Thursday, 5 February 2009

Lost - Jughead

::Disclaimer: my usual efforts to post something about an episode of Lost before the transmission of the next fell apart a bit this week thanks to computer meltdowns (not our computer for once), weather troubles, and other distracting gubbins, so this post about Jughead (episode 5:03) is going out a day after the US broadcast of The Little Prince. I'm well aware that some of this may be already rendered moot, but for the benefit of UK readers, I'm posting it anyway.::

Why did I doubt my beloved Lost? What was I thinking? Was it a brain parasite from the planet Lifehate IV? Is my consciousness travelling through time in a Billy-Pilgrim stylee? It's ironic considering how often I bang on about how the show relies on faith not just thematically but as fuel. Without the fans sticking by it and accepting all sorts of weirdness and peculiarity, it would cease to exist. I'll ponder that while I eat this humble pie.

Why did I like this so much more than the previous episodes? Mainly it was because we didn't get to see the Oceanic Six, whose convenient decision to convene in Los Angeles just in time to help Ben get them together is, at the moment, kinda dull and a little contrived. I say at the moment because for all we know there are forces coralling them together, though that's speculative, and more than a little desperate on my part. (So soon I forget. Gotta have faith!)

Instead of Sweaty Jack and Crazy Hurley, we got some top Desmond action, a few revelations about Faraday, who is increasingly looking like quite a bad man, and the introduction of a new dramatic element on the island that worries me greatly. I'll get to that later. In the meantime, an observation; how obnoxious are the Hostiles?

New character Ellie, seen above sucking an invisible time-travelling lemon while holding onto a WWII rifle, is a horrible brat, instantly achieving Gupta status by way of scrunching up her face, harassing everyone, and talking with a wheedling nasal drone. Ugh. Having her follow Faraday around irked the crap out of us, and only the very strong suspicion that she is Miss Hawking (whose first name is Eloise) and also possibly Faraday's mom, keeps us from writing her off altogether. Still, at the end of the episode the Island Six quantum leap to a new time, so it's possible we're done with her for now.

Still, she was merely a bit crap and aggressive. That's nothing compared to the guy who momentarily went by the name Jones. His sour-face, murderous streak, arrogance and ignorance made Ellie's flaws pale into insignificance. Of course, this memorably nasty piece of work just had to be someone more significant than Random Horrible Other #4. The reveal that this was a very young Charles Widmore was easily the highlight of the episode, and of the season so far.

Of course it was inevitable that we would eventually find out some back story about Widmore, and it's one of the best new features of this season's time-hopping structure is that we get to see moments from the island's past with those revelations we crave held back not through handy interruptions or statements like, "I cannot tell you that at this time," but by the narrative device set up in the season opener. It makes a nice change to have our expectations confounded in this way. Last night we saw Doubt, which was okay and annoying in relatively equal measure, but exasperated us by having moments of revelation constantly interrupted by incessant phonecalls and knocked doors. Maybe on stage that shit gets a free pass (along with the desperately obvious metaphors like closing windows and lightbulbs popping), but onscreen it looks silly.

Jughead's other revelations were dubious, not counting the wonderful reveal that Penny and Desmond's son was called Charlie, a moment that I'm sure made any Lost fan worth their salt choke up a bit. Besides that wonderful moment, we learned that Faraday was in love with Charlotte. Or was he? Proclaiming his love for her seemed sweet enough, but was it the truth? Was it merely a way to convince Alpert to let him access the bomb? Or, more likely, was it misplaced guilt over the condition of Teresa Spencer, the woman whose brain he wrecked through his time experiments?

After all, Teresa looked awfully like Charlotte. This is something we'll undoubtedly find out about in time, though considering her terrible condition at the end of the episode, and Faraday's distraught reaction, maybe this is definitive?

Of course, all of this might be unimportant, as this love story might just be a way to put Faraday on a path towards infiltrating the Orchid station in order to get his hands on that exotic matter behind the cave wall, as we saw in the season opener. His desire to save her, either because of love or guilt, is going to drive him to seriously mess with time. The other consquence is that we care deeply about Charlotte, who has been thinly sketched thus far. Now that she is shown being in love with someone the audience seems to like, we want her to survive and see her love reciprocated. Okay, I'm assuming a lot about the audience, but I know my initial apathy towards her has evaporated. Her barely suppressed glee at the possibility of Faraday sharing her feelings was her finest moment yet, and turned my opinion around 180 degrees.

It doesn't look good for her, though. At the end of the episode we see her haemorrhaging just like the previous timelost corpses, somehow having an adverse effect to the quantum leaping that the rest of the Island Six aren't.

Though that's distressing, it was a nice bookmark to the opening of the episode, with Desmond panicking about Penny's bloodloss during childbirth. (Extra awesome points for reversing their positions and their emotional states; Faraday's terror and Desmond's joy.)

