Thursday, 15 May 2008

Lost - Cabin Fever

It's hard out here for a Lost fan. For a start, we don't really have a name, like Star Trek fans are called Trekkers, X-Files fans are confusingly known as X-Philes, and Babylon 5 fans are called Babies. I think. Are we called Losties? It's not much of a tag, and it's already used to describe a lot of the characters on the show. I think we should be called Searchers For Truth, or Crusaders of Quality, because when this show is on form, it's better than everything else in the history of the cosmos.

Which brings me to my point. Last week I bitched about the Jack-centric episode Something Nice Back Home, saying it didn't really hold my attention. It felt like the kind of piece-moving episode needed every now and then before the real fireworks kick off, and though these episodes don't have much in the way of spectacle, they often have their incidental pleasures (Foxy's performance, Cort Fey's gorgeous photography).

I've also had a pop at Locke this season, finding many of his actions scarcely believable. He's my favourite of the original characters, but had started to irk since killing Naomi, an act I'm still not certain was a good move to make by the showrunners, though my traditional faith in their vision means I'm still waiting to pass final judgement on it.

This episode may have partially addressed that act, and that's one of the reasons I'm in such an apologetic mood. If Something Nice Back Home was a bit underwhelming, Cabin Fever was incredible, so filled with revelation, shock, humour, and obfuscation that my head spun throughout. I'll sit through any number of set-up episodes if they give the showrunners room to make something as entertaining and thought-provoking as this every so often.

One of the things I liked most about it was that it fulfilled my prediction that writer Elizabeth Sarnoff would bounce back from the disappointment of Eggtown. The script sparkled this week, which I attribute not just to her but to new writer Kyle Pennington, who has an almost totally empty IMDb page but has something now to point at and be proud of. Perhaps the dialogue was occasionally a little too light, but I still laughed when Hurley woke with the word, "Mallomars", and especially when Ben, Locke and Hurley realised they had been following each other in circles for a day, which was also a funny way of addressing the timeline issue, that a day/episode has passed but we didn't get to see them do anything last week.

I don't even know what my favourite moment was. Was it Locke digging around in the Dharma grave for a map?

Or Ben sitting on the edge of it like a kid dipping his feet in a swimming pool?

A lot of AICN talkbackers seem to agree that their best moment together was probably Hurley sharing an Apollo bar with Ben, proving that Hurley is capable of treating anyone with respect even after finding out they were involved in a mass murder. I love Hurley.

Maybe it was the dream featuring Horace Goodspeed, showing up to finally give some advice to poor Locke, much needed after a season of frustrating inactivity.

I love how the nature of the dream echoed some of the theories about the show, that they are all dead and in hell (chopping down the same tree for all eternity certainly qualifies), that they are stuck in a time-loop, that no one can die on the island, etc. It was a terrific, creepy moment, and great to see Doug "Tombs the Stretchy Man" Hutchinson back again. Cuselof had promised he would return, as he is a crucial character, but where's his wife Olivia? Did she somehow survive The Purge?

Though even that moment was treated lightly, there was plenty of drama and intrigue. The most perplexing events of the episode were Richard Alpert's appearances throughout Locke's life, signalling that just as he had suspected, Locke really was meant for greater things. Weirdest of all was the Dalai Lama test, with Alpert turning up at one of Locke's foster homes with a group of objects, asking the young boy which of them already belonged to him.

If my understanding of the Dalai Lama is correct, the next Lama candidate will know which objects are his as he has some memory of his previous life. So are we adding reincarnation to the list of theories? The fact that he already knows about the smoke monster tends to suggest he has somehow experienced life on the island before.

However, Alpert's line about the objects already belonging to Locke might have been a consequence of him time-travelling. If you're able to hop back and forth through time, you're going to think of time not as a line, but in the same way Doctor Manhattan does in Watchmen, as a crystal that can be observed as a whole from a position of omnipotence outside it. It's the same ability I suggested Ben had in The Shape Of Things To Come, and links to the Sirens of Titan theory I went on about there. Perhaps Alpert expects Locke to see time in the same way, and is asking him about the objects that will belong to him in what we mere mortals would think of as the future.

