Thursday, March 26, 2009

Natural Born Killers: 24, LOST, and MORE

Wow, what an ending to LOST last night. Scroll down if you dare, but beware you will be entering heavy spoiler territory.

So ... about last night's LOST:

- Very good episode overall, and it was in many ways a continuation of last week's slower, more character-centric arc. The Sayid flashbacks were effective in setting up the final scene, and in some ways, that stunning shocker was really what everything has been building towards over the last few weeks. In the context of this episode, Sayid's decision to shoot Ben certainly was an effective exclamation point with regards to his internal struggle over his own identity issues. In the end, Sayid turned out to be exactly the natural born killer that Ben had pegged him for. But the obvious question is: is Ben actually dead?!

I think the safe bet is "no." For one-thing, if young Ben were actually dead, the ensuing chaos in the ol' space-time continuum would be a can of worms that even the Lost writers probably don't want to touch. To date, Lost, through Faraday's theories, has espoused that the past cannot be changed because ultimately destiny follows a set course. To that end, you have to think that Ben is either not quite dead and will nursed to health by Richard and the Others / Hostiles, or that he will somehow be miraculously healed by Jacob / The Island similarly to Locke's previously-seen miracle recoveries. After all, if Ben was the island's "chosen one" of sorts before Locke, then perhaps one of the fringe benefits of such standing is that the island heals all your major injuries. My point is, Sayid presuming that Ben is dead and leaving him lying in the jungle, only for Ben to fall in with the Others, would serve the narrative quite well.

Ben being dead on the other hand? Whoah boy, that is just a headache-inducing concept. And while it would be crazy-cool to have all of the characters wake up in a white void having just destroyed all of space-time, I'm not sure that even a show as weird as Lost would dare to go there.

Whatever the case may be though, this episode was a nice little character study that ended with one hell of a bang.

My Grade: A-

What's that? I never reviewed TWENTY BY-GOD FOUR? Put down the gun, Jack, I'm getting to it.


- Okay, so my brother claims that Monday's episode was subpar. I beg to differ. Were there some things that were kind of annoying in this ep? Sure. The president's daughter, Olivia, for one, is gettign a bit grating, and her character - the scheming White House uber-beyotch - is probably one we've seen a time or two too many on 24. Everything she was involved with on Monday's ep just felt too forced and too rushed. Ethan is going to resign without even getting confirmation that Jack was a responsible for the murders he was accused of? Olivia is going to nefariously leak info to the press within hours of a crisis in which she and her mother were almost killed by bloodthirtsy terrorists?

On the other hand, the main villains of the last few weeks - Jon Voight and the Starkwood private military corporation, have been all kinds of awesome. Voight has gotten in a classic line or two in each of the last few eps, and this week was no exception - he had a great one about political assassinations being a growth market. Meanwhile, the whole Starkwood plot is surprisingly complex for 24. The merits of Voight's plans can certainly be debated, but at least we get a pretty interesting villainous entity that is a bit different than 24's typical terrorists or mysterious conspiracies.

Really though, I liked Monday's ep simply because Jack and Tony kicked major ass throughout. Some reat action and intensity, and it was a nice moment to see Jack return to his "hero" roots and go out of his way to save a somewhat innocent civilian as opposed to being all "ends justify the means." Having played too many videogames, I couldn't help but question from my couch Jack and Tony's choice of tactics in taking on the group of Starkwood goons at the port, but I quickly forgot about my gripes when I saw the sheer intensity on Kiefer's face as he sped a giant truck carrying a deadly bio-weapon and a boatload of gravitas.

I also thought Cherry Jones did a remarkable acting job in this ep. You could really feel the emotion and stress on her face as she simultaneously dealt with Ethan's resignation, the murder of Sen. Mayer, etc. I also liked the FBI interaction with Moss and Renee. It was nice to see Walker actually act like an FBI agent and examine evidence rather than continuing to jump to conclusions about Jack's guilt in the murder of Mayer.

Overall, a fun and action-packed episode. The ending, in which Jack was exposed to the bio-weapon, was suitably intense. Again, we've been down this road before in the 24-verse, back when Xander Berkley was still head of CTU, etc. But still, I'll wait and see how this whole thing plays out - if they can pull it off in a surprising and unconventional way, then cool, bring it on.

Despite a few nagging issues though, there's no denying that the last several episodes of 24 have brought it. Monday's ep was a light step down, but still packed enough action and excitement and cool moments to satisfy this seasoned fan.

My Grade: B+


- A couple of sweet DVD releases this week. One in particular I've got to mention is the complete series of ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE, finally made available after years of being one of the big "why isn't this out yet?" no-shows. This is one of the many great FOX shows of the last ten years or so that went through scheduling hell and ultimately succumbed to premature cancellation. But rest assured - even if Andy Richter never got the rabid cult following of, say, Arrested Development, the showstands as one of the funniest things you'll ever watch, and is a clear precursor to the more absurdist / surreal comedy of later shows like AD and 30 Rock. Also, fans of Conan O'Brien's style of humor will also feel right at home - in fact, Conan even guest stars on one episode in what has to be one of the single funniest half-hours in the history of TV. Check this one out ASAP!

- Okay, now, come on MTV, release THE STATE already!

- Also out this week is WATCHMEN: TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER. I have a copy that I've yet to watch, but I'm ultra-curious about this one. I always loved the EC-style story-within-a-story in the Watchmen comic book, and after seeing 300 I was convinced that Gerard Butler would be perfect to play the part of the story's dread pirate. And lo and behold, Butler provides the voice for the DVD's animated tale - sweet! The disc also contains Under the Hood, a documentary that looks to replicate a lot of the supplemental material from Alan Moore's prose sections of Watchmen - also potentially very cool. So, yeah, extremely eager to give this one a look.

- Finally, let me give a plug before I go to KINGS, NBC's newest epic drama. Featuring smart writing and a great cast, Kings aired its second episode this past Sunday, with Episode 3 coming up this weekend. If you haven't yet tuned in, don't worry - you can still download the 2-hour pilot episode for FREE and in glorious HD until Sunday, via iTunes,, Playstation Network, XBOX Live, or Zune. So you have no excuse - check out this cool new show ASAP.

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