Sunday, February 14, 2010

Woof

So my plan for LOST this season was just to relax, try to stop irresponsibly speculating at every possible moment, leave my episode critiques to a minimum and enjoy the concluding chapter of a story the producers spent five seasons spinning. I was able to stick to that plan for just under three episodes.

I was not a happy camper with “What Kate Does”. It seemed like a bizarre way to use one of the series’ final fifteen episodes – a curious detour on our way to answers. There is so much to do and so many things to explain, but we were served up with a warmed over episode potmarked with clich├ęd vagaries and tired back stories.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too critical of any episode that focuses on Kate as that means a lot of screen time for Evangeline Lilly. But I have a tough time caring about her character within the context of the safe-815 world. The potential intrigue and excitement of the characters that landed safely at LAX is how their past lives have been different from the ones that we have already understood and how the characters themselves are different than their on-island counterparts. But with Kate we got exactly what we were expecting – a dogged fugitive with the occasional sentimental weakness. Her narrative orbit between Jack, Sawyer and Aaron is well-worn now, known to the viewer and never all that interesting in the first place. This episode pioneered no new territory. There was no clarification on her pre-815 life or any suggestion that Kate might be somehow different than the same character we would have expected to find. So effectively what Kate did was bring whatever momentum was built from the season premier to a screeching halt. There seemed to be about 20 minutes worth of story that was stretched into the full episode, which probably explains my surprise when I fast-forwarded through what I thought was the second commercial break, but was in fact the last of the episode.

Though to be fair, it wasn’t entirely Kate’s fault the episode collapsed faster than the 4-toed statue. I am quickly growing tired of the Temple captivity and worry that the location itself symbolizes season 6 as a whole – a once intriguing location that once reveled leads only to a disheartening let-down. If things don’t turn around quickly, the temple could be to season 6 what the Hydra was to season 3, shackling the story telling because the producers think the location is much more interesting than it really is.

Perhaps the temple’s most interesting superpower isn’t the ability to heal the lifeless, but actually to compel those within its walls to speak in unnecessary vagaries. I mean seriously…why don’t they actually just tell Jack what the hell is going on. The stupid euphemisms and vague descriptions are getting really old, really quickly. It was a fine tactic to use in season three – loosely define what is happening so the audience has a whet appetite for three more years of being strung along. But guess what? We made it. You made it interesting enough for us to wait it out for six years and interminably long breaks between seasons. We are sufficiently interested in the show. We aren’t going to leave you now. We have too much invested and too much hope that the payoff will meet our buy-in. SO STOP EXPLAINING THINGS USING WORDS LIKE “INFECTED”, “CLAIMED” OR “CANDIDATE”. EXPLAIN TO US WHAT THE HELL IT MEANS AND WHY WE SHOULD CARE. THERE ARE ENOUGH DAMN MYSTERIES…GIVE US THE PAYOFF. WE ARE SMART ENOUGH TO PICK UP YOUR KIERKEGAARD REFERENCES AND OBSESSION WITH ALICE IN WONDERLAND…WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHATEVER DARKNESS IS TRYING TO GET NEAR SAYID HEART IF YOU WILL JUST GODDAMN WRITE IT DOWN FOR THE ACTORS TO SAY IT. WHY THE HELL DOESN’T JACK ASK “WITH WHAT?” WHEN HE IS TOLD SAYID'S IS “INFECTED”? HE IS A GODFORSAKEN DOCTOR DAMNIT. HE CAN UNDERSTAND AND WE CAN TOO. WE ARE NOT CHARLIE BROWN AND YOU ARE NOT LUCY. LET US KICK THE DAMN FOOTBALL…WE’VE WAITED LONG ENOUGH. I feel sometimes like the producers treat us like we are in second grade. Like they are a parent after a car breaks down and we ask what happened, but the only thing our parents will tell us is “the car is sick”. Scratch that…they would tell us the “car is infected” and leave it at that. That is more frustrating than trying to explain why Claire would get back into a cab with a woman who held a gun to her head. Wouldn't she have gone right to the police after getting forced out of the cab?

That being said, I suppose there were a few cool moments. Ethan showing up as Claire’s doctor was interesting for sure and gave me hope that Ben and Juliet will be – or already are – interacting with the 815 passengers in some way in the future. And I suppose the return of Claire was interesting as well, as she has now become the Island’s new Rousseau – a deranged wanderer who has lost her child after giving birth on the Island. Kate’s moment of recognition, driving by Jack outside of the LAX terminal, was also significant, but only so because it was the first time someone other than Jack seemed to stir a lost recognition in the fog of their mind. But the moment was fleeting.

