Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Big Ones

Happy finale day, everyone. I'll be writing 'answer' posts as twins to my previous 'questions' post from time to time in the following weeks. I'm sure I'll also have some thoughts about the finale itself that I'll want to write about here. Thanks to all who have read these posts, and please consider yourself welcome to come back and provide your own input on the answers we'll be left with after tonight.

In conclusion, here are--for me--the big, unresolved questions I'd like to see addressed in the finale.



1. How has Ms. Hawking always known what's going to happen? What has been her motivation for being such a cryptic and cruel guide to Des, Faraday, and others?

2. What happens if the Man in Black leaves the Island? Plenty of characters have alluded to ominous consequences...Isabella (via Hurley): "We all will go to hell"; Widmore: "everything you know will simply cease to exist"; Ms. Hawking: "We are all dead!"

3. What is the Sideways? How is it connected to the Jughead detonation?

4. What does Desmond know, that has guided his actions in both realities since 'Happily ever after'?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

To all the Lost fans...

Holy frak. I love Lost. I love Lost fans. Thank you so much to njusticeleague. This is amazing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A remembrance of Seasons Past: The hatch

So, here comes the second of a five part series of really short reflections on seasons gone by. I kind of free-associated what I remember to be the emblematic sounds, images, characters and scenes of the season in question. But they could never be the only ones, and you're most welcome to comment on your own selections.

Season 2:'Lost' departed in Season two. It departed from hopes of imminent rescue, and from the physical drama of eking out an eating, drinking, disease-free existence in the wilderness. It departed from the hothouse collision of 40+ (for dramatic purposes, 12+) strangers forced to regress into a rough collective of survivors. The show has been continually moving since that first departure, but the rush of leaving, the absolutely novel contours of the first port, and the depth of mystery we were able to glimpse there makes Season Two my favorite season of Lost.

I have the sense that this isn't a common position--that conventional wisdom is that pushing the button was a gimmick that should have lasted 2 episodes, not an entire season. I've also read the creators themselves, and Terry O'Quinn, talking about the mounting frustration they felt as they were forced to keep Locke in the hatch, hour after hour, pushing the button. It may have been maddening, but I am enchanted by its sheer simplicity, and its ability to formalize the key conflict of the entire series--Why are we here?--in relentlessly awesome pseudo-sciencey trappings. It's old news now, but could anyone, in their absolute wildest predictions, have guessed what awaited our castaways in the Hatch?? Darlton have said that they take their missteps in stride because without a willingness to go so far out there and court failure, they wouldn't have the successes we all love them for. The opening of Season 2 represents a massive risk, and stands as a peerless success.

The Sound:

The hatch computer timing out. Leading to the crash, and the entire series...nuff said.

The Image:

The numbers: "Enter exactly what I tell you. And nothing else."

The Character:'s a tie between Eko and Locke. Both men of faith, but Eko's was a faith that his journey had ended, while Locke's was a faith that his special purpose was yet to really begin. Perhaps no character on 'Lost' is thought to have met a more premature end than Mr. Eko. While it wasn't until Season 3 that he died, it was in Season 2 that Eko became the powerful presence that we still miss. Still, Darlton has said that Adewale's desire to leave the show left them the room necessary to further develop Ben Linus into a major component of the show--so, not the worst of exchanges. As far as Locke, the biggest arc of the season is, essentially, Locke's own arc. The writer's took us into the depths of elation, piety, petulance, anger, and heroism of this extraordinary character. Taking the long, long view, there isn't a single more original and compelling character on 'Lost' than John Locke, and this was the season that the writers and O'Quinn took us into the bare heart of the man.

The Scene:

Jack. Locke. The Hatch. The Button. Faith. Science. Mindgames. Absolute fracking brilliance. Watch the whole thing. It primes you for the final 15 seconds, which have probably already been the seed for a thousand discussions in Philosophy 101 classes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Guys...where are we?

After the events of 'Across the Sea', the context of a post like this, concerning questions about the nature of the Island, is going to be radically shifted. Before Season 6 (when I composed the questions below) I just wasn't prescient enough to wonder about what might happen if the Island overlaid a golden river of something...special...that I have a little of in my heart, and you do too.

I'd still like a marker here to look back on later in post-finale retrospecting on what we did and didn't find out about the Island. So, written from some time around 'The Substitute' is...


Obviously, the island is a place where impossible things occur. Some of these events (i.e., Dharma time-traveling bunnies) have a basis in pseudo-science, while others are more supernatural (Island apparations such as Yemi, Walt’s astral projections, the monster, etc). Finally, many of the island impossibilities may be rooted in a unified theory of both pseudo-science and the supernatural. So what the heck is the island?

1. Is it a natural place that gains its peculiar properties from being the playground/plaything of demigodish entities such as Jacob and MiB?

