Thursday, February 26, 2009

LOST REVIEW: Ep. 5.7 "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"

Another grand slam this week. I was glued. You didn't have to wait long to find out who put the camera up to await John Locke's arrival, and we had some great dialogue between Widmore and Locke. Of course Locke didn't ask all of the questions we may have wanted him to ask, but we got a clearer sense of the stakes this week than we have in the past: "There's a war coming, and if you're not on the island when that happens, the wrong side will win." How true this is remains to be seen, and it sure is conditional for all of the fate and destiny we see on this show, but it sure is interesting.

Do you believe Widmore? I think most of what he said was true. He was a leader of the people on the island. But if his idea of "peaceful defense" is snapping the neck of the colleague who is about to reveal the location of the camp, then this is going to be some awesome war! So no, I don't completely trust Widmore, but I do trust him more than Ben, and I love the reveal that Ben tricked him off the island -- something we have suspected since last season's "The Shape of Things to Come."

Was anyone really surprised the Ben strangled Locke and framed it as a suicide? He finds out what people are invested in, and he exploits it. He just needed to keep Mr. Special alive long enough to get the name of the person who would put him back on the island, and goodbye Johnny, again. Last time Ben tried to kill Locke he later said "I should have known better." WHy? Because he knows Locke has a role to play in the future and that he is already around for it. But Ben is all about changing fate, so he's going to keep testing it. I'm sure he thought he was getting rid of John by killing him like this and hoping that he could just leave him buried in some cemetary in LA. It wasn't until later that he learns that even dead John must go back to the island in order for him to be able to return. Drats, blocked again. The cat and mouse between these guys is awesome.

Do you think Helen is really dead? We have already seen that a gravestone in a cemetary does not a dead Jin make, and wouldn't it make sense for Widmore to stage Helen's death if some stupid notion like "the pursuit of love" were to distract Locke from getting where he needs to go?

Did you notice the "love" theme here? Sayid's "best nine months of his life" with the love of his life. Kate's "you wanted to leave the island because you've never been in love." And Abbaddon's "maybe you could have been together, but that was not your path." Nothing definitive in those themes, of course, but I still think it is forshadowing Ben's motivation -- doing all this nefarious business for the sake of cheating fate and spending more quality time with his beloved Annie. I know he is a liar and all, but I actually believed that bit of remorse when he said farewell to hanging corpse John -- I really will miss you. Regretably he has to do these things, but in hs mind (and his heart) the ends justify the means.

There is still some more off-island backstory to tell (Sayid's capture, Hurley's release, Kate & Aaron, Desmond & Penny, bloody Ben, etc) but it looks like we've tied up most of main the loose ends and are ready to continue the rest of the story on the island.

But I still have a few Widmore-related questions:

Ben clearly didn't know that Hawking was the way back to the island. Does Widmore? If he knows where she is I think that he must. So why doesn't he use her to get back to the island himself?

Richard used to visit off-island. Has he ever looked up Widmore? Are they enemies? Allies?

Anyway, another excellent episode. Can't wait for next week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

LOST REVIEW: Ep. 5.6 "316" (Additional Thoughts)

Something wasn’t sitting quite right with me last night. It wasn’t the albondigas soup – that was fantastic. It was more the dilemma I face daily as I try to make sense of this puzzle that is Lost. It started with the simple question, “where did Ben go and how did he get so bloodied?”

Well, I think the obvious answer is that Ben went to kill Penny. He had seen Desmond minutes earlier at the church, and his eyes lit up in “future recognition,” although he had never actually met Desmond or known about his connection to Penny or even known that Penny has accompanied Desmond to Los Angeles in the first place (not from his past experience – only from his future experience). But Ben left jack in the church saying that he had made a “promise to an old friend” (i.e. that he would kill that old friend’s daughter) and had that loose end to tie up before heading back to the island for good. Clearly something went wrong with his plan – no, I don’t think that he did kill Penny – he was thwarted and barely made it back to the plane in time to get back to the island, which – ultimately – was more important to him than revenge. So Ben made it on the plane following the plan that Hawking set up to get him back to the island.

But when you start pulling on that string, other strings begin to unravel. Like this:

Why can’t Widmore use Hawking to get back to the island?

