The Discreet Charm of the 4 8 15 16 23 42

Feeling inexplicably charmed by the dumb idiot who was obsessed with a bunch of people on an island

(For the record: yes, I do still remember The Numbers completely unprompted, years later).

Earlier today I was looking for an old post on this very blog, and as often happens these days, I found myself reading through the adjacent and related posts, trying to make sense of what exactly past me was trying to talk about.

It’s rare that I give past versions of myself any grace at all, so I was surprised by how much I was charmed by the whole uselessness of this website. On top of all the broken image links from a failed server migration years ago, there’s the fact that I was writing posts on the assumption that 1) everybody else was watching or reading the same stuff I was, and 2) I was obligated to be obtuse so as not to spoil it for my “audience.”

As a result, there are just dozens and dozens of posts about Lost and Battlestar Galactica where not only do I have no idea what I was talking about, but they’re so alien to me that they might’ve been written by another person. I was clearly enthralled by whatever storyline happened to be going on at the moment, making oblique references to plot events and throwing out names and descriptions of characters I no longer recognize, that trying to read them now feels somewhere between stumbling onto a complete stranger’s text messages, and the Voynich manuscript.

But instead of smacking my forehead, I’m just happy to see myself so completely engrossed in something, and clearly enjoying it even as I complained about it. And I’m charmed by my naiveté assuming that anyone other than me would be reading it. It’s essentially a private journal trying to pass as a public discussion, meaning it fails at both. But it does survive as something else, an extremely nerdy time capsule.

I do wish that I hadn’t spent so much time in online forums (and soon after, social media) that I was constantly writing on the defensive, filtering every thought and every sentence as if it were opening myself to correction and criticism. I can somewhat place posts at different periods in my life without having to check the dates, not by anchoring them to significant life events, but just by getting a sense of how earnest or how guarded I was being.

And obviously, I wish that they were anchored by significant life events for me, and not a bunch of fictional characters on an island or a spaceship. But that kind of stuff doesn’t really belong on a public blog. And I frankly appreciate the distance from having to read a genuine account of what exactly I was thinking at traumatic or stressful times. It’s a lot more charming to read my younger reactions to stuff happening to Desmond and Penny and Starbuck and Boomer than to myself.

More often than I’d like, I’ll come across a post that’s either mean-spirited or crass, and think “who is this asshole?” But as somebody who tends to behave with the mindset of “Dance like everybody’s not only watching but recording it zoomed-in and broadcasting it live to everyone you care about,” I like the idea of a decades-long record of myself going full-on nerd and getting excited about inconsequential stuff.

Have You Tried Unplugging It and Plugging It Back In Again?

Hey, does anybody remember that TV show Lost?

Sawyer and Juliet at the vending machines
Pictures from’s Lost site

Last Sunday night, ABC aired four and a half hours of commercials, with intermittent breaks for the final episode of Lost and a featurette with interviews with the cast and show runners. In the interview with Evangeline Lilly, she said something like “Kate’s strengths were her weaknesses.” Or maybe it was vice-versa. It was a long time ago, and all I really remember were the Target ads.

Whatever the case, that’s a pretty good summation of the whole series: what made Lost so great — and I still say it’s one of the top 5 best TV series ever made, even accounting for the tail end of the plane — is that it seemed to have an infinite supply of potential energy. They were calling up references left and right, from fringe science to pop culture to videogames, constantly tossing big new ideas into the mix. Hardly anything was out of bounds. You just don’t see that kind of fearlessness in network TV, especially not in a series that was so high-profile for a big network.

But then, you can’t really run for six years off of potential energy. (Even with the limitless magical properties of electromagnetism). People kept abandoning the show in frustration once they realized that the entire series was going to be all build-up but no pay-off — it even threatened to throw me off a few times, and I have an extraordinarily high patience for being blue-balled. By the last season, the show runners basically had to come out and admit that they weren’t going to answer every question raised, and a ton of them didn’t even get addressed.

