Sunday, May 18, 2008
This Would Have Been A Perfect Time To Pull the "Mission Accomplished" Banner Out of the Closet
A few of you who I know read regularly were less than pleased with Thursday's episode of LOST, frustrated with the slow pacing of the show and how it seems as if we have been in a holding pattern for the last three weeks. While that is understandable, I'm going to defend the show and "There's No Place Like Home, Part I". First off, this was the opening hour of a three hour season finale, so in effect we saw the opening twenty minutes. There's no way the episode's merit or worth can be judged at this point. The counter (and valid) argument to that is LOST - more than almost every other show on television - is just one big episode because of the serial-nature of its story arc, so the line of demarcation week-to-week is almost negligible. The other predicament LOST's writers find themselves in is the show's massive scope and the large footprint of all encompassing episodes. And by that, I mean LOST has the decision to focus on one group (the freighter folk, the beach crew, Locke's comrades, etc.) in depth - which would get people angry that they didn't see what the hell else was going on with the other characters - or they could give the audience a smattering and taste of each Island course - and the criticism would be that "nothing happened!" and that the show was too jumpy and disjointed. Honestly, they can't win. And on Thursday, they decided to go with the latter, more epic approach - which is the appropriate decision for a season finale. The problem is that they are fighting on six fronts - the freighter, the beach, the Orchid-journey, the Jack/Sawyer's jungle trek, the Sayid/Kate trip and the future. With 42 minutes and five different areas to cover, that gives each group about 7 minutes a piece on average. That's not a whole lot of time to do anything substantial. But I thought the first third of the fourth season's finale was effective, interesting, and compelling.
The most striking thing to me was the state of post-Island Jack. Jack seems desperately and foolishly invested in the Oceanic Six's bundle of lies, like the captain of a doomed mission who feels the need to keep the morale of the crew high as they toss buckets of water overboard. His cold, calculating reassurance on the cargo plane on their way to meet the families provided a striking relief to his on-Island "live together" leadership - Jack still asserted himself as the point man, but seemed to plead with the other four adults to buy into his plan. The striking press conference scene further establishes the deck of cards engineered by Jack that we know is going to tumble in their future. And the realization of Claire being his half-sister and Aaron his nephew at the end of Papa Shepard's funeral struck at Jack's core. I know it wasn't earth shattering news for the audience, but we needed to see Jack's realization at some point, to see how his tenuous grip on an uncontrollable situation began to unravel. Jack is marinating in his lies - about the rescue, about Aaron's relationship, and again about his father. His empty words at the funeral echoed his later exchange with Kate in the hallway after reading to Aaron. Try as he might, Jack cannot shake the overbearing hand of his father, which can provide a proxy for Jack's reaction to his post-Island decisions. Try as he might to shake the decisions that lead him off the Island, the burden of knowledge and his past is too great to bear.
But Jack isn't the only one with father issues. The post-Island world belongs to the mothers as was made clear in the opening scene. Jack was greeted by his loving mother, Sun didn't even acknowledge her father as she hugged her mother, Hurley's strained relationship with his father was never entirely forged, and Kate - a new mother herself - found no warm comfort after debarking the plane, only the realization that she would be responsible for maintaining a relationship with her adopted son that she was unable to sustain with her own mother.
Sun's visceral reaction with her father and again with her potential game-changing acquisition of a stake in Paik Industries will likely play a large part of the next few seasons. I've thought for a while now that Sun's father could be the Korean parallel with Widmore - whether he is looking for the Island or not, I'm not sure, but the parallels between Penny and Sun are striking. And either the Oceanic settlement was ridiculously rich, the show had a logic gap or Sun was receiving third-party help to initiate a hostile infiltration of Paik Industries. My guess is that Penny is playing venture capitalist, providing the seed money to Sun in an attempt to leverage the two's paternal companies in an attempt to find the Island and their loves. The scene reminded me of the end of Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne has bought a controlling ownership of Wayne Enterprises to the surprise of Mr. Earle.
There were a number of smaller things I really enjoyed about the episode. I love how Sawyer called Jack out on his one-note song, telling him he sounded like a broken record about his insistence to get off the Island using the freighter folk. (This is particularly entertaining because I'm not convinced of Matthew Fox's range of acting ability so his character's single dimension could also be his own.) Sawyer's nice dig against Jack saying how Locke was right about the disastrous intentions of the freighter folk and how the "running through the jungle with a phone" routine didn't work must have grated the stubbled doc, sending him out to prove himself once again before Sawyer joining with Sawyer joining him, saying "you don't get to die alone."
The Michael and Jin/Sun interaction on the deck of the freighter was amazing and strained. The thinly veiled assertion that "Jesus Christ is not a weapon" was pretty entertaining social commentary.
The realization that Keamy's arm band was actually a detonation button for the C4 on the freighter was pretty vital.
The return of seemingly angry and disgusted Alpert was a nice added touch.
The numbers on the dash that sent Hurley barreling down his street seemed gimmicky, but I suppose they make sense. I also love how Hurley is frequently used as the voice of the fan, asking the literal questions we want attacked - like "What about - you know - the whole being dead at the bottom of the ocean thing?" late last year after Naomi parachuted onto the Island. He served the same purpose this past week on his trek to the Orchid, wondering aloud (as I did last week) "If we move the Island, wouldn't the dudes with guns move with us too?" Ben's curt response dripped of contempt for Hurley's (and our) limited mind, perhaps an unconscious reaction to how the writers and producers react to each to the antsy, limited and unyielding onslaught of questions they must get on a daily basis.
One thing that I think gets overlooked in a number of episodes, but was exceptional this week was Michael Giacchino's score. It is at its best when it can be sweeping and epic, like the end of this week's episode with the slowed shot of the freighter, Jack/Sawyer, Ben's surrender, Kate/Sayid and the Others, and Locke's move to the Orchid station. It's often overlooked, but was exceptional this week.
I do wonder why one of the questions from the reporters or one of the points of clarification during the press conference didn't relate to the plane that was found at the bottom of the ocean. That seems like a pretty natural question...did the O6 make it out of that wreckage before it went down and how does the fake plane's resting place compare with the supposed home for the Oceanic Six? Who is the other responsible for Jin's death? And how can Sayid be so certain that no other survivors will be found? And just as we got to explore the Looking Glass Station during last year's season finale, this year we will get an eye-full of what the Orchid as to offer. The second two-thirds of the season finale doesn't air until May 29th, so not only will we need to wait for that, I will have to figure out something else to blog about this weekend.