Sunday, June 1, 2008
A Super Bowl Will Air Before the Next Episode of LOST
The above is a pretty depressing sight, the thought of no more LOST for 8 months. The mark of every season finale is both an annus mirabilis (for it's a celebration of the past season) and annus horribles (the unnerving thought of our beloved showing going dark). And so no matter the fulfilling nature of the season finale, we are left with the television equivalent of rolling a Q in Scattergories - a perplexing and fruitless search for possible answers without having any where near enough ammunition to complete the terrible frustrating task while you pitifully wait for the time to expire and to move forward.
I have written a number of times before that LOST's individual episodes are like a single piece of a mosaic. And this single tile - aptly named "There's No Place Like Home" - was a sweeping epic, emotionally charged and cutting a wide swath across the show's meta-landscape. But it also left me with some questions and concerns as to how the show will evolve from here. I will dispense of my major criticism here before I get into what I though to be a throughly satisfying ending to the fourth season of LOST. Quite simply, I am not buying Jack's grief and burning passion to return to the Island. I just don't get it. Jack didn't broker a deal to get only a handful of the Oceanic Six off the Island. He didn't consciously chose the other five like an elementary school kickball game, leaving the dozens of other survivors on the Island fending for themselves. He - and his Oceanic Six compadres - was lucky to escape alive. There is no shame in not going back for Jin after the freighter exploded and he didn't have a choice to return to the Island for Claire and Sawyer. He did the best he could. Now one could make the argument that Jack's best will simply never be enough (thank you Dr. Christian Shepard for that), but beyond that, I'm not sold on his whole bearded island ambition. Now I suppose we may not have the entire story. Locke - moonlighting as Jeremy Bentham - may have told Jack that Jin has survived, Sawyer is bonking Juliet, and his father is making cameos in a dilapidating (and mobile) cabin, but if the season finale was supposed to convince of us that Jack truly has a good reason to return to the island, mission unaccomplished.
However the scene between Jack (Colonel Free Will) and Locke (Captain Fate) in the greenhouse may be the (symbolic) key to the central themes LOST has so carefully planted along its narrative path. Locke seemed to try and convince Jack that Jack was destined to arrive at the Island, that he was "supposed" to be there. Unsurprisingly, Jack was having none of it and essentially told Locke to shove all his fate sound-and-fury in his own Dharma Station. I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought the Island may be the one place where fate and free will exist simultaneously and with perfect balance - and with Locke/fate and Jack/free will playing out on different ends of the Island. Fate and free will are in mutual need of each other in order to keep the surrounding world orderly, with neither fate or free will having a preponderance of the power. But if Jack and free will depart from the Island, nothing will be there to counteract fate and everything will fall out of balance and into chaos. The chaos apparently ensued and Locke pinpoints Jack's departure from the Island as the seminal moment for these events. As we have seen a number of times on the show, fate/course correction ultimately trumps free will (Locke's arrival at the Island, Charlie's death, etc.), but the two must exist simultaneously - serving as checks and balances - for things to function in an effective, efficient manner. The absence of one throws the other into flux, thus the Island's apparent descent into chaos. One could make the argument that Jack's post-Island life - devoid of fate - has caused him his anguish. And what if Jack's fate truly lies in the Island? Christian's appearance both in Jacob's cabin (along with Jack's half-sister, Claire) and his exceptionally eerie dismissal of Michael suggests a higher communal relationship between the Island and the Shepard blood line that Jack blindingly rejects. Regardless, this is all WILD SPECULATION in an attempt to explain Jack's bearded future and instability.
Also Jack's reason for lying - to protect the ones who stayed seemed a little flimsy - doesn't make oodles of sense, especially if he believes those still on the Island will be in danger if the truth comes out. What makes him believe that they - the Oceanic Six - are going to be safe once they are off the Island and dealing with their pseudo-celebrity?
The other lingering concern that I have is the meta-structure for the show's penultimate season. The post-Island future is now the present and presumably we have yet to see a scene farther into the future than Jack and Ben's nocturnal chat at the funeral home. Which leads me to wonder whether we will see another narrative shift in the coming season. Will the flash forwards/backs be less common? Will we shift between post-Island moving action (in the past) and Oceanic Six present? Or will we again see well into the future early in the season and build backwards like we did in season four? And now that we know how they got off and are left to wonder why exactly Jack wants to get back, has the show lost some of its narrative momentum?
One final lingering concern is that last season ended with the audience knowing that Jack wanted to go back to the Island. This season ended only a few hours further into Jack's evening, leaving the audience with the single wrinkle that Jack needed to bring everyone else back along with him - including a dead Locke? (And Walt too? Does Walt know his dad is dead?). While it is true that the season worked to tie the post-Island future with the on-island present, I would have liked to see the plot's frontier extended a little more. But this may just be me being overly critical - a sort of Manifest Destiny for the plot from a fan's perspective.