2. Is it an inherently magical place that draws humans to it, and then allows the latent capacities and archetypes of mankind to manifest in strange and supernatural ways? This idea is influenced by Dan Simmons’s books Ilium and Olympos (which in turn are influenced by, among others, The Tempest), in that they’re in a large part about the consequences of myths becoming real via sfnal means.

3. Is the island, in some way, personified? The key example here would be the mystery golden boy from ‘The Substitute’. Could he represent the Island made (visible to some) flesh? If this is so, is the personified island restricted to a role of neutral arbiter between conflicting sides?

4. Or is Jacob the island personified? And MiB is a sort of Ahab, obsessively trying to kill the Great White Whale that took his leg trapped him long ago?

5. Or is MiB the island personified? Although this would really be a variation on the above, in which a man is slowly, and eventually his great sorrow, turned into something else than a man.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The good son

The good son has sat and often wept
Beneath a malign star by which he's kept
And the night-time in which he's wrapped
Speaks of good and speaks of evil
And he calls to his mother
And he calls to his father
But they are deaf in the shadows
Of his brother's truancy
The good son
The good son
The good son
The good son

Update: TPTB talk about the Outrigger shootout

A while ago, I wrote a post concerning a mysterious event in the Season 5 episode 'The Little Prince'. In that episode, an outrigger canoe manned by Locke, Juliet, Miles, Sawyer, and Charlotte came under fire from another boat, some distance away. They returned fire, and appeared to wound one of the assailants before disappearing in a timeshift. Though the event did not have any massive plot repercussions, the identity of the assailants remains a mystery to this day. Or until yesterday, that is.

During an extended interview with Darlton, Alan Sepinwall brought up the as-yet-unexplained shootings. The following is a SPOILER. I've excerpted the relevant passage from the (very interesting) interview below. But you'll have to open the spoiler box if you want to read it.



AS: Okay, finally, I have to ask, simply because it's been driving me nuts for a year and a half: what's going on with showing the other half of the outrigger shootout?

CC: The outrigger shootout is not something we're bending around in gyrations so we can solve it. In the grand scheme of the show, that is a fairly obscure piece of the show. It is your particular obsession...

DL: ...and you're not alone in it.

CC: You're not alone in it. And yes, it would have been great if we had had the opportunity to close the time loop. But you can't get everything done and keeping the narrative going in a straight line. This is one of those things where we made a very conscious choice to ask, "What are the big questions? And most importantly, what are the paths of these characters? Where do they lead?" And we followed those paths and tried not to trip ourselves up getting too diverted from that. We felt that that's the thing that's ultimately going to make the finale work or not work. We got to the point where we made the finale we wanted to make, that was our approach, and I think it was the only approach we could take. We sat here in my office, had breakfast every day for six years, talked about the show, and we used this gut check methodology, where if we both loved something and thought it was cool, that would go in. We applied that same methodology to the finale, and that was the only way we could do it. We came up with a finale that we thought was cool, that was emotional and one we really liked. That's the best we could do.

DL: When we wrote that scene and somebody started shooting at them, we knew exactly who was shooting at them. That is not a dangling thread that we don't know the answer to. That being said, as we started talking about paying that off this season, it felt like the episode was at the service of closing the time loop, as opposed to what the characters might actually be doing in that scenario. It never felt organic. We decided we would rather take our lumps from the people who couldn't scratch that itch than to produce an episode that was in service of putting people in an outrigger and getting shot at.

AS: You put people in a lot of outriggers this season. It feels, frankly, like you're taunting me.

DL: We can't entirely deny that we're taunting you.

CC: Honestly, though, the logistics of getting all the participants in the outriggers in the configuration that was on the A-side of the time loop was actually really daunting.

DL: Considering half of them had been killed off

CC: It's not like we didn't want to do it. Like Damon says, it was just too much of a narrative deviation to do it.


So that is what it is. Go ahead and comment away on this topic. But don't read the comments if you don't want to be SPOILED.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

'Across the Sea' blew my mind

'Across the Sea' was a simple story, a devotedly simple story, its structure purposely unadorned with humor, suspense, romantic pique, or any story elements familiar to 'Lost' fans. I was nearly expecting the 3 principal cast members to simply utter their lines seated while an unseen chorus provides the little exposition needed. Whether the classical tones of the story resonated within the mythic framework of 'Lost' or were instead jarringly ponderous is a judgment that I wouldn't yet make for anybody but myself. However, I would suggest that such judgments should be postponed (as is necessary for almost every episode this season) until after a rewatch. The paranoia about 'answers, answers, answers' is so debilitating that it’s difficult as hell to pay attention to the present—the episode on the screen—the first time around. Thus, after my rewatch, I've made up my mind about 'Across the Sea'.

The episode...complicated me. It complicated my vision of what 'Lost' is. And, being the sort of viewer I am, that makes it the most gratifying episode of the season.

