Thursday, 3 July 2008

Lost - There's No Place Like Home (1)

I'm nothing if not sensitive to the requests of this blog's regular visitors, so when blogger The Judge (aka glitternova) told me how much she loves Lost and thinks I could stand to talk more about how great Lost is, and basically just never ever shut up about it and post about it, like, every day, I realised I should hurry the hell up and get cracking on my long-delayed post about the excellent three part finale, There's No Place Like Home.

Why the delay? Other than the usual life-stuff (and the rigmarole of getting screen grabs from over two hours of intense action and mind-bending weirdness), it's hard to know where to begin with it, partially because it was so complex and dramatic (obviously), and partially because it aired about a month ago and everyone in the world has moved on. Then it struck me. Why not make this season of Lost-blogging circular, and go back to my ten reasons list, and see how it matches up to the spectacular finale. Turns out, with its focus on action and emotional drama, the show was less about the usual sci-fi weirdness (though it still featured it) and more on wrapping up the Oceanic Six backstory and getting some killin' action going on. That's more than fine by me, but I do have one strong reservation about the show now (say it ain't so!), and I'll get to that eventually. For now, let's do this list.

Reason 10: Awesome Character Actors

With a lot of story to get through, the finale wasn't the place for extraneous characters, and so the only new actor to add to the rollcall of cool guest spots was the always welcome Michelle Forbes, playing an Oceanic representative shepherding our saved heroes to a press conference in Hawaii.

I've been a fan since she played the fascinating Ensign Ro in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so I was psyched to see her here, but sadly she wasn't in it for long. TV can make it up to me by changing its mind and finally going ahead with Global Frequency, damn it. Other than her, it was good to see Cheech Marin return (again doing a solid for his old Nash Bridges boss Carlton Cuse), this time being used as a symbiotic host for Donald Trump's hair.

Another welcome return came from L. Scott Caldwell. Rose has been regrettably missing for almost all of this season, and while it's great to see Sam Anderson's Bernard getting more to do, we've missed her snark, here aimed right at obnoxious Miles after catching him snacking on Dharma nuts.

Another return, though this time not as welcome, as Andrea Gabriel as Nadia. Not because I don't like her, but just because it was horrible seeing her reunited with Sayid, knowing that they were not going to get to spend their lives together. Her appearance was practically a cameo, and not for the first time. If the fifth season is going to show more of the Oceanic Six's post-island life, perhaps she'll be back, but I doubt it, somehow.

However, if the finale belonged to any single guest actor, it has to be Kevin Durand, playing the supremely evil Keamy. From his first oily appearance to his brutal demise, he has been an unnerving presence, and by appearing to be an unstoppable enforcer of doom, he sealed his future place as a Lost fan-fave.

It's always fun to see an actor who, while having a large and interesting resume, has yet to make big waves in the popular consciousness, finally turn up in a hugely successul network show and make such an impression that viewers will hopefully remember him from then on, and his performance here, with his increasing paranoia and escalating hostility, was truly memorable. He really took the role and ran with it. It helps that before now the villainy in the show has been of the cerebral, duplicitous kind, so to have someone come along with such a menacing physical presence was a real change. This was best shown in this Bourne-esque fight scene, one of many highlights, during which Keamy gets battered and stabbed, beats Sayid anyway (!!!), gets shot by Richard Alpert, and then somehow still has the strength to make it to the Orchid station to terrorise Ben.

Keamy, even though I hated you, I'll miss you, you evil bastard.

Reason 9: Beautiful Hawaii

With Lost A-directors Stephen Williams and Jack Bender on the case, shots of humbling grandeur were littered throughout the three-parter. The only thing that could ruin this shot was the awful knowledge that those on the raft were heading for a worse fate than being stuck on an island.

These other shots are just pretty ones. No special reasons for choosing them.

Blurg! I have got to go to Oahu. Of course, it's not all natural beauty. The show still features some of the most eyeball-gratifying compositions on TV.

Not to mention some great set design...

...and "bigness", I guess you could call it.

It so rarely feels like a TV show anyway, as it is so large in scope, but with 132 minutes of finale to watch, it was like the best sequel to a really long movie ever. With so little time to shoot, edit, and score, it's even more impressive than usual that it looks so great. It's shallow, but I don't see how it's possible not to respond to the look of the show.