But they said it would be “satisfying,” and I think it was, for the most part. They came up with a way to deliver a mediocre but acceptable “real” ending for the series, and then also a “let’s just throw whatever we can think of together for 18 episodes, and try to make it seem meaningful” ending. I can totally understand how people who were expecting some kind of big pay-off would be pissed; I didn’t mind as much, because I’ve always been more interested in the build-up.

Or to put it more poetically: Lost at its peak was a character from The Flintstones, forever trapped in pre-run, its legs an indistinct blur, the bongos forever playing their mad rhythm, a too-fleeting moment of beauty trapped in time before vanishing in a dash leading towards an uncertain and ultimately unsatisfying destination, like The Gruesomes’ house next door or a Stony Curtis autograph signing.

And for anybody who’s still disappointed that the show didn’t provide more answers, just do a Google search on “The Valenzetti Equation” and “The Lost Experience”. That is what happens when you try to explain too much about Lost. This kind of thing can never end well. So I guess it’s good that they left the obsessive fans to their own alternate-reality game and wikis, and kept the series proper kind of vague.

I do have plenty o’gripes, though.
Continue reading “Have You Tried Unplugging It and Plugging It Back In Again?”

Shaggy’s Little Boys Look Just Like Allison Janney

There’s LOST everywhere in this bitch. Spoilers for episodes “Across the Sea” and “The Candidate.”

ICPFuckinMagnets.jpg I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure, but I’m pretty convinced now that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are juggalos. How else to explain this insistence that electromagnetism is the source of all magic?

I don’t have any problem with the idea of devoting a whole episode, this late in the series, to Jim Henson’s Island Protector Babies. I even appreciate their trying to create their own mythology, with their own garden of Eden and Cain and Abel and, I suppose, Lillith? Or setting up the notion of similar stories playing out over and over again on the Island throughout eternity.

My problem with “Across the Sea” is my problem with the rest of the season: the pacing is off. Since the beginning of the season, they’ve spent a bulk of each episode on stories with no real context, so we don’t get any clear idea of why we should care about what happens in them.

And it’s had the side effect of making the stuff we should care about — the story we’ve been following for the past five years — less significant, too. The stakes are basically erased: if somebody dies, so what? There’s still another version of them in this alternate universe. Except I stopped caring about that alternate version, too. It’d be like making Run, Lola, Run and trying to wring tears out of the audience at each ending.

With “Across the Sea,” they establish the hell out of that cave, and make absolutely certain that we make the connection between the “Adam & Eve” from Season 1. And yes, that’s one of the questions that’s been lingering through the whole series, and yes, it’s good that they’re wrapping stuff up. But isn’t that the kind of thing you’d just toss into an episode as kind of a “didja notice?” detail, and not linger on it with a flashback? Especially when the closest thing you’ve delivered to a real answer to the main mystery of the entire series is a woman pointing at a hobbit hole and saying, “That’s where magic comes from?”

Pacing in the previous week’s episode “The Candidate” bugged me too, but explaining that takes spoilers

Continue reading “Shaggy’s Little Boys Look Just Like Allison Janney”

The Island is Done With Me

Grousing about the Lost episode “Everybody Loves Hugo”

After the previous episode of Lost, “The Constant Part 2” (I can’t remember the real title), Damon Lindelof finally let loose with this revelation of what the show’s really about:

You are the very first person ever to get the meaning of the show. Yes. It is a love story. Always has been…always will be.


I’m all for artists coming up with a different interpretation of their work than may be obvious to the fans. I’m even all for the more cynical version, artists putting a spin on their work for the press. But I’ve gotta call BS on that one. The show about survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island haunted by a smoke monster has not always been a love story.

If the guy who made the show doesn’t know what it’s about, I guess you can’t expect anybody else to, either. “Everybody Loves Hugo” just felt like a writer’s meeting where everybody said “oh crap we’ve only got five episodes left?!”

Spoilers for this week’s episode “Everybody Loves Hugo…”

Continue reading “The Island is Done With Me”

Hell is Exactly Two Other People

Lost is working its way back to my good side. Spoilers for episode “Ab Aeterno.”

lostisabelleghost.jpgNow that Lost is in its final season, I’ve seen more than a few people trying to get caught up, and I’ve taken it on myself to try and explain why the show has such an obsessive following (including myself). The last few times I’ve tried, I’ve mentioned numbers stations, smoke monsters, a dead-on accurate 70s educational movie aesthetic, urban legends, the creation of a genuinely modern mythology, Elizabeth Mitchell, non-linear storytelling, and polar bears.

