Sunday, May 11, 2008
John Can See Dead People, But Of Course Not Jacob
First off, a non-LOST observation. If you haven't seen Iron Man and are planning on seeing it, skip to the next paragraph, but if you have seen it, I have a question. I cannot understand why the Afghani terrorists would ask Tony Stark to build the Jericho Missile if they were already dealing under the table with Stark Industries rogue CEO. If they didn't want to kill him so that they could use him for leverage in getting more money or weapons from Stark Industries, that's fine. If they didn't know they were supposed to kill Stark and really wanted the Jericho - then just demand that as payment for offing the industrialist. But why would they EVER ask him to build anything if they were already getting it or on the cusp of receiving anything for killing him?! It makes absolutely no sense. If someone can give me a reasonably plausible explanation as to why the terrorists not only kept Stark alive, but asked him to build something, I will buy you lunch.
And now on to this week's LOST. I know a few of you who read this regularly are either going to be surprised that I didn't find "Cabin Fever" all that satisfying or just out-right angry that my little brain is too microscopic to appreciate the nuances of the show and to see the episode for what it truly is. That being said, I was awfully disappointed. I have written before that the set-up/payoff cycle works for LOST in that it allows for the show to alternate between examining character development and turning the answer faucet from drip to a more steady stream. My issue with "Cabin Fever" is that it didn't really do either - nothing was answered (it was actually significantly more muddled) and the emotional footprint of Locke's past did not expand beyond the boundaries of what we already knew. The episode was rather dimensionless. We already knew that Locke was special, that Locke was chosen, and that Locke's fate was to arrive at some point on the Island and partake in his spiritual walkabout - in fact the fourth episode of the first season did a pretty good job establishing these themes. This most recent episode only rehashed them - although some rather absurd curve balls (even for LOST) were thrown in. We now know Alpert was chasing after Ben from an early age and Abaddon met John between his accident and the 815 crash...which to me doesn't mean much beyond this...
Locke for a long time has tried to exercise free will over his own life. He insisted that the knife Alpert brought was his even when the timeless rho-chi implored him to choose one of the remaining items Locke had not yet dismissed - the baseball glove, the Book of Laws and the comic book. As a high-schooler, John refused to attend Mittelos Biosciences summer camp, defiantly telling his adviser, "Don't tell me what I can't do." John even refused to listen to Abaddon who suggested the much needed walkabout for himself - all examples of John clinging to free will while delaying fate from taking over. But Locke can no longer do that. Locke's stranglehold on free will ended when 815 crashes onto the mysterious rock - the biggest course correction experiences thus far in the show. It's like Charlie's death - just as Desmond could keep Charlie alive for only so long, John could only avoid the Island for so long before course correction took over, ironing out pass attempts to exercise free will. For Charlie, it was death. For Locke, it was his arrival to the Island. And from John's arrival onward, he has relinquished himself to his fate - at least mostly. John's insistence on not pushing the button at the end of season two was a dangerous regression into exercising his free will. But beyond that, Locke has laid down his arms against fate and allowed it to guide him on the island. He has used it as rationalization for more than a few things - for initially pushing the button, for the death of Boone, and for his apparent communal understanding with the Island's zeitgeist. And he used it again at the end of Thursday's episode, telling Christian Shepard, "I am here because I was chosen to be." (not "I am here because I choose to be.") Which Christian responds to be saying, "That's absolutely right."
It is as if the Island is a place where fate and free will exist in perfect balance and parallel and the audience is seeing the two diametrically opposed philosophies play out on the Island - with the benefits and consequences of both being explicitly explored. Locke and Ben's corner is exploring the phenomenon of fate while Jack's beach dwellers try to play out an exercise in free will. This acceptance of his own fate has allowed for Locke to ascend into his rightful throne at the expense of Ben's position while Jack and crew cling to the power of free will.
Which raises a string of questions. Why is Ben capitulating to Locke, allowing for Locke to commune with the Island Ben has so zealously protected? And why was Ben even in that position if the Dharma Initiative killing was not Ben's idea, but rather the Others' former leader? And why couldn't Ben have been marginalized if he wasn't the Others traditional leader? We already know that Alpert has a far different philosophy for how the Island should be used than Ben (that is why Alpert gave Locke the file showing that Locke's dad killed Sawyer's parents) so why wasn't Alpert the natural post-purge leader or able to unseat an increasingly unstable Ben? Unless Ben is to Jacob as Locke is to Widmore - both pawns being used to manipulate the Island's future to the advantage of the island's two competing Zeus. And Ben realizes that the only way to cut Locke's puppet strings of a fate (which stands to reason benefit Widmore) is to abdicate his seat on the right hand side of Jacob's throne. And that would be the reason Ben allows Locke to enter Jacob's cabin alone. What the episode was successful at what drawing a stronger parallel between Locke and Ben, especially regarding their births - both had mother's of the same name who screamed out their son's given name immediately after birth and who soon found themselves apart from their baby boys - through death in Ben's case and adoption through Locke's. But I didn't feel like these "new" parallels were enough to drive the show into uncharted emotional territory. Meanwhile, Ben's continual insistence that he is innocent is driving me nuts. As someone pointed out to me earlier this week, Ben is not exactly the mensch he claims to be. He cannot be entirely detached from all of the surrounding chaos and escape any type of responsibility.
Which brings us to a brief discussion about the cabin scene. The two previous trips to the cabin were two of the creepiest and most memorable scenes in the LOST canon. This one however was less mysterious and more let-down. The elements of fate were again at play here, most explicitly when John said why he was there and again when Locke asks where Aaron is, with Christian's reply being "He's where he is supposed to be." Claire almost has to be dead. There is nothing in her character that indicates she would just leave Aaron anywhere, especially since she spent most of the first three seasons of LOST screaming things about her "BEHHHHH-BEEEE!" She also looked high as a kite, probably breaking open some of those virgin Mary dolls with the heroin inside of them as a way to feel closer to Charlie. Maybe only those within the Shepard's bloodline have a communal nature with Jacob, but that seems pretty tenuous to me. And Locke's marching orders from the cabin - "to move the Island" - could mean either in location or time. Either way, I don't see how it would save anything since the helicopter-bound Keamy is already over the Island.
A few more things. We have come to anticipate - and expect - that the first half of season's would be overly mysterious with the second half serving as an answer payoff that at least clarifies some of the more medium sized questions. This is what made the second half of season three so enjoyable. This past episode not only didn't clear anything up, it effectively threw mud all over this structure. The timeline of the Island lagging behind the outside world and water was shot to hell when the doctor was killed well after he washed up on shore. There was no further clarification about Jacob and certainly no light on the boat, which has justed turned into a constant rabble-rabble that seemingly lacks any type of genuine drama. And my only non-explosive guess for what was strapped to Keamy's arm is a device that faciliates the time-travel Ben takes from the Island. The only evidence for that is the logo on the Plan B document was the same Dharma logo that was on Ben's parka at the beginning of The Shape of Things To Come".
My guess is that the long-teased and much hyped Orchid Station (where the rabbit video was shot) is the one place Ben could go if the Island was in grave danger - and now thanks to Plan B opened from the ship's safe - Keamy knows where it is too. Hopefully it surfaces over the next two weeks. And brings with it some long-sought and much needed clarification on more than a few fronts.
I promise a non-LOST post in the next week or so as well.