Even more intriguing, Locke gets it wrong and picks a knife, which many have taken to mean Locke decided to stupidly pick something he wanted and not something he was meant to have, which certainly ties into his continual avoidance of his destiny. It makes sense, but it could also have something to do with the future that he sees (hence the picture of Smokey), which is somehow different from the one Alpert expects to happen. The picture of Smokey, the vial of sand (which is either normal beach sand, or the powder found surrounding Jacob's shack), and the compass, tend to suggest they belong to someone who not only will turn up on the island but will be a leader and protector. However, it has to be a passive protector; someone who will take up arms against his enemies is not the right man. Perhaps the comic was the right choice, as it features enough comments about a lost world on the cover to be pretty significant.

So why does he pick wrongly, causing Alpert to have a little tantrum? Is it just his childhood sadness and wish to fight back against his circumstances? Or is it because his future is being manipulated by time agents trying to stop him coming to the island, or to come to the island and do something different than they had thought? It certainly seems like Abaddon is providing different ideas about Locke and the way of the knife, which might account for why he kills Naomi, which seems so out of character for him. Maybe he then chooses the knife because his future has been altered. Wouldn't it be great if it turns out Locke makes bad choices as a child because his future has been altered, thus throwing his entire timeline out of whack, leaving him vulnerable to manipulation by Abaddon. Perhaps he was always meant to go to the island as a child, but a change in the future influences him in the past, creating a need to choose the knife instead of another artifact, thus making him ineligible for messiah status?

::brain melts:: Of course, that is assuming Abaddon is evil and Alpert isn't. I only say that because even though Alpert seemed to be heavily involved in The Purge before, now that's been thrown into doubt by his actions in this episode. Maybe now he can be seen to be more of a pacifist, or at least concerned about bringing to the island a saviour who might end up with blood on his hands (too late, as he has already killed Naomi and several chickens and rabbits). Remember Ben's efforts to get Locke to kill his father? Now I wonder if he was trying to taint this potential messiah, only to be thwarted by Alpert, who showed Locke that Sawyer's life was also ruined by Anthony Cooper, thus giving Locke a way to off his father without having to do it himself. So why is Locke still in the island's good graces? Is even Alpert ignorant of the island's wishes?

The Sirens of Titan theory keeps coming to mind when watching these mythos-expanding episodes, and makes me wonder how much of Locke's life has been shaped in this way. It seems to have happened at birth, with his mother Emily being hit by a car. By now she's about the billionth person hit by a car (though not by the mysterious Golden Pontiac, due to it being the ancient past), and it's becoming clear these things aren't accidents. The future is being shaped, either by testing the unborn baby's ability to survive adversity (which tends to suggest Emily was knocked over by someone working for Alpert), or by someone trying to kill her and her baby (which means... something. It's hard to draw lines when you don't know who the good guys and bad guys are).

For all we know, Locke was pushed into a locker (surely the only place to store a Locke) by some time agent trying to ruin his life, making him hate himself and being a nerd, thus convincing him to shun the interest of Mittelos Biosciences, the big stupid fool. I have to say, the scene where his teacher ineptly tries to convince him that he is destined to be a nerd forever rang very true. I know I hated being a booky loser when I was young, and wished I was anything but. Thank Jacob for becoming older and wiser, and embracing my nerdiness. Now where's my Mittelos flyer?

Of course, Locke was also visited by Matthew Abaddon, played with muted intensity by Lance "Muted Intensity" Reddick, who managed to plant the seed that got Locke to the island. I think if I met Lance Reddick and he told me to go on a walkabout, I would with a quickness. That is one intense motherfucker, even when said intensity is muted.

But what is this? Okay, so he is pretending to be an orderly in order to get close to our hero, but his sneakers caught my eye, especially as Christian is seen later in hiking boots.

