Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 14, 2011

Back to the Island 2.03 – Orientation

Filed under: back to the island,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:49 pm

This has been an arduous week. Since Monday I have only managed about 2000 words on the novel. With any luck I will crank that up a bit tonight. I have managed to bog myself down with too much talk and not enough action – well, no action at all. I am giving serious consideration to applying the Chandler Axiom (i.e. “When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.” – Raymond Chandler) just to make sure the pace doesn’t drop below glacial levels. I have a feeling that if I do it, I will have to move it later, but that should not be a big deal.

I have a few reviews that I have been meaning to work on, so once I have cleared the absolute dead minimum bar for today’s word count I think I will switch to those. I’ve been inspired from various corners – including this excellent essay by Cat Valente – to encourage the writers I like with reviews as well as my sometimes-hard-earned money. Not that the Word of Me exerts all that much influence on even you five or six people who read Lexifab, but small steps…

Apropos of nothing – if you have played Portal or its sequel, take a look at this brilliant comic strip that’s too macabre not to be true.

Today’s Lost review is a Locke episode, so take it as read that I liked it (and it’s pointed me towards yet another book that I never knew I needed to read…)

Back to the Island 2.03 – Orientation

“‘What was all that about?’ I say. ‘Just saving the world’ he says. His words, not mine.” – Desmond Hume

Summary: When the computer is shot during a scuffle, Locke and Jack learn the purpose of the base beneath the Hatch while Desmond tries to prevent the end of the world.

The Best Bit: Without a doubt, the best bit of the episode was the eponymous 1980’s-era Dharma Initiative corporate orientation film. Even overlooking small touches – like the jumps in the film that clearly skip important information, or the amusing mishmash of scientific disciplines apparently relevant to the Island colony (“~meteorology, psychology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism, and utopian social-”), or the fact that this is Station 3, aka The Swan, implying that there are at least two others somewhere on the Island – I find its very existence hilarious. The film is three minutes of solid exposition that answers one single question – “Who made the Hatch?” – and raises ten or twenty new ones in its place. Among the new questions: “What ‘unique electromagnetic fluctuations emanating from this sector of the Island?’” and “What was the Incident that prompted the button-pushing protocol?” and “Parasychology? Really? That’s where this is going?”

The Worst Bit: It’s not bad per se, but Locke’s flashback – in which he falls in love with his anger management classmate Helen (Yay, Katey Sagal!) but trashes the relationship because he can’t handle his rage at his father’s sickening betrayal – feels a bit like treading water. O’Quinn, Sagal and Kevin Tighe (reprising his role as Locke’s evil, evil father) are all superb actors, but the drama feels slight. The rage at the emotional core of Locke’s flashback doesn’t mesh all that well with his fervent curiosity and manipulativeness in the Hatch Swan Station scenes. When Jack asks him why he finds it so easy to believe, his reply “It’s never been easy!” feels like a callback to the events of the past – but it doesn’t really gel. The flashback just feels like it could have been inserted into any episode with no loss of impact or relevance.

The Mythology: Our knowledge expands exponentially in this episode, with new information about the history of the Island, the name of the Dharma Initiative and some hints at its purpose – including an improbable story from Desmond that the Number-entering ritual is designed to “save the world”. From his terrified flight when he becomes convinced that the computer can’t be fixed, we can be reasonably sure at this point that Desmond has seen enough to convince him the stakes are high (though where it is he thinks he can run from an implied global apocalypse is not clear).

The Literature: ‘Orientation’ refers to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the classic haunted-governess story from which both film versions of The Others (eh, eh) were derived; and The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, which I had not heard of – but it sounds deeply weird. By strange coincidence, this Economist article celebrating the centenary of the author’s birth appeared the day after I wrote this review.

The Episode: While the flashback is not as strong as Locke’s usually are, overall ‘Orientation’ is good fun. For all that the countdown clock is a transparently artificial mechanism for building suspense, nevertheless the scene late in the episode of the furiously calm Sayyid repairing the computer with a couple of minutes left on the clock is tense. When Locke stares Jack down as the count approaches zero, the possibility that there’s something to Desmond’s whole “end of the world” scenario feels acutely plausible. Jack caves in – an interesting compromise of the philosophical standpoint he took in ‘Man of Science Man of Faith’ – and the clocks resets, but with the enticing promise that sooner or later we will get to see what happens when the Numbers aren’t entered.

Over at the other plotline, Sawyer, Michael and Jin are taken captive and learn that there are survivors from the tail section of Oceanic 815, including Ana Lucia (seen with Jack at Sydney Airport at the end of last season). She seems to be working with the Others, which raises even more questions. That pretty much sums up ‘Orientation’, which expands the horizon of the show beyond the narrow confines of survival and exploration that were covered in the first season. It marks the point at which it becomes evident that the Island has a complex history of which the Oceanic survivors are just a small part. It reinvents what Lost is all about in the audience’s eyes. Eight out of ten.


  1. Just to remind you that I skip the action bits. So you can not bother about them and get back to the talking if that’s easier.

    Comment by Dr Clam — October 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

  2. Hmm, other than the resolution of the guns-pointed-at-each-other scene from the previous two episodes, ‘Orientation’ really doesn’t have any action scenes to speak of. But in any case I tend to cover whatever I think is most relevant about the episode. It is not often the case that the inevitable scenes of running through the rainy jungle, pointing guns and yelling are critical plot elements, so I’m sure it won’t come up much.

    Comment by lexifab — October 16, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  3. Sounds like I have to read ‘The Third Policeman’. Or write it. Like VALIS its presence in the series seems deeply hinty. Somehow I am not surprised that it did not find a publisher until the 60s. Oh, and you have probably noticed in your now-more-awake state that my action comment refers to you first bit about your writing, not the review.)

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — October 17, 2011 @ 7:58 am

  4. Oh right, good catch. I should really stop trying to read stuff after midnight.

    Tsk. There don’t seem to be any legal ebook versions of Valis available for purchase. Annoying! To the Library!

    Comment by lexifab — October 17, 2011 @ 8:32 am

  5. Got hold of a copy of “The Third Policeman” from the uni library. It is refreshingly sparing in its use of the comma, the Rattus norvegicus of the punctuation world.

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — October 17, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  6. My writing is hopelessly rat-infested. I am trying to eliminate accidental incidents of the Oxford comma however.

    Tell us what you think of TTP.

    Comment by lexifab — October 17, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

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