Despite these qualms, I really enjoyed the season's conclusion and payoff, which amounted to the Oceanic Six's actual rescue (from Penny, no less) and the journey down to the Orchid in an attempt to move the Island. Starting with the latter, a number of people independent of me think the Island moved only in time and not in location. It wasn't too difficult to see that once Ben moved the frosted gears causing the Island to disappear, that he was relegated to the Sahara Desert. "The Shape of Things To Come" opened with a startled and wounded Ben awakening wearing a parka in the middle of the Sahara. We now know that only moments before Ben had been on the Island playing with the Island's subterranean mechanisms. In the episode's next flash forward scene, Ben is checking into a Tunisian hotel asking the date, which is late October 2005. Since we know the Island was moved in early January 2005 (Desmond called Penny on Christmas Eve), I think it is safe to assume Ben was sent to the same time the Island moved to, but was banished to a location far away. My guess is that the Island hasn't moved locations, but rather it has simply failed to exist between January 2005 and October 2005. Just as you wouldn't be able to find Ben in March of 2005, you wouldn't be able to find the Island during that same time. And just as Ben abruptly reappears in October, the Island does as well. And just so you don't think I am pilfering Doc Jensen's ideas as my own, I'll add further support to the argument he didn't pick up on. In the Dharma video Locke watched as Ben loaded the portal with metallic objects, Dr. Halliwax said that the rabbit would seemingly disappear for 100 milliseconds as he was being sent into the future, during which time he would not exist. The exact same principles apply to the Island's movement and its ability to be seen/located in the interim time period. The other thing about the Island's movement is the resulting light and sound was strikingly similar to the events that followed Desmond's turn of the failsafe key in the season two finale. I'm not going to get into any connection here, but I wouldn't be too surprised if a connection between the button, the release of the mounting electromagnetic energy and keeping the Island for moving forward in time was all related.
Which leads to questions about the scope of what was moved. Jin and Farraday almost have to be alive. They cannot keep killing core characters - especially if one (Jin) is a significant reason Jack would return to the Island. And they almost must have been moved with the Island. Otherwise Farraday would be left with a raft load of red shirts and less than ten gallons of gasoline while Jin would be floating at sea and both would have no where to go. The gaping hole in this theory is that the copter would have been within the radius of the Island's movement (albeit in the air) and it didn't go, so why would Jin (who was the furthers out) or the inflatable ferry? My initial guess is that Jin and Farraday got sent to October 2005 even though Sun believes Jin to be dead - and blames both her father and Jack for the fact.
The other interesting thing about the moving mechanism is to note that Ben had to break through a Dharma station to get at the Island's true power structures. Even Halliwax acknowledged in the above video it was the Island's unique properties that allowed for Dharma to do their thing, not something that the Dharma Initiative consciously and artificially created on the Island. This lends further support to the idea that the Island was discovered and not manufactured; that the Dharma Initiative built their infrastructure on what already existed on the Island and something unique and precious existed long before Alvar Honso set up the DI.
And Ben not being allowed back to the Island? I'm not buying that either. He is too calculating and overzealous when it comes to issues of the Island. I just can't imagine Ben permanently ceding that power to Locke. Maybe he can't return while the current leader of the Others is alive - giving Ben a reason to dispose of Locke. And a few of you (along with myself) have wondered aloud whether Locke got off the Island by moving the Island himself. While that's a possibility, we know there is a way to get off the Island without moving it (Richard, Ethan and Zeke left with apparent regularity) and my guess is that Locke did as well.
But that leaves the lingering and meaty question of what exactly did happen when the Oceanic Six left the Island. One thing that has bothered me in the past few weeks is why Richard Alpert capitulates to Ben and Locke when he has clearly been there longer and has a clear philosophy as to how the Island should be used. It is as if Ben and Locke are the Presidents of the Others while Alpert is the leader of the bureaucracy. I am still flummoxed about this, but my best guess is Alpert believes whole-heartedly in fate and is comfortable with his own fate that he is not to lead the Others, but to serve as Ben and Locke's right handed man. While leads us to more parallels between the Bugged-Eyes One and Mr. Clean.
Ben finally sheds his mensch facade as he killed Keamy out of rage and anguish over Alex's death, condemning the folks on the freighter to death without any remorse ("So?"). What was different here was Ben did not even attempt to keep his hands clean of the spilling blood - a sharp departure from his previous perspective. He reacted out of blind revenge and with a singular selfish goal, much in the same way Michael acted towards the end of season two - an interesting parallel considering Ben was in fine form blaming Michael for Libby and Ana Lucia's death while maintaining his moral high ground during "Meet Kevin Johnson". All of this draws striking similarities with Locke's disposition which I probably should have picked up earlier on. Locke doesn't want to do his own dirty work - he was never able to fully stand up to his father and duped Sawyer into killing him for Locke and then taking credit for it himself. He sabotaged Jack and Juliet's ride off the Island by blowing up the submarine but continued to maintain his moral innocence. This combined with his verbal stab at Jack ("If you lie to them half as well as you lie to yourself, they'll believe you") makes me believe he is the perfect replacement for Ben.
A few quick things. I think there is a reasonable chance that Charlotte is Annie - Ben's old Dharma friend - or related to her. I think Claire is dead and died during the night she, Sawyer and Miles camped - as Miles could sense the impending death on their jungle hike which would explain his increased interest in Aaron's ma. The reunion between Desmond and Penny was pretty spectacular, although it makes one wonder how much we will be seeing Desmond over the next two years. And that Sun and Widmore's common interest is finding the Island.
Depending of whether or not I feel like writing about LOST next week, I may have a season recap. But regardless, I am going to have to find something to blog about for the next 35 weeks. Any and all ideas are appreciated.