Even if I weren’t too busy to ramble on at length about TV shows, there’s just not a lot to say about this week’s episode of “Lost.” Just look at the final score:
- About a minute of marginally interesting character development from Locke
- Cool, creepy scene with the smoke monster flashing itself at Juliet and Kate
- Girl-on-girl dislocated shoulder re-alignment
- Boring, redundant flashback
- Painfully obvious and pointless B-story
- Main plot is culmination of an adventure that just fizzled out with no real development other than trading a castaway for an Other
- About a dozen character-motivation misfires or just plain plot holes. (Why can’t the smoke monster fly over the fence? Why choose living on a beach over living in the nice-but-boring Others’ camp? Why isn’t Sun pissed at Charlie instead of just Sawyer?)
The shows lately, if not all season, have just settled into a routine: mostly boring, pointless, but well-produced episodes, each with one or two germs of neat ideas that would be really cool if it all just could coalesce into something.
The House Next Door has a detailed review and recap, which describes that better than I could. Since the beginning, it’s seemed like Juliet is an interesting character, and it’s felt like they’re just almost on the cusp of having a really cool story there, but it hasn’t ever really come together for me. That blog post sums up exactly why the character is interesting, and why Elizabeth Mitchell is doing such a good job with her:
Part of the reason that Juliet has emerged as my favorite character on the show (apart from the school-boy crush I’ve developed on Elizabeth Mitchell) is how she comes across more menacing the more soccer-mom, faux-warm she is. She is essentially the opposite of Dickens’ character; we question her every motive out of conditioning and well-earned skepticism. Her Betty Crocker façade is the ultimate cruel joke not because of how easily she slips out of it (witness her lightning fast reflexes after Kate sneak attacks her) but how smoothly she transitions back into it (she seems legitimately bothered by the aforementioned altercation, offering up a hurt “I was just bringing you a sandwich” before stepping over the incapacitated Kate).
That’s exactly it. They’ve got the potential to make Juliet one of the most interesting villains in the history of TV. All the focus is on Ben as the master manipulator, and they’ve been building that since last season, but he’s still just a couple steps above a cliche. It’s so obvious that he’s manipulating people that even the Lost castaways — maybe the most willfully ignorant group of television characters outside of “Three’s Company” — can tell that he’s manipulating them.
Juliet’s manipulation is different, though, because it actually works. Not just on the characters, but on the audience. You can see her do freaky Jedi things like judo moves or waking up from a gas-induced knockout to grab onto a hand holding a knife over her, and still feel sympathy for her. And it’s the rare case where knowing more about a character actually makes her more mysterious — we’ve seen her secret origin flashback, so we know she at least started out as a mousy good guy. Which would make it all the more interesting if we see her become truly evil after three years on the island.
But since I don’t have much confidence in the series anymore, I’m convinced she’ll just be the fourth point of the Jack Love Rectangle. And Ben is our Hannibal Lecter-esque villain; interesting on some level, but completely obvious. What would really impress me is if “Lost” had been pointing big flashing arrows at Ben all along, when it turns out that Clarice Starling (Juliet, in this metaphor) is the real villain.