The End is Nigh

21 Apr

Finally, most of the characters are together in one place

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog about anything- that’s because I’ve been working 13 hours a day for the past 12 days driving French people around in a pass van for $100 a day. Yeah… I know… it was exactly as it sounds. Anyways I’m back, and have some thoughts on everybody’s favorite exercise in narrative absurdity- LOST. With only five hours left LOST is very clearly moving into its endgame- ABC is even labeling the three eps leading up to the finale as part of their “Finale Event.” This is a good thing, because the show was undoubtedly growing stagnant and ponderous in its middle act and needed a boost in pace. Blasphemy, you say. How can Alex Hilhorst, LOST’s number one fan even ponder criticizing what he has previously called “the greatest show of all time?” Well, it pains me to do so, but it’s the truth. Episodes like “Recon,” “The Package” and “Everybody Loves Hugo” felt stale and unnecessarily slow and have marred what has otherwise been a stellar final season. Thankfully, last night’s “The Last Recruit” changed all that and I am once again confident that the show is moving towards a fantastic conclusion. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this year, but I just can’t imagine Team Darlton would jump the shark this late in the game. But first, let’s discuss what I haven’t liked about the show these past couple weeks.

The Flash-Sideways & Pacing

In this year’s premiere, “LA X,” I was thoroughly intrigued by the flash-sideways and thought they would be an engaging alternative to the flashbacks and flashforwards of previous seasons. That’s because in that first episode they were new and fresh; they could’ve had an hour of alterna-Jack sitting on the can and I still would have been enraptured. But by the time we reached “Dr. Linus” my interest was starting to wane. What were initially cool twists on our original characters started to feel like cheap narrative devices designed for the sole purpose of turning viewers’ preconceptions on their heads. Ben’s a nice guy and a history teacher! Sawyer’s a cop! Look, Mikhail got shot in the eye! LOL! But while each flashsideways had a gag like this, few had any weight to them. Okay, so things are all wacky and different in this bizarro world- so what? Is this a real place or are the writers just fucking with me? Without knowing the true nature of the universe, it was hard to have any emotional investment in it. Only in the really standout episodes that featured the best actors- Locke and Jack’s flashsideways come to mind- did I feel an emotional connection to the alternate reality. In nearly every other episode I just wished we could see more of what was happening on the Island.

Before the season started and we were introduced to the other world, I was expecting the writers to completely abandon the flash-whatever format. I felt we had learned all we could possibly learn about our main characters and since it was the last season and the stakes were so high I figured there wouldn’t be time to dwell on anything other than the on-Island story. Up until Desmond’s “Happily Ever After” episode I sorta wished they had gone with that. It’s not that the flashsideways plot isn’t interesting (at least now), it’s just that before they introduced the connection between the two realities the FS’s seemed to just slow down the Island plot. Storylines were dragged on for multiple episodes, characters that used to be at the forefront like Jack and Ben seemed to just be loitering and looking sad, and while in the context of the show our characters were only sitting around doing nothing for a couple days, to the audience it seemed like weeks. Kate and Sawyer even complained to the Man in Black about their inaction last week, almost as if they were voicing the concerns of the fanbase.

There could have been an easy solution to this: put the Desmond episode, or at least the revelation that these two universes are connected, about four to five hours earlier than it was. Then, stupid shit like Ben blackmailing his boss or Jin & Sun doing, well… anything, wouldn’t have seemed so stupid because there would be a reasoning behind it all. This is all in the past now, and fortunately the flash-sideways universe has finally picked up, mainly thanks to our interdimensional traveller, Desmond Hume. I’m not sure what his game is, other than to get all the 815 passengers together, but his hit and run of Locke reminded me of how surprising LOST can be. That scene was so well-made- the intercutting between Ben’s interrogation of Desmond with the Scot eyeing Locke as he slowly wheeled away- it implied that Desmond was merely trying to get in contact with Locke like he had been doing with the other passengers. Instead he ran ol’ Baldy over, an act that has stirred up quite a bit of debate amongst fans. There’s a lot of questions now as to who is the Man in Black and who is John Locke, and whether they are perhaps one and the same now. I have a theory that perhaps the manner in which MIB will actually escape the Island will be by transferring his soul to the body of alterna-Locke, but that seems a little far-fetched. More likely Desmond ran him over simply because he has memories of him as MIB on the Island and just thinks they’re the same guy. Sun freaked out when she saw Locke on the gurney, but again, maybe alterna-Locke is still just Locke and our characters are just getting confused because they don’t have a complete grasp of what their Island memories mean. Only time will tell…

That’s What the Whispers Are? Really? C’mon…… Really?

