Friday, 23 January 2009
Lost s05e01 - Discussion - "Great Scott!"
Or "Oh Boy", the catchphrase of Back to The Future's televisual cousin Quantum Leap. That's right folks. After years of being teased with characters who could maybe or possibly have travelled a little bit in time, even if it's just their consciousness, we now have full blown Delorean driving, Phonebooth riding, Crater-in-the-carpark leaving TIME TRAVEL! If the labyrinthine plot of Lost events on and off-island so far wasn't enough to cope with, they've now opened up a forth dimension for potential mind-fuckery.
Bringing this aspect to the show comes with it's consequences though, as I'm sure it'll lose ratings as it slips one further step from a drama the casual viewer can watch and enjoy, and one closer to it's hardcore following of nerds. Notice that I didn't make a distinction in sex there though, which the producers of the show apparently do. The decision to have Sawyer topless for the first two episodes was to try to maintain the female audience's interest during these romance plot-lacking times. I don't know about other males reading, but when I'm worried women might not be paying attention, the first thing I do is take off my cardigan. I often do presentations in just my vest and socks, especially when talking about the more technical aspects of my work. Perhaps they should have got Jennifer Aniston to arrive on the island instead, so that she could just whisper 'This is the science bit, concentrate' before each time Daniel speaks.
Regardless, all that I'm concerned about is how the time-travelling process has made Sawyer put on weight. I guess that Davidoff money buys a lot of pies. Either that or there's a plot-hole, and we won't get to see how he was diverted to the time-travelling DHARMA bakery until Season six. Anyway, I feel I'm jumping in time in myself with this account of the episode so let's start at the beginning.
We finally get to see Mister Wickmund/Candle/Halliwax rendered at a better quality than crackly Super8 or cine-film can achieve, and learn his real name: Pierre Chang. Hardly exciting stuff, but what follows definitely is. After a nice sequence showing how his breakfast routine on island isn't as perfect as Desmond's in the season two opener, we see his filming of an orientation film, complete with Sawyer-alike cameraman, interrupted by some kind of disturbance at the Orchid station. Upon arriving there Chang gets to show audiences that he's not employed as the face of DHARMA just for the 'alternative medicine' baggage his ethnicity brings with him, and gets to prove his scientist worth yelling about the possibilities of time travel to a burly man digging the DHARMA Tunnel.
Chang Wickdlewax has a baby, the suspected identity of which demonstrates Lost's fanbase's lazy habit of always jumping on race as a method of grouping characters. In the past we've had the black child in the house that's visited by Miles being the son of also-black Mister Ecko, and Walt himself being a younger Ecko somehow. There's even been suggestions that Sun and Jin are related to Chang previously, or that he is a rival or her father's company. Maybe it's because the show does often make huge assumptions about stereotypes, or that they know that they've got an audience that will. In this instance, many assume the baby will grow up to be also-asian Miles, and his mother is obviously being considered a sister/mother/clone of Sun. I'm in no way suggesting the writers have some hidden agenda with the show though, the characters' other physical qualities also define other tangible aesthetic groups. Back in season one when the then-monikered 'Sea-Billies' stole Walt from the raft, the origin of the blonde woman who threw the device that blows up their raft was under much speculation, but it never really amounted to more than scouring the cast for other yellow-haired folk. 'Molotov woman' was rumoured to be an older Shannon, or Claire sans baby.
Whether or not all these connections made by fans will ultimately turn out to be true, the show is definitely made with the understanding that these things are implied. When Juliet turned up in Season 3 looking similar to Jack's ex-wife, she tells him that it's no coincidence that Ben sent a blonde that is reminiscent of her to try to win him over. Similarly, the producers deliberately cast ever actor because of their ethnicity, hair colour, height, weight and age because in a show where the minutiae of each episode is poured over, these factors are as legitimate as a prop or some incidental music, and as important as a line of dialogue.
Good grief, I'm seven paragraphs in and the opening credits haven't even run yet. Chang talks about 'rules that can't be broken', echoing Ben's discussion with Jim Robinson about the murder of his daughter by tiny-mouthed Keemy, and shoots down the DHARMA-driller's suggestion of killing Hitler. Seeing as none of the cast of Lost have moustaches we can assume that we won't be able to knock-off any of his descendants, clones or younger-versions-of either. Or at least not till Season six.
