Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The Beginning of The End: The Penultimate Lost Recapped
Still, there were some problems.
Any episode that largely features Michael Emerson is — by my count — very good. It's saying something that on this late date, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse chose to give Ben Linus so much to do — this wasn't a Ben-centric episode, but it sure felt like one. But where "What They Died For" stumbled, among other places, was in his about-face change of character. Remember when Ben Linus became the "good guy" for a spell this season? Because apparently no one writing the show does. And his switch back to Ben Linus v.1 felt abrupt, rushed and unearned, even if it was awesome. Now, you can chalk that up to one of two things: More lousy season six character writing or one final con from the Island's master manipulator. But after the way things have gone during the later part of this season, forgive me for thinking it's the former.
The strengths of "What They Died For" aside, the biggest disappointment during the final episodes of Lost has been the writing. And it's not that Lindelof and Cuse have stopped concentrating on "characters that we know" — a refrain I've been hammering for quite some time (see: "Ab Aeterno" and "Across the Sea") — it's that they've gotten lazy. Instead of creating believable motivations for these characters we've come to know and love, they've had them do things just because. It's almost a variation on the entire mythology of "Across the Sea:" Why is [insert random choice here] happening? Because Lindelof and Cuse said so.
And so we get Ben Linus flipping allegiances once again. We get Hurley going from gung-ho leader just a few days ago in show time to wimpy follower, breathing a sigh of relief when Jack volunteered to be New Jacob. And on and on. And we're just supposed to believe these things would happen because Ben is Ben and Hurley is Hurley. That's fine; but there was a time when Lost took the time to develop things (just look at how Ben was originally introduced in season two). They had an entire season to accomplish the development that could have made "What They Died For" that much better. Instead they wasted precious time and had to rush things. Too bad.
Anyway, more to discuss. Lightning round!
1.) Let's start with the title. "What They Died For." Jacob promised to tell the Final Four what Sun, Jin and Sayid had died for. Only, no. He must have forgot. Though I guess "thinning the herd" is not a reason Jacob felt comfortable giving.
1a.) I loved the reasoning behind Jacob crossing Kate's name off the list. She was a mother and, thus, had someone in her life. "It's just a line of chalk on the wall." Win!
1b.) Of course Jin and Sun had each other and Sun was a mother, so they should have been crossed off too. This is the part where I'm supposed to remind you that the Kwon on the cave wall was probably Ji-Yeon, but at this point, I don't know if Lost has enough time to make that come true. Again, too much time wasted.
1c.) Jack becoming New Jacob is something we all thought was going to happen forever. Of course Jack would become New Jacob; he likes to fix things and the Island needs a-fixin'. I still think there was value in having Hurley take the Island reigns, but maybe in another life. Though if watching television has taught me anything, it's that Hurley's sigh of relief could have been foreshadowing to him ultimately taking over. I know that contradicts one of my issues with "What They Died For," but in this case, I'll be happy to be wrong.
1d.) Again, not to crap all over this Emily Nussbaum-style, but: Jacob's entire reasoning for bringing everyone to the Island felt a bit flawed. Because he screwed up by turning his brother into the smoke monster, he dragged all the Oceanic 815 losers to the Island and groomed them to be his successor? Talk about selfish and chess match-y. And we're to believe, upon hearing that reason, no one in the Final Four was like, "Hey, you're a dick?" Sure, Jacob proved that Locke was right all those times — they were brought there for a reason — but that reason was basically nonsense.
1e.) Also: I love how Jacob told the Final Four that he wanted them to have free will to chose their destiny. But if no one stepped up, the world was going to end. Uh, last time I checked, being threatened into a decision doesn't count as free will.
1f.) Now that Jack drank the blessed creek water, does that mean he's an immortal like Jacob and Richard? To pull a Sawyer: And you thought that guy had a God-complex before...
2.) Not to harp on "Across the Sea," but, again, that episode wasn't necessary to make "What They Died For" understandable. Jacob explained everything that happened in that episode — beyond his "Mother" — to the Final Four. Did knowing that the source of light at the center of the Island looked like the contents of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase really enhance your pleasure during those informational download scenes? No, it didn't.
3.) Now to Widmore, another functional prop sans character. Jacob brought him to the Island to bring Desmond. Okay, long way around on that one — why did Jacob need a middleman? — but fine. Widmore was told that Desmond was a fail-safe device, which I'll take to mean that if Flocke succeeded in killing everyone, Desmond could reset things because of his special, trans-reality powers. Again, that's cool. But why did we need Widmore there other than to provide some major red herrings and the chance to watch Ben exact some revenge?
3a.) That said, I literally applauded when Ben shot Widmore. Good, great, awesome. That bastard deserved to get his comeuppance, and no amount of love for The O.C. (Caleb Nichol for life!) would ever change my mind. I'm literally gleeful that Ben murdered him.
3b.) Another great death: Zoe. As Flocke said, she was "pointless."
3c.) A bad death, if it was truly a death: Richard. That's it? Run into by the freight train known as the smoke monster? That better not be the last of him. It's one thing for Lindelof and Cuse to kill off Frank Lapidus like that; it's quite another to kill off Richard Alpert.
3d.) Wrapping up New Otherton: I loved Ben just sitting on the porch waiting for Flocke; I didn't love Miles just running out the back. Add him onto the list of Lost characters with potential for greatness but who have no actual use on the show.
3e.) This is important and probably shows that Ben is playing Flocke: Flocke promised Ben the Island to get him to join Team Flocke. Then Flocke said he was going to destroy the Island. So why would Ben still want to hang out with him? Yeah, he wouldn't.
3f.) Fun fact: The penultimate episode in season four ended with Locke saying he was going to move the Island. My how the times have changed.
4.) Sideways universe! You could call the Desmond Summit at the Los Angeles County jail contrived, but I'll just call it awesome. Remember in the beginning of the season how it was fun to see the actors get to play little variations on their past characters? And how that's been largely ignored during the latter stages? Well Henry Ian Cusick is giving us a totally different Desmond in the alternate reality and it's just wonderful to watch. He's so mischievous and fun! I could probably watch him scheme all day long.
4a.) Another thing I'll miss about the flash-sideways: Hurley's blunt reactions. Like saying hello to Ana Lucia and remembering that she wouldn't know him.
5.) So the flash-sideways conceit and reveal is going to happen during the Lost family reunion at the concert. Great and good. This is also where we'll find out that Jack's ex-wife is Juliet. Because, obviously.
6.) Now, if Desmond is the fail-safe, does this mean that Lost will really reset itself at the end of the series? If I were a betting man, I'd say yes. And I'd say the series will end with Jack's eye opening up. The show will close the loop and come full circle. And if that does happen, I won't be mad. In fact, nothing short of total and unwatchable disaster on Sunday could make me hate this series as a whole. It's given me more entertainment than anything over the last decade. Or at least since The Sopranos has gone off the air. Any predictions on your end?
One episode left, ever. Let's. Do. This.