Thursday, 21 February 2008

Lost: The Economist

It's Lost day!!! And how cool is this? As if by magic, my complaining on behalf of angry Naveen Andrews paid off (several months ago, when the episode was filmed), with last week's The Economist representing the best Sayid-centric episode yet. Maintaining the outrageously high quality of this season, we saw Sayid as ruthless killer and hapless romantic who is liable to fall in love with his mark to such an extent he will even improbably cover her boobs in a considerate post-coital move prior to getting into a gunfight with her.

So, he's another one of the Oceanic Six, which pretty much ruins my theory that they are the ones who have been visited by visions on the island. As far as I can remember, Sayid has not seen anything weird, so perhaps the chosen ones are selected by a more mundane process than being picked out by a sentient land-mass. I will say this, though; he certainly scrubbed up well.

In another internet venue Diane Court made an interesting point. Post-island, our heroes are becoming the things they least wanted to be. Hurley is institutionalised again, Jack is a drunk loser just like his dad, Sayid is forced to use his considerable skills as a killer to fulfil the wishes of his new boss, Ben Linus. As I've said before, Lost is a sci-fi show about the psyche, and it seems like the Oceanic Six left the island before their therapy was over. Could the island / psychiatrist's-couch-with-trees-on-it have influenced their lives once they left? Is it that sentient, that powerful, that mean-spirited? His first scene, facing off against a terrified Mr. Avellino, was one of the most shocking Lost moments yet. Note the sprinklers; rain often accompanies important moments in Lost, and this artificial rainfall makes up for what would have been a narratively inconsistent appearance of water at this point (why play golf during a rainstorm?).

However it happened, it's an immensely satisfying twist, and this week Sayid got to be James Bond (as pointed out by Doc Arzt and Jeff Jensen), travelling to the Seychelles and Berlin (i.e. Hawaii and Hawaii respectively), wearing tuxes, having very nicely styled hair (seriously, it was distracting), and getting to ice people with extreme prejudice followed by Casino-Royale style remorse. I complained that Sayid was not getting enough to do, but that's been resoundingly dealt with. So far, his is the most intriguing and shocking post-island story yet.

As this week was directed by Jack Bender (with 300 and Watchmen DoP Larry Fong on photography for the first time since the first season), the episode had a markedly different look. Whereas last week featured enigmatic medium shots, glowing vistas and unusual lighting choices, this week was all about the close-up. While going through the episode to select screen-caps, I realised almost every shot was filled with pretty faces, usually in a state of some misery. When we weren't seeing faces, we were getting close-ups of objects or parts of the body, often in a really tight focus. It was a striking visual template.

Considering the theme of this episode seemed to be honesty and deceit, it made sense to focus on faces and eyes, both of which were open and/or closed throughout. The most honest moment of the episode came when Sawyer painfully explained his feelings to Kate, who responded weakly and delayed her answer, while in the background we saw masks in ironic counterpoint to Sawyer's openness. She has yet to lower her guard, even though he has finally shown who he really is (she even calls him James throughout the scene). Or maybe it's because she still doesn't know who to choose.

There was far more deceit than honesty. Most obviously Sayid lied to Elsa, who lied to Sayid, and Hurley lied to Sayid and Kate and Miles. At the landing site, twitchy scientist Faraday kept his theories about the island really close to his chest, making sure to avoid speaking to the mysterious Minkowski. Hell, even Jacob's shack lied to Locke by not being around where he thought it would be, and most amazingly the island deceived time itself with the mind-blowing 31 minute delay thing.

For the first time the episode opened on closed eyes as Sayid prayed, before respectfully closing Naomi's eyes, which was echoed in his flashforward as he closed Elsa's eyes after shooting her. Of course, this was also ironic. If Sayid is really the badass he needs to be to protect the island, he should be more observant, as Elsa totally played him and used his weaknesses (any woman who pays him even the slightest bit of attention) against him.

That said, the close-up style didn't run through the entire episode. At the end Sayid and Desmond took a ride with Frank Lapidus, with Michael Giacchino's stunning music in full effect, and we got to see vistas of the island from the air. It's not the first time we've seen it from a higher viewpoint; the shots at the start of season three come to mind.

However, this is the first time any of the characters have, and having the majority of The Economist shot from eye-level in such close up made those first airborne wide shots all the more impressive. And moving. Even though we were heading towards the big shock reveal at the end, with Sayid broken and Ben back to full evil power, it was still a glorious moment (and yes, I did choke up).