But we knew all this, and nothing so far is a great revelation. My jaw is very much shut. I'm hoping to get more than someone just talking about time travel this series, and so far nothing particularl... HANG ON! Isn't that DANIEL from the freighter and now island? HOW DID HE? WHA? Is this this the present or the past? To echo Charlie's series premier closer, "Guys, where the fuck are we?"
It's all quite simple. It seems the Islanders are now floating in time, or that the island is. But not the Others. Locke is, despite being an Other. Richard is at some points, and apparently not at others. There are rules about it that mean nothing can be changed, except Desmond is exempt from this and can. Perhaps it's his game, like when people play Monopoly and everyone has to accept the ridiculous variations by which everyone plays it. Do you have to auction up a house if you land on it and don't want to buy it? Or it's his birthday, and so no-one minds if he sneaks a few extra houses on Old Kent Road. They're shit anyway, and there's no way he's going to win. It's like that, but time-travel. Simple.
Because it's so complex, you have to be real fan to even grasp the basic events that take place in this episode. With every time the survivors end up in, the surroundings they find themselves in denote different periods of the show and it's mythology. If there's a hatch they could be in any time from the 1970s. If it's got Desmond in it it's 2001-2004. If it's uncovered it's 2004. If it's blown up it's post 2004. If there are barracks it could be any time since the 60s, but if the people living there aren't wearing DHARMA uniforms it's post-purge and therefore post 1993. If the barracks are empty it's post 2005. If you're still reading and haven't just skimmed through my listing of dates and events, thanks very much.
This all makes figuring out what's going on on-island quite difficult, but for the possibilities in the storytelling I think it's worth it. If the islanders are taking part in events we've previously seen from other perspectives, and bearing in mind the much-mentioned point that 'nothing can be changed', who's to say they've not been seen previously, creeping about so as not to be seen in the background. Remember back in season 2 when the tail-section survivors considered The Others to be mysterious, almost ghost-like beings that walked barefoot and didn't leave tracks? That didn't turn out to fit with how the Crazy Cult Member Others turned out to be, but what if it's because there were Other Other's? If the time-traveling survivors have to be careful so as not to be noticed, what better way to creep around than barefoot?
This also puts a different perspective on other events in the show's past. If the survivors succumb to the obvious want to change the fate of some 815-ers, who's to say they're not related to the whispers that are heard in the show, often around times of dramatic incident? Maybe it's Sawyer, Juliet etc standing behind trees going "Pssssssst!!! Shannon! Someone's coming to fucking shoot you!" But, you know, a bit more mysterious and etherial. Maybe when past characters re-appear in what we have generally dismissed as imaginary or dream sequences, it's an actual message from the future and not just another day of paid-work for Boon.
Someone who seems to have moved from a guest start to cast regular is Richard 'Eyeliner' Alpert, who turns up during Locke's travels to pull a bullet out of his leg. Locke's journey seems to have similarities with Desmond's in previous seasons, as it is hinted that there's some connection to his consciousness as he jumps through time. He appears to be affected by 'other' Locke's, at different time periods or locations. When he approaches the crashed drug-plane and gets shot in the leg by Ethan, is this the reason his legs failed back in season one when he was in the same location? Were those wounds echoes from the past? When Alpert hands him a compass it links their encounter up with the one he had/will have/is currently having as a child when he is offered the different items and asked "Which one do you already own?" Are these events happening simultaneously, or will Locke end up regressed to a child as his next destination in time?
As for the off-island activity, I couldn't really give a fuck. Just as last season some of the cast were untouchable once we realised they were destined to leave the island, now that they have to go back we all know they're going to have to survive. No matter how many awesome killer washing-machines Sayid can kill people with, it's never going to be exciting seeing the characters run around like a sub-plot from 24. I'm sure it'll be thrilling in parts, but this feels very much like the 'let's lock them in cages for six episodes' plan from the beginning of season three. Plus, Jack should have kept that beard.