When Ben promised Widmore that he would kill his daughter, and Widmore said “you’ll never find her” Ben gave a “right back at ya” remark in regards to the island. But – hang on a minute – because this is the same Widmore who pointed Desmond to Los Angeles in the first place, to go find the mother of the guy who’s research he had been funding for so many years. If Widmore knew Hawking was in LA, he must also have known about the lamppost Dharma station and the island-finding pendulum. Infact, if Widmore is really trying to find the island and he is really funding someone’s research, isn’t it reasonable to expect that those two things go together? In other words, Widmore should be able to go to LA and look at the swinging pendulum himself and know exactly where the island is going to be in time – where the “windows” will open and close.

So why doesn’t Widmore do it himself?

Probably the same reason you don’t use your king to make aggressive moves in Chess. You get your pawns and bishops and knights to clear the way.

Which explains, I think, who these other people on the plane are with the Oceanic 6. The woman escorting Sayid – the Arab man who spoke to Jack – these guys are part of Widmore’s “next group” to go to the island for him – the group after Naomi, Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, etc. Heck, even clean-shaven Frank Lapidus is flying the plane, and he was a part of that previous group as well.

This flight is yet another attempt of Widmore to get back and regain control of the island. Widmore may even be the reason Sayid (captured) and Hurley (released from jail) and Kate (Aaron taken away) changed their minds and got on board in such a short amount of time. We already know he has something going on with Sun.

But Ben keeps gumming up the works, doesn’t he? John Locke was supposed to turn the donkey wheel, but Ben did it instead. John Locke was supposed to round up the O6 and take them to Hawking for a ticket back to the island, but Ben did that instead. Now Ben is situating himself once again between Widmore and his objectives. It would not surprise me at all to see that Ben is somehow undermining this third or fourth or whatever number attempt Widmore is making to get back to the island.

It also wouldn’t surprise me to see that Faraday is the “clever man” who created the lamppost station for Dharma in the early 50’s as the culmination of a research grant from Widmore that started in the early 80’s and that Widmore’s reason for including Faraday as part of Naomi’s first group to the island was to get him back to the 50’s to create that lamppost station that finally finds the island for Widmore after years of searching. He has the tool to find it, but the only way to get back is to ride the coattails of someone that the island really needs – like Jack Sheppard or John Locke or the other O6 who’s roles and overall importance are slowly coming into greater focus. I like all the Narnia and Caspian references I have been seeing from Doc Jensen and elsewhere. It really is looking like the return of the noble family of Narnia or something. They don’t really know who they are yet.

Such a cool show.

Friday, February 20, 2009

LOST REVIEW: Ep. 5.6 "316"

“Is he telling the truth?”

“Probably not”

I loved every minute of this episode. From the very beginning with the iconic “eye close-up” on Jack waking up again on the island – I was absolutely hooked. The pacing was so much better – slower – more character driven. The reveals were so much more significant. It ranks right up there in my top five favorite episodes. Awesome.

So, thank you Nate for pointing out the Desmond quote that “these people are playing a game and we are just the pieces.” But the most significant reveals in this episode to me were Ms. Hawking’s history lesson about how Dharma found the island – “this is how they found the island.” Who exactly are the “they” she is referring to? I have some wacky ideas.

“A very clever fellow” built the pendulum on the theoretical notion that they should stop looking for where the island was supposed to be, and start looking for where it was going to be. This man and his team figured out where the island would be at a certain point in time.

I can’t help thinking that Daniel Faraday is/was/will be that very clever fellow, and that Jack Shepherd and his friends from Oceanic 815 are his team. If I am right, this all happened in a past that these guys haven’t quite arrived at that point in their own history yet. But it has already happened, so Ms. Hawking can confidently tell Desmond that the island is not through with him, because she knows that he has already played this important role in the past, just as she knew that he would go to the island and push the button.

It also explains her answer about what would happen if they all didn’t get back to the island – it would be unpredictable – which means, of course, that since they all DID get back to the island (it already happened) and their actions put into motion events that have already occurred, if that were somehow changed, you couldn’t predict with any certainty what would happen next.

Which – I think – is exactly what Ben is trying to accomplish in his quest to maintain control of the island and harness the power it gives him.

If Faraday and Jack and Co. are the historical founders of Dharma, the builders of the lamppost station, and the finders of the island, then Ben would have learned this in his history lessons on the island. He would have had knowledge of what had already happened, even though the players themselves had not advanced that far yet in the game.

