Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The Heart of The Island: Lost Recapped
I'm not going to say "Across the Sea" was the worst episode of Lost I've ever seen — "Stranger in a Strange Land," a.k.a. The One with Jack's Tattoos still might top the list — but it was darn near close. Very close. Like maybe they're tied.
Promising us answers to the ancient mysteries of the Island, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse instead gave us non-answers, stupid answers, fake answers and, ultimately, answers that don't matter at this stage in the game. In short, this was a total disaster from jump street.
"Across the Sea" was such an awful mess that I don't even know where to begin. Should we start with the acting, which en masse was actually embarrassing? The kid actors playing Young Jacob and Young Man in Black were off-the-charts terrible. To paraphrase Wayne's World: I know they're bit parts, but can't we get some better actors? Allison Janney was stiff, awkward and so obviously just tossed into a situation she knew nothing about. Whereas Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino were on-point as Jacob and The Man in Black during last year's season finale, Janney felt like she was just cashing a check. Her line readings were stale and uninteresting, and while I assume she was supposed to convey a Rousseau-level of crazy, she never came close.
(Any reviews calling her performance "good" have to be biased because she's Allison Janney; I love her, but she stunk.)
Even Pellegrino and Welliver — normally so strong — were, for lack of a better word, lost. I'll assume Pellegrino showed us this Passive/Useless Jacob as a way to develop character, but it just felt odd; and Welliver was neither the cold and collected bad ass he was in the season five finale, or the Terry O'Quinn stunt double he was during "Ab Aeterno." And because the script never tied them together with the characters we've been shown, it felt decidedly incomplete. And maybe that's why this episode was so bad: The total lack of context, both in relation to the plot and the timeline of the show.
(I'm always the type of Lost fan who says "But wait, you know they're going to have a scene tying everything together!" And they normally do. But in the case of Jacob and MiB, is there time to have that necessary scene between what we saw last night and what we saw at the foot of the statue? Because I don't think there is.)
There were so many more problems that it's hard for me to keep up. How about the entire plot? Deep breath: Allison Janney's "Mother" killed Jacob and The Man in Black's birth mother, Claudia; Young Man in Black talked to Dead Claudia to find out the truth and went off to live with the other humans; Jacob acted like a mama's boy and made tapestries; The Man in Black told Jacob he wants to leave the Island and go home; The Man in Black found the light source under the Island's surface and tried to set up the Frozen Donkey Wheel, but Mother prevented him from doing so and from leaving the Island; The Man in Black killed Mother; a pissed Jacob tossed The Man in Black into the heart of the Eden-like wading pool of life; the smoke monster came out; Jacob found a "dead" Man in Black and buried him with Mother, creating the Lost mythology known as the Adam and Eve skeletons. L O S T.
I usually avoid plot summary because it's unnecessary since you're only reading this blog because you watch Lost, but I needed to illustrate just how dumb this was. Look at that block of events again. Not only could this all have happened in a short period of time — I'm thinking a flashback during the finale where we find out how Jacob and The Man in Black are related to the history of the Island — but it set up more questions than actual answers.
In lieu of a lightning around, let's go through them.
1.) So for starters, why are Jacob and The Man in Black special? And more important, why doesn't The Man in Black have a f'n name?
1a.) Why does The Man in Black have the power to commune with the dead? And why doesn't Jacob? And how does this relate to Hurley?
2.) The Island is basically the Light of the World. Okay, fine. It's dumb, but whatever. And Jacob is tasked to protect it, since MiB rebelled against his mother. But the more Lost talks about this, the more ridiculous the series seems to become. Not only is this a pissing match between two brothers who got burned by their mother, but it's also a big biblical metaphor about the good and evil of mankind? It's just too much and it's entirely too big of a concept for Lindelof and Cuse to handle. I liked it better when the Island was a cork protecting the earth from the evil of the smoke monster. That seemed more relatable. This seemed like The Phantom Menace.
3.) The scene between MiB and Mother in the well with the Frozen Donkey Wheel was completely, off-the-charts dumb. Seriously. I'll actually leave it to an Ain't It Cool commenter to explain: "The light that I don't know what it is will be attached to the wheel that I don't know what it will do that will take me to where I do not know... WHAAAAAT?!" That's exaggerated, but barely. If they were going to "explain" the Frozen Donkey Wheel, at least explain it. Don't just show it and talk about pulley systems and pretend that's an answer. It's not.
3a.) A caveat: If they go back to that scene — go back to explain who told MiB how to make the Wheel and about the magnetism — then that's fine. But, why did we waste an hour on these two without getting key answers if they were just going to show the "real" answers during the finale? And why would the finale take time away from the castaways to show us nonsense about MiB and Jacob?
4.) Another non-answer: The smoke monster. So Mother told Jacob that if anyone actually went down into the light-filled cave at the Eden wading pool — a light that looked like the contents of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase — it would be a fate worse than death. Got it. And after MiB killed Mother, Jacob dragged him there and threw him down into the cave. Bang! Poof! Smash! He's now the smoke monster. Huh? Again, not an answer. If that's the best you can do, don't bother. Better to leave it as an unexplainable mystery.
4a.) And again, so if MiB is dead — flying in the face of what Mother told the boys about them not being able to hurt each other, meaning she's yet another Lost character who constantly lies — and the smoke monster took his visage and memories, a la Christian and Locke, why doesn't he just smoke monster Jacob to death. Clearly those silly rules don't apply. Clearly if MiB found a way off the Island, the smoke monster should have just gone and done it again. How does any of what we saw there tie into the candidates, the rules and the fact that Flocke wants to leave the Island?
4b.) Also: How was Ben able to control the smoke monster? How and why did the ashes keep him locked up? How did he get out of the cabin? Actually, how did he get in the cabin?
4c.) Clearly Mother was the original smoke monster as witnessed by her destruction of the MiB base camp. And she clearly wanted to get away from her Island guarding duties, as evidenced by her "thank you" following MiB stabbing her through the back. Okay, that's cool. But again, why? And since Allison Janney was booked for one episode, we'll never know.
4d.) And as it turns out, the boy that Flocke has been seeing on the Island is Young Jacob. But, again, why? Is Young Jacob growing up again, but fast, because he can't really die? Or is he just a ghost? Or, well, who cares?
5.) The Adam and Eve reveal. That just felt like the most tossed together explanation ever. I realize that Lindelof and Cuse didn't have this series mapped out from the start, but considering we just met Jacob and MiB at the end of last season, this reveal felt totally last minute, even if it wasn't. Whether or not they had thought of it from the end of season three is irrelevant; the Adam and Eve reveal is just grist for the mill for people who think this show is made up as it goes along. Also: It should have been Rose and Bernard.
6.) Other non-answers: Who built the statue? Who put the Frozen Donkey Wheel in place? Where is the Eden wading pool on the Island? Who built the lighthouse? The wine that Jacob gave Richard gives eternal life, but why? I could go on, but every one of these would end with "But, why?" And, as you readers know, normally this kind of teasing doesn't bother me, but considering this is probably the last big chunk of Jacob and MiB that we're going to get, it just felt totally worthless.
At the beginning of the episode, Mother told Claudia she should stop asking questions because they would only lead to more questions. Cute. But annoying. It's too late in the game for Lost to be forcing more questions on the audience. Especially questions and answers that don't actually mean anything to the enjoyment and story of the show we've been watching for six seasons. Did anything last night change the way you feel about the Island's mystical powers or Jacob and MiB? Not really. It was grandstanding backstory but nothing more. Lindelof joked recently that the end of Lost is like Star Wars but without the Ewoks. Maybe he should have left the midichlorians home too.