Monday, 4 February 2008

Lost: The Beginning of the End

One problem with being in the UK is having to wait to see episodes of Lost without having the experience ruined utterly by accidentally stumbling across spoilers, but the other is, what can anyone write about when nearly a week has passed since an episode aired? The Lost fanbase has picked over every last scrap and easter egg and ambiguous line of dialogue until there is very little left to be said. It might have been easier if I'd tackled that excellent first episode a little closer to when I actually saw it, but after a week of writing about the show, even I had overdosed on it, and I love it, so I can only imagine how horrible it might have been to anyone who doesn't share my obnoxious passion. Anyway, I'm going to try to find something to talk about, if only because not talking about it after getting as excited as I did seems a little odd.

What I did like is that the reasons I had for loving Lost turned up in force during the episode, and afterwards. Seems as good a place as any to start.

Reason 10: Awesome Character Actors

The first new character introduced in this episode is played by Lance "Intensity" Reddick, who looks like an angry Woody Strode. I already wonder if any other new character can eclipse him even though he's only been onscreen for a couple of minutes. The moment he asked Hurley if anyone was left alive on the island, my blood ran cold. His expression was purest diabolical evil.

I've not watched much of The Wire, but his stony glare caught my attention. I hope he gets a lot of screentime as Matthew Abaddon, because next to Jacob and his shack (see below), he is the scariest thing on the show, and could possibly be this season's Juliet/Desmond. Sadly, the episode also featured the arrival of Daniel Faraday (will there be a Tesla at some point?), played by the singularly annoying Jeremy Davies.

I've not seen everything he's been in, but his performances in Saving Private Ryan and Solaris very nearly ruined both movies. In particular, why Soderbergh let him use more acting tics than those employed by every student of Lee Strasberg combined just perplexes me. So no, I'm as unhappy about his arrival on the show as I was when Michelle "Snarl" Rodriguez visited. Let's hope a trigger-happy Sawyer makes up for ridding us of the lovely Tom by offing Faraday too.

ETA: The showrunners were nice enough to give Marsha Thomason another chance to appear on the show after her ignominious death last season. She's on a magic island that doesn't like it when people die, so she gets a few minutes of pointless exposition before dying for proper good no comebacks.

I felt bad for her getting murdered like that. In a crappy Lost documentary made for Sky and presented by the dire Iain Lee, she went on about how great it was being on the show and how welcome everyone made her feel. It was probably filmed after she did the murder scene (complete with glurgy death noises), but still, it was sad. So yay! Four more minutes grappling with Kate! And maybe an appearance in next week's rescuer flashback episode. Better than a knife in the back, I suppose.

Reason 9: Beautiful Hawaii

A throwaway shot of the castaways relaxing after contacting the boat:


Reason 8: Echoes

The most distant callback of the episode came towards the end, when Kate and Jack hang out in the fuselage of Oceanic 815 and discuss their initial arrival on the island. It's a clear imitation of a shot from the first season that I would be able to find if I knew which episode it was in, but now all I can do is ask that you trust my dodgy memory.

It reminded me of Kate's terror as she was chased by Smokey, and how she conquered the fear by counting to five. That was revisited with Hurley's reaction to his visions on and off the island, where he counts to five until they disappear. I wonder if this amazing technique works? I also liked the opening shot of the pile of fruit.

It reminded me of the visual collage of green and yellow images spotted at intervals during the Room 23 brainwashing tape. There was also the moment where the castaways split into two groups, just like the first season when the survivors split between the caves and the beach. At least this time one of the two groups will be able to live in relative luxury in the Barracks (though how will Locke get the group through the sonic fence?).

Shame that it meant Kate and Sawyer went their separate ways, but considering Jack has been declaring his love for Kate and is now attempting to shoot people who have annoyed him, perhaps it's a good thing he's gone for a while. I don't want anything bad to happen to my boy Sawyer. Look at his bottomless islandy sadness in that picture! His scene with Hurley, trying to get through to him and help him through his grief, choked me up.