The “nothing happened” complaint is one heard frequently, though it is often misplaced. The importance of a single episode is rarely immediately evident and the lines of demarcation in a serialized drama like LOST should be unimportant. It is all just one big story. Nothing is self-contained. And until we get a proper look at the entire mosaic, the importance of each tile can’t be fully appreciated or criticized. I am just not sure right now what this piece adds, especially with precious few left to reveal.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Beginning of the End

As you can see, commitment to my blog is tenuous at best, negligent at worst. I have not posted since the day John McCain decided he would try to skip the first Presidential debate so that he could help craft a bailout package in the Senate. This is what happens when you spend your free time organizing Family Feud parties. But here I stand (or type), shameful of my neglect, an absentee father who now must face the sobering realization that so many one-time moments have passed without me there - or at the very least, commenting upon them to an audience of no more than 4.

So I have no idea whether I will have the perseverance nor enough warmed over insight every week to scribble my thoughts about the most recent episode of LOST, but - damnit - I am going to try.

And so we start with the very literal beginning of the end. I found myself pleasantly disoriented with the season premier - excited by the prospect of a new narrative structure and the full out gauntlet of answers to questions that hopefully won't lead to more questions. The former is likely to be more satisfying than the wicked pursuit or expectation of the latter.



After 3 seasons of exclusive flashbacks, season four unleashed the narrative shackles, as flash forwards told the story for the O6's departure from the Island, while last season was the skull-clowning time travel narrative, which admittedly I found far too abstract and confusing to enjoy fully. And no more than 5 minutes into Season 6, the curtain was pulled back on this year's narrative engine - the flash sideways. While this may have (read: did) annoy a lot of you, I ate it up. I think the assumption was that if the A-bomb detonation did in fact work, everything would be exactly the same for the characters until the moment they should have crashed onto the island. No, sir. Things on the plane were different - some slightly askew, others wildly off-base. Obvious examples are Hurley's insistance that he is the luckiest man alive, Shannon's absence from 815 and, most strangely, Desmond's presence. But I want to point to a few smaller things. Sayid had an Iranian passport, not an Iraqi passport; Sawyer certainly didn't look as if he just mistakenly killed the wrong man; Desmond didn't look as forelore as he should be if he were still trying doggedly to win the approval of Charles Widmore; and also I don't believe that Sun and Jin are yet married. Sun is referred to as Miss Paik at the border and Jin isn't wearing a wedding ring. None of the characters appear to have the exact life experiences leading up to 815, but granted, the differences are sometimes subtle and based in irresponsible speculation. I also don't think you can assume Claire is pregnant - we didn't get a complete view of her in the taxi - or that Locke's biological father pushed him out of a high rise. Understanding how these characters are different from the ones we have come to know - and how the two personas are ultimately reconciled - offers a distraction from the cascade of raw revelations.


This is why I hope to find the flash sideways (there has to be a better name for it) so compelling; to see how the lives of the people on 815 would have intertwined even if they plane had not crashed on the island; enjoying the dramatic irony behind Locke and Jack's interactions - two former (current?) adversaries playing out their relationship in an entirely different way. Kate and Claire - Aaron's two "mothers" - and what happens after the taxi squeals out of LAX. These are two small examples, but the new possibilities for the characters and their outcomes gives the flash sideways a refreshing take on characters we have gotten to know so well in the past six years. It also begs the questions as to where are others and do they already have some type of relationship with those on 815. Where are Farraday and Widmore? Is Penny somehow with Sawyer? What about Juliet and Ben since they aren't on the Island? (By the way, I don't think we can assume the bomb directly caused the Island to sink. There is a difference between what the bomb caused and what the bomb enabled. Just something to keep in mind). I think this will provide a nice intrigue to the weighty hopelessness that saddles the same characters currently on the island...

So long as the two narratives somehow meet. I am going to be terribly disappointed if I find out that LOST's final season turns out to be a Choose Your Own Adventure where we can pick the world that we want to believe is the most true - or most convenient. (I am also going to be disappointed if the lesson from LOST is the best way to deal with a painful past is to erase it.) I don't want to have Island Jack find redemption in 1 world, but remain adrift in another. There is room for ambiguity, but not for two wildly divergent outcomes. Which leads to the question of what nudges these two narratives (which are 3 years apart) onto a collision course? The easy answer for the safe-815 flight is Jack. Jack seemed to be unable to stir the embers of his mind enough to light the flame of memory when he saw Desmond. In fact, he appeared to be the only one to have some semblance of recognition. But saying that Jack will figure it out is too easy, so I am going to go with Desmond. We have no idea where Desmond is exactly after Ben shot him and sent him to the hospital, but we know 2004 Desmond is on 815 and he has already shown himself to not be constrained by the limits of time and space. I will tenuously assume that is still the case and say it is him that sends the 2004'ers to 2007.