Which brings me nicely to the other crazy moment toward the end of the episode. The only other scene that really rivalled the Abaddon/Alpert time-moulding peculiarity was Locke's chat with Christian, now acting as a proxy for Jacob. Was this because it was important that Locke meet Christian instead of Jacob? Or is it because the actor who is Jacob is currently unavailable and this was a workaround?

Surprising as it was to see Christian without his trademark sneakers (and dressing like Locke, which is surely significant), even more amazing is Claire's appearance. Not that she's in the shack (and apparently "with him", which tends to suggest she really did die in the attack on the Barracks), but that she's smiling.

I don't think she's ever looked so relaxed on this show. It suits her. I will add here that the episode is directed by Paul Edwards, whose previous experience on Lost was helming Par Avion, the episode where Claire met her father for the first time. And now she's (probably) dead and hanging out with him in the Not-Love Shack. It's nicely symmetrical.

Of course, this led to possibly the best final line in the history of the show, as Locke reveals Christian has told him to move the island. There was a thundering cry of, "WTF?" in our house as the Lost logo came up at the end. While many are wondering if the island is going to be moved in time instead of in space, I'm thinking both will apply, and (bear with me on this), we've already seen past and future islands co-existing at the same time. Remember the prison island from the first six episodes of season three, and how Cuselof said those episodes were very important? I think they were a set up for this, and that all the characters were hopping back and forth from the present island to one from the future that had been sent back in time. For all we know, Room 23, the bear cages, the medical complex, and the Others camp (with hastily constructed runway) are just on the other side of the island from the beach (though nowhere near where the Tailies crashed), and those locations on the island from the future were being used by the Others as a base camp for some mysterious reason. If this is the case, I take my hat off to them all. If not, then I take my hat off to myself, because if that isn't the case, it damn well should be.

It wasn't all Locke-stuff this week. We got to see a couple of seconds of Jack and Juliet together, chatting about the hole in Jack's side, while he improbably ate some Dharma-cereal. Surely he should be nil-by-mouth for a while. I know the island tends to cure people, but this is ridiculous. Of course Jack manages to out-stupid even that decision, when the helicopter arrives bringing death, evil, Lawnmower men, and a bag with a time-travelling Sat phone in it. Yes, he thinks he should follow the helicopter, and we can only hope he has figured out that if he's going to do that, he should at least bring every gun possible. Still, in the midst of that daftness, I did like the shot of the beach-dwellers looking out over the ocean, barely visible in the moonlight, a single dot in the distance.

Compare that to the shot of Ben, Hurley and Locke facing Jacob's shack. Similar shot, but whereas the helicopter brings doom, the shack brings hope. For now at least, Locke's "group" has the upper hand.

Usually when writing these posts I like to talk about the visual theme of the episode, but this week I didn't get a sense of one. Perhaps it has a lot to with with how much was going on this week. It moved at such a pace that it seems like about two episodes had been condensed into one, which is probable considering the way the season has been sadly truncated. All we were left with, instead of a cohesive visual thread, was lots of pretty shots. I particularly liked this scary shot of Locke at the top of a flight of stairs.

What's great about this is that we have no idea what Abaddon's motive is, but we're getting a very strong hint (in that Locke is terrified of falling, and Abaddon seems not to be worried about it) that he's not connected to Alpert, who might have had a strop earlier but is nowhere near as ominous as Abaddon, with his talk of a Walkabout miracle changing him (which tends to suggest that, as Hurley said during their game of Risk, that Australia really is the key to everything), and how Locke will owe him a favour. Actually, Alpert did have one scary moment. Empty window...

...and scary window ZOMG!

I have no idea why this composition works so well, but it gave me the fear. Well done, Paul Edwards and cinematographer John Bartley. Another shot I really liked came when Omar received the morse code message from Faraday asking about the Doc, and in the background we see the man who is dead and not yet dead.

And yes, it bent my head out of shape. This week Keamy went apeshit, and the result was pure terror. The man is obviously a total maniac, threatening his captain (who doesn't seem in much of a mood to resist at first)...

