Tuesday, March 03, 2009

One Episode Before the Bye, Thoughts On Lost

It's been a wild ride this fifth season of Lost and with a bye week coming up after this Wednesday's new episode, I figured this was as good a time as any to look back at what we've seen this year. A good starting point is this Zap2it piece by Ryan McGee that echoes my feelings on last week's episode, the Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham. McGee agrees with me that negative fan reactions to 316, the episode preceding Bentham, were unwarranted because Lost was merely playing their new game of telling a story by revealing it's pieces in a non-linear fashion. So while we may not have found out what happened with Hurely, Sayid, and Kate yet, we certainly will by the ends of the season because it's part of the story being told. The problem with the Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham is that it failed as a story and those failures can't be corrected.

I'd disagree with McGee as to the characterization of "pathetic Locke," mostly because pathetic Locke is what John is off the island. I don't mind John's failures because it's part of who he is and somehow related to his connection to the island. As to McGee's complaints about the Walt scene, I hadn't thought about it that deeply, but it's certainly true that this meeting was lacking in terms of a meanigful follow up from Locke and Walt's relationship the first season. And finally, like McGee, my biggest complaint is the lack of any sort of development in last week's episode. I wouldn't say that the show is sinking under it's own narrative weight, only that this was a poorly planned hour.

The brief scenes after the plane crash (or landing?) when we see a presumably resurrected Locke were fascinating, as was Locke's meeting with Charles Widmore, and of course, the final scenes between Ben and Locke were Lost at it's finest. But the rest of Locke's journey was just plain lacking and more than a little bit rushed. Brief and at-peace Sayid made sense, as did crazy Hurley, but it was a bit shocking how palpable the venom of Kate and Jack toward Locke actually was. And beyond that, it only intensified my primary concern about the Oceanic 6 plot line, that none of our characters seemed the least bit concerned about the rest of the survivors and what had happened to them. This is the bit that makes Sun personal journey off the island understandable, as her rage over Jin's death gives way to hope- any hope- that he's alive. But the idea that no one would be the least bit interested in where Locke came from and what happened to everyone else is more than a bit troubling. There's a big difference between the unwillingness to return to the island which we saw earlier this season and this idea that no one would bother to ask about Sawyer, or even Rose and Bernard.

Kate's reaction to Locke is particularly odd, as she accuses him of wanting to go back only because he's never loved anyone. I'm assuming this had something to do with Aaron, but in the context of Sawyer- whom she clearly still thought about as she was doing the favor he asked of her- it's troubling not to hear her even ask about him.

Thus far, season 5 of Lost has had a number of great reveals and the complicated time travel has made for some excellent storytelling, but there have been some clunky parts in regards to the Oceanic 6. Some of them may be cleaned up and explained by season's end, but I worry more about characters than I do plot. While season 5 has already exceeded season 4 in terms of narrative pace, it's lacked much of the emotional oomph that was crammed into season 4. At this point last season we had already gotten "The Constant" and Ji Yeon" and nothing thus far this season can approach the emotional resonance of those two episodes. Certainly there may be some of that coming (possibly even this week from the looks of the previews?) and it should be kept in mind that Lost has always been a show who's mysteries necessitate looking beyond single episodes. Last season was so beautifully constructed from start to finish that it wouldn't surprise me to see the first half of this season as pure set up for the narrative shockers and emotional moments that are sure to come later this season.

My only other comment on Lost at this point is on the fans who insist in continuing to try and decipher who's good and who's bad. It seems clear to me at this point that we've got two men, Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus, who are master manipulators and both seemingly driven by their conflicting concern for the island and self-interest. Trying to paint either Ben or Widmore as a good guy means excusing murder and all sorts of other nasty behavior, plain and simple. We know this for sure in Ben's case, and unless Widmore wasn't actually the one who sent Keamy and that team of mercenaries to the island he's a pretty nasty guy too. (And I hope everyone noticed how Widmore was nearly Ben-like in sidestepping Locke's question about those mercenaries.) The real questions people should be asking are about Ben, Widmore, our characters, and everyone's relationship with the island and that should be the mystery that slowly revealed as the series slowly comes to an end.


Blogger McMc said...

Is that a veiled shot at me in the last paragraph?

Listen, there's something to be said about the good/bad debate with Widmore and Ben. Why? Well, is Kate a good "guy"? Is Sayid a good guy? Is Sawyer a good guy? At this point, we'd say yes to all of them but guess what? They all have blood on their hands. Kate killed her father because he was abusive, but we know that so we forgive her. We know Sayid tortured people and killed many people but we ignore that because we know he was someone who just wanted to be with Nadia. Sawyer was a bad guy who turned good but he spent his life conning people and then treating his fellow survivors like jerks.

The point is, we have yet to see the whole story with Ben and Widmore and we aren't sure why either one is doing what they are doing. We have a guess, yes, but things haven't been so bluntly thrown out there for us. At this point, maybe it is pointless to bring up the debate but that doesn't mean it isn't valid.

As for the other complaints...

The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham episode doesn't bother me. Locke clearly isn't supposed to be a motivator or manipulator off the island. You're right about his interactions with Sayid and Hurley. And one thing I want to point about Walt...they weren't BFFs who talked all the time. For the most part, they were strangers who knew who each other was for how long? 48 days? Locke was a loner, hardly talked to anyone, I mean, how strong is their relationship really? If Locke and Walt had stuck around talking any longer do you realize how awkward that would've been? "Uhh...how was the island"..."Good until it started shifting through time".

As for Kate and Jack...Jack I have no problem. Kate is the one people seem most upset about it and here's the thing, no one said she wasn't concerned with the other survivors. But why should she so blindly follow a guy who tried to ruin every chance to get off the island and isn't saying anything other than "we need to go back"? Again, this all falls back on the lack of people skills and personality Locke possesses, especially off the island. Kate had every reason to stay and no legit reason to go back.

9:11 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Lol, no, that wasn't a shot at you. Remember, I'm now listening to 3 or 4 Lost Podcasts a week, most of which are ripe with fan feedback and what I had most in my mind was this idea people have that Ben is a good guy and all he does is for the island. You asked the good/evil question, but then hit on all the complexities in your post.

My guess at this point is as I said, both Widmore and Ben care about the island, but they're also intently self-interested, at the cost of just about everyone else around them. It's very possible though, that we will find out we've got good guys and bad guys, however, if either Widmore or Ben wind up being "the good guy" that still won't excuse them for the things they've done. There were many people trying to excuse Ben's murder of Locke, saying that he was just doing it to get them back to the island. I say that's bull - he was being regular manipulative Ben.

As to your Kate comment, I get what you're saying, but I just can't accept we don't get anything from her. Not even a question about Sawyer, who's she was still committed to doing that favor for .. it just doens't make sense, unless of course the writers were saving that sort of thing for a later episode (which I have trouble seeing as making any sort of narrative sense.)

9:23 AM  
Anonymous rose said...

A lead in line from McBlog last week, followed by exactly this discussion.

"Who is the bad guy: Ben or Widmore?"

LL says a few days later:
"My only other comment on Lost at this point is on the fans who insist in continuing to try and decipher who's good and who's bad...Trying to paint either Ben or Widmore as a good guy means excusing murder and all sorts of other nasty behavior, plain and simple."

This appears to be a Paul Krugman style, not-so-veiled shot at McBlog. Can we expect counter-fire from McBlog in the coming days? LL may have just bit off more than he could chew. We shall see.

10:23 AM  

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