Reason 7: Easter Eggs

The best visual Easter Egg of the episode (other than Christian Shephard's appearance in Jacob's shack) was Charlie's underwater appearance.

At first I thought it was someone in scuba gear, but it's obviously a hoodie. And the note on his hand is a brilliant touch. There were many other touches, like the reoccurence of H and O (like some kind of sci-fi version of Sesame Street), which of course are the 8th and 15th leters of the alphabet, not to mention the appearances of Hurley's former fast food boss Randy Nations, and Ana-Lucia's former partner Mike Walton. However, my favourite return appearance was Hurley's Camaro, last seen being fixed by Cheech Marin in Tricia Tanaka Is Dead.

Many thanks to Lostpedia's trivia section for these finds. Even though my love for Lost is vast, even I'm not devoted enough to have spotted all of these things.

Reason 6: ZOMG Michael Giacchino

As usual, his work was stunning, but special praise for the cannonball scene, where a euphoric Hurley leaps into the ocean in celebration of the coming rescue.

Giacchino's brilliant reprise of themes from the first season brought tears to my eyes, especially knowing that Hurley's joy was going to be short-lived. Heather Havrilevsky of Salon has carped that the show is needlessly dour, and maintains the episode should have allowed the castaways to enjoy their moment of relief instead of rushing headlong into misery (funny that the show is now being slated by critics for not taking its time after years of them moaning that events were progressing too slowly).

Even off-island the Oceanic Six are miserable and drinking what looks like posh vodka with their cornflakes and orange juice. It's not the first time she's complained about the tone of the show. Her particular beef is that Lost is depressing and offers no relief from this atmosphere of misery, and perhaps she has a point, but complaining about the characters leaving the island and still being depressed and having miserable lives misses the point.

Yes, they get off the island and still have problems, but then the story isn't over when they leave. They haven't had closure yet. When the series is over, and whatever is drawing the Oceanic Six back to the island is resolved, then they might get some peace. To make things worse, she claims to have a plan to save the show (save your energy, it's doing fine), and just to prove she hasn't been paying attention, complains that the helicopter doesn't land on the island. You mean the helicopter that is being buffeted in mid-air and won't even try to land because the last copter that flew over the island crashed?

Does she not remember the entire episode that revolved around that crash? Or Creepy Ethan Rom's comment to Juliet that the trip to the island is "bumpy"? Of course not, because as with all of the doubters, she's confused the show with Heroes, another long-form nerd favourite, and assumed no one is paying attention to these details. If she gave the show enough credit she would realise that whereas Lost takes care to avoid narrative errors, Heroes is riddled with mistakes. To those of us paying attention, Lost isn't perfect, but it tries hard enough to more than earn our patience and trust. So yet another critic misses the point of the show. (Man, I've got to stop criticising the critics, or I'm going to end up sounding like Sexman.)

In conclusion, yay Michael Giacchino!

Reason 5: Awesome acting

The episode totally belonged to Jorge Garcia. His happy moments with Bernard were endearing, which is what he is reliably good at, but his ever-darkening demeanour through the rest of the episode worked brilliantly.

Desolated by the death of his friend (and begging to be committed in the flash-forwards), he was enormously convincing, and by the time we got to his decision to leave with Locke, he was firing on all cylinders. When the show started, who knew he would be able to pull a performance like this off? And yet here he is, carrying an unusually emotional (for Lost) season opener, which is usually the province of Matthew Fox.

That said, Foxy managed to get a lot of flash-forward time as well, but his finest moment was when Locke appeared and got a fist in the teeth for his troubles. As Jeff Jensen said in his episode review, it's a bit much that Jack would try to kill Locke in front of everyone, even if he was really attached to Naomi (which he wasn't, as far as I could tell), but he did a great job of expressing that frustration with Locke, and looked totally homicidal in this shot.

He looks like a proper bad ass there, though he should be glad Locke only used a knife on Naomi. The last two times he sabotaged their departure from the island, he used C4. He's mellowing, perhaps.

