Sunday, April 27, 2008

Awesome Episode? Or Awesomeist Episode?

As much as I enjoy writing about Miss Scarlet and the appeal of comic book films, nothing is as much fun to write as post-LOST episode musings filled with irresponsible speculation. After an involuntary five-week hiatus caused by the writer's strike this fall/winter, LOST returned with one of its richest, most exciting and spectacular episode ever. "The Shape of Things To Come" illustrated what LOST at its best can be - revealing, emotional, thought-provoking and fun. Once the announcement was made that LOST would produce eight episodes worth of material in six episodes, I wonder aloud how the pacing of the remaining season 4 episodes would change and how it may be exactly what fans were hoping for in terms of accelerated payoff. "The Shape..." clearly answered that question and did so for the better. I viewed the episode not so much as a door-opening, game-changing journey - although there was plenty of that - but more of a bridge between on-island life and post-island exploits. Here are a bunch of quick hit takeaways and observations from an episode that joins "Walkabout", "The Hunting Party", "Through the Looking Glass" and "The Constant" atop the show's Mt. Olympus.

Alex's Execution

Cold, brutal and startling - and probably the most unexpected television death since the final seconds of 24's first season. This may seem overly simplified/obvious, but what surprised me about Alex's execution is that it actually happened. Alex was perhaps the final instrument of leverage the Freighter Folk had to get Ben to cooperate. By killing her, they sacrificed their high ground and opened the door for Ben to unleash Pig Pen's brother onto them without worry about harming his daughter. It seems short-sighted and rash and makes me wonder if Keamy actually wants to get Ben alive or whether alive is preferable, but dead is still OK. (Note: This could also be explained away if the actress who portrays Alex requested more time to appear in Maroon 5 videos.) Regardless, the execution-style slaughter, Ben's "He changed the rules" reaction and the resulting hell unleashed upon the camouflaged-clad killers made for compelling television.

Smokey/Pig Pen

Holy Hell. I'm not sure what to add here, but it clearly appears that Ben has at least some sort of control or influence over the enigmatic Smokey. After returning from his hidden room looking like Santa after he traveled down a recently used chimney, my favorite black character on LOST (sorry, Rose and Abaddon) unleashed a focused hell upon the freighter assassins. Like its appearance late in season three when it appeared to snap photographs of Kate and Juliet, Smokey flashed multiple times as it ravaged the tree line just outside of Otherville as the 815ers and Ben stood watching. I can't imagine Ben has complete control over Smokey, much like my parents don't have complete control over their black labs, but both Smokey and the labs can be dispatched periodically with a specific mission, such as "Go terrorize those people" - which both Smokey and the dogs respond to. Anyway, it was another small, but important piece to the mosaic that makes up Smokey's story and purpose. It also makes one wonder what other tricks Ben can pull in his little room. Like...

Ben's Traveling

I am hesitant to speculate much about Ben appearing to be able to travel instantaneously around the world, but this will most certainly come to play in the next handful of episodes. What I will do is direct you to this video released by the exec producers this past summer about a yet-to-be-seen/located Dharma station. The name on Ben's parka when he arrives in the Sahara corresponds with the doctor's name in the video - Halliwax. What I also found interesting about Ben's travel-portal abilities is that Sayid is apparently unaware of them when he confronts Ben in Tikrit, asking quite pointedly how he got from the Island. I have always thought that Ben got the Oceanic 6 off the Island in the same way that he travels from the rock to the mainland, but that apparently isn't the case. I'd be open to ideas about how and who exactly gets the Oceanic 6 off the Island if anyone has any because it isn't looking like Ben any longer and the Freighter Foursome are becoming more trouble than they are worth.