One theory that I have scoffed at for the past two seasons is the suggestion that Jacob is John Locke. I haven’t completely embraced this idea yet (especially since Richard didn’t recognize Locke at one point when he said that Jacob sent him), but now I am seeing how this could possibly be the case, and if it is, I wouldn’t really hate it.

Imagine that Locke goes through everything he is going through – that in a return to the island as “proxy” he is reincarnated somehow -- but at an earlier stage in the island’s history – it is possible that he could become the “Jacob” who is the protector of the island. It is also possible that he is somehow imprisoned – or whatever the current state of Jacob is – by a greedy power-hungry guy like Charles Widmore, who then loses the island to greedier power-hungrier Benjamin Linus, who recognizes the young Jacob in John Locke, and tries to insert himself into Locke’s historical path to greatness so that he (Ben) will become the historic “Jacob” instead of Locke (example: Ben “moves the island” instead of Locke doing it because he thinks that will put himself on the path that makes Locke become Jacob).

It’s late. I’m rambling. And it’s late.

At one point in this past episode I started thinking along these “usurping” lines and I told Tracey that when Jack opened up the coffin to put in the shoes, he would find Ben inside instead of Locke – Ben, of course, trying to take Locke’s place. But, um… I was wrong.

It doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

Remember in this season’s premier, we saw Faraday in Dharma attire doing something sneaky around the soon-to-be orchid station. Well, I’m expecting a twist in this season’s finale. Faraday and some of the Losties (Jack and Co.) will hatch some plan to harness the energy to get them back to where they need to be, but will once again get booted off the island. Somehow Ben will be behind this to get them out of the picture. They will be sent back to the outside world, but this time they will be in the past – the 1950s – and they once again will have to find a way back to the island. That’s when they will build the lamppost, and will start Dharma, and will put all these things in to motion, and do it with a clearer picture of what will happen in the future, because they have already seen it and experienced it, and they will create a game of mousetrap to outsmart Ben linus with their 20-20 hindsight.

Let me walk you through another crazy mousetrap scenario I can imagine:

In order for Locke to finally triumph over Ben, he has to posses some knowledge that Ben does not know that he has – the glow-in-the-dark map of all Dharma stations he saw on the blast door. This knowledge will ultimately save the day. Somehow. Just work with me.

In order for Locke to see the map, Ben has to do whatever Ben did in the swan hatch to reset the system and cause the blackout and the map to start glowing (without knowing, of course, what he has done).

In order for Ben to get into the Swan hatch in the first place, he has to be captured unexpectedly by Rousseau in her net and delivered to Sayid and the Losties.

In order for Rousseau to build her net traps, she and her team must be lead to the island.

In order for Rousseau’s team to find the island, someone (my money is on Hurley) must transmit the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 from the radio tower. (I really like the idea that Hurley is the ultimate source of his own numbers paranoia).

In order for Locke to be able to see the map and the information it contains after all of this has happened, some named Radzinski (Faraday? Locke himself?) must paint it invisibly onto the blast door.

This may be way off, but with the new time twists in Lost, we can see all of these potentially mind-blowing possibilities of the older Losties preparing the island for the arrival of their younger selves. Who knows – maybe they somehow arrange the food drops in advance because they know they will need them in the future? There are so many ways this can be used.

Of course this episode also has many other minor mysteries to be solved in the next few episodes:

What happened with Aaron?
How did Ben get all bloodied?
Who is the woman with Sayid, and the Middle Eastern man in the seas with them?
Where (when?) are the other people on the plane (did it crash, or did the island just reclaim the people that weren’t supposed to leave it?)
Why did Frank Lapidus shave his cool Kenny Rogers beard?

So many questions. So many possible answers. So glad that Lost got itself back on track after Locke fixed that annoying skipping donkey wheel.

Yes!!!! It’s back.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ep. 5.5 This Place is Death

I’ve been a little disappointed in Lost the past few weeks -- too much so to really devote the time to a blog about it. It felt rushed (flash, bleed, flash, bleed). Anti-climatic (my name is Rousseau, Danielle Rousseau). Pointless (didn’t we see Claire give birth to Aaron a couple of seasons ago – do we really need to see it again?) Genuine character motivations were sacrificed for the sake of plot advancement (“Do not trust Benjamin Linus – well, okay, I’ll go with you, but I’m driving”). It got to a point where I thought maybe Nikki and Paulo were writing the scripts.