Now I can just say “they’ve got an episode about a guy who’s on a slave ship that crashes into a statue and then he has to kill the Devil but gets talked out of it and is granted eternal life instead.”

When you think about it, there wasn’t a whole lot of new stuff we learned in this episode. (Except maybe that the Canary Islands in the late 1800s really needed to work on their service industries). But that doesn’t matter at all. It did confirm a good bit of stuff we already suspected — while still leaving plenty of ambiguity — but the most significant thing it did was confirm that Lost is capable of some of the best storytelling on television, when they feel like it. The hour flew by, and I was intrigued the whole time, each commercial break in exactly the right place, and each story development just off-kilter enough to be unexpected. With the way the season had been going up until tonight’s episode (and with the loss of Brian K. Vaughan), I was starting to get worried that they’d lost it.

That’s been the basic appeal all along: with the flashbacks and flash forwards and all the disparate influences, they had free rein to make basically an anthology series, telling whatever kind of story they could think of next. But they’d gotten so bogged down in attempting to form a continuity around everything, that the stories were starting to fizzle out to the point of Cop Haunted By His Past Never Learned How To Love. So we were way past due for a good, old-fashioned story about a poor man taking on the Devil. With ghosts and shipwrecks and horseback rides on stormy nights and all the other stuff they shouldn’t be able to do with a show set on a deserted island.

So now we know basically how old Richard Alpert is, kind of how the four-toed statue got destroyed and how the Black Rock ended up so far inland, the basic idea of why people keep ending up on the island, a reminder of what the black smoke is trying to do via Locke, and a reminder of why the story only remained interested in six of the castaways. And they threw in a little message about ineffability, which I guess is nice.

They also did a good job of ramping up the ambiguity around Jacob and the smoke monster (coming this Fall from Sid & Marty Krofft). Even with one dressed in white and the other dressed in black, they make a point of not explicitly saying who’s good and who’s evil. And in fact, they seemed to go out of their way to put an evil spin on Jacob and a good spin on the “man in black.” After all, the Devil would never admit to being the Devil, would he?

As for the big picture: if in the alternate reality we keep getting shown, the island is sunk; and if the island’s purpose was to keep evil from leaking out into the rest of the world; and if the black smoke’s leaving the island means “We all go to Hell,” then why hasn’t the alternate reality been significantly different? Everybody’s been more or less the same, and Jack and Locke ended up better off, arguably. This episode hasn’t done anything to convince me the “flash sideways” will all fit neatly into context at the end of the series. But it has reassured me that whatever they do for the end of the series, it’s going to be good television.

Not A Dream! Not An Imaginary Story!

Why I haven’t had much to say about “Lost” this season

For a while there, the recaps of “Lost” were the only thing keeping this weblog going. I haven’t had anything to say about Season 6 so far, and I was kind of hoping nobody would notice. There are three main reasons for that:

  1. I haven’t had much free time.
  2. The only character/actor I cared about any more left “Lost” for another series.
  3. I don’t know what the hell is going on this season.

It bugs me to say “I don’t know what’s going on” because I get the creepy suspicion there’s some Echelon-style technology that some executive at ABC is using to scan the internet for “Lost” confusion and present a spreadsheet explaining exactly why the series should be dumbed down. I can’t think how else to explain the “pop-up videos” thing they do for the previous week’s rerun, which does nothing more than explain the scene that you just watched as you’re watching it. This is indeed a series that plays around with varying timelines and packs a ton of detail into each episode; that’s a big part of why people love it. And I’ve seen every episode of the series, and I still can’t remember all the details and side characters enough to pick up on all the call-backs and cameos (e.g. the “Always Sunny” guy was on “Lost” before, apparently). It’d be helpful to have something pop up and say “this guy appeared in season 3” or “this is the book that was used in Juliet’s book club.” It’s not helpful to have something pop up and say “Claire is Jack’s half-sister!” or “Claire just killed a guy with an axe!”