Reason 8: Echoes

There was some repetition of themes from previous episodes throughout the finale, though not as many as there were during last season's finale, Through The Looking Glass. That really felt like the full-circle conclusion of everything that had come before it, while this was perhaps a little less satisfying in that respect. That's not to say I didn't love it; I think we screamed and cried all the way through it. It just didn't feel as rounded, but then we are talking about a cast and crew racing to get done following the strike delays, and polishing things off to a fine sheen was right out (see also some really shaky green screen work).

I feel bad for carping about that, as the Lost team did the best they could with not much time to spare, and the overall result was superb. Plus, there were some elements that resonated. I particularly liked that Sun and Widmore's big meetup was conducted outside Le Pont de la Tour, situated on the South Bank of the Thames, in view of Tower Bridge.

A couple of seasons ago, we saw Penny and Desmond breaking up on the South Bank (with the help of not great effects), just a hop, skip and jump down the river, at about the point where the Royal Festival Hall resides (though they were unable to replicate that properly, the FX shots of the Houses of Parliament gave the location away). Considering my previous theory that Widmore has cunningly "enlisted" Desmond to act as a guardian for Penny, it's oddly apt that Widmore is now possibly organising his fightback against Ben just ten minutes walk from the place where his daughter and possible "bodyguard" split up.

I say possibly, because I'm not yet convinced Sun is really working against Ben, though that might be residual feelings from when I thought Jin might still be alive. Seeing as how Jin's ultimate fate seems to be pretty unequivocally decided now, perhaps she really is out for blood. Who knows what the price of that will be, but it will make her inevitable return to the island along with the rest of the survivors all the more dramatic (I say that with confidence as the show will otherwise make little sense if the island isn't revisited). Oh, and as for Jin's fate, according to Canyon there is NO WAY Jin is dead. I think she wants to be sure she will get to see more of DDK's guns.

Another echo, which might also serve as foreshadowing, came with the sight of Sawyer emerging from the surf following his awesome sacrifice, somehow sans shirt.

Perhaps it was removed as he passed through the bizarre time differential, which means it will always be thirty minutes behind him from now on. Shirtless Sawyer for the rest of the season, ladies! Rejoice! So why is this an echo, and not just an excuse to bump up the number of hits we get by putting these pictures here with the phrases "Josh Holloway shirtless", "Sawyer shirtless", "Josh Holloway hot wet", "Sawyer hot sexy freeware examination answers", and "Sawyer hot body water rippling pecs shirtless Moon Bloodgood" nearby?

Because someone else emerged from the surf without a shirt; Juliet (played by Elizabeth Mitchell; hot, shirtless), when having a sexy picnic with Goodwin (played by Brett Cullen; hot, not shirtless).

And Juliet was getting hammered on Dharma Rum as Sawyer approached and finally realised the Kahana had blown up...

...while in the past Juliet had been having a civilised drink with her lover while discussing porn and free things, probably.

Ergo, Juliet and Sawyer are going to close the love-trapezoid that so far has seen Kate/Sawyer, Kate/Jack, and Jack/Juliet. Excellent.

I also liked how Locke appeared to his new followers, the Others/Hostiles/Time-Travelling-Island-Supercomputer-UFO Rotary Club, on top of a hill. Not only was it a heroic pose, it echoed the sight of Ben staring down at Locke in the grave after shooting him in the space in his torso where a kidney had once been.

I also liked that Locke was now the opposite of Ben, who is willing to sacrifice himself to exile from the island in order to save it, either by turning a large frozen wheel or by giving himself up to evil evil Keamy. Here we see him from above in a position of weakness; the opposite of Locke being shot from below in a position of triumph.

I really liked the seemingly dilapidated or unfinished Orchid exterior. It was here that Jack and Locke had what appears to be their final argument about whether the island is a place of miracles or not, with Locke on the side of faith and Jack on the side of science. The visual was not too subtle, but still pleasing to anyone who has become invested in their bickering.

