Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Lost s05e08 - Discussion - A long time ago on an island far, far away

As I write this in 2009, Lost has been with us for over four years, and during that time as viewers we've become increasingly fond of the characters on screen. It's always been difficult to remember that in the timescale of the show Jack, Kate, Sawyer et al have only known each for 100 days. As the show resurfaces each year promising to be more epic than the previous season, the romances are distorted to Gone with the Wind proportions. Characters might get kidnapped and become physically distanced from their current loved one, but those between-broadcasts weeks only amount to a couple of days on the island. Jack, Kate and Sawyer might have seemed like an epic love triangle, but it's really nothing more than a holiday romance, a bit of fumbling under the peer with a few longing gazes at the burly man who runs the donkey rides along the beach.

What they've always needed is a timescale that reflected the shows grandiose lofty 'meaning of life' storylines. This week a fade to black, and a weighty 'three years later' finally delivered that.

But let's allow these posts some kind of semblance of structure, and follow the events as they panned out narratively, if not chronologically. The episode starts where Locke left off, and the island gets a brief visit to the very-past that's been hinted at but previously unseen. Juliet, Sawyer, Miles turn at a spectacle in the distance, and nerds everywhere get that funny feeling they normally associate to being near girls. Finally, after three years of teasing, it's the giant four toes statue! We're going to see the indigenous people of the island, it's going to be ama - FLASH! Oh, well that's that then.

Obviously their encounter with the confusingly scaled man of rock was going to be a brief one, as perhaps the era in island history is of such significance that the producers are leaving it until the next, final series. We do have enough of a visual reference to have a few stabs in the dark though, and to put those 'it's Locke/Ben' theories to rest. From the posture, and his classical education, Ferg reckons it's one of these chaps, the name of whom escapes me now. From the headdress it looks Egyptian. Is it Anubis, or some God of Fertility? The internet seems to think so. With the issues with childbirth on-island resurfacing in this weeks episode, I'd hedge my bets on his origin being related.

Who's to say this is even the time of Four Toes' heyday? He could have stood on the horizon for centuries, ignored by black rock survivors and then destroyed by these US army chaps who rocked up in the 50s. They brought a fucking hydrogen bomb, so I doubt preserving National Trust listed attractions was high on their list.

One thing we do know though is that preserving themselves is of a high-priority for the DHARMA crowd that we now find ourselves settled within. They've got a new Head of Security, and he's got some drunk portly Island-inhabitants to keep in line. When the Geronimo Jackson dancing (and possibly alternative love-triangle-'ing') troupe rock up in Otherville knocking on the door of this La Fleur chap, we're none too surprised to find it's Sawyer but with a slightly less bristly beard. He's had to keep his long flowing locks for the Davidoff retainer, but it's still quite clear that quite a considerable time has passed.

Back to the time-survivors, staggering about the well, and there's further time confusion. When they stumble upon mourning Daniel, how come recently deceased Charlotte has disappeared during the time-jumps? We know non-organic matter has traveled with them before, and I'm pretty sure Dan was clutching her quite tightly. Is this just a plot-hole in the pop-sci-fi that conveniently does away with the need for a lengthy funeral scene, or does her now non-existence and subsequent vanishing act fit perfectly into the Rules that govern the show? I'll go for a bit of both, but we won't be finding out anything about it for a while as time-traveling seems to have been paired down to the strictly linear variant for the time being.

As that paragraph moves to this one, I myself have suddenly traveled two months into the future. Due to my new flat's lack of broadband and a computer that my May 1st self would joke has caught Swine Flu, I was unable to finish this blogpost in my leisure hours. Not only does this one end a bit abruptly, but now I face the arduous task of writing up a review of three episodes that weren't actually very good. One thing that I do need to add was what gave the title to this post. My Lost-viewing partner Mark pointed out if the survivors landed in 1977 and were looking for a reason to go back on the sub to the mainland, seeing Star Wars in that Chinese Manns Theatre on day of release might be a pretty fucking good one. His other comment was that Sawyer will be chuffed once he arrives in 2009 to find that the entire population of East London approve of his lumberjacks shirts.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Lost s05e07 - Discussion - Driving Mister Crazy

Since the very first few episodes, with then-unknown possibly-paedo Locke teaching Walt how to play backgammon on the beach, Lost has used Black and White as a device that divides characters and events. The use of polar (ho ho ho) opposites in a show where questionable actions are carried out by morally ambiguous folk means as viewers we're constantly trying to see whose team who sits on. Characters' actions are only 'bad' from the viewer's perspective, as they've been to their own means. Locke's allegiance, and the reasons for his submarine-exploding, father-killing 'bad' days, has always been to the island/Jacob, and so should any judgment we reserve for him be applied to it/him? Each week we are finding out more about the man pulling the strings. If it turns out he's a villain, Locke most certainly is too.

The episode opens with an immediate answer to the niggling question from last week. It seems the plane did crash, and that the producers have found enough DHARMA-ruppees down the back of the Hanso-sofa to buy another real plane. The conspicuous passenger aboard Arija Airlines is apparently called Cesear, and is indeed going to have a speaking role in the show. The question is whether that future-found water bottle was his, or if we're going to have yet another minor character knocked off the show for Driving Under the Influence in Hawaii. He's not looking for booze in the abandoned looking Hydra though, just guns. The lack of lights and general grimy decor imply this is definitely post-2005. Perhaps the plane landed on the runway Juliet joked they were making prisoners Kate and Sawyer build back when they were smashing rocks in season three?