Sayid's Transition Into Hitman

When I say that "The Shape..." serves as more of a bridge than as a unveiling of a new frontier, the clarified post-Island dynamic between Sayid and Ben is the best example of my thinking. We now understand why Sayid has signed up as a foot soldier in the war between Ben and Charles Widmore - the murder of Sayid's wife Nadia in LA pushed him over the edge and into Ben's camp. But I'm not convinced that it was a Widmore associate who murdered Nadia. I think it makes a lot more sense if Ben had orchestrated that in an attempt to recruit Sayid to his side. We know Ben is a master manipulator and Sayid's contention at the end of "The Economist" when Ben was treating Sayid's wound ("you used her to recruit me into killing for you") at least hints at the possibility that Sayid now knows Ben had some knowledge of Nadia's murder one way or another. My guess is that in the elapsed time between the end of "The Shape..." and "The Economist" Sayid becomes aware of Ben's involvement in Nadia's death, but continues to work for him because of another reason - perhaps the continued safety and presumed release of the remaining 815 survivors still on the Island. I have a few issues with my own theory here and how it matches up with what I have previously written about, but it is a little too complex to try and type out so if you are REALLY interested, you can ask me in person.

Widmore/Linus Showdown

As I have written before, my favorite scenes in LOST deal with Jacob's cabin and the interaction between Locke and Ben. But the closing scene of Thursday's episode was both poignant, important, and beautiful. While it didn't have the same shock value as the flash-forward reveal at the close of season three, it was the LOST equivalent of Khrushchev and Kennedy meeting in the same room to discuss the Cold War. It was a wonderfully shot scene - Ben in all black, Charles in white; a frequent motif on the Island - with half shadows and chilly, cutting dialog. Here's to hoping that this isn't the last verbal spar between the master puppets in the theater to determine the Island's fate and ownership. And the chilling revelation that Ben was on the hunt for Penny evoked an audible gasp from my girlfriend and left me more than a little surprised and intrigued at the prospect of Ben keeping LOST-madness champion Desmond from his life's love. Lingering questions from the scene: why can't Ben kill Widmore? What previous involvement with the Island did Charles have? Where could Penny be hiding that makes Charles so certain of her safety? And if Ben and Widmore know of each other and interact, why would Sayid be used as a mechanism for getting at/locating Elsa's presumed boss during "The Economist"?

And just to clarify what Hurley had to say regarding Risk, Australia is actually the least important continent in the game.

A solid, fantastic, and splendidly woven yarn reminded me again as to how much I enjoy - and missed - LOST. Any thoughts from you are welcome and appreciated.


Avery said...

Hurley is 100% correct. You need Australia, not because of its positioning, but because its the easiest continent to own which gets you more army guys to build up faster than your opponents, plus it can only be attacked in 1 spot so you can fortify it easily. COME ON CUTLEY

Leah said...

I almost died reading that smokey is your favorite black character...HAHA

Rob WG Jackman said...

#1 - Colin is clearly right about Australia. It is an albatross on whoever controls it, and a constant target for whoever is trying to control Asia.

#2 - Colin, you're wrong about everything else. This last episode was one of the worst in Lost history. It's a dramatic shift from the pace and complexity that I've come to expect, and a far cry from the wonderful 'Constant' episode.

Where do I start? First the major relationships of the episode (Ben/Alex and Ben/Charles) are not well developed. The bedroom showdown wasn't that interesting because the two characters only have a verbal history. In earlier episodes, I didn't pick up a seething hatred, just a chess rivalry. Second, the producers never developed a serious, complex Alex-Ben relationship. We always knew that he's an overbearing father, but we never saw passion until now. Up to this episode, Ben treated Alex like most other characters, to be controled as possible and necessary.

Being battled over by these two, the island is losing it's mystique. The island should be autonomous, and I only hope that it defeats both Ben and Charles in the end. I doubt this will happen. The black smoke being under Ben's control increases the ridiculousness of Ben's omnipotence, and decreases the true spirit of the Island.

If this keeps up, I'll watch Lost for the same reason I watch Indiana Jones - it's entertaining, and nothing more.