Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"There Is No Sayid!" LOST Races Towards the Finish Line!

LOST Thoughts:

- I've said this many times, but I'll say it again: LOST is frequently at its best when it stops worrying about old questions and mysteries and simply focuses in on the here and now. That principle was definitely true of last night's episode - it was action-packed and ultra-intense - an episode that lived in the moment.

In many ways, this was an episode of Lost that reminded me why this show will be missed when it's gone. Maybe the feeling was strengthened by the lack of a new episode last week, but as I watched this one, I started to think about all the things that have made Lost great. I thought about how great the cast is, top to bottom. I thought about how epic the show is in so many ways - even just in terms of aesthetics. This was one of those episodes that, if nothing else, felt like a big-budget action movie. Few if any other series can match it on that level. The sets, the music, the characters. Even if there are still some worrying problems with the overarching direction of the show, you can't deny all the elements that gave this ep a genuine feel of epic drama.

Honestly, the episode had me on the edge of my seat in large part because it felt like, finally, THIS was what we had been building towards. Not necessarilly in the sense of finding answers or blowing open the mythology or anything, but just in the sense that, after weeks of not much happening, A LOT happened here. People weren't just wandering in the jungle anymore. There were very specific goals, very clear stakes. After all this time, we knew the score - the castaways were mostly reunited, and they were determined to get off the island - first via plane and, when that fell through, via Widmore's sub. We knew that Jack was intent on staying behind, although he was just as intent to help his friends get away safely. We knew that Not-Locke was hoping to get all the castaways together, but we also knew that the castaways didn't trust him and didn't want him to get off the island - so it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped.

The episode had no Desmond, and no Ben. But Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn were at their best, delivering a pair of outstanding performances. O'Quinn in particular has to be commended. The level of detail he put into his dual performance as off-island Locke and on-island Not-Locke was remarkable. More so than any other episode to date, you could really see the subtle yet pronounced differences between the two versions.

And you know what? There's something to be said for good, ol' fashioned tension. This episode had it in spades. The overall intensity level was off the charts, and the pacing was impeccable. This ep rocketed us from one breathtaking scene to another, and there was an awesome sense of danger and unpredictability that permeated the entire episode. The final act in particular was riveting - between Kate getting shot, the bomb on the sub, Sayid's sacrifice, Jin and Sun's tragic end, Lapidus' sudden demise, and the final escape back to the island, there was barely a moment to breathe. This stunning sequence of events was just insane, and was the kind of wholesale house-cleaning that many have speculated might be on the way. It's easy to dissect all of the individual deaths after the fact, but there's no question that, in the moment, the nonstop pace of the episode made for completely captivating television.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, I think we have to look at some of the character stuff and admit that some of the recently-offed characters had their send-offs slightly tarnished, due to just how problematic their characters have been of late. I guess I'm thinking particularly of Sayid. The show never did a great job of explaining the effects of the Smoke Monster "poisoning" him. At times, he was basically a walking zombie, seemingly brainwashed to be Not-Locke's henchman. Other times, he seemed able to resist the effects of the poisoning, and then, suddenly, seemed to be his old self again ... sort of. Claire has been equally problematic - she's gone back and forth in recent episodes, at times seeming crazy and not herself - possessed by the Smoke Monster, and other times seeming to have regained her faculties and a degree of sanity. For most of last night's episode, she seemed to be "normal" Claire, but then ended up back at Not-Locke's side, inexplicably apologizing to him for ditching him earlier. Um, what? In any case, with Sayid, I think his death would have meant more if there was more clarity as to whether this was the "real" Sayid or not. If it was clear that all this time he was under the Smoke Monster's sway, until the last second when he was able to break through and save his friends ... well, THAT would have been dramatic. As it stands, Sayid has been such a mess for several episodes now that his death, while shocking, didn't have quite the emotional weight it should have.

As for Jin and Sun, well, their death was definitely well-handled, and very moving and tragic. In a way, the sadder moment was Hurley and Jack's reaction, realizing what happened to their friends. But as for Sun and Jin, let's be honest, there hasn't been much reason to care about those characters in a long, long time. Their reunion was so dragged out, and taken down so many oddball tangents (Sun's ridiculous condition in which she temporarily couldn't speak English), that again, I didn't feel as attached to the characters as I once did. If they were going to go out, it would have been cool to have them go out in a blaze of glory rather than just being trapped in a sinking sub. Sure, it was a well-done, emotional scene. But if you were tasked with dreaming up the ultimate farewell scene for Jin and Sun - would that have really been it?

And man, poor Lapidus. I still think the episode that introduced him, Miles, Charlotte, and Faraday is one of the best-ever of the series, and I've always liked the character. It's too bad he was never given more to do. One thing I haven't liked about this season is that it's tossed aside newer characters in favor of the original castaways. It's been a return to the dynamic of Season 1, even as the expansion of the show's cast and mythology in Seasons 4 and 5 has been largely thrown out the window. That's too bad, because that was arguably Lost at its peak. Anyways, that's my roundabout way of saying that Lapidus was a character full of potential, so it was too bad to see him get relegated to the role of C-lister, and ultimately, to cannon-fodder. I assume Miles is next to go, and again, that's too bad.

But here's the bigger thing - does death even mean anything on Lost at this point? This whole season has been an excercise in showing us that "hey, your favorite characters may have died, but they live on - in other realities and timelines, as ghosts, etc. So don't worry, it's alllll good!" Suffice it to say, no character death at this point is going to have the impact that, say, Charlie's did. We have, afterall, been hit over the head with the fact that death is relative on Lost.

And now the question is: what's left? Next week's episode is an origin story for Jacob and The Man In Black (still unnamed, annoyingly), and man, that episode is going to have A LOT of explainin' to do. Again, I don't want or need all the "answers." But what I do want are clear stakes to be established. Why should we care about these two godlike entities? How do they fit into the bigger picture? And can the show justify that six seasons of story has led to an endgame revolving not around Dharma or Widmore or time-travel or energy anomolies ... but around these two enigmatic beings? That's what I want answered next week, and I'm not sure how or if the show can pull that off.

Still, there's no denying that this was one hell of an intense, exciting episode of Lost. This was a nail-biter, of the type that no other show can pull off with such a flair for epic drama and pulp adventure. In that regard, hats off to Lost.

My Grade: A-

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