Jack is still sceptical at this point, and when the island disappears later, he is still in denial about it all. Man, even Scully eventually came around on the UFO thing, and she spent the last reel of the movie in an alien sarcophagus with a weird breathing tube in her mouth. Of course, one of the main themes of the show, other than the free will/determinism thread which is becoming more and more important (and upon which my favoured Sirens of Titan theory depends), the science/faith battle is the main one, and certainly the one that divides Jack and Locke, but one of my favourite things about Lost is not that the battle is between science and religion, but current scientific knowledge and the hope that there is something more there. Darlton Cuselof has said that the events of the show are explicable using science, so we can say that the island isn't God's back, or something equally dreadful. Of course, if that turns out to be wrong, I'll pretend I'm not miffed. Compare that to Battlestar Galactica, where the presence of God appears to be likely, though I hope it isn't and that the entity that is moving the Cylon and human pieces around is some natural but very powerful phenomenon.

The only other echo I could find involved Keamy, who ::choke:: managed to beat Sayid (I'm not getting over that any time soon), prior to getting shot by Richard Alpert, though it merely paused his evil rampage of evil.

Later on, still alive but bleeding badly, Keamy invades the Orchid station, and while bragging about his Dead Man Trigger, gets ambushed by Ben, and much stabbing happens real quickly.

Ben's assault of Keamy is like a very clumsy re-enactment of the hella-intense fight earlier, but Keamy ends up lying in the same position as Sayid, this time with knife wounds in his neck instead of a big bit of wood.

Of course, it is at this point that Ben responds to Locke's panic over the people on the soon-to-explode Kahana with the immortal line, "So?" The only echo that generated was the echo of my bellowing laughter. Oh Ben, I wanna hang out with you and drink Dharma beer (though I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to gas me to death).

Reason 7: Easter Eggs

The biggest screengrab moment in the whole episode was from the frozen chamber under the Orchid station, where we saw a group of hieroglyphs scratched into pillars and walls.

There are some translations of some of them at the ever-dependable Lostpedia, and they seem to revolve around violence against enemies, which is curious. The island seems to have been inhabited by another civilisation once upon a time that is just as concerned with protecting the secrets of the island as the Hostiles and Ben have been, and has encoded legends or laws about such a philosophy into the walls of its weird archaic teleportation technology.

Hurley seemed to be experiencing a lot of the weirdness this time around. For a start, he arrived home in what looked to me like the murderous Golden Pontiac of Lost myth. Okay, I accept I could be really wrong, as I have no idea what a Pontiac looks like, but it certainly piqued my attention. Just to make things weirder, he encounters a coconut (possibly delivered to his home by an errant Hurleybird, a la the African Swallows of Monty Python and the Holy Grail), and more of those pesky whispers, signalling a possible instance of Island-Meddling, though it remains unclear as to whether he has experienced any peculiar behaviour prior to that moment.

Even though it all turns out to be a false alarm, his reaction is such that you wonder just how much his already battered psyche was further damaged by his time on the island. Plus, Jesus Christ is not a weapon (a line designed to make Lost fans' brains explode with the potential significance).

A few minutes later and his birthday party is wrecked by the return of the numbers, which have been on holiday for a while. It was nice to see them back, but if we're talking about awesome cameos, surely the best was the return of Mr. Eko. A cheeky little cheat on the part of Cuselof, but the fans understand what was going on there, and it was an elegant way to acknowledge that that character was still important to the overall picture of the show, as well as providing another echo, this time of the mention of Ana-Lucia in the fourth season opener.

Reason 6: ZOMG Michael Giacchino

As ever, my musical hero Giacchino did the do, but my favourite moment came with his reworking of the Parting Words theme from the season one finale, which played over the departure of Michael's raft. Here it returns, slightly altered, as our heroes arrive at Membata, suntanned and heartsore. And yes, there were tears, he said defiantly.

How good was that? Good enough to get him into the Academy. I gather that the season four boxset will feature a documentary about The Lost Symphony, which is great news. It's out in October in the UK, folks! Rare we get to beat the US (the region one release is in December), so I'm going to gloat like crazy over that.

Okay, this is already huge, and splitting it up might be the only way to ever get it done. Hold onto your hats, folks! The finale review nobody asked for will continue shortly!


The Judge said...

Just because The Judge occasionally frequents Hawaii does not mean that I love Lost. I love only one thing. Lamp.

Admiral Neck said...

Waaaauuuuggghhhh! When do I get to occasionally frequent Hawaii? One day I plan to frequent the shit out of it.

As for your Lost love, I'm counting on your inevitable surrender to its genius. One day you will experience its power and you shall be transformed.