Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ep. 5.1-2 Because You Left/The Lie

I miss the flashbacks. Even last season, when they were called flashforwards, they were great. Okay, maybe I just really like flashing, but mostly I really liked the way one episode would center around one specific character. You could say "this is a Jack episode" or "I can't wait for another Ben episode" but the new format looks like they are getting away from that, and I miss that. Hopefully I'm wrong.

But as for this theory of mine... I think it's still safely on track. Let's recap:

1. Ben is waging a cosmic game of chess against "the universe" (aka "fate")
2. The powers of the island give Ben his ability to play this game, and he will keep that power at all costs
3. The stakes: changing history (specifically, saving the life of his beloved Annie)

Those are the Bernard-colored spectacles through which I interpret this show, and I think I'm still doing pretty good. What additional information did we learn from the two-part season premier?

1. Ben has more chess pieces off the island than we previously suspected

Not a huge surprise. We saw how he used Sayid last season, and we saw the video where Widmore took out one of "Ben's men" -- if he could stitch up Sayid in a vet he can store Dead Bentham in a butcher shop.

Any doubt that Ben hired those attorneys to flush Kate and Aaron out into the open?

Any doubt that Ben’s man was the guy sitting in the car keeping an eye on Hurley so that Ben could come in and take him when the time was right?

Any doubt that the men shooting Sayid with a tranquilizer (instead of real bullets) were Ben’s men trying to get Sayid so they can go back to the island together?

Any doubt that Sun is playing double agent? I just haven’t decided if she is working with Ben against Widmore, or if she is truly working for herself against Ben, using Widmore. Not sure... It is easy for me to imagine, however, that Ben would have sought her out after her return the way he did Sayid – that he would have explained to Sun that the freighter and the explosives and the second protocol and Martin keamy and the plan to kill everyone on the island were all Widmore’s doing. I can even imagine Ben giving her a similar line to the one he gave Michael: “wouldn’t a father (or wife) do anything to save (or avenge) his son (or husband)?” – a question very similar to the one Sun asked Kate. And you're telling me that Sun just happened to fly to Los Angeles within this 70-hour window of time when ben has to get everyone back onto the island, and she just happened to call Kate's cell phone right after Kate was scared out by the big bad my so-called attorney? Smells to me like she is pulling the strings for someone, and I'm going out on a limb to say it is the ultimate con-artist, Ben (although it may very well be Widmore trying to gum up Ben's plans -- we'll see).

But Ben is, once again, moving the pieces, pulling the strings. And he’s really really good at it.

2. Ms. Hawking

I loved seeing her again so much that I broke out the DVD collection and showed The Others to my daughter. That is such a great movie. But is Ms. Hawking really working for Ben? I’m not sure. I don’t really see her as a piece on Ben’s chess board. But she certainly possesses information that he needs. I loved the druid hood and all the time watching and the 70-hour window. But what is her true role in all of this?

My previous guess was that she was a long-time inhabitant of the island, maybe along the lines of Richard Alpert. But at some point, the original inhabitants had to choose who they would follow – maybe at the same time that Ben usurped the island from Widmore – and while Alpert chose Ben, Hawking chose Widmore. Maybe. But if so, why is she helping Ben? Ben always finds out what people are emotionally invested in and he exploits it. It Hawking wants back to the island, maybe he is using that to his advantage – allying with a former adversary to achieve a common goal.

One thing I know for sure about Hawking – if she turns out to be Faraday’s mother, I’m going to start making raspberry sounds with my armpits (and that is not a good thing).

3. Ben’s foreknowledge

This is something that has interested me for a while. Ben, wherever he is, always seems to go to some hidden place and retrieve something that was previously left for him there. We saw it last year with the buried lunch box and the mirror (and the 15-year-old crackers) and in one of the deleted scene on the DVDs he gets a little care package out of a rock in the middle of the Arabian desert after turning the frozen donkey wheel.

Now, in the season opener, he pulls a package out of the air conditioning vent at the hotel. I think this is evidence of his foreknowledge – he knows that Bill and Ted are going to need the keys to the prison cell so he swipes them from Bill's dad and puts them right where they can find them ahead of time. It’s an example of how the time-manipulating properties of the island give Ben the power he needs to try and outmaneuver the universe. And it's only scratching the surface (please only be scratching the surface -- don't tell me that Lost is only as sophistacated as Bill and Ted).

4. You can’t change history – once something is done, it is done

So says Daniel, the academic. But I've been in academia, and I know a bit about how these theories work. It’s a nice theory. It is sound and testable. And it is one we’ve heard before, from Ms. Hawking for one (please don't be his mother!!!). But the problem is, through the magic of dramatic irony, we -- the audience -- have insights not available to Dr. Faraday. We have seen that his theory is not necessarily true. Or at least we have seen that there is some grey area here.

