Friday, May 30, 2008

LOST Season Finale Blow-Out - Plus: NBA, Ellen, and MORE

Okay, so before I get to LOST ...

- So they have officially dismantled my cube at work. So sad ...

- Also sad:

- Well, the Lakers are once again in the NBA Finals. At the least, this should make for an interesting finals, as the Lakers right now are certainly one of the more exciting teams in the NBA. As much as I can't stand him, Kobe Bryant is playing at the absolute top of his game right now, and may be so unstoppable that no one on either the Celtics or Pistons can stop him. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol is playing at an unbelievably high level. He's not as flashy as Kobe, but he always manages to be in the right place at the right time. The combination of the two is lethal, and it makes the Lakers the favorite to win it all. That being said, tonight is going to be HUGE for the Celtics. So far, I've been disappointed that their killer instinct only seems to surface every so often. The Celts need to take a look at how the Lakers brutally took apart the Spurs and do the same to Detroit tonight. None of these 20 minute long lapses where the ball gets walked up the court and players stand around and let Pierce or KG go one on one. Boston does NOT want to be in a Game 7 situation, so as far as I'm concerned tonight it's time to put it all on the line.

- A special mention has to go out to the whole crew at TNT for their always-awesome coverage of the NBA. Seriously, I always get a little sad each year when TNT's coverage ends, because for the last few years they've been hands-down the best in the biz. They have, by far, the two best play by play men in Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan. Meanwhile, Inside the NBA is endlessly entertaining. I could watch Ernie, Kenny, and Charles riff about basketball and whatever other randomness is on their minds all day. What I love about TNT's coverage is that the atmosphere is always jovial, celebratory, and full of good humor (not to mention oftentimes genuinely hilarious). On ESPN, in contrast, it feels like you're hanging out with a bunch of uptight, mean-spirited dudes who rarely crack a smile and talk about every game like they're describing a political scandal. So of course, I made it a point to watch the final edition of Inside the NBA last night following the Lakers game, and as always stuck around for the closing montage that always serves as great retrospective of the NBA season to date. So thank you to the crew at TNT and Inside the NBA for producing, week in and week out, not just the best basketball coverage on TV, but one of the most entertaining shows on television in general.

- By the way, today is a sad day at NBC as it's Ellen's last day here on the Burbank lot. To think that NBC Pages starting in the next few weeks and months will never have the experience of working at one of the craziest shows around. I mean, where else can you see elderly women dancing in the aisles to Technotronic? I almost always had a great time working at Ellen, and through working there as a Page I had all kinds of great celeb sightings and close encounters. I met everyone from Lauren Graham to Gene Simmons to John Travolta, saw Gwen Stefani, Alanis Morisette, and many others perform, and had a lot of strange, silly, and memorable experiences. I'm sad to see it go, even if it's just moving up the street to Warner Brothers. Hopefully I can still walk up the street and meet up with Carlos or Diahna J. for the occasional high-powered business lunch!

- Okay, onto last night's HUGE season-ender of ...


- Last season, LOST ended its season with one of the most stunning episodes not only in the show's history, but maybe in the history of television. The cliffhanger, flash-forward ending was a narrative twist that truly defined the term "game-changer." After a period where the show struggled to get back on track, last season's finale was a clear signal that Lost was back.

Now, things are a bit different. The fourth season of Lost has been superb from start to finish, the best overall season since S1, filled with classic episodes and moments, and with a renewed sense of purpose following the decision to determine a definitive end-point for the show and work backwards from there. So Lost didn't need to have a mind-blowing, M. Night-style twist to cap it's landmark fourth season, but I think a lot of people maybe expected one. Instead, what we got was a slam-bang action movie of a finale, a rip-roaring adventure that for two hours had all kinds fights, narrow escapes, and things that went boom.

Overall, I thought this was yet another pretty spectacular episode of Lost. There were so many BIG moments here. Some that directly tied into the show's ever-more complex mythology, others that were simply great action set pieces or defining character moments. From the get-go, things started out on a rollicking note with a much-anticipated Sayid vs. Keamy mano e mano showdown. Great fight scene, and it was capped by the appearance of Kate with Richard and The Others in tow. From there, it was a total roller coaster ride. Kate's pact with The Others pursuaded Ben to let her and her crew leave the island, so Frank's helicopter was theirs for the taking. But meanwhile, Desmond, Jin, and Michael have made apretty horrific revelation - on the freighter that's supposed to save them all, there's a mountain of C-4 that, with one press of a remote-controlled button, will blow them all to kingdom come. And man, that Keamy proved to be one persistant bastard. Even after seemingly being killed by un-aging Richar Alpert's three bullets to the back, Keamy shows up to greet Locke and Ben looking relatively unscathed. While those two descend into the Orchid Dharma station so that Ben can carry out his plan to "move" the island, Keamy descends on them. And guess what - he's wearing a "dead man's switch." If his heart stops beating, the C-4 on the freighter, as Jin so elequently stated earlier, goes "boom." This doesn't stop a crazed Ben Linus from pouncing on Keamy like a rabid animal, however, and brutally stabbing him, presumably as revenge for Keamy's murder of Ben's daughter Alex. In one of the episode's most memorable moments, a beleagured Locke asks Ben how he could have so thoughtlessly killed Keamy, knowing that doing so would doom everyone on that boat. When Locke reminds Ben that, now, everyone on that freighter is as good as dead, Ben callously asks: "so?". Wow - I think anyone who says Ben is the true "good guy" in Lost needs to reexamine their position. The guy is, clearly, stone-cold evil with a capitol "E."