But even though I’ve never been able to keep up with the details, I’ve at least been able to follow the meat of what was going on. And although the biggest complaint about the series has always been with how they withhold information, that’s also one of the best things about the series. (The other is the enormous range of reference material they draw from, including numbers stations and 70s science communes and horror fiction and introductory-level philosophy). They mastered the art of telling stories in parallel, and then went on to throw in a twist in subsequent seasons: the flashbacks turned into flash-forwards turned into outright time traveling.

With season 6, though, they’ve kind of broken it. Anybody could understand the concept of flashbacks to before they landed on the island. And the reveal of the flash-forwards was done with a brilliant season-end twist; we all started out the episode believing we were seeing more flashbacks, and then realized at the end of that episode that we’d jumped forward in time. And later, when they introduced the time traveling, there were a ton of complaints that the show had suddenly “gotten weird.” But it was easy enough to ask, “Where the heck have you been?” and point out that the show’s always been weird. Time traveling, I can handle, especially with weaselly Dr. Faraday (whose name I already had to look up, see above re: my faulty memory) acknowledging that that’s what’s going on.

Now, the big two remaining mysteries of the series, the only ones that we’re going to get real closure on, are: 1) Who are Jacob and the other guy, exactly? and 2) How do these flash-sideways connect to the ongoing storyline? Lindelof and Cuse have claimed, repeatedly, that we’re going to get answers to both questions, and I don’t doubt that. They also acknowledge that it’s a risky move, and it can be confusing, and that it’ll require patience, and that’s where I have a problem.

Not that it’s risky — I think a huge part of why the show is so successful is that they rarely let it get too conventional. Or that it’s confusing or requires patience — it’s too easy to counter with “they shouldn’t dumb the show down” or, if you prefer, “maybe you should go watch ‘NCIS’.” My problem is that it’s unnecessarily confusing; I think it’s withholding the wrong kind of information. When you strand people on an island and tell me that I’m going to have to wait to find out what the island is and why they’re there, that’s fine; I’m intrigued. When you hold out on the entire premise of the season, though, that’s where I just get annoyed, because I don’t have any context as to why I should care.

I make a habit of not reading too much of the online chatter on message boards or fansites, both because it tends to be kind of lame (that whole ARG that supposedly explained what the numbers were turned out to be a massive disappointment), and because I don’t care about the extraneous details and would rather let the show speak for itself. But this season, there’s a lot of stuff that’s relevant to the story that you can’t get just by watching the show. You’ve got to read interviews and watch extra-content videos, stuff that used to give an “extra dimension” to the show, but now is a prerequisite. In that Entertainment Weekly interview, they casually drop that alternate-Kate killed someone other than her stepfahter, which was revealed in some Comic-Con video. But then they claim that that’s not important. Well, yeah, guys, that’s pretty damn important if we’ve got any hope of making sense of what you’re expecting us to watch each week.

I’d seen a mention somewhere that they were refusing to call the flash-sideways an “alternate reality.” I took that to mean that it’s all part of one reality, that the bomb detonation had somehow rewritten history, and that the parallel storylines would converge in 2007. There’s a recurring theme of fate and determinism, so it seemed fitting that even wildly different histories could somehow play out to bring about the same events; e.g. even if Oceanic 815 hadn’t crashed, they all would’ve found themselves on that island somehow. It wasn’t until last week’s episode (“Sundown”) that suggested that wasn’t the case (Dogen’s story in the present conflicts with the version we saw at the piano recital), and then this week’s (“Dr. Linus”) all but confirms that’s not the case (Ben talks about stuff that happens in the “real” timeline that directly contradict things we saw in the “sideways” timeline).

So in short (too late): each week, they’re broadcasting 30 minutes of clean-up on a series, mixed in with 30 minutes of a different series that I don’t really care about. The clean-up sections are still “Lost”-style frustrating — did we really need to introduce yet another character who refuses to answer questions? Haven’t the castaways learned by now that if you ask somebody a question and they don’t answer, you punch them repeatedly until they answer? And what possible reason could there be for not just looking to see whose name was on number 108 in the lighthouse?