But this week was better.

The pacing felt better – less frenzied. And it was refreshing to see the main characters start acting more like themselves again. Sayid seemed more like Sayid (if I see either of you two again…). Kate seemed more like Kate (you are crazy, I am outa here). Locke was definitely Locke (climbing down that rope into the well that you knew with the next flash would probably not be there anymore). Overall it felt like the story started getting back on track.

I loved seeing Christian Shepherd help Locke to the donkey wheel. He confirmed my suspicions when he said “I told YOU to move the island.” What does that mean? It’s obvious, right? In the great game of chess between the Universe and Ben, the Universe has a killer move (Locke moves the island) so Ben sees that and blocks it (Ben moves the island instead). Exactly WHY that is such a killer move is yet to be revealed, and I haven’t thought through it well enough yet. It must have something to do with Ben losing control of the island somehow. Maybe if Locke would have turned the wheel in the first place, the island would have “moved” with he and his people intact and Ben and his people would have been skipping along the record of time. Whatever the real reason, Ben is still Ben, and that is refreshing as well.

Did anyone else think that the “wobbliness” of the donkey wheel had some correlation to the random flashes Locke had been experiencing?

I liked what I saw of Rousseau’s team this time, and I am glad that they will not be dragging out that storyline any longer. They were obligated to show a Danielle flashback – longtime fan expectations and all -- and thankfully the moments they chose to depict were meaningful. We knew already that Montague had lost an arm. Now we know how. And it was great to get back to that season one “smoke monster dragging people into the ground” thing. And it was cool to see the temple, with the hieroglyphs that we have seen in a few other places (the swan hatch numbers and Ben’s secret door). It was cool to hear Robert tell Danielle that smokey is a security system to protect the temple, and to get a sense for the unreliable nature of that information that we have had since season one. Just because Rousseau said it was a “security system” doesn’t mean that it is really a security system. It’s just what she heard from the mouth of her once-trusted husband who was lying through his teeth about many other things at that point so he could make her think that nothing really happened (what DID really happen?) and blow her brains out. And were they really “sick” or was this just Danielle’s interpretation of what happened after they went down on smokey? You understand Danielle’s “craziness” a little better this time.

I will miss Charlotte. I think Rebecca Mader had/has a lot untapped potential as an actress there. Maybe we will see her again and her storyline will continue to develop, but now we know why Faraday, when we first met him last season, was crying while watching the wreckage of 815 on TV. He was remembering the future loss he felt in Charlotte’s death. I do think that their relationship would have benefitted from more time together and more narrative development so that we as an audience would feel (and completely believe) the grief that Faraday felt. But that storyline is just window dressing at this point -- a nice little side-story not really worth the time or effort that could have made it much more meaningful. I did like the realization she experienced of her imminent death by the convenient (contrived?) recollection of the crazy man Faraday who warned her to never go back to the island or she would die, but there are much better ways to delivered that backstory than a deathbed exposition. That’s the downside of having a definite end date for the show – rushing through things like this that could have been done much better, and have been in past seasons when they had more of a luxury of time.

And Eloise (yes, that sound is me making armpit raspberries) Hawking. I resigned myself to the fact that she would be Faraday’s mother two episodes ago. But I still don’t really like it. Oh well. Looks from the previews like next week will be a really cool episode with her explaining more about the island and these “windows.” But I do feel a little cheated and manipulated at having the Ms. Hawking tease end two of the first four episodes of the season. That’s going to the well a little too often if you ask me. Maybe they were afraid it would disappear in the next flash.

So overall, I was happy with Lost this week. That doesn’t mean it was perfect. The Sun with a Gun storyline fizzled to its obvious conclusion (no, not Jack, she’s gonna shoot Ben – woo hoo). Jack still isn’t acting quite like Jack. Miles from Encino is pointless extra baggage without his awesome ghost whispering talents put to use. And Jin rearn so fast Engrish storyrine reary noying.

But Ben stopping the car and acting like a jilted drama queen was awesome (don’t make me stop this car again).

I’ll give this one a B-

Looking forward to next week.