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February 6, 2016

Back to the Island 3.4 – Every Man for Himself

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 7:00 am

Bless me Internet, for I have committed the sin of allowing a blogging project to stall. It has been (nearly) a year since my last episode of Lost, and it was the better part of a half a year before that one.

By now you’ve all finished watching it, right?

Well, whatever, I think we’re beyond all understanding of why I’m doing these recaps, but it is still fun to go back once in a while and see what’s going on. I plan to persevere with the Back to the Island project, however intermittently I update it, if for no other reason than I have only ever watched the final season once. I really want to address my mixed feelings about it, but by now I think I can only really engage with it in terms of the rest of the series. Hence this painfully slow rewatch process.

But hooray, today we have one of my favourite episodes of Season Three, which is delightful even if nothing much actually happens.

* * *

Back to the Island 3.4 – Every Man for Himself

Quote: “Congratulations Ford. You just lied and cheated your way out of prison. You’re a free man.” – Warden Harris

Summary: Desmond begins to discover he has the ability to see impending disasters before they happen. The Others coerce Jack into committing acts of emergency surgery, and trick Sawyer into not escaping by telling him he’s got a bomb where his heart was. They say it more convincingly than that.

Best Part: Ben and the Others convince Sawyer that they have put a booby-trapped pacemaker in his chest so that if he gets too excitable his heart will explode. It’s plausibly implausible in exactly the same way that the best episodes of Leverage – another show about conman hijinks – always are.

Worst Part: Oh, and there it is – the first appearance of fucking Paulo. I mean, at this point he’s just another scruffy hunk playing golf on the beach, but soon he’ll be a hateful waste of half a season’s plot lines. Welcome to the party, Paulo! Here his scene is rescued by being mercifully brief and containing generous portions of dishy, mysteriously Scottish Desmond.

Books: Sawyer, imprisoned in the flashback, is reading Of Mice and Men. The bookage is not subtle in this one. In the terrific final scene, Sawyer thinks he’s being marched to his execution and quotes the rabbit-obsessed OM&M character Lennie. Ben reveals they conned him into cooperating: “Your heart’s not going to blow up James. The only thing we put inside you was doubt.” He twists the knife in, psychoanalysing Sawyer’s relationship with Kate with a two-fisted counter-quote from Of Mice and Men. Sawyer cops it right on his secret hidden sensitive side.

The mythology: Ben’s white rabbit has a number 8 stencilled on its back, which as a callback to prior Island mythology is only slightly more ostentatious than the fact that it is a white rabbit.

Summary: Plot-wise, this episode takes the tiniest step forward imaginable. In essence, Colleen dies of the gunshot wound that Sun gave her back on the boat (Jack, incidentally, loses another patient on the table, and if that’s not a prompt for a drinking game I don’t know what is) and her husband Danny is angry about it. Meanwhile, Desmond tries to be nonchalant about discovering hitherto-unmentioned psychic – or should I say “clairvoyant”? – powers. He saves Claire despite her crushing inability to take a hint.

Despite the miniscule forward momentum, this is one of my favourite episodes of the season. Nearly everyone gets at least one great scene, though Jack and Juliet downplay theirs so hard they might as well be acting in a trench. But Sawyer, Kate and Ben are all in fine form, scheming and emoting at each other. It’s a fine character piece that begins to shows us some of the more enduring chinks in hard-bitten-softie Sawyer’s considerable emotional armour. Some of Lost‘s main characters suffer badly from the show’s gimmick of regularly going back and expanding their back-story, but I don’t count Sawyer among them.

Also, Bill Duke as a menacing, emotionless prison Warden is just superb casting and a credit to everyone involved in the decision. I give this nine out of ten rabbits with an infinity symbol ominously painted on their backs.

