Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LOST Its Way?! Making Sense of the Latest Episode and Asking the Tough Questions...

LOST Review:

- Last night's LOST was definitely an improvement, but the same overarching problems were apparent that have been there throughout the season thus far. Again, when Lost is telling such serialized stories, with each episode serving as merely a single piece of the puzzle, it's hard to talk about the overall direction of the series within the context of a single episode. On one hand, I realize that some very interesting groundwork is being laid, and that there is the potential for some really cool moments to come about over the course of the next few weeks. At the same time, there are no guarantees that a satisfying payoff is on the way, and what we've seen so far has been fairly unremarkable in terms of plot progression, in terms of "answers," and in terms of a sense of "bigness" befitting the final season of Lost.

Still, this Jack-centric episode had some really nice moments. The flash-sideways was easily the most compelling we've yet seen, for example, as it had some real emotional beats to it. We learn that this version of Jack is actually the father of a teenage son. Given Jack's own history of father issues, it was interesting to see the tables turned, with Jack's son acting cold and somewhat distant towards his dad. In a way, seeing Jack ultimately work to repair that relationship and somewhat bond with his sone was cathartic - it served as a nice bookend to all of Jack's oft-explored parental hangups. Whereas the Kate and Locke flashes seemed pretty redundant as compared to previous character explorations, this one actually covered some new territory and provided a compelling "what-if" scenario for Jack.

I do think that the random pop-ups from island characters in the alternaverse are getting a little tiring though. Am I really supposed to get excited that Dogen from the Temple randomly shows up as the father of a kid trying out for the same conservatory as Jack's son? Here's where I think that the sideways flashes are lacking a real sense of importance to the overall plotline. I'm sure that the connection between the two universes will ultimately prove important, but as of now we have no clue how events in one world reflect or affect those in the other. For now, there's no reason to care about the sideways flashes except to catch a glimpse of the Lost characters' lives had they not ended up on the island. It's a fun little character excercise, but without some added weight to keep us invested in these flashes, it's still tough to get all that excited about them.

On the island, I enjoyed the light banter and sense of comraderie between Jack and Hurley. Like Hurley said, it felt "old-school," and Hurley's comic relief provided some much-needed self-mocking. I mean, after all the craziness that's occured this season, it was nice to hear Hurley somewhat acknowledge just how absurd all of it was. On the other hand, there were moments that pushed the meta-commentary a little far. I mean, when Hurley and Jack stumbled upon the twin skeletons in the cave, I think fans everywhere thought "okay, FINALLY, let's hear what the deal is with these two". Instead, we get Hurley speculating on the same sorts of ideas that fans have many times, like, what if the skeletons are two of the castaways, there due to some crazy time-travel shenanigans? It was kind of put in there as an in-joke of sorts, but, seriously, just give us some of these answers! And look, I'm not saying I want a bland laundry list or checklist of answers, but, I do want a couple of genuine "wow" moments that address the series' longstanding questions. Preferably sooner rather than later ...

And then there's the ongoing saga of Jacob vs. Smokey. On one level I'm curious where all of this is going. At the same time, I don't think either character is all that intriguing, at least not yet. Especially considering how into the story of Whidmore and Penelope I was. I mean, what about the "war" that Whidmore mentioned way back when? The Lost landscape was pretty awesome back then. Ben and Whidmore as at-odds villains. Desmond as the epic hero. The island as a mythical place that was the source of real-world melodrama. Now, I worry that Lost has devolved into a 1960's-era Marvel comic book. Because historically, nearly every character on Lost was a real character. They had depth and nuance. So far, Jacob and Smokey don't. When Lost has introduced peripheral characters, even those have often been flat-out awesome (eye-Patch Guy, anyone? Keamy? Clancy Brown?! All badasses!). So far, Jacob and Smokey are pretty bland. And yes, I get it, that's part of the point. But again, throughout Lost's history we've had epic time-travelling sagas, talk of war and gathering stormclouds, huge twists, and shocking revelations. A sense of pulpy fun and adventure. Now, all that boils down to Jack going into a lighthouse and seeing his name on a wheel?

