Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Lost": The Final Stretch

Wow. I'm not sure what surprises me more -- some of the revelations from this week's episode of Lost, or the generally very negative reaction I am seeing out there from seemingly 75% or more of Lost fans to that episode. After having to sit and listen to people make excuse after excuse for this show all through Season 6 (and Season 5 too, really, who am I kidding), through bad episode after bad episode and after all the inconsistencies, the dropped storylines, the pat explanations, all of it, this week the producers give us a 100% mythology-based episode, and the people are up in arms. Sure, so 11 worthless hours of Sideways World this season was all fine and good -- great even -- but now finally seeing the origin of Jacob and MIB, much about the nature of the island, the black smoke, etc., and that sucks.

It's so funny. People are just contrarians. It makes people feel superior if they can act and talk as if they are smart enough to know that what the other guy is saying or is thinking is totally, obviously wrong. And with the anonymity of the internet, and the free and easy access for anyone to just post their opinion for all to see, this is only magnified. It happens even with us poker bloggers. Post a poker hand that you obviously played correctly, and half the people by definition will find something wrong with it. Shit, this phenomenon happens all the time, in particular with "the masses". Bill Belichick makes the known poor decision to go for it on 4th and 7 late in the 4th quarter, misses and loses the game as a direct result? You don't have to go far to find people who will still tell you it was the right call. They'll quote you numbers, they'll work backwards with the math just to concoct a reason to argue against the obvious truth. It makes people feel smart I think. So Lost gives us that redonkulous explanation of the Island's whispers being trapped souls, and right away there are people out there saying what a great, satisfying answer it is. "I knew it!" they'll say, "That's awesome!". Uh huh.

So then this week, we get what I will admit was a frustratingly incomplete episode given the fact that there are...oh...two episodes left in the history of what used to be the best series of the millennium. But let's be honest guys: whereas most of the episodes this entire season on Lost have been 2 or 3 out of 10, this week's had to be a good 5.5 or 6. Defending the show all through these horrifying last two seasons, and then getting on its case after this week's show? I'm sorry, but you are just a moron.

All that said, how frustrating is it that they still haven't told us the true nature of the island? At all. In fact, Jacob and MIB's mother was clear that (1) there had been other men to visit the island already previously (they came, destroyed, corrupted, etc.), and (2) she was not the first of the protectors of the island's mysterious life/light source. So we don't know who she was, we don't know how she got there (she claimed it was the same way as Claudia -- the twins' real mother -- arrived, which was in a shipwreck). But I got the sense that the writers wanted us to get a vibe of some dark side going on with this lady, and I really found myself simply not believing most of what she said in this episode. In a way, this may be where Jacob and MIB learned their incredibly devious, self-centered, manipulative ways when it comes to other people. Because I got the distinct impression that their mother basically said whatever she needed to people to get them to do what she wanted. So I don't know how much of what the woman said was true, but it seems she at least buried some good kernels of truth even inside what were ultimately lies she was telling. But, assuming she was being truthful about not somehow being the mother of the island or something, it is to me highly frustrating that even after this episode, we still don't know what the island itself is, where it is, anything at all about how or why it was created, or by whom.

Moreover, I can't deny that the whole light source in the cave thing was, ultimately, quite cheesey. It's hard to put words around it, but if you're telling me three episodes from the end that oh, the island is on top of a great yellow source of enternal life-giving energy, that somehow flows throughout the whole universe or whatever, I mean, what can I say about that. It's an extremely pat answer, one that will and should be wholly unsatisfying to Lost viewers, well, because, ultimately it is stupid and the show has purported to be not stupid. That's really what it comes down to. The writers obviously find it a totally acceptable explanation, but for me and it sounds like for many others out there, it is basically an insult. Tell me what that light is, or how it got there in the first place, justify it in some way with a plot point from earlier in the show, I don't know, you figure it out, you're the writers! But the bottom line is, there is a smart way to present what this light is, and there's a dumb way. Lost went with the latter on this one, and it seems to have really stuck in the collective viewership's craw.