Locke is 'reborn', and sits amongst his new gang of survivors by a campfire dressed like a Jedi. I can't be the only one who wasn't entirely surprised by this turn of events. Ever since he was included in the gang that had to go back I've assumed he'd suddenly start living again once he did, as Christian/Jacob seems to have done. What interests me more is the nature of his death and what could possibly have lead him to kill himself.

Oh, one more point about the AA-ers-era story. It added a great sense of the series itself being reborn. I had at times that exciting feeling of the unknown that stayed with me through the first series of Lost. With a whole new group of survivors we have fresh perspective through which to view the wonders of the island. Events even mimicked those of the Pilot episode, with Locke shown joyfully munching on found fruit. No 'Godfather' grin to camera this time though.

Off island Locke too regresses to earlier themes. After a few series of knife-throwing and Ben appeasing, he finally gets back to playing the victim he played so well in season one. He's back in a wheelchair, which obviously helps, but it's the futility of his quest that makes you pity him. None of the characters he visits have any reason to want to return, despite his detailing the peril their on-island friends are supposedly in. Kate's happy. Jack's drunk so he's definitely happy. Even Sayid has suddenly gone all Bob Geldof, building a barn for some poor folk, taking a breather from killing people.

His driver in the John Locke Comeback Tour 2007 is Matthew 'The Wire' Abaddon. It turns out he isn't some exciting third party interested in the island, he just works for Jimmy Widmore getting people to where they need to be. His Lost career seems to have been cut short by with his premature death, so perhaps he was sipping some of Widmore's lovely expensive Whisky between shots and he's gone to join Ana Lucia and Libby in minor cast-member heaven? We might not have seen the last of him though. Once again fans are joining the similarly coloured dots together and suggesting that Matthew is Walt but older. They cite how he shrinks back out of the way of Locke when speaking to the sprouting youngster as his character avoiding creating a paradox.

When Locke does eventually end up about to hang himself in a hotel room because he simply has no place in the outside world, like that chap from Shawshank, we're treated to what will probably be the best scene from this whole season. Benry turns up like Morgan Freeman should have in that film, as if on cue, to talk him down and build him up. Can Ben save Locke, and change his destiny? Will these events directly influence the Jacks-Dad's shoes wearing Locke, being the reason he comes back to life? Morbidly though, we're all actually hoping he does die. Meeting one's maker is much more interesting than sitting around talking about your feelings. And when he does, strangled to death after telling Ben he knew of Ringlady Hawkings, it makes the almost-avoided death more shocking.

Did Ben change his mind, and realise Locke had to die? His martrydom certainly leads Jack to attempt suicide and then get the band back together. Was it really Daniel's mother's name that lead to his about-turn in emotion? Perhaps if Locke had been at her spooky DHARMA-church discussions would have lead to Ben not being allowed to return. Jack's Dad said that it was Locke and not Ben who's destiny it was to move the island, and that Ben had merely fucked the wheel up enough to give us four or five exciting episodes of time-travel on-island. If he's just a clutz, and not once of the Oceanic 6, he becomes unnecessary plot-wise. He'd surely go and sign up for whatever part-time gigs Rose and Bernhard do.

Now we've seen him turn on someone he professes to care for, are we to believe once and for all that Ben is evil? From the way Jimmy Widmore's been helping Locke out we're clearly being thrown into an ethical spin. No-one wants to be backing the wrong horse/polar bear, especially when you've got the Island of Fate and an all-powerful judgmental Smoke Monster that's running the show. Both sides have done bad things for 'the greater good' in order to help them maintain or take-back the island. Our survivors have always questioned the bad and supported the good in regards to these actions that have been taken.

Was Charlie a good guy once he rid his body of heroin, even if he fake-abducted Sun? Was Sayid's brief island stint as a non-totrurer an indicator of him being more good than bad, or should we measure him more on the killing he's done since leaving? Ever since Benry Gale got caught in Rousseau's trap we've been aware of 'good people', but no-one is ever suggested to be 'bad'. It is the viewer's willingness to divide cast members into 'goodies and baddies' that the islanders reflect. There are those of them on their side, and 'Others'.

When this division was merely location-based on the island, it was simple. The introduction of Penny and the Freighter people changed it to 'those on island' and 'those approaching', but we were still watching one tangible group dealing with the other. Now the show has widened it's scope to include characters around the globe, and our main leads have become the 'Others'. Does it even matter at this point which one out of Ben and Widmore is good or evil? I reckon this whole feud will eventually be put down to some Trading Places style bet, and that they're both pretty reprehensible people. As Locke suspected this week, he's just a pawn in someone else's war.

Now that he's back though, I'm excited to see how Locke will have changed by his brief visit to the afterlife. They've messed with the format of the show so much these past two seasons with flash-backs/forwards/sideways that I don't see a flash to heaven/hell out of the question.