...smacking him around (which at least spurs Gault into helping Sayid and Desmond out)...

...killing the Doc in order to crush Frank's rebellion...

...and then killing Gault after he tries to save the day.

Best thing about that? Keamy kills the Doc (and apologises, which was blackly funny), and then tells Frank he will kill someone every thirty seconds if he doesn't get in the helicopter. Gault turns up firing off warning shots in order to stop Keamy, but it doesn't change anything. Keamy gets a chance to take a shot, and kills the captain. Time elapsed between deaths: thirty-two seconds (I timed it). Coincidence? The man is a horrible psychopath, but a methodical one (and possibly also able to predict the future, even if it is unconsciously). My heart bleeds for lovely Frank, who may have gotten involved in something he has no hope of resolving happily.

Sayid wasn't around much this week, but even with not much screentime this most hectic of episodes found plenty of time to use him to maximum effect. First time we see him he's like the Angel of Death. If I was Desmond and got woken up by this fearsome sight I would have pooped my pants and started crying for Penny to come hold me.

But then, you want a badass on your side, and it amused me no end to see tiny Sayid holding his own against Keamy, who towers over him. Sayid's deadly ankles are more than a match for some guy who practises his shooting skills on clay pigeons.

He was also seen speeding from the Kahana, curly hair blowing in the ocean wind as he powers towards the island to save everyone single-handed. What a hero!

That said, I did think it amusing that Sayid suffered massive guilt pangs about outing Michael as Ben's mole, what with Keamy on the rampage. In an episode where Sayid came off pretty well, this was a bit of a low point for him. I'd suggest anger management classes, but I think it's too late for the guy.

Right, late as usual doing this. Tonight, we get the first part of the three part finale, and hopefully we'll get a few answers to some questions. Where is Frank going with Michael?

It's fair to say Keamy's device is connected to his heart, and is thus a way of ensuring his survival, but what else is it connected to? Is it like the nuke attached to Dmitri Ravinoff's brain in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash?

Will Desmond stop being so soppy over his chat with Penny and do something now that the Kahana is littered with dead bodies?

Will Locke's slow bonding with Ben fall apart when he realises he has been played again (because really, who is buying his lost prophet story)?

Seriously, I'm not buying it.

1 comment:

sjwoo said...

This isn't much of a spoiler if you haven't seen Thursday's ep yet (the fact that Michelle Forbes is in the show), but I thought it was absolutely hilarious. From the Onion comments section for the episode:

by Salmon Says

Hey, it occurs to me that Michelle Forbes was the Oceanic rep right? She also played Ensign Ro on Star Trek TNG. Since alot of the action plays out on a the ship and traditionally, one 'rows' a boat, I think we may have another example of potentially mind blowing coincidence! Ro/row?Never mind that the Enterprise was also a ship!! and Picard was blad just like Locke!!!

10:26 AM Fri May 16, 2008


RE: Forbes
by cloaca surgery

Locke = Picard (bald)
Jack = Riker
Sawyer = Q - godlike power
Sayid = Geordi (fixes things)
Michael = Worf (not because he's black, because he has a rocky relationship with his son and is kind of a jerk)
Hurley = Data (comic relief)
Juliet = Dr. Crusher
Ben = Guinan
Others = Borg

12:48 PM Fri May 16, 2008


RE: Forbes
by scotteb

WAAAAALLLLT!=Wesley Crusher (Boy wonders)
Kate=Deanna Troi (Both there mainly as eye candy)
Jin and Sun=Miles O'Brian and Keiko (Only married couple)
Rose=Guinan (As above not because she's black, but more because she's the one who gives out advice to people)
And Ben=Q. Also, Locke is not Picard, Picard is competent at his job. I'd go with Jack as Picard and Sawyer as Riker. Locke is more like Barclay, the guy they'd bring in to screw things up for an episode.

I like this game.

1:36 PM Fri May 16, 2008