Not that this was the only too-pat explanation we got this week, which of course only adds to the frustration. The skeletons? Check -- it was MIB and Jacob's mother. I recognize that the writers are wiping their hands together and ticking off another item on the list of loose ends that they have now tied up, but they should realize that -- to the extent anybody even really cares about the skeletons anymore -- this is not a satisfying ending when the two people whose skeletons these are literally never even appeared on the series until (1) the finale of Season 5 (MIB), and (2) the 3rd to last episode of the entire series (Jacob's mother).

And this really gets at the central problem ultimately with the way Lost has gone these past few seasons, and it's something I have mentioned here over and over and over again during that time -- the writers had no clue whatsoever what they were doing with this show until somebody finally decided on a plot arc at some point late during or even after Season 4. It's that simple. The bottom line is that everything we saw on Lost for the first three or four seasons -- everything, from all the backstories of the main players, to the Hatch, the Others, Hydra Island, the frigging polar bears, the freighter, to all of Dharma, all of it -- ends up being totally and utterly meaningless. It is devoid of any meaning at all with the way the writers have taken us here in the end. That's why you keep getting answers like Michael's lameass explanation of the whispers a few weeks back, or last season's inexplicably worthless visit of Walk by Locke, or this week's letdown with the skeletons: because back then was a 100% completely different show than what it is now, with a completely different plot arc. The fact that this week's entire episode -- start to finish -- could have been played at any time earlier this season, or even last season at any time for that matter, belies as well just what I'm talking about. For four years we watched a show about these castaways on an island, discovering things that had been left there from past expedititions by others, mysterious secrets, etc. all while desperately trying to get off the island and return home, to civilization, to the real world. In the end, all the show comes down to a long-running fight between two brothers born to some kind of a supernatural mother in some kind of a(n unexplained) supernatural state, who have been manipulating these other characters all along in furtherance of their own self-involved game. That's all it is. Who cares why Dharma ever came to the island at this point (something they've never really explained). Who cares what that brainwashing room was for at Dharma. Who cares why Libby had previously been in Hurley's mental institution. Who cares why Walt was special? Who cares, right? It turns out, the only story the writers left any real interest in by the end was the one involving two characters who were never even seen or heard from (other than "Help me" in the cabin) before the Season 5 finale, and even during this final season, they've only been seen for what, a total of maybe three more hours? Now I don't know whose genius idea this was, but it has ultimately made a total clusterfuck of the ending of the series, and it's been going on for so long and is so far down the path now, there is aboslutely zero way it changes in the final two episodes. And that's what everybody is feeling inside who's watched this show for six years, whether they can put their finger on it or not. Everything we ever saw on this show has been a waste of time, only interesting us at the time so much because they never told us until Season 6 how totally meaningless it all was. It's unthinkable to me that this was the best idea the writers could come up with at that fateful time after Season 4 when the decision was obviously made as to what was all really going on on the island. But here we are.

The biggest question I have that was generated by this week's episode is (and sadly, I don't really expect any of our outstanding questions to get answered any more than they already were this week, don't get me wrong) whether the black smoke was actually created when Jacob threw his brother's body into the cave of light, over his mother's express warning that this would be "a fate worse than death". In other words, was what we saw there the genesis of the smoke monster? Or was smokey already there, just as the mother said others had been the guardians there before her. At first it seemed like the show was intimating that smokey was born right there, before our eyes. But the more I watched the show, the more I just don't think so. I mean, who was that who appeared to the young twins as Claudia, their real (dead) mother? Do you think it was a "good" ghost -- like I think Richard's wife was earlier this year, or the Jacob sightings, or Hurley's old friend from the mental home a couple of seasons back, etc.? Or, like me, do you think that was smokey, appearing as the dead mother of the children, purposefully to tempt and lure MIB away from the mother and to the other side of the island? That just seems like the most likely answer to me, which means that smokey was already on the island when Jacob and MIB were kids, already able to take the form of any dead person for his own manipulative ends. And if smokey was already on the island when Jacob and MIB were kids, then when we saw MIB go into the cave of light, and come out a minute later as the smoke monster, that was not the first time the smoke had been on this island. In fact, for all we know, there could have been several smokeys on the island.