Without a doubt, the stupidest reveal in all of LOST’s history. I don’t really know what the reasoning was behind this, but it was dumb. While I like the idea that in addition to being an electromagnetic hotspot and prison for evil incarnate, the Island is also purgatory for ghosts with questionable pasts, but the whisper reveal still felt like a huge retcon. It’s cool to have another faction with a vested interest in the Island and the Candidates- the ghosts- but the whispers have always been associated with the Others- last season Ben even told Rousseau “Every time you hear whispers you run the other way.” Frankly, this was one of those mysteries I don’t think we needed an answer for (that also goes for why Walt is psychic. Sorry to all you Walt fans, but I don’t really give a shit at this point). The whispers were cool because they were ambiguous and that ambiguity made them creepy. The next time I hear them now all I’ll think about is, “Oh, those are those dumb ghosts acting like a bunch of assholes.” I don’t know, maybe it will grow on me in time…

Let’s Talk About Ilana

I don’t know how to feel about Ilana’s untimely demise. On the one hand, I’m all for random, shocking deaths- it’s part of what makes LOST such an awesome show. In fact, more than ever before there is a real “anyone can die this year” vibe. Last night, when Claire had her gun trained on Kate I didn’t think it was a patented impossibility that Claire wouldn’t just shoot Kate dead then and there, or that Sayid would execute Desmond (pretty sure he didn’t though. That creepy grin he gave when he told MIB to “go and check for yourself if you like” implied he was messing with the big bad). And death via explosion is always great- who can forget Hurley’s “you’ve got some Artz on you” line from season one? But it felt a little too on the nose to have another character bite the dust by being incredibly irresponsible with 150 year-old dynamite. It’s just that Ilana had been built up as this big badass, and for her to die by tossing a knapsack stuffed to the brim with TNT so carelessly onto the ground just seemed a little silly. On the one hand, Ilana’s plotline had more or less reached its conclusion- as Ben noted, “the Island was done with her.” At least there was a point to her death- the idea that when the Island is done with you it just offs you and the fear that the same may happen to our favorite characters. But the writers still could have gone somewhere with her, and with Juliet dead there are now no true badass female characters (that Liz Lemon goofball doesn’t count). If anything, Ilana’s detonation reminded us that the Island is a treacherous place and that it’s very likely a significant portion of our cast will bite the dust this year. Unlike Dogen and Lennon’s murders in episode 5, Ilana’s death had some weight to it as we had just gotten to know her. It certainly made me fear for Ben, another character who’s plotline seems to have hit a dead end. When he volunteered for what sounds like a total suicide mission- blow up the plane- I experienced a sinking feeling that LOST’s greatest schemer may be facing his demise very soon.

What I Liked

Well, pretty much everything about “The Last Recruit.” The only thing I didn’t really care for was Ilana’s cameo- I was expecting something more significant. For a minute I thought maybe she too was aware of the other reality (most of the dead people seem to be) and was doing the same job in bizarro world as she was on the Island- protecting the Candidates. But nope- she was just a lawyer, and existed only to bring Jack and Claire together. Lame. But other than that, episode 12 was very impressive. The pacing picked up like nobody’s business, and finally we had most of the characters together in one spot, as well as a belated Jin/Sun reunion with some nice cheese. I like the show’s continuing internal debate as to how much power the Man in Black actually holds. Claire reiterated what Dogen said way back when: that the moment you let him speak to you it’s too late. They’ve been very unclear as to whether this statement is to be taken literally, but I think it’s more of a proclamation of the villain’s power than an actual rule. For instance, Sawyer and most of the good guys took the first opportunity to ditch Smokey and flee, a plan I really enjoyed watching in action. It’s nice to see multiple leaders among our group- Jack, Sawyer, Hurley, Richard- and watch them work together and argue about what to do at the same time. Jack made a good argument for staying, and is continuing to emerge as the most likely Candidate. Smokey’s final line- “You’re with me now, Jack” was pretty ominous, but I have faith that our stronger-willed characters are capable of resisting MIB’s abilities. Not to mention that if all it takes is one word from the Smokester to seduce a man’s soul, I doubt Widmore would send his “number two” to talk to him in person. Oh, and holy shit! Widmore has stinger missles!

Oh shi-

LOST is chock full of explosions this year, and I can’t say I’m not pleased. Jack’s near-death experience further reiterated the high stakes feel of season six. I know it’s unlikely Jack will be offed before the finale, if at all, but I can’t say my heart didn’t jump when that explosion sent him flying. Alison also freaked when Jin and Sun ran to each other, because she thought the sonic fence would still be on and their brains would melt.

I think the best thing about “The Last Recruit” was its enhanced pace, which was augmented by no one character being the center of the installment. There was also considerably more time spent on the Island than in the flashsideways, but the other universe was still intriguing thanks to the characters all converging in the same place. I wonder if we’ll even see another character-centric episode this year, and if we do, I hope it’s a Jacob/MIB flashback episode. In any case, it’s hard not to feel like the show is finally picking up and moving towards its endgame. After a shaky middle act, LOST has finally started to engage my entire brain. Last night I was riveted, and I hope I continue to be riveted for the next five hours.

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