Friday, 27 February 2009

Lost - 316

::Disclaimer: Blah blah blah, had no time, blah blah, lots going on so I didn't have time, yada yada yada etc. Do you know what I did with my time this week? Counted pages. Thousands of them. It took four days of my life, just counting pages. Reviewing an episode with a number for a name is too damn ironical. Forgive my tardiness, but those pages won't count themselves! ::goes men'al, on account of the pages::

As surely as night follows day, and muffled annoyance follows Oscar time (love Sean Penn's performance in Milk though I do, Mickey wuz robbed), so does an awesome Oceanic Six episode follow a post from me follow a bunch of complaints about how boring the Oceanic Six stuff has been. My excitement over how amazing 316 was is muted by my shame over the carping of previous weeks.

That said, I don't think I was actually wrong. The scene-setting and game-piece moving was necessary to get us to this point, but it sure wasn't any fun to watch, especially with the island scenes being as exciting as they have been. It just can't be denied that 316 put those dreary scenes in their place, providing us with post-island LA scenes that were way more interesting than anything from this season or last season, Sayid action scenes aside.

316 was as good an episode of Lost I've ever seen, and I'd attribute that excellence to some blatant audience manipulation as mechanical as anything they've done before. Information was held back from us for no reason other than to aggravate us, with the characters having numerous opportunities to explain their situation (Kate and the location of Aaron, Hurley's decision to go back to the island, Ben and his worrying injuries). All of these things will be addressed later in the season, I'm sure, but for once I think there will be a lot less carping about this totally contrived suspense. Firstly, because the majority of the haters have left the building (and good riddance). Secondly, because those of us who love the show are going to relish that suspense, and find that narrative contrivance endearing. I speak for myself, but I suspect the rest of Lost fandom will feel similarly, having grown accustomed to these tricks and knowing that all our questions will be answered in time.

That suspense is delicious for the most part, but in one instance it's also deeply upsetting. The sight of a blood-soaked Ben, coming so soon after his sinister promise to keep a promise he made to an old friend, was horribly worrying. It's obvious he was talking about finding and killing Penny, but we have to wait a week to find out as the next episode, The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, shows Locke's efforts to contact the Oceanic Six prior to committing suicide.

I'd be more anxious about this forthcoming revelation if I thought Penny was dead. At first I figured Desmond had intervened; after all, my suspicion has been that Widmore has been manipulating Desmond into protecting Penny, knowing that Ben was going to try to hurt her at some point. That's the Sirens of Titan theory in essence. Then an internet exchange reminded me that Penny is Desmond's Constant. With Penny dead, Desmond would be doomed, which surely can't happen as the island isn't finished with him.

Canyon raised an objection to that. Did Desmond only need a Constant when suffering the deadly time-sickness? Now that he's moored in time again, perhaps he doesn't need Penny anymore. In that case, she could well be dead. Then a bright spark on the AV Club pointed out that Desmond might have a hard time beating the collapsible-baton-wielding mad dog Linus, but Sayid would have a good go at it, which might account for his capture. That theory made me happy for a while.

The only problem with that is that he's not being held in the US for a crime committed there. For a start, he wouldn't be allowed on the same plane as the man he had assaulted. Also, according to someone on the wide world of the web (I can't remember where I saw it), Ajira 316 was going from LA to Guam and then to Baghdad, which sounds like the worst news possible for Sayid. Those luscious curls of his looked particularly raggedy this week. I reckon it's the stress.

The wait for an explanation of these events is naturally more excruciating than waiting for clarification on what's got into Kate, who looks like her life has fallen apart, and that's before she sleeps with Jack. The poor galoot seems to think he got lucky, but it's far more likely that Kate is trying to replicate the original conditions of the Oceanic 815 flight by being a proxy for Claire. This is speculation, but it makes sense considering the sketchy rules provided by Miss Hawking, and it has the added bonus of putting Kate directly into Claire's shoes which, of course, she has been trying to do for three years.

Hurley's change of heart and Sayid's predicament are both curious too (and seemingly less traumatic than losing a child and then having to do it with Sad Jack), but it's seemingly obvious that Ben's inept manipulations from previous weeks weren't even necessary. Alienating Hurley, Sayid, and Kate got him nowhere, but some other force intervened to get them onboard, with the extra surprise of getting Frank, who should have been on Oceanic 815, back in the game. (An aside; you have no idea how happy I was to see his grizzly face coming out of the cockpit, even though he now has 50% less grizzle.)

