Saturday, 20 March 2010

Special Commemorative Photo-packed issue - Others schmothers

Back in season one, when everyone still thought dinosaurs were the rumble in the mysterious island jungle, The Others were an unknown, formidable force. Rousseau coins the term when describing those who've supposedly taken her baby towards the end of the season. Locke sums up the nagging suspicion of the 815ers, stating "We're not the only people on this island, and we all know it!", much to the excitement to the viewer.

This was pretty much the pinnacle of excitement and mystery for The Others, and possibly the show. A career high, if you can call what they do a job. They are unknown, in both appearance and their history. They kidnap not only babies but characters with actual speaking roles. Our only physical reference for them is Ethan, who we know has adapted his dress in order to pass as one of the survivors. He seems to have almost super-human strength, apparently kidnapping two grown people, one of whom was heavily pregnant, and beating the shit out of Jack. Plus, he did bear a tiny resemblance to the actor's cousin Tom Cruise. Double scary.

At the end of the series, we're granted another vision of The Others, this time appearing on a boat out at sea. These 'sea-billy' Others looked like off-island versions of the kind of red-necks you'd get in 1970s horror films. Their leader talks calmly to Sawyer, despite the threats he's making, reminding me of The Hitcher. The gang seems to comprise women, and a mixture of ages, reminding us of Texas Chainsaw massacre. A calm family of kidnappers who appear from out of no-where in the mddle of the ocean. Terrifying.

This image of The Others as simple but formidable foes is furthered early on in season two, when Jin, Michael and Sawyer are captured on the beach. In silhouette, a bunch of primal island inhabitants weilding planks of wood with nails through them march towards them.

Soon after though this is revealed to be a bit of a bluff. These aren't the Others, just the survivors from the Tail section. They were being aggressive to our 815ers because to them THEY were The Others. It's all relative, and maybe The Others themselves will have that same perspective when we finally meet them. Fuck that though, they better be proper nasty really. We don't need this getting all ambiguous as the years go on. Thank goodness a few epsiodes down the line we're granted another glimpse of the elusive group, as Jin and Mr Eko hide in a bush.

According to Eko they walk bare-foot so as to not leave tracks. A child is amongst their group, probably one recently abducted from the Tail section's camp. Has he been brain-washed? Is he dead, and these people are now zombies? The Others now seemed at one with the earth, Elf-like, in their quiet, calculated steps through the jungle. Spooky.

Later in the season when Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Locke run off through the jungle to try and find Michael, and run into some more Others trouble. The bearded chap is back, and tells them not to cross a line and leave them alone. He seems to know the names of some of the 815ers too. Quite scary. With the command "Light 'em up Alex!" we see his group have them surrounded. Still quite scary.

Another bluff is revealed a few episodes later though, when fake beards and theatrical glue are found in the The Staff hatch. What little we've seen of The Others so far has been a ruse, constructed perhaps to protect the true nature of the group. We can now see they have a medical station, so perhaps they're a group of terrifying ex-Nazi scientists? Potentially very scary indeed.

The beginning of season three gives us the clearest picture yet of the actual Others, as it opens on a group of well dressed, presentable suburbanites arguing at a book club in a cosy little house in what will eventually be referred to as 'New Otherton'. Not exactly terrifying in an obvious way, but the potential for this being some brain-washed cult, functioning all very well in their living rooms, while atrocities occur just out of shot, certainly is.

But the reality was that there was no dark evil that lurked in the group. Yes, they were scientists, or some of them had been, but they were just run-of-the-mill surgeons, not exciting evil plastic surgeons. Ethan is shown in his hometown, and appears to be some handy-man. Quite how he carried off Charlie and Claire single-handedly in season one is never mentioned.

Ben is even shown drinking proper coffee, which means these guys are super sophisticated. To be fair Benry Gale is a lot more complex than the rest of his brethren, and we could spend a lot longer discussing his particular character arc over the past five years. Still, here, as a member of the ever-deteriorating group The Others, his actions are noted for their sophistication. Even if he probably calls it 'expresso'. Pfft...

Do these chaps really look like they're about to go off and swot up on their Latin, or perhaps head to a barbecue? How the fuck did these some-time primal, some-time intellectual group sink so low. All through season three, and most of the next two series, we've been subjected to the most ridiculous one-dimensional 'henchmen' stereotypes known to television. Look at these couple of bruisers in their cut-off leather shirts. You can just imagine the chap on the left saying "Hey boss, what's we goin' do once we wiped out these air-plane punks?"

And it jut gets even worse from there onwards. In season 6 we're shown The Temple, where The Other Others live. At this point, we could be expecting to meet the most terrifying villains of them all. Temples are mysterious, right? And Asian people DEFINITELY are, so this whole season is going to be one giant end-of-game Boss level with fifty evil Mister Miyagis to vanquish. No wonder the Others we know so far have become increasingly pathetic, it's because we're warming up to the big finale; lots of karate, some magical Chinese spells, and possibly some egyptian mummies. Here goes everything Lost, hit me with the ultimate in terrifying villainry!

Oh dear. Oh fucking deary me. Yes, a lot of the other characters the 815ers meet at the carboard Disney Castle Temple set are quite scary. One even speaks a terrifying, ancient language (erm, Mandarin) and wields a big stick. They're all aggressive to our gang, but it all takes place in an 'ancient' building that looks about five years old. And every scene is shot really brightly, adding to the contrivance. The whole set-up doesn't instill the viewer with a sense of dread, or peril, in the same way you can't really be scared when you're somewhere nice on a sunny day. To be honest, when I first saw these chaps I thought it was another bluff being pulled over the gang's eyes. How utterly ridiculous that the ultimate, elite group or inner-circle Others would look like extras on the Pirates of The Caribbean ride, complete with MDF set. But no, this IS it, unfortunately. Five year build-up, and heres the payoff.

Take this chap. The producers think they're being all very subtle and nudge-nudge about their references in the show. Ooh, let's call them lead characters 'Rousseau' and 'John Locke'. VERY clever. Then let's help a few more people who didn't get those ones and call someone Daniel 'Faraday'. Get it? Like in SCIENCE? And so now we have a man who looks like John Lennon, called 'Lennon'. Not just the round glasses, either. The hair, the beard, and the general 1970s dress. Did whoever came up with this realise just how popular The Beatles were? That it's one thing recognising Amelia Earhart inspires another woman in season three, but that with this chap they've given up any degree of subtlety?

Which brings us to the sad end of this sorry tale. Two rejects from Les Miserable stand between our original 815 survivors and freedom, or whatever it is they're striving for these days. Getting off or on the island? Being 'candidates'? Whatever it is, I don't think these chumps are going to cause them much bother. Are these really the mystical force we were supposed to be so scared of, creeping through the jungle like animals? Do you quake at the sight of them, in fear of their super-human strength? Or their magnificent knowledge and cunning? No, you see two lazily constructed non-speaking stand-ins, bought into horrible clarity because the show is now filmed in HD.

Thanks Lost, for continually ruining the brilliant set up of your original season. For always showing more, when sense would have dictated that you keep a few special mysteries hidden. Like a well-dressed, but ugly stripper. Sometimes it's the not knowing that's exciting.