Mother was enough

The anonymity of the Mother allows the woman to assume an archetype rather than a personality, and her implacability girds the sense of timelessness that myth affords. Maybe I'm a cheap date, but I would happily exchange a fully manufactured and exposited origin for these few mythic brushstrokes. And I thank the writers for grounding the Island’s origin in the structures of myth without nailing it in place with some list of times, places, and people that might constitute some particular origin story.

It’s hard to state exactly, but: I'm *not* watching 'Lost' to discover 'what' the supernatural tokens of the story 'really' are. They aren't 'really' anything. Each succeeding level of explanation of, say, the FDW will require more minutiae, more 'facts' with a veneer of rationality. And eventually, somewhere in the secondary, tertiary, or subsequent rationalizations for such things, we will discover the nugget of impossibility that powers the whole machine. Only, by that point, with our sustained deployment of rational investigation, we will have unfortunately convinced ourselves that we are, in fact, considering a genuine thing of this world. It will end badly now, as the nugget of impossibility will be transformed into a pellet of bullshit, and that's all we'll see, smell, or think of whenever we see the FDW.

I *am* watching 'Lost' to find out about the 'who' and the 'why'. And regarding the Mother, I think the cocktail of the writers’ borrowing from the narrative devices of myth and ancient story, along with a harrowing and unnatural performance from the actress has communicated the 'who' and the 'why' to me.

The Man in Black is not the Man in Black. He is not any ‘body’

I can’t say I was thrilled when ‘Lost’ decided to personify evil in the opening and closing scenes of ‘The Incident’. If there is a thread that runs through all of its seasons, I would argue that it is the dilemma of free choice, unanchored from the surety of absolutes. But Lost’s focus does not cease at the moment of choice—it follows characters as the consequences of their choices shape their very nature and identity. The drama has always been existential, and rarely—if ever—moral. So, to introduce an important character who, simply by dint of his identity, cannot make a choice that isn’t evil seemed an uncalled for reduction in the autonomy of the main characters who must react to him.

After ‘Across the Sea’, I realize that the writers never intended such personification, and not for the first time, I have been conned.

What I mean is this: We thought that the man who shared breakfast with Jacob was the same man who freed Richard from his chains, and (at least for the first 40 minutes of ‘Across the Sea’) the fraternal twin of Jacob. Yes, he had a kind of superpower, but he could be understood as a man just as costumed supervillains like Magneto or Dr. Doom can be understood as men, though sort of pre-defined as ‘bad’ men. The profound reveal of the final golden cave scene is that the fellow who ate breakfast with Jacob and freed Richard is as similar a person to Jacob’s nameless twin as the Fake-Locke of Season 6 is to the man the Benjamin Linus murdered in the Westerfield Hotel. Following ‘Across the Sea’, the ‘eeeeevil!’ of that character has been dissociated from a personality, in the sense that the man we thought to be evil’s author (the nameless twin) died 2000 years ago. It *is* disorienting: we must now both negate Jacob’s twin from the identity of the man on the beach, and comprehend that fLocke’s true identity is, in fact, not Jacob’s bad twin, but the identityless man on the beach. It doesn’t seem possible. How can fLocke have an identity of no identity?

The astounding nature of ‘Eeeeevvvil!’ on ‘Lost’

He can because he is a liar, and because in the metaphysics of ‘Lost’, the root of evil is nothing more or less than a lie. In Christianity, the adversary of God is often described as the ‘father of lies’. In literature though, it’s a challenge to personify such a character, as their very personhood and agency are predicated on a coherent motivation: that is, there must be at least one lie that they do not tell themselves, and thus, if they wished to, that they might relate to someone else. In ‘Lost’, the dislocation of fLocke’s identity allows him to bypass these constraints: he can both have the motivations once attributed to the nameless twin, and not have the identity, the agency, that grew them. We could ask of the nameless twin “What is it that truly motivates you? What makes you tick?” , and we could know that there is a true, real answer to the question. Ask the same question of fLocke, and though he might reply with the same words, we know that it would be, in a both technical and important sense, a lie. For fLocke is not the Bad twin, and as much as he might think otherwise, he lied when he replied to Ben’s quivering query of “What are you?” with “I’m not a ‘what’ Ben, I’m a ‘who’”. And what is he? What is the ‘what’? He is that whose identity is no identity. He is no-person, no-history, no-motivation, he is a nullity. He is what would be loosed upon the world if the Island were no longer to constrain him. It is what Widmore is speaking of when he warns Desmond that unless he aids him, the world he knows will simply “cease to exist”. The awkwardly alluded to nature of the golden spring is, in a word—being—and the danger of the black smoke is its embodiment of the paradoxical concept of un-being.

Up until ‘Across the Sea’ the writers have thing-ified this un-being as a cloud of black smoke—not the worst choice for representing the presence of absence in prime-time television. I am truly astounded after ‘Across the Sea’ by the skill of the story’s creators—able to convincingly create a character, and a basis for ‘evil’, that is absent identity, personhood, or morality.