March 9, 2015

Back to the Island 3.3 – Further Instructions

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — Tags: , , , , — lexifab @ 11:32 pm

Well, I nearly made it six months without a single entry in the world’s least essential recap of history’s most-recapped television program, but here we find ourselves once again. There are various reasons why I’ve not been more regular in maintaining this series, but if I’m honest one of the big ones is that we have come to one of the least-rewatchable parts of the series. That is, the sequence leading up to the infamous 2006 Hollywood writers’ strike, during which, according to legend, the producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff actually sat down and figured out where the hell they were going with the series, which was by this point among the most popular forms of entertainment on the planet.

On the one hand, I sympathise with them having to make the tough transition from discovery writers, working out what the story is through the process of telling it, to being architects who have to plot out the story in minute detail. I’ve been there, albeit not with a production employing hundreds of people, watched by many millions more and costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The strike came along at more or less the last possible minute to save the show from collapsing under the weight of its own unaddressed mythology (though there are plenty of critics out there who would argue that it sailed well past that point somewhere around the third act of ‘Pilot’). Unfortunately it came too late to save the first half of Season Three from being a hopeless dog’s breakfast of new characters (some better-judged than others), new manifestations of Island-magic craziness and some very bad character decisions made for plot-advancement purposes.

This is one of those episodes, and as you’ll see, I didn’t care for it so much.


Back to the Island 3.3 – Further Instructions

“Yeah, I know, I get it, you’re going to go into your little magic hut and I’m going to stay out here in case you devolve into a monkey.” – Charlie Pace

Summary: Locke, inexplicably struck dumb by the explosion of the Swan Station, goes on a vision quest to rescue Mr Eko from a polar bear.

The Best Bit: This episode marks the first appearance of third-season-rescuing new characters Nikki and Paolo, who are – wait, no, that’s not the best bit at all. Well, instead we’ll celebrate the return to the polar bears in a stunning bit of visual effects that – oh, no. No they’re not.

Huh. Well, look, Desmond gets around naked for most of the episode, so I imagine there must be someone who’s happy about it.

The Worst Bit: In expanding the character of Locke, this episode massively diminishes him. “Psych profile said you’d be amenable to coercion,” undercover cop Eddie tells him in the flashback. Pretty sure they meant “deception” or “transparent lies”, but the incorrect word is a script editing problem. The problem for the show is that it’s one thing to have Locke doubt his interpretation of events and the decisions he makes, but it’s another to hang the character trait of “gullible nitwit” on him.

There have been cases on inconsistent characterisation on the show before, but this one finally marks the point at which Locke is basically no longer a viable protagonist. In establishing his vulnerability to being conned by anyone with a convincing-sounding story, it’s at this point that we can give up the concept of reliable narration for any scene in which Locke is the POV character. From now until the end of the show, the only times we know Locke understands the situation correctly is when he is screaming about being cheated or tricked or taken advantage of yet again.

On the other hand, drugging up and going on a sweat-lodge hallucinogenic dream-quest is *totally* consistent with Locke’s character. What a pity it’s such a tedious (and cheaply-filmed) dream sequence back in the airport. (Hi Boone! Nice to see you again! Still nobody cares that you’re dead).

The Mythology: The Island plays its regular trick of appearing as a dead character in order to impart wisdom or guidance to the living, albeit in this case Boone’s appearance gets a non-magical makeover as a heatstroke-induced hallucination. More interesting is the first hint that something is up with Desmond’s perception of time, with his precognition about Locke’s speech. Like everything else in the episode, though, this revelation is slathered with so much significance that it sacrifices any subtlety or meaning.

The Episode: Some episodes are about moving the plot along, and some episodes are about setting things up for later. This one is almost the latter, but it’s treading water so hard it’s practically levitating. This episode is so obvious and plodding that it borders on the crass – Ghost-Boone’s narky, timewasting name-check of each of the Oceanic survivors in the airport dream sequence is an insult to the clever, layered uses of dreams that have gone before in the series.

Locke’s usefulness as a character is thrown under the bus in order to reposition him as a useful stooge for whichever bad guy next pops his head up out of the Island, and a potential antagonist for anyone with any sense. If Locke is the avatar of faith in Lost’s central philosophical debate, this this episode looks remarkably like it was a fix on behalf the “rationalism” side.