The other series would be like if Marvel had replaced their entire comic line with “What If?” stories. What if Jack had a son with his own daddy issues?! What if Rose worked at an employment agency?! What if Ben had been a history teacher?! You can’t tell me that I’m going to care about these things, later on; I need to care what’s going on right now, when I’m trying to make sense of the whole thing.

I will say this, though: Emile de Ravin has been really good in her limited appearances. Claire was always in the running for least interesting character on the island, but as it turns out, she plays kind-of-crazy really well.

Extraterrestrials. Magic & Witchcraft. Missing Persons. Lost Civilizations. Polar Bears.

ABC has dug out clips from an old “In Search Of…”-style series from the 80s called “Mysteries of the Universe.” They say it’ll be interesting to followers of the series “Lost.” Here’s the first clip, more will follow in the coming months:

(Check out the official version to see it larger and without as much of the embedded-video junk).

Whoever at ABC is in charge of this archival process, I want to give them a big hug. They nailed it.

Incidents, Accidents, Hints, Allegations

My thoughts on the “Lost” season finale, “The Incident.”

There’s no talking about the season finale of “Lost” (“The Incident”) without great big spoilers so be forewarned that everything in this post is a spoiler.

In fact, I’m going to include an extra paragraph in here because occasionally people end up here from my company’s blog or from the auto-generated announcements on Twitter, and the “read more” link is removed, making it easier to read ahead and see something you didn’t intend to. I remember before The Crying Game came out, I saw a message on USENET (yes, I’m old) where the poster put in “spoiler space” but not enough for larger monitors, so I accidentally saw the big twist of the movie. Which kind of ruined the movie (not that it was all that great to begin with), but I couldn’t really be angry at anybody because it was unintentional. Actually, though, it was made even more interesting because I knew what the twist was, but I kept expecting it was going to be about Miranda Richardson’s character — after all, she’s on the poster. I spent the first half of the movie wondering how they were going to do the reveal and then hey! there’s a penis I didn’t expect to see. So if you’re still reading at this point, it’s your own damn fault.
Continue reading “Incidents, Accidents, Hints, Allegations”

Do the Dumb Things I Gotta Do, Touch the Puppet Head

My opinions of “Lost” episode “Follow the Leader”.

This is chock full of spoilers for this week’s episode of “Lost” (“Follow the Leader”), so be forewarned.

Probably my biggest problem watching “Lost” is that I have no way of gauging how smart I am compared to the source material. I’m embarrassingly dense about most of the naming and the historical and literal allusions, as well as some of the details from previous seasons. For instance, I keep waiting for angry bearded Dharma guy to get his comeuppance with a gruesome death, but the internet tells me he’s already gotten it. Apparently, he’s the guy who was stuck in the hatch before Desmond showed up, until he went crazy and killed himself.

On the other hand, I’ve read enough comic books and seen enough science fiction concepts translated and re-translated through years of pop culture, that all the time traveling and alternate reality stuff seems more obvious than the show (or its fans) are letting on. I keep reading complaints that the series “got all weird” this season, and I’m just left wondering: what series have you guys been watching? Because the one I’ve seen had polar bears, numbers stations, smoke monsters, psychic premonitions, and miraculous healing all within the first couple of episodes. When the characters are spending entire episodes going over how time travel works, I’m left wondering: is this supposed to be complicated? Am I missing something complicated, or are they trying to pander to the millions of ABC watchers who are trying to keep up?

So I make this observation: if an “incident” on the island in 1977 caused a massive amount of energy to be unleashed, resulting in a hatch to contain the energy and the warning that you weren’t allowed to go outside without a hazmat suit, the solution to that isn’t to go back in time and detonate a nuclear warhead. In fact, it seems extremely likely that going back in time and detonating a nuclear warhead is exactly the “incident” in question. But I can’t tell if that’s supposed to be obvious, or if they’ve already addressed it, or if it’s nonsensical based on the hand-waving “electromagnetic energy” the show is basing everything around.

Which wouldn’t be a big deal — I’m perfectly content to just shut up, stop speculating, and wait to see what they come up with next — except that we’ve been building up to the big season finale and I have yet to be able to tell where the big tension is.