It's not the only moment that made me get all teary. The aforementioned Sawyer/Kate scene made my bottom lip quiver all over the place. For the first time I saw the power of the flashforwards, as Sawyer's plea is shown to be futile. Kate will leave the island, and there is the distinct possibility that he will not make it off. Internet rumours of an imminent death have got me a-scared. His character is rendered somewhat defunct now that he has killed Original Flavour Sawyer, not to mention him being usurped as King Bitch of the island with the introduction of Miles who, as Hurley memorably pointed out, is another Sawyer. To make things worse, Josh Holloway's performance in that scene was heart-rending. Sawyer looks like he's reaching the end of his tether. ::sniff::

The irony is that if he does get written out, the role that many thought was his, i.e. Gambit in the Wolverine movie, has gone to FNL's Taylor Kitsch, which is not as perfect as getting Holloway to do it, but is still pretty great. If you like Gambit, that is. I think he's a Cajun douche with freaky eyes, but the casting is still spot on.

Back at the landing site, poor Jack had to contend with the news that his decision to send Kate to the Barracks had led to her staying behind with Sawyer. To be honest, I was unsure if she had stayed because of Sawyer or Sayid just couldn't be bothered to let Jack know she was being held captive. I'll have to double-check that one. Whatever the outcome, his reaction was one of intense sadness and disappointment.

It's taken me a long time to emotionally connect with the love triangle / quadrangle, but by the end of last season, with Sawyer depressed and Jack practically having a nervous breakdown, it all suddenly made sense. I was rooting for Sawyer to keep the relationship going with her, but torn over Jack, who was obviously hurt by the whole thing (the men on this show sure are sappy romantic fools). At the same time I was worried about Kate and how her jealousy towards Juliet would manifest. What had once seemed so dreary suddenly vibrated with emotional power.

Canyon feels differently, partially because she is totally siding with Sawyer (not helped by her antipathy towards Jack), and yet also disgusted by Kate's grimy clothes. She reckons there is some serious stink coming off her, as expressed in cries of, "Have a shower! You sicken me!" whenever she appears onscreen. Canyon is not squeamish about hygiene, I hasten to add, but she's right. There is a terrible sheen of ick on Kate right now.

All the scenes set in the Barracks were great. Sayid finding Ben's hidden cache was a terrific moment, proving once and for all that our dangerous hero is the islander with the most common sense. Many people have noticed that the £20 notes were out of date by a few years (having been phased out in 2001), but it's apt as the face on it is that of electromagnetism guru Michael Faraday.

I thought there was something significant about those notes but couldn't put my finger on it. However, I forgot all that when the next shot showed Sayid rifling through Ben's passports, which made me think that if he is meant to be on a James Bond kick, Ben is more like Jason Bourne, with his awesome stash of travel documents and world currency.

Considering the amount of punches he has taken this season, I don't think he's going to be killing anyone with books and towels any time soon. Canyon was getting anxious about how bloodied his face was. EW recounts his beatings, but misses out the time Jack nicked his kidney during surgery and almost let him bleed out. Thank the island for being all supernaturally healy and stuff. Without that he would not have made it this far. Thankfully he looks fine in the future, if rather Dr.-Christian-Szell-like.

Ben had a couple of my favourite moments this episode. When Sawyer discusses shooting Ben's toes off Locke elegantly smacks him down, but the best thing about the scene is that even with his face bloodied and bruised, Michael Emerson can still project Ben's amusement over Saywer's humiliation.

Later on Ben is held in the rec room / barracks brig, and I loved his "I'm thirsty!" line. It was perfectly delivered, as if he is the kid who no one likes but keeps hanging around trying to attract attention with pointed comments loaded with obnoxious confidence.

It begs the question why would he have Sayid try to protect the castaways left behind, which I strongly believe is what is going to happen (I doubt he's protecting the Oceanic Six). The castaways have treated him about as badly as a human can be treated and not be dead. I doubt I would want to save them. I guess Ben needs Sayid's help to protect the island by killing the people on his list, and is merely using Sayid's empathy as a lever to make him do his bidding against his will. He may have been killing people with his ankles last season, but the sudden bout of praying and his treatment of Naomi's corpse suggest he is trying to atone. Unfortunately he has been pushed into a corner upon leaving the island, and that has put the kibosh on that plan. Oh Ben, what a glorious bastard genius you are.

Enough about that. Other things about this episode that occurred to me: Frank, Jack and Daniel seemed awfully relaxed considering an enormous missile was heading towards them at an absurd speed. I would have hidden behind the volcano at the very least.

Much as I thought this was an incredible installment of the best show on TV, there was one thing that happened that really got me down. That old chestnut, the bullet to the shoulder. I've railed against it happening in other shows, and though I'm tempted to not mention it just because I love Lost so much, it's unfair to Torchwood and Terminator: TSCC and a million other shows to act like nothing happened. I can see why Elsa would wound Sayid, so that she could contact the Economist and be sure of her mission before plugging him, and it's not like he was running around at the end as if nothing had happened, but still, it irked. TV characters who get into gunfights should wear metal shoulderpads or something, because apparently clavicles attract lead.