That's not the only connection. Desmond also gets to endure an uncomfortable moment upon meeting Teresa Spencer's sister, who criticises Faraday for leaving her with a comment about the sort of man who would abandon a woman, reminding us of Desmond's abandonment of Penny years before.

Perhaps it's that shaming that propels Desmond towards his nemesis (and Faraday's benefactor), Charles "Necksnapper" Widmore. Considering how scared of him Desmond is, he definitely needs an extra push to get it over with. His showdown was perfectly played, with Widmore in a state of panic over the fate of his daughter, knowing that Ben has vowed to kill her. Of course, telling Desmond that would have been helpful, especially now that Desmond is delivering his beloved to Ben, with Penny's oblivious, yet fearful consent.

All of this excitement, and none of it revolving around characters introduced in the first season. It's a daring decision, sidelining the most familiar characters to concentrate instead on some n00bs. Of course, Faraday, Penny, Desmond and Miles are the most popular characters introduced late in the day (not counting the ever-awesome Ben), but even so, it's a testament to the sprawling cast of characters that the show can make a choice like that and not only avoid censure by the fans but deliver an episode so highly praised.

We still managed to get some quality time with Locke, who got to give Alpert the compass he received from him in the future. Nice that the show has delivered that moment so soon, thanks to the show's truncated length. Of course, now we have the paradox of where the compass comes from. Where is the moment where it comes into either of their possession in the first place? Alpert gives it to Locke, but only because he receives it from Locke in the past. That means the compass is either a spontaneous generation of the universe trapped in a time loop, or it comes from before the initial looping and was just made somewhere and fell into the hands of... Well, someone. Even if the latter is the case, the show has been so careful with the tricks and traps of temporal displacement that we are viewing a fictional universe that won't allow for the loop to ever have a beginning, as shown by the actions and fates of our heroes being decided by the ramifications of events that have yet to happen, like a closed system.

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan describes time as a crystal, with every event happening at the same time. Mortals see time as a line, but he knows everything that has happened and will happen. If everything has already happened, everything would always have happened. The big bang didn't just create an expanding universe in three spatial dimensions (or 10-D, or 26-D, depending on which theory you subscribe to), it also created an entire universe in the temporal dimension. We didn't get one run-through before it was set in stone, which would allow for a compass to be created and then fall into a time-loop. Everything happened at once, meaning the compass has no point of origin. It just is.

Consciousness is the thing that travels in a straight line through time, giving the illusion of the future is not set. When it goes right, that is. Poor Teresa Spencer's consciousness, which is skipping about (though curiously not creating the horrible death we saw in The Constant) is hopping from point to point within that crystalline structure. Nevertheless, her body is not moving, just the ephemeral mind. As we've seen in Lost, until the islanders became unmoored in time, matter was not travelling through time, only consciousness. As the universe cannot handle a paradox whereby the chain of causality is changed, matter cannot be displaced or diverted or moved from one place in time. That's why Desmond is able to take a trip back in time from future brain to past brain, but is stopped from changing time by Miss Hawking's intervention (see previous discussions of Time Agents).

However, we're now seeing matter, that is the Island Six, moving around time on the island, with the past caused by the future and vice versa, with people like Alpert learning things about the future and then doing things that affect the future. The island is outside time itself, operating by its own rules and including these paradoxes. There's always been talk of the island being inside a tesseract of some kind, and this theory suggests that is indeed the case. Or, you know, I'm totally wrong about this and am letting my own beliefs about the shape of time complicate my theorising. Ignore me, I'm just babbling by now.

It's great to have the show introducing elements that get me theorising again, even though it's possible I'm chasing my tail here and we will eventually see the compass arrive on the island somehow, but despite my rise in enthusiasm caused by mad revelations and some nifty moments with Faraday and Sawyer, it wasn't all great. In particular, I'm super-miffed at the introduction of a nuclear bomb onto the island. I know I'm not the first person to point out the rule of Chekhov's Gun, but it does suggest that now, at a very late stage in the show, we're seeing the object that will bring about the resolution of the story.

At least, I assume it will. I have a feeling, if my Sirens of Titan theory is anywhere near correct, we will find that our heroes have had the course of their lives altered so as to channel them toward the fateful flight of Oceanic 815, where they play a part in maintaining the flow of time on the island by doing the things they have done during the run of the show. As has been seen, they had a dreadful life, not one of them happy. Without the interference of the island, perhaps they would have had a much happier existence. The finale could show the island being destroyed by the bomb, an action that somehow reverberates through time, erasing the influence of the island upon everyone attached to it. Once freed of the obligation to protect the island, the Oceanic passengers live happy lives, their personalities and psyches no longer distorted by the influence of the island and its time agents which, funnily enough, means that in a way the island really was Hell, as very early theories posited.