As for the trigger sending the on-island narrative toward their safe 2004 counterparts, I vote for Sawyer. The closing scene of last season - Sawyer losing Juliet down the drill hole - was too dramatic and emotional to be a false climax. To bring Sawyer and Juliet back together - even briefly - diminished emotional wallop of their supposed final good bye and seemed like a strange way to spend 15 minutes of an episode. Unless it serves a larger purpose. And I think that purpose was Juliet seeding in Sawyer's mind that Jack's plan did indeed work, at least in some capacity. My guess is that it's a pivotal piece of information that informs decisions farther down the line as Sawyer - or Miles - shares that bit of information with others on the island.


That assumes that Flocke/Man in Black/Smokey leaves anyone else on the Island alive to share the information with. I appreciated the confirmation the Smokey, Flocke and the Man in Black were all one in the same - something that was hinted at during last season's finale - along with the indication that the ash line does in fact keep Smokey at bay and I am trying to grapple with those implications in my mind. I think the most curious impact is on Jacob's Cabin. We have long been lead to believe that the cabin - which was encircled by an ash/soot line - was inhabited by the mysterious Jacob, but last year's finale suggested that Jacob hadn't been there in a very long time. Which begs the question, "Well, who was Locke talking to and hearing in there?" My guess would be Smokey/Man in Black. Given what we know now about Smokey's difficultly penetrating ash lines, we have to think that maybe the ash line around the cabin was keeping something/one inside rather than the reverse. If you remember, the first visit to Jacob's Cabin - which are some of my favorite scenes in LOST - was made by Ben and Locke. In the cabin, Ben feigned a conversation with Jacob, while Locke called his ruse...until Locke heard someone say "Help me" and then the house started rockin'. While the cabin shook, a figure flashed briefly on the screen, one that looked strangely like Locke, albeit with longer hair.


One the second trip to the cabin, Locke entered, this time without Ben, only to find Christian sitting in the rocking chair, who told John that he needed to move the Island. At each stage, it was Locke who was spoken to - who was given instructions. It is as if whoever inhabited the cabin needed Locke - and only Locke - some grander reason. Locke's use appears now to be the vehicle through which the Man in Black was able to fully make it through the loophole he so desperately sought. And once Locke's dead body arrived back on the island, the Man in Black was able to escape his cabin banishment and get entirely through the loophole, allowing for him to kill Jacob. Remember when Ilana's group found the cabin after Flocke was leading the others to the statue, the soot/ash line was broken, which I took to mean as a sign of escape. Now there are problems with this. The smoke monster appeared a number of times and in a number of different places well before Locke's dead body would have allowed for the Man in Black to escape. And if Richard knew Jacob lived beneath the statue's foot, why didn't he tell Ben and Locke they were going to the wrong place/talking with the wrong people? But to me, this connection between Locke and whatever or whoever was in the cabin is too strong for their not to be something grander beneath the surface. Locke seems to have been a pawn in the Man in Black's larger scheme. For some reason, Locke had to be the vehicle through which the loophole was opened and perhaps Locke's entire life was orchestrated to fulfill the Man in Black's desire to kill Jacob. To be in a place and a position so that the loophole could be exploited and vengeance had. I would not be shocked if we find out the person who caused the accident that sent Locke's mother into premature labor, was in fact the Man in Black. I know the information we have right now counters some of this thinking, but this entire story arc hasn't yet been told.

Just a few other things. I said this when watching - as have others since - but if you are to read into Flocke's "chains" line to Richard, I think you can conclude that Richard was a slave on the Black Rock, not a captain or officer as many - including myself - have speculated.

I think what happened to Sayid at the temple is the same thing that happened to Ben after Sayid shot him 30 years ago, though I am intrigued with the idea of Jacob using Sayid's body the same way the Man in Black is using Locke (though the Man in Black is not using Locke's body, just his persona, likeness and memories). This would also make this photo wildly deeper and symbolic if it came down to "Locke/Man in Black" vs. "Sayid/Jacob". In the Lost Supper photo, Locke is obviously in Jesus' seat while Sayid occupies Judas' position.

I also laugh at the idea that the note hidden inside Charlie's guitar case read, "If something bad happens to me, I need to use either Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid or Hurley's body - preferably not Hurley's if you can help it though. Love - Jacob."

I assume answers will come quickly enough, but who knows. I am just going to try to enjoy the ride.