So far, everybody has reacted to the whole time travel business by doing exactly what they were supposed to do. I was disappointed that Farraday’s fate seemed to be pretty much “go back in time because I know you’re supposed to go back in time,” and I’ve been concerned that the same thing was going to happen with Locke. And then this episode pretty much made that explicit: Locke is important only because he went back and made himself important. There was a scene earlier in the season where he meets Richard Alpert during his time travel, and that was intriguing: who is Alpert, and how does he know the things that are going to happen? Then we see it played out from another angle: he knew it was going to happen only because Locke told him so. The whole gestalt of “Lost” is that the questions are always going to be more intriguing than the answers, but I didn’t expect that the answers would be this mundane.

So ignore the plotting for a second, and get back to the “meaning” or the overall themes of the series. Locke & Jack have basically switched roles: Locke is now a leader, and Jack is the one who’s blindly doing what he believes he’s “supposed” to do without thinking of the consequences. Locke has found his purpose, while Jack is just wanting to escape from the ruin he’s made of his life while off the island. Locke knows why he’s here, Jack is still asking why they came back, what it is they’re supposed to do, and grabbing at anything to give himself purpose. (For Locke, it was pushing the button; for Jack, it’s apparently Farraday’s journal and his plan).

That’s a very neat shift in characterization, one that’s been pretty well handled. It’s just that there’s a giant snowball of plot points bearing down on this philosophical character study, waiting to be answered. For one, apparently Sayid has been waiting behind a bush this whole time, just waiting for somebody to walk by and threaten to shoot Kate. And I’m still wondering how Sexy Bounty Hunter and the rest of the castaways on the other island are going to come back into play. (Incidentally: I’m assuming that when “The Island” vanishes, that includes the side island with the polar bear cages, right? And that’s where Frank and the gang are hanging out now?)

Our momentum leading us into the 2-hour finale is based on two things: Locke says that he’s going to kill Jacob; and Alpert says that he watched Kate, Jack, and the others all die. I suppose the third question is what’s going to happen when/if they detonate the warhead; will they be able to change history, or is that the “incident” that started the whole mess in the first place? It says something when the least interesting aspect of an episode of television is a group of castaways and seemingly immortal people swimming to an underground temple to detonate a nuclear bomb. I’m not sure what it says, exactly, but it’s something.

And is it time to start with the “who or what is Jacob?” conjecture again? For the longest time, I was sure it was going to turn out to be Locke: he went back in time and somehow inserted himself into the timeline as the main prophet of the island. Now I’m wondering if it could be the Jughead bomb that the Others are worshipping, Beneath the Planet of the Apes-style.

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.

I believe you call it “The Monster.”

My recap of “Lost” episode “Dead is Dead”.

Now that’s a pick-up line.

I guess technically, this week’s episode of “Lost” (“Dead is Dead”) was another character-centric flashback-heavy episode, except focusing on Ben Linus instead of one of the “good guys.” But that was okay, for two reasons:

  1. Ben is now officially twice as interesting as any of the good guys (except for Kate, where he’s a dozen times more interesting).
  2. This episode was co-written by Brian K. Vaughn.

I really hate it when people give one person all the credit for a particularly good movie, TV show, videogame, whatever. There’s always a ton of work from a ton of people involved in these productions. Instead of being the product of one person’s genius, it’s just as likely that they got some really good material to work with, or everyone else brought his best work to the project, or any of a thousand different variables. Plus, titles on TV shows in particular are somewhat nebulous; from what I understand, it’s often the work of a group of people that gets credited to one person.

But still: the guy’s got a streak going here. This one felt like it had a momentum that even flashbacks to stuff we kind of already mostly sort of knew were unable to stop.

My favorite aspect of this episode was seeing Locke finally starting to get his pay-off after getting piled on for the past fifty years or so. The guy has basically two settings: desperation, or condescension. It’s amazing how much mileage he gets out of it from context: sometimes, his forced calmness and condescension have you convinced he’s evil incarnate; other times, like this episode, you’re rooting for him.