ETA: In all my talk of the acting on this show, I realised I have said nothing about Naveen Andrews. I love Sayid! He doesn't get enough to do. Here he is looking very sad as Hurley tells Claire about Charlie's sacrifice.

He has pain on his face. It is similar to the pain I suffer seeing this fascinating character given so little to do. Hopefully he is one of the Oceanic Six, so we can get to see him do stuff off-island. It's not like he's going to get any more flashbacks.

Reason 4: The quirky mystery

Not much in the way of esoteric phenomena this week, although the question of how much of all this is happening in Hurley's head looms large. Is it a manipulation of his vision, or is it a ghost? Whatever is happening there, it scared the hell out of us. It's not just that Christian Shephard is chillaxing in Jacob's shack, or that someone with a creepy eye is in there too; it's the incredible and unearthly mobility of the shack itself.

When Hurley ran away from the shack and it reappeared in front of him, I had a little freak-out inside my brain. It's bad enough that the island has a haunted house on it, but you can't get away from it? ::covers eyes::

Reason 3: The WTF moments

Biggest Holy Shit! moment of the night had to be the reappearance of Charlie. Even though his face had been spotted in the season premiere trailers, thus lessening the impact of seeing him again, having Charlie take the place of Dave in Hurley's head was still a masterstroke.

Looking pretty good now that he's had a haircut and a proper wash, Charlie acted as a figment of Hurley's imagination, or a ghost, or an emissary from the island. Even though he could be wished away, it's obvious that Hurley is never going to get any rest until he resolves some unfinished business. What pleased me most about this how much it resembled a stock Stephen King plot; the reunion of people united by adversity early in life.

Though the show has an obvious debt to The Stand, it also now feels like a homage to It and Dreamcatcher (the book, not the wonderfully bad film). When an alarmingly well scrubbed-up Jack visits the institution (see above for the surprising change in appearance, possibly due to losing weight as a result of doing stunts in a leather jumpsuit for Speed Racer), Hurley says that "It" wants them back on the island, which makes Jack leave in disgust. Referring to the force compelling Hurley (and later, Jack) in that way is probably nothing more than a way to avoid revealing something important at too early a stage, but it's the same kind of narrative device that King used in those books. I was very pleased by this, even if it wasn't intentional (though I'll bet it was, what with the showrunners being such big King fans).

Reason 2: The fanbase

Not much to say here, other than it was business as usual. In both the US and the UK a lot of the reaction on the internet from the non-fans has been predictably sour, but AICN and the AV Club were enthusiastic, with talkbacks that grew in length at a massive rate. Jeff Jensen was in fine fettle as well. ::sigh:: It was just like old times.

Reason 1: Locke and Linus

Locke was markedly subdued this episode, even though he managed to rally a number of survivors into following him to the Barracks, quite an achievement considering most of the castaways looked disgusted at him for being a big knife-throwing ass. Ben, on the other hand, was on great form, panicking over the fate of Alex, and gloating over Jack's gullibility in the face of Kate's deceptions.

Best of all was his oleaginous request to be allowed to go to the Barracks with Locke. Was this because he actually fears Jack now? Or the rescuers? Or was it yet another ploy to undermine Jack's hold over the survivors? Whatever his reasoning, it was a hilarious moment. I will say this, though. With Locke getting smacked down by Jack and Ben being knocked about by Danielle for daring to care for her daughter, my boys sure are suffering at the hands of their fellow islanders.

Though Locke will probably return to that state after a short period of saviour-like prestige and power, Ben's retribution will most likely be terrible to behold. Once back at the Barracks, who knows what he will do.

This week! Rescuers! Possibly more quality Abaddon time! Brian K. Vaughan and Drew Goddard script! Jeff Fahey as Frank Lapidus (which, according to Wikipedia, is a Jewish family name meaning "torches" or "candles")! Ken Leung! Herc from AICN has seen it and reckons the fans will go crazy over it. Needless to say, I can't wait.

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