I get that a lot of the lighthouse stuff was more about Jack's character than anything else. And I did enjoy the sheer journey of getting there. Even if it was unsatisfying plot-wise, Jack flipping out and shattering the magical lighthouse mirror was in-character. But still ... the whole excercise was ultimately pointless, in terms of advancing the plot. Jack now knows what Sawyer found out last week - he and the other castaways were "chosen," they were "candidates," so to speak. Their lives were observed and manipulated. This was all news to Jack, but not to us, the viewers. So again - good to great character stuff, counterbalanced by little to no plot development.

The overall feel of this episode was strong. Matthew Fox turned in a great performance as always, and the overall portrait of Jack in this episode - both versions - was really interesting and compelling. It was one of the stronger character pieces Lost has done in a while, and it was an episode that finally showed off some of the potential that the sideways flashes have to offer us some *new* insights into the characters.

And yeah, the next couple of episodes could deliver the payoff to all of this prolonged setup. But I do feel the pacing has been off, and I am wondering if Lost has gotten off track from the intriguing mythology that it set up last season and prior. I feel similarly to how I felt last week - this was a strong episode, but it still left me with doubts about where we're headed from here.

My Grade: B+


- Is Jacob really the "good guy" here? If so, then what was his relationship with Ben all this time? Ben is pretty clearly an evil, lying, bastard. So why was *he* Jacob's figurehead leader for all these years?

- Who are all the people who live at the Temple? Are they pro-Jacob or pro-Smokey? How long have they been on the island? And why are they so damn reluctant to answer a single question with a direct response?!

- Who *are* Jacob and "The Man in Black?"

- Who are the group of people who were killed by Smokey in the premiere, of which Ilana is now the only survivor? What is the deal with their little Cult of Jacob, and how does it relate back to the fabled Statue?

- What's up with the various supernatural powers that various people possess? How/why is Richard Alpert seemingly immortal? How/why did Walt have supernatural abilities? How did Locke regain the ability to walk and how did Rose become cancer-free? How about Miles? How/why can he speak with the dead?

- And how/why can Hurley speak to the dead, for that matter?

- Who was the Christian Shephard that we've seen on the island? Was he the Smoke Monster in possession of Christian's body, as he now is with Locke? If so, then what happened to Christian's body? Locke's original body is still around, afterall.

- Who were "The Others" anyways? How and when did they originally get to the island, and why did they wear fake beards when they were originally introduced? At one point, they were depicted as sort of wild, tribal people, and then they were basically Ben's lackeys living in suburban tranquility on the island. How do "The Others" that we had previously met relate to the *other* Others that live in the Temple? And why do they call themselves "The Others?"

- What's up with Claire? She's been tainted / corrupted by Smokey, I guess - but how and why? Can he just possess anyone he wants? If so, why doesn't he just possess everyone and call it a day? If Sayid is also possessed, then when will he start acting crazy a la Claire?

- Speaking of Claire, I didn't quite get her interaction with Jin. I mean, yes, she's crazy now, but still ... where did she expect her baby to be once she was presumed dead? Wouldn't she maybe guess that Kate or Juliette helped take care of Aaron in her absence? And why did she randomly have animal bones in her cradle?! Weird.

- So why did Ben have to kill Locke again? Has Ben been working for Smokey the whole time? I assume yes, but if so why couldn't Jacob do something about him? Why is Jacob so darn passive about everything? Why can Smokey proactively kill people, etc. but not Jacob?

- We know that each castaway was assigned a number by Jacob and Smokey - each number is from "the Numbers." So ... what are The Numbers?!

- What was the war that Whidmore talked about, and will we get to see it?

- Who is Dogen? Who is Lennon? Why are they so lame?

- Did Juliette somehow know about the creation of a parallel timeline before she died? That seemed to be the implication, but if so, how did she know?

- What's up with Jack's health issues in the alternaverse? The appendix scar, etc? Is this the first hint of crossover between the two universes?

- Is this show even about time travel anymore? I mean, I loved it last season when we got into all of the quantum physics stuff that helped explain the nature of the island (RIP Faraday, once again). Now all that seems to be out the window in favor of supernatural cosmic craziness.

- And what about Eloise Hawking? Wasn't she one of the main people who urged the castaways to return to the island in the first place? Why did she want them to go back? What's her deal, anyways?

- Why does Jacob get to have all of the castaways' names on a wheel, complete with magic mirror that looks into their lives, whereas Smokey just has their names scrawled on a cave ceiling?

- Okay, brain hurts now. Leave your comments and thoughts. Dammit all.

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