There is a good possibility from this week's episode, I think, that even the twins' mother might have had smokey capabilities. I mean, they had her kill the entire camp of the first "others", in addition to filling in all of their wells with mud and rocks, seemingly doing so much too quickly even if she was adept enough to commit all those killings and such. I think they were clearly trying to suggest that perhaps she had the same sort of destructive powers as she ended up somehow passing on to her adopted son. She always liked MIB best, she embraced his innate ability to lie and to manipulate, and deep down she even encouraged his rebelliousness and his unwillingness to follow her rules. She liked it. She always liked her evil son best. Perhaps because she was part evil herself, in addition to having been the island's protector. Who knows how that all works. And who cares really, at this point?

Lastly, was anyone else left with the feeling that, although the writers showed the young MIB's anger over not being able to leave the island, to go with his people, they didn't really give a good enough explanation for why things got so bad with him? I mean, I understand he was (rightfully) pissy to have been lied to, to have had his mother killed, and to be forced to be separated from his own people by a mother with some kind of an ulterior motive. But how does this make him pure evil, the darkness, or chaos or whatever Jacob called it in the Richard episode when he explained that the island is the cork keeping the darkness that is MIB in. How is MIB "darkness" or evil? He wasn't evil as a child. Rebellious, yes. Dishonest? Sure. Manipulative? You bet. But he wasn't evil. Somewhere, somehow along the way, things switched from the guy we saw in this week's episode, to the "evil incarnate" theme they've been hinting at all through this season. But they did a very poor job of showing that in this week's episode, and I can't imagine a more logical time to cover that than in this week's show. So I'm not sure what to make of that. I mean, it may be true (this week's episode was a bit ambiguous on this point) that Jacob's brother is just plain dead, and that smokey took the form of his body when, for example, we saw the "Do you know how much I want to kill you?" scene in last year's finale. But then, if smokey had been on the island already for a long time even before Jacob and MIB were born, then why does the smoke monster currently residing in Flocke's body want to get off the island so badly? That was Jacob's brother who wanted that. And if smokey is somehow Jacob's brother, then again I ask, what is it that made him so evil that he is willing to do anything to unleash his chaos and darkness on the universe. How does Jacob's brother even represent darkness? The way he was shown to us this week, he was just a boy, a human, like his brother was. Where do we get from that kid to pure chaos?

So many questions. It was cute in Season 1 and Season 2. I remember nearly having a nervous breakdown waiting for a week to find out who the hell turned on that light down in the hatch, and what awaited the castways in there. But having this many questions, on this kind of a level, with just two episodes remaining, I have to admit is quite a bit disheartening. Either way, there are just 3.5 hours left of what was once the best show of the 2000s on ABC.

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Blogger GnightMoon said...

Hey what's going on? I will be in Vegas the first week of June and would love to meet up.

I had to bypass the content of this post and go straight for the comments because I am only through 8 eps of Season 6. I have been catching up on the show for four years and aim to get live in time for the finale. I'm excited to read this post. Most of my blogging the next two weeks will be about LOST.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:28 PM  
Blogger Skramly said...

I give this episode a 3. I've been fed up all season with the reductive plots they've been spoonfeeding us, but this one takes the cake. And why, all of a sudden, have the production values of the show plummeted so dramatically? I thought the writing and acting were horrible this episode. I was shocked by Allison Janney's wooden performance; previously I remember thinking she was a good actress. She read her lines like a robot, and the kids playing the twins were not much better. Even the music was really cheesy this time, no idea what happened there and don't even get me started on the warm light. With that fake yellow glow and the plastic flowers around it? And the swelling music, ugh! When Jacob threw the Nemesis in the water and he floated through, it reminded me of an amusement park water ride.

I didn't need all this mythology. Maybe if they had done it better, I'd be more responsive to it. But I feel that I would have liked the last couple of seasons a lot more if they had stayed focused on just the island being a place with mysterious properties that is in a power play between forces like Widmore, Dharma, Hanso, Ben (oh, where the hell is Ben, btw?) with the Losties caught in the middle. I agree that when the light went on in the Hatch a few seasons back, it was one of the most exciting moments in tv history. Was that season 2? That was the best season of Lost.

9:57 PM  

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