Not as Spectacular as I’d Been Led to Believe

Double-header post-vacation “Lost” recap: “Some Like it Hoth” and “The Variable.”

When I was able to get internet access on vacation, I’d get e-mails from Apple telling me that I had brand new episodes of “Lost” ready to download. I was looking forward to spending my last couple of vacation days sitting like a lump doing nothing but getting caught up with glorious television.

And then they gave me a clip show. Bad form, Bad Robot.

Come to think of it, why do we even have clip shows in the age of DVD box sets and downloadable season passes and time-shifting? I’m sure they justify it by saying it’s needed to get new viewers up to speed, or to satisfy the people who gave up on the show in season 2 and are now wondering how they went from “survivors of a plane crash” to “commune in 1977”. But that’s what the hour before the show is for! The rest of us are just left feeling cheated.

The two real episodes were about the characters (along with the writers, apparently) figuring out the rules of time travel. The first one, “Some Like it Hoth,” was focused on ghostbuster Miles and his issues with his dad, who as it turns out in a convenient twist is Marvin Candle from the Dharma orientation films. (“Lost” gets away with implausible coincidences like this by having characters comment on it. That seems to be Hurley’s sole purpose on the series now).

It’s getting harder to believe the illusion that everything on the show has been carefully and expertly orchestrated, but you have to give them credit for being able to take all the plot twists and developments and force them into a consistent Philosophy of The Entire Series. Namely: the nature of free will vs. destiny. It could get a little ham-fisted at times, back when Jack and Locke were left to try and provide some deeper meaning while everyone else was just interested in the polar bears and the Apple II that could somehow save the world. Locke had faith that entering the code and pressing the button actually did something significant; if not, then why was he here, and what was his purpose?

It’s not exactly subtle now — considering this season’s subtitle is “Destiny Calls” — but it is pretty clever that they’ve extended that to the other characters. If they’re unable to change anything in the past, then why are they there? This episode gave one possibility to one character: Miles could develop a relationship with his father that he never had. (Resolving the problem set forth in his flashbacks, meaning he can die soon).

The most recent episode, “The Variable,” was apparently a “game-changer,” based on what I’ve been reading online. Either I missed something, or internet fans of the show are over-reacting. To me, the whole episode seemed like it was asking the question “what if they could change the past?” and acting as if just raising the question was intriguing enough; they didn’t have to actually accomplish anything.

It could just be the inevitable disappointment of a series that’s in its winding-down phase. I’ve accepted for a while that the answers to the questions are never going to be as intriguing as the questions themselves, but it’s still kind of a drag to see that played out. Ever since Faraday’s character was introduced, I’ve been wondering about the implications of that scene: why did the footage of the plane wreckage make him start crying? Who was the woman with him in the room? What was significant about that moment?

And now, the pay-off: he doesn’t know, an unidentified and mostly irrelevant caretaker, and Widmore (secretly his father) was about to show up. I’d started to expect more from Faraday’s storyline, and he basically ended up with the same fate I was scared Locke would have: he was important only because he went back in time and made himself important. His supposedly brilliant mind went mostly unused — he came up with an idea of how to prevent “The Incident,” but it’s not an idea that any of the other characters couldn’t have come up with independently.

I think the other problem I had with the episode is that, as reluctant as I’ve been to admit it, the actress playing Faraday’s mother isn’t all that great in a large part. It takes a while to realize: she’s a woman of somewhat advanced years from somewhere in the British Isles, accent and all: to Americans, that just exudes class. But there’s a ton of moments in the episode that hinge on her being able to convey “a mother’s anguish” that just come across as “gas.”

So the big question is whether Jack, Kate & the Gang will be able to (with the Others’ help, possibly?) pull off Faraday’s plan, or whether they’ll even try to. At the moment, though, I’m not feeling as intrigued as I am wondering about all the loose ends. There’s nothing too glaring; it’s mostly a bunch of minor stuff that seemed to have greater significance when it was introduced.

  • Why does “Marvin Candle” assume all the fake aliases? He seemed to know everyone at the Dharma Initiative. Some of the orientation movies were made before 1977, and he was already using fake names back then.
  • Why would Faraday’s mom have pushed him towards his time travel research and encouraged him to go to the island? If his “destiny” was just to be on the island, then it seems like she could’ve let him enjoy the piano and his girlfriend for a few decades, and then push him onto the Island at the last minute. If she were pushing him to develop some way to change history, then it seems like she wouldn’t have encouraged him to take Widmore’s job once it’d become clear that he hadn’t.
  • Why was it supposedly such a big deal for all of the Oceanic 6 to go back to the Island? And what’s with Locke’s body taking the place of Jack’s dad, including the shoes? Was that all BS?
  • Speaking of Locke: when are we going to get back to “the present”? Could they please do something interesting with Sexy Bounty Hunter, instead of just killing her off?
  • Are we going to learn why Sun got left in the present?
  • How about the old prophecy that if Claire’s baby were raised by anyone else, it’d be a disaster?
  • How come Richard Alpert didn’t remember the guy who’d told him to bury a nuclear warhead on the island? That seems like it’d be much more memorable than the brief encounter he had with John Locke. Faraday’s mom should’ve remembered him as well.