protagonist, Ellen Parsons, running in the streets of New York, covered in blood. 6 months earlier, she was only a naive young woman who had just become a lawyer in the firm of a powerful attorney, Patty Hewes. What led Ellen to the situation presented in the flashforwards is revealed little by little throughout the season. Furthermore, the series is known for its misleading use of flashforwards, which are often examples of the red herring device.
After making extensive use of flashbacks, the TV series Lost used flashforwards throughout the show's later seasons (the first use of this was in the third season finale; what appeared to be a flashback was revealed at the end to be a flashforward). Another episode featured what appeared to be flashforwards involving Jin and his wife Sun, showing Jin to have safely returned home and awaiting the birth of his baby, but in the end, it was revealed that Jin's flashes were flashbacks and Sun's were flashforwards. In season four, most of the episodes contained flashforwards, although flashbacks were still used.
The series finale of Star Trek: Voyager, "Endgame", uses a flashforward at the start to depict a future in which the U.S.S. Voyager has returned home by conventional methods, prompting the ship's captain to go back in time with more advanced technology to get her crew home sooner.
The U.S. sci-fi TV series FlashForward, which revolves around the entire planet losing consciousness for 137 seconds, during which almost everyone experiences a glimpse of events 6 months in the future.
The last episode of Six Feet Under has an extensive flashforward depicting the deaths of all the central characters as they unfold.
Breaking Bad uses flashforwards throughout its second season showing a mystery regarding debris and corpses in Walter White's house and neighborhood, revealed to be the result of two planes crashing overhead. The first half of the fifth season begins with a flashforward one year into the future where White is fifty-two years old, and the second half begins with a continuation of the story, where White returns to his abandoned home. The plot of these flashforwards is resumed in the series finale.
Examples in film
Midway through the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, there is an abrupt flashforward when Robert, the character played by Michael Sarrazin, is seen being thrust into a jail cell by a police officer, even though he has done nothing to provoke such treatment. The audience is notified, later in the story, that Sarrazin's character would have indeed made choices that warrant his arrest.
- The dictionary definition of flashforward at Wiktionary