I loved the whole scene of Ben "moving" the Island. Whether this was accomplished through some advanced form of science or some mystical means I couldn't say, but the scene of Ben using all his willpower to turn that giant, subterranean wheel, had a real magic to it. I also loved pretty much everything with Locke and Ben in the Orchid. Locke watching the instructional Hanzo (?) video, as Ben proceeded to do everything the video said NOT to, was funny and a great little scene. Time-travelling bunnies, indeed.

There were also all kinds of epic heroics here. Sawyer jumping from the helicopter as it lost fuel and swimming back to the island was a nice bit - it showed just how far Sawyer had come as a character to actually do something selfless. It's amazing to think that this was the same guy who once stole all of the survivor's guns so he could proclaim himself self-appointed ruler of the island.

We all knew Jin's end was coming, but it was still a heart-wrenching scene. Sun's shock and grief was palpable and raw as she witnessed her husband go up in flames. Michael had his little moment too, as he stayed with the C4, trying to dismantle it up to the last possible second, until an appearance from the Ghost of Christian Shephard appreared and told him that, finally, it was Michael's time to go. As others have said, it seems strange to bring back Michael only for him to die in such abrupt fashion, but narratively, the death made sense. Plus, it looks like Lost is bringing back practically all of its dead characters in Jedi fashion, so who knows if and when Michael, or even Jin, could reappear. You have to wonder if Christian and/or Jacob has some kind of power to pick and choose people to inaugurate into their little not-quite-dead club. I mean, for example - what's the deal with Claire? We saw her make a surprise appearance in future-Kate's home, visiting Aaron. But was this just a vision, a bad dream? Or is Claire in the same boat as Charlie and Christian? Supposed to be dead, but somehow not quite? Whatever the case may be, the recurring theme of "I see dead people" is going to have to be one of if not THE major questions to be answered next season. Is there a connection with time-travel / pseudo-science, or is this some kind of mystical / paranormal phenomenonon?

Another intriguing question was the mystery surrounding Charlotte. She's been on the island before? So ... is she a Dharma kid? An Other? A time-lost walking paradox? Hmmm ...

Now, I guess the biggest complaint I have with the episode was simply that, well, the show has never done a great job of addressing the fact that there are supposed to be dozens of 815 crash survivors on the island other than the several main characters. Attempts to address these forgotton castaways have often come across as hamfisted - Nikki and Paulo anyone? And the same could be said for tonight's ep. The lens was never really successfully pulled back to show how all of these epic events were affecting Joe Crash Survivor. Not that I want the focus to be on them, but we never quite got the sense of how many people were still on the island when the freighter blew up, how many were killed in the freighter explosion, etc. Where were Rose and Bernard? Still on the island? Were Juliette and Sawyer literally the only ones left on the island other than The Others? It was almost comical when the helicopter quickly landed on the freighter before it blew. I mean, it was like "sorry pal, you're not a main character, we're leaving you to die." I just wished the full scope of this had been addressed or at least mentioned by a Jack or Kate. Sure, our six biggest characters survived, but we can assume dozens were lost in the explosion - to Jack, who by default became the Moses of sorts for the group - you would have thought he would have more of a sense of failure in not leading "his people" so to speak, to the promsied land. Again, I get that of course we are going to focus on our pricipals, I just would have liked to see the full scope and reach of the exodus from the island a little better conveyed.

But in the end, this was a riveting piece of TV. Many times throughout the episode, I thought to myself just how well-done this was compared to anything else on TV. The look, the scope, the acting, is just without peer in the world of TV drama. From Jack to Sawyer to Locke to Ben - each of the main characters is played with so much nuance and skill that all of the actors involved on the show deserve recognition and applause. And most importantly - this episode got the ball rolling for yet another season of awesomeness. Sure, there is still a pile of unsolved mysteries, from old riddles like the four-toed statue to new ones like Richard's agelessness, there is still an enclyclopedia's worth of unsolved plot points that at some point need addressing. But again, the stage has been set. The puzzle pieces are in place. We are working both backwards and forwards to put it all together. And the show, in doing so, is reaching an important turning point - instead of simply feeding us myteries, its beginning to fill in the hows and whys. We know now that it's Locke in that coffin. It wasn't a mind-blowing revelation or jaw-dropping twist, but it's fuel for great stories, it's a solid endpoint to work up to as we fill in the blanks.

I can't wait for next season of Lost, after this - a great season finale to a show that has ruled 2008 as bar-none the best thing on TV - does it at times frustrate? Sure, and it wil lcontinue to do so. But in the end, there's no denying that we're witnessing an epic, action-packed saga for the ages.

My Grade: A-

- Alright - happy weekend. Check back soon for more!

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