Desmond changed Charlie’s fate, and that change had some serious repercussions. If Charlie would have been struck by lightening, or killed by that pigeon (he was at one point pecked to death by a pigeon, right?), or shot with that booby-trap arrow (I just wanted to say booby), then he would never have pushed those good vibration buttons that allowed Widmore’s freighter folk to get a lock on the island, and that set a whole range of events into motion. Of course Ben was able to somehow turn that donkey wheel and block Widmore’s move, but Charlie’s single button-pushing event seriously influenced the lives of dozens – if not hundreds – of people. How course-correction fits into this I don’t really know, but it seems that history can in fact be changed -- at least kind of.

But this is going to be another one of these science vs. faith, free will vs. fate dichotomies that we have come to know and love on Lost. My money is on the ability to change history, and Ben is going to do it to save his woman. Can’t wait to see how close I am with this Annie thing.

5. Stuff I really liked

The skipping record metaphor

“Previously on Entourage”

Ms. Hawking (duh!)

Ben trying to get Hurley to trust him (or perhaps to “not” trust him, see Anna Lucia discussion below)

Sayid has discovered Ben’s duplicitousness (and I have discovered a fun new word). I am looking forward to seeing how Sayid finds out that it was really Ben who had Naudia killed – not Widmore.

Ah who am I kidding – I liked pretty much all of it.


6. Stuff I didn’t like

Not a big fan of the Back to the Future II “future self watching past self do things that defined past self's success but could not have been accomplished without future self’s intervention.” (Stop it - I'm dizzy). I hope Lost doesn’t go too far down that path, although I suspect that we will see a few things like that (and in some sense, Ben leaving packages for himself a'la Bill and ted is one form already).

Didn’t like Locke watching the Nigerian plane crash.

Didn’t like Ethan running out of the jungle to shoot John Locke. Wouldn’t Ethan have remembered an encounter like that?

Didn’t like Faraday talking to hatch-Desmond to send a message to sleeping-next-to-Penny-conveiently-at-the-right-moment-in-our-narrative Desmond. Wouldn’t Desmond have remembered an encounter like that in more than jsut a dream several years later? (or at the very least blown his brains out for not being “him”)

Not a big fan of the meaningless cameos. What was the point of Ghost Anna Lucia? Maybe there is more here than I am seeing – maybe she is on the side of the Universe (like Chrlie and Libby and Christian and all the other ghosts) and is trying to block Ben’s pieces in this cosmic game of chess. Except that she told Hurley to avoid cops and to NOT get arrested, and Ben didn’t seem to want Hurley to get arrested (or did he?), but Hurley chose to not go with Ben and get arrested anyway (okay – so maybe we will find out next week that the policemen Hurley surrendered to were really Ben’s men, and this was part of what Ben meant when he said “looks like our plans have changed” to Jack. Maybe Sayid killed the guy that was supposed to bring Hurley in, so Ben had to stage something bigger). Okay, so maybe the Anna Lucia thing might not be so bad after all.

But really, I’m not a big fan of all the new questions this premier raised about time travel and the people on the island. How are the Losties traveling through time on the island all together, even in different locations (i.e. Locke) and with all their stuff? What binds them to each other instead of to the island? Why is it that Locke disappeared into time but Alpert and the others didn’t? What binds them to the island? Why wouldn’t Juliette, who was an "other" for so long, also be bound to the island like Alpert and the other others? (Did the brand she received for killing Picket truly separate her from that group somehow?) It's not really the questions I don't like -- I guess I'm just nervous about the potential answers.

But mostly, I didn’t like Dr. Chang’s clunky acting. Stick to the orientation videos.

7. The Intro

It was, however, very cool seeing Dr. Chang and his baby. Whether or not it is Miles, why isn’t anyone asking what it means about the pregnancy issue? Looks to me like this was before whatever caused pregnant women to die on the island. So maybe we will see the event that makes things change.

8. The Event That Makes Things Change

Aka “The Incident”
Aka “The Volcano”
Aka “What Daniel Faraday is doing in the past by those holes drilled in the cave wall”

Remember the message in the Swan Station orientation video – there was “an incident” so now this button must be pushed every 108 minutes to release the energy that is building up.

Remember the volcano that is supposed to explode and have a major impact on the island?

Is it possible that Season five will end with a volcanic explosion – an explosion that is caused by a group of time-hopping Losties who are trying to get the record to stop skipping, so they blow a hole into the wall to get to the center where the donkey wheel will fix whatever went wrong – a hole that Dharma tries to cover up with the Orchid station (and later is blasted again and used as the corridor through which Benjamin Linus travels to turn the frozen donkey wheel to make the record start skipping inthe first place) – a hole that, becaise of Faraday and the time-hopping Losties, leaks energy now and makes Dharma build the Swan station as a release valve so that the volcano doesn’t explode again?

And somehow this is all being done so that Ben can maintain control of this island, so that he can skillfully engage the universe in a cosmic game of chess, and maybe – just maybe – find a way to save his Annie from her awful fickle bitchy fate (can someone say Adam and Eve).

By the way – my wife got a mysterious package under the Christmas tree this year addressed in unfamiliar handwriting from a J. Bentham. Man I’ve missed this show.

It’s been a long time. Good to be back.