Even so, will Ben get his wish of returning to the island? Has the past three years been filled with nothing but efforts to manouevre the pieces into place so that he can return? Almost certainly, but as he was not on Oceanic 815, would he go down? Theories abound that the front cabin passengers of Ajira 316 are all proxies, that Hurley is Charlie (does that mean he's high on smack right now), Sayid is Kate, Kate is Claire, Jack is Jack, Locke is Christian (and Christ), and Frank is the original pilot. What about the other passengers? If the woman with Sayid is Kate's marshall, is Saïd Taghmaoui's mysterious character Sayid? If so, who is Sun supposed to be? Surely she's a better fit as Sayid, as she is travelling across the world to find a lost loved one, much as Sayid was. Perhaps Taghmaoui is Jin, an enforcer for an industrialist if he is indeed the hired gun of Widmore.

While it's up in the air who they all represent, it's fairly obvious who Ben is supposed to be. He's injured, suffering from delusions of grandeur, and filled with obnoxious entitlement. He has to be Locke. The irony is delicious.

Of course, episode's end we only get to see Hurley, Jack and Kate, with Jack saving them both. Of course, during the pilot episode Jack saved Hurley and Claire, as Oceanic 815 exploded around them. Nicely done, though we now have to wait to find out what happened to the others. It seems likely that Ben is stuck with Frank, Sun, Mysterious Saïd Taghmaoui, Sayid, and his captor. Hijinks will ensue, I'm sure. Until then, we have to wrap our brains around the last minute appearance by Jin, decked out in Dharma workclothes. It seems the Island Six's infiltration of the Dharma Initiative has been going full swing while the Oceanic Six have been bickering.

As I said earlier, this episode redeemed all of the tedious LA scenes from the last 19 episodes, but it wasn't all good, sadly. Wrecking one of the most important scenes in Lost's run, Fionnula Flanagan's performance inside the Lamp Post scene was nigh-on toe-curling, a ponderous display of snootiness filled with baffling pauses and self-importance. Compared to the naturalistic performances around her, she looked horribly out-of-place. Never again will I complain about Evangeline Lilly's occasionally flat performance. Compared to Flanagan's Donald-Sinden-esque over-acting, Lilly looks like Brando.

Still, that whole sequence was redeemed by the thrilling info-dump (pithier and more exciting than the confusing babble of exposition hurled at the BSG fanbase in a recent episode), and the sight of Desmond going ballistic at Hawking, which was beautiful. Sadly, that doesn't change the fact that his quest to help Faraday by delivering a message has served only to deliver Penny into Ben's sphere of calamitous intent.

It also featured some lovely compositions from my favourite Lost director, the ever-awesome Stephen Williams. I especially liked this dramatic shot of the Lamppost map, taken from the point of view of the pendulum.

I also like what he did with the lighting scheme with Jack. He was shot either drowned in blue, as in this shot at the church...

...and then again at the bar where he resists getting drunk...

...and again at his apartment.

It was also shown in the background, as in this shot boarding Ajira 316...

...and again on the plane trying to make small talk with Grumpy Kate.

That cold light matches his off-island lifelessness, his cold and miserable demeanour. Then compare that to the vibrant colours on the island, and his mood change.

It wasn't long before he has a beautifully shot and edited dash through the forest, and then some real action. This stunt, with Action Jack leaping to Hurley's rescue, was absolutely fucking awesome.

It was so close to the rocks, which made our hair stand on end. I'm fully aware that people seem to strongly dislike Jack, and I've been moaning about him for weeks, but when he's in Action Jack mode, he's great. It's especially great for him, as he gets to agonise over Kate again.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said she used to be a hardass? I'd like that to come back soon. She's no kind of damsel-in-distress. Of course, as Jack has, in the past, been repeatedly thrust into the role of reluctant hero by the island, will his new thirst for validation-by-heroism make the island go off him? Should we even be thinking of the island as The Mover of Events anymore? Isn't it fate and the knotted consequences of time travel that are doing it? I've been moving toward the latter theory for a while now, but Kate's behaviour was troubling.

She's acting like someone approached her. And where is Aaron? General opinion has it that Claire's mom does, or Cassidy. The latter option means we get an appearance by the ever-excellent Kim Dickens, which would be great, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's Widmore. Why else would she voluntarily be getting knocked up by Jack. If indeed that is what she's doing. Gah! What was that I said about delicious suspense? It might taste nice but it's very bad for my health.