Almost as bad as that, in the restaurant scene, why did Sayid ask for an "expresso"? Another of my personal bugbears!

Is the barrier that has failed to keep Jacob's shack in check made out of Bisto gravy granules?

I love that the iconic swing set got mentioned by Miles as they arrived at the Barracks. It's been the site of many significant Lost moments. That said, why didn't his ghost-whispering go into overdrive? Enough people died there during the Purge. Surely there would have been some ghosts, or were the Dharma chaps not interested in hanging around to avenge their brutal murders?

Doc Arzt saw a preview tape of this episode, and apparently there was a deleted scene showing the trio arriving at the sonic barrier. A pretty significant scene, especially as Miles could somehow tell that the fence was off. It seems from that transcript as if he could hear it, which seems apt as Faraday was able to see a difference in the light of the island, and the new arrivals might represent different senses (which means CS Lewis, Frank and Naomi would have to represent taste, touch and smell, and I don't want to know how those would manifest, thank you very much).

That said, it could also be Miles using his psychic power to get guidance from a victim of the fence, perhaps even Mikhail, although he didn't die (or his other world parallel self did, or something). Or maybe the fence kills by firing ghosts at people's heads! You could sit and ponder this for days, which is why I'm so surprised that this scene was cut out. Surely there was something else that could have been left out. Maybe about fifteen of the shots of Sayid's lovely glossy post-island hair.

Locke is looking old lately. This is not really significant. I just thought he has looked odd this season. His neck freaked me out. It's like he aged four years between seasons.

Oh, hello Desmond and Juliet! I almost forgot you existed. Luckily we have flashback episodes for them soon, which is a relief as I had thought they were about to go the way of Mr. Eko and Ana-Lucia. Though that could still happen. ::sulks::

I love that Jack and Frank are bonding. Jeff Fahey is playing Lapidus as a genial laid-back character straight out of a Stephen King novel, and I love it. I think he might be my favourite new character, though my opinion changes from scene to scene (no Lance "Intensity" Reddick to freak me out this week, sadly).

Is it R.G. or R.C. on the bracelet? No one seems to be sure. Perhaps the recent podcast cleared it up. I'll listen to that at some point. (What kind of a Lost fan am I?) It blew one of my pet theories out of the water. Elsa was so obsessed with her beeper that I thought her evil boss was actually Dennis "Beeper King" Duffy from 30 Rock.

One of the things that was brought up during the after-episode speculation was that The Economist is also the name of a UK magazine about money that is written by anonymous hacks working as a collective, which was kind of apt. However, I take the magazine for granted to such an extent that I couldn't imagine it having any significance in the context of the show, but a Google images search uncovered this.

Eggtown in a few hours! Rumour has it it has a "killer" finale. Not Sawyer! Anyone but Sawyer! Waaaauuugh!


Canyon said...

You are the Larry King of Lost with the random comments.

"Sawyer! I like him beardy. The long hair is good too.

Ben looks like he enjoys a nice crispy cookie.

Aren't islands green and pretty?

Locke has got a nice rack these days, though I don't enjoy his wattle anymore. Do something about it, man!"

I hope Sawyer doesn't die tonight. ::clings::

johnilf said...

DO you think Locke is becoming Ben? He is very protective of the island and the group he is leading and also doesn't want to be found... just like Ben.. i'm sure there are other parallels that can be drawn but i'm still buzzing from sunday's episode.
Bring it on!

Admiral Neck said...

You're onto something there, especially now it seems like Ben might have gone on about the rescuers being deadly just to save his own ass and not because he wants to save the island, though that might not be the case. Who knows what the hell Ben is thinking behind those scary eyes?

Previews of the next episode show Locke having a flame-out in a corridor that looks suspiciously like the one that housed Room 23, but how could that be? Isn't that on Polar Bear Cage Island? Blurg.

You are the Larry King of Lost with the random comments.

That Eartha Kitt's got a shape to her.

sjwoo said...

Spoiler alert if you haven't seen tonight's episode...


Has there been another episode where the final spoken word has held as much "ooooomph" factor? Man! This show is just unstoppable right now. I mean it's beyond great. I sure as hell hope they're working double and triple overtime to make as many episodes as possible.

johnilf said...

I love your enthusiasm Addy!! What i enjoy most about lost is sitting there and watching it unfold, whereas Caroline is getting very impatient with it i love the patience, the writing this season is knocking the other three seasons out of the ballpark... i'm just loving it, i hope Locke doesn't become super evil though i would become super gutted. Oh, speaking of Eartha Kitt...