Either that or the show will get rid of it well before then. The show has a history of introducing some game-changing element early in a season (Swan station, New Otherton, the Kahuna), and then getting rid of it or rendering it defunct by the time the finale rolls around. It could be that we lose the time-travelling at the end of season five, though I suspect that will go fairly soon, either because of the return of the Oceanic Six or due to Faraday's inevitable intervention. Still, I hope the bomb will be used soon. As I dread the thought of being proved right more than making a fool of myself, I hope it does. So far the introduction of the bomb has made me uneasy about the future of the show, providing such a conventional way to resolve the story, though it did amuse me when Faraday tells Ellie to bury the bomband not worry about it as it hasn't exploded fifty years hence. Time-travel humour!

Right, this pointless post needs to be finished so I can get on with watching The Little Prince. Before I do that, the usual random guff. Here is Desmond in a cunning disguise at "Oxford University library", which, I'm surprised to see, is a bit smaller than I had imagined. The glasses are a nice touch, but his lovely hair is a much bigger give-away than his eyes.

Please can we give Miles more to do? He's got a flashback coming up soon, right? His snarkiness is great, but I want something more meaty ASAP. I say this with no knowledge of what happens in The Little Prince. He's probably doing all sorts of funky stuff and I'll seem like a fool. Just bear with me! I had trouble finishing this on time because of a weird urge to watch the debacle called Max Payne really very important reasons.

This is some of the best greenscreen work on the show so far. It took us a little while to adjust to the fact that it's an effect, because that is very definitely a British street. It was almost as discombobulating as the bit in Guy Ritchie's Snatch when you see Dennis Farina walking down a typical suburban street.

Sawyer didn't get much to do this week, though he did get a great "Son. Of. A. Bitch!" moment late in the episode. Are the writers including that phrase for the benefit of some drinking game? It's every episode now. I'm not complaining. He's up there with Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon films for great "son-of-a-bitch" enunciation.

Remember I went on about how gorgeous this show is? I love that there is a constant reminder of that throughout. No wonder people are fighting for the island.

Seriously, I really hated Ellie. I'll file her alongside Harper Stanhope and Ana-Lucia in the Female Characters Who Make Me Growl Into A Cushion Like The Anger Management People Told Me column.

Richard Alpert appears here as some kind of dark angel, with the tent acting as his wings. Yet again, we think of a character as having some kind of intrinsic good (he was eager to help Locke in the past, after all), but is this another visual clue that we should be wary of him too?

Upon entering this tent to chat to Faraday, Alpert says, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," in a snarky way. I wonder if he taught Ben everything he know about being kinda douchey from time to time.

This guy, who hassles Desmond while rummaging about in his old lab (yay for rat maze and pink laser cameos)... a dead ringer for Eric Powell's The Goon.

I was very surprised that Faraday knew all about Miles’ psychic abilities, but no one else I’ve spoken to seems to think that’s a big deal. Considering the physicist has taken it into his stride that he’s hanging around with a medium, you’d think it was significant considering how many scientific laws have just been broken.

I love that Lostpedia considered this explosive moment an example of the black/white visual theme that runs through the show. It suggests it was done on purpose, but was it a lucky accident? Did episode director Rob Holcomb get a call from Lindelof and Cuse asking for some black and white in the shot? It strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Still, those Losties got blowed the fuck up. Sweet.

They are getting together, right? Look at them! Now that's what I call "Exotic matter". Rowr rowr!

Further strengthening of the theory that Ellie is Faraday's mom; her first sight of him is made more dramatic by being down a rifle. The irony is that the man she is tempted to shoot is in fact her child and she doesn't yet know it. Or the director was showing off. Or there haven't been any game references for a while and so they stuck a nod to Medal of Honour in there (of course M1 Garand rifles are used throughout that game, and Lost soundtrack composer Michael Giacchino does the music for them, so it makes sense).

OMG the Thames! Except you can't really just sail your boat up it and just dock it outside the Aquarium. And the Thames? Has never been that blue. Unless there was once a dye spillage incident I've not heard of.

Nothing else to say about this, really, other than that it's great that the episode restored me to my usual boggle-eyed gleeful self after that silliness the week before. And now I shall watch The Little Prince and keep the dream alive. Right, US readers? It's good, right? ::partially suppresses panic::

ETA: Okay, I've seen The Little Prince. I was silly to worry, wasn't I. UK readers who are going to see it on Sunday, prepare for XXXtreme awesomeness.

1 comment:

johnilf said...

great great great great episode!!! mind fuck, i havent clue what is happening so im just strapped in and going along on a journey and no clue where im going, the theories are pointless now because the writers will change it as soon as we pinch a nerve. Goddamn it, something has got to be done about those accents, those goddamn fucking 'english' accents.