Great job from everyone not named Fionnula Flanagan this week, with extra-special kudos to Michael Emerson, back to his brilliant best after a few weeks with little to do. His greatest hits this week were his response to Jack's question about The Lamp Post...

...praying in a manner that can only be described as "sarcastic" (if indeed he is praying)...

...his panicky phonecall, covered in someone's blood (as seen above), and his wonderfully arrogant behaviour on the plane.

Foxy was also great this week, especially his "conversation" with Locke's corpse.

The best part of this moment is that Locke, who is not only doubling as Christ by now, is also Jack's "father". With this new turn of events, and thanks to the machinations of the island / the Mover of Events, Jack's rebellions against Locke now seem like the struggling of a petulant teenager against his father. Does this make Miss Hawking his surrogate mother, considering his earlier tantrum?

Speaking of Christian symbolism, Ben went big on the Doubting Thomas stuff this week, showing off in front of what I hope is a copy of Caravaggio's The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, making Jack feel bad for being a big doubting doubter.

Of course, Jack rebels against the idea that a bigger force is pushing him towards the island, until he finally reads Locke's suicide note. Foxy acts the shit out of that moment.

The message is typically Lockean. Self-aggrandising, passive-aggressive, whiny.

It's also perfectly timed to make Jack finally doubt his doubt, just in time for Ajira 316 to fly over the island. Was this the thing that triggered their teleportation? Whatever it was that made it happen, Locke got his wish, just as Jack got his, to get back to the island. Ben wasn't lying when he said that the island grants wishes.

Speaking of Jack and his doubt, the introduction of his granddad provided him with the first opportunity for doubt-doubt, as he finds the exact item that he needs to "complete" his father, symbolically (i.e. Christian's shoes). That also provided an explanation for why Christian has been walking around the island in white tennis shoes, which was hugely satisfying.

Other than that, the best thing about this scene was yelling, "The wrong kid died!" when Raymond J. Barry appeared. If you don't get that joke, watch Walk Hard as soon as possible. It's imperative that you get that film into your life ASAP.

I'm really glad Saïd Taghmaoui is in Lost. He's a terrific actor. Sadly, my brain is a big shit thing, so my internal monologue finished all of his lines with the phrase, "My main man." I'm sure I'm not the only one. Even worse, then I started thinking about the South Park episode Red Sleigh Down. I wonder if Taghmaoui realises how big an effect his short appearance in Three Kings had? There's a lot to love about that film, but that scene is the one I've not been able to get out of my head since.

It's common knowledge that being a big strapping hero is the thing that makes Jack happiest, but there's something else out there that brings a smile to his face; having the sex with Kate, even if she does look a bit like a corpse lately.

On the other hand, Kate is only in it for the free food; Jack lips.

Slow down there, lady.

I've made no secret of the fact that I fully intend to take a tour of Oahu at some point, so I can see the sights, and I really hope that this place is still open.

That is some chintzy-assed decoration there. I love it and hate it, simultaneously.

Jin's still not dead!

I know this is obvious, but I just can't help being excited about it.

One thing that made us laugh was Sayid's reaction to Jack boarding Ajira 316. He's so shocked!

What was funny was that he did the same thing when Ben walked on.

I had a terrible feeling he would just keep doing this. "Sir, would you care for a packet of pretzels?"

"I'm sorry, sir, we're all out of apple juice. Would you like some pineapple juice instead?"

"For your information, sir, today's in-flight movies are Slumdog Millionaire, Happy-Go-Lucky, and The Reader."

I cannot wait to see Sayid kicking some motherfucking ass ASAP because this easily shocked version is not what I pay nothing to see.

Best. Nerd Reference. Ever.

It's a comic by Brian K. Vaughan, it's about a pregnant woman, and it's a Spanish language version of a comic released by DC, just like the original comic owned by Walt on Oceanic 815. That's just about the most perfect moment in the whole episode. Plus, it might inspire some Lost fans to get read Y-The Last Man. I heartily recommend it. Despite the soul-crushing final six issues. ::shakes fist at BKV::

This looks like a playset, with action figures arrayed around the outside.

If I believe in Locke, will my wish for a Lamp Post action playset (complete with Miss Hawking action figure) come true? And if I pull the cord on the back of that action figure, will all of her recorded phrases sound really stupid?

Oh boy, I hope we don't get to spend much more time with this character now. Two seasons waiting for her to come back, and we get all of this ham? Oy.

Okay, time to eat, and watch the next episode. See you in a couple of months week.

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