He never says it outright, but getting killed may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. He’s spent his whole life having people tell him he doesn’t have a greater purpose, he’s not special, and his stubborn conviction that there is meaning to all this and that he does have a crucial part to play is nothing more than naivete. Now, coming back from the dead seems to be a pretty clear sign that he was right all along. And it’s a very subtle shift in his character, but he no longer seems to be trying to convince himself that he’s in charge and he knows what he’s doing; as far as he’s concerned, he’s got proof.

Of course, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they turn this into some kind of weird temporal-causation-loop type thing, and the only reason he’s been “chosen” is accidental or arbitrary. (As in: he’s important because he went back in time and told people he was going to be important). But I say he should enjoy the moment as long as it lasts.

Other things I liked about this episode were Locke’s revelation to Jin and Lapidus that he was still alive:

and that they somehow managed to find an actor who looks eerily like a younger version of Widmore:
At least, to me. I could tell who he was supposed to be the second he came on screen, and it took me a minute to realize it wasn’t the older actor in a bad wig.

As for the smoke monster: I’ve got a bad memory, so I can’t recall what exactly we saw back when Mr. Eko got “judged.” Was he really responsible for his brother’s death, or was he convinced that he was, or did he just want to be killed as penance, or did they really just want to get him off the series? Whatever the case, I like how this episode handled Ben’s “judgement.” We got to see that he really did feel genuine remorse, and that there is still the barest hint of a human that will do the right thing even when no one’s watching.

But he didn’t get any points for that. The Island just dug the knife in deeper and said: “You feel bad? Suck it, you should feel bad. You won’t get any resolution, or acceptance. Instead, here’s a reminder that your worst fear has come true: you’re not the leader, you’re not special, you have to play second fiddle to the bald guy and you damn well better do everything in your power to protect him.” We don’t have a word for that, but I believe you call it “cold.”

Whatever that was, it sure did happen

My recap of “Lost” episode “Whatever Happened, Happened”.

I realize that this week’s episode of “Lost” (“Whatever Happened, Happened”) was mostly about Kate, and that Juliet was in it for like five minutes tops, but what can I say? She’s my favorite character/actress combo on the show now. Her character is the only one who both knows what she’s doing and isn’t a total ass about it, lording it over everyone. And on a series that spends so much time showing close-ups of its actors desperately trying to convey some emotion or another, Elizabeth Mitchell is the only one who’s subtle and nuanced enough to tell you almost everything you need to know before the dialogue starts.

For example, in the photo above, the mood isn’t just “pissed.” It’s “really pissed, plus extremely disappointed.” I’d face down the smoke monster before I subjected myself to one of her looks. But then, I probably wouldn’t need to worry about that, because I’m not a total dick like Jack is.

As for Kate’s story: well, okay, whatever. I probably would’ve had more sympathy for the intense emotional trauma she was going through, if her transfer of custody hadn’t consisted of: “I’ve never met you before, but there’s a three-year-old child sleeping unsupervised in a hotel room three doors down the hall. Whenever you feel like it, go pick him up and take care of him while I go to Guam. Later!” Also: universal donor or not, is Kate really the one you want to be giving blood? She looks like she’s got about half a pint in her, tops.

And for a while now, people have been trying to figure out the pantheon of The Others. Because of the hieroglyphics on the countdown clock, and the brief shot of the four-toed statue a few episodes back, current money is on their worshipping the Egyptian god Horus. I’m holding out for the Egyptian god of plot contrivances, whichever one that is. That seems a lot more useful than just worshipping “the sky” or “war,” because you could ask for anything.

“Oh mighty Deus Ex we beseech thee! Help us cure this boy of a fatal gunshot wound.”
“Also if it’s not too much to ask: it would be great if he could forget that this ever happened so that we don’t have to explain a plot point from a couple of years ago.”
“Well gee, as long as you’re offering: we kind of set it up that this kid’s transformation into a super-villain would be a long, involved process playing out over several years, but it’d be a lot easier if we could just take care of it in one episode. We wouldn’t have made such a big deal of it at the time, had we known…”
“Great, thanks! Can you make people forget about the tent village and ‘Miss Clu?'”