Basically, it’s garbage, even if they did let Dominic Monaghan get in sly references to Altered States and The Lord of the Rings. Two out of ten fingers smeared with trippy homemade peyote.

October 15, 2014

Back to the Island 3.2 – The Glass Ballerina

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 2:21 pm

Back to the Island 3.2 – The Glass Ballerina

“You said this dock was abandoned” – Sun-Hwa Kwon

“That would be part of the lying you mentioned” – Sayyid Jarrah

Summary: Sayyid, Jin and Sun try to ambush the Others but lose their boat instead

The Best Bit: While the focus of the episode is on Sun, and particularly exploring the fractures that have always existed in her relationship with Jin because of his willingness to use violence, which is a rich, rich vein to mine, that’s not the best bit of this episode. The best bit would be a shirtless, grubby Sawyer attempting an impromptu breakout from the Others’ chain gang, getting thwarted because Juliette pulls a gun on Kate, and then using the resultant brutal kicking to assess which of the Others represents a real threat when the time comes for a *real* breakout. It’s a classic Sawyer moment, combining his charming, sleazy opportunism – he instigates his half-hearted getaway by planting a showy, unsolicited kiss on Kate – and his cunning eye for the long game. Oh and something new is revealed for the first time: “Why did she call you James?” asks Kate. “Because that’s my name,” he replies casually.

The Worst Bit: Nothing about the episode is bad at all, though it feels more like a loosely-connected set of scenes than usual. Sun’s backstory is a clean through-line: she has an affair with her English tutor, her father finds out about it and orders Jin to kill him without mentioning why, Jin baulks at murder but Jae the translator kills himself anyway, and Sun’s dishonour has now made mutual the ill-feeling between herself and her father. None of the rest of it quite clicks into that narrative. Crucially though, Sun officially joins the list of killers among the Oceanic survivors, after she shoots Colleen (one of the Others). Admittedly it’s pretty much self-defense, but still – that doesn’t leave too many characters who have yet to murder someone. Maybe just Hurley and Claire.

The Mythology: The final scene, in which Benjamin Linus introduces himself and reveals to Jack that the Others are in contact with the outside world by showing him the winning hit of the baseball World Series, is purely there to touch base with the mystery. Who are the Others and why are they on the Island? “If you could leave this island, why would you still be here?”, asks Jack, to which Ben replies “Yes Jack, why would we stay?” It’s shameless place-marking, but thanks to the way Michael Emerson plays his fish-eyed delivery off Matthew Fox’s exasperated intensity, it’s a compelling scene to watch.

One question that occurs in this episode that is never clearly resolved is – who are all the other slaves on the Others’ work gang? Since an explicit answer is never provided, I choose to assume that they are other passengers from the plane crash or other castaways who have arrived at the Island over time and have declined to join in the Others’ as-yet-unspecified cause.

The Literature: Pretty sure nobody touches a book in this episode. In lieu of that, I will note that subtitles translating Jin and Sun’s Korean dialogue makes unambiguous that Jarrah’s first name is spelled “Sayid” with one Y. I note that only because I intend to keep defiantly spelling it Sayyid because I like how it looks. So there.

“The Glass Ballerina” doesn’t establish much that’s new, but it’s a showcase for Jin and Sun, whose relationship is one of the most compelling of the pre-crash storylines for my money. Sun’s willingness to use people is clearly shown as a weakness of character – she knows that she puts people in harm’s way for her own advantage or to avoid the consequences of her own actions, and she feels acutely guilty for it, but she does it anyway. The fact that she crosses a rubicon in this period of the story by killing someone feels like a significant milestone, either it’s the crash before her first steps towards redemption or it’s a point of no return on the road to self-destruction. At this point in the show that is absolutely one of the most interesting questions being asked: now that we are starting to get a handle on where these characters came from, where are they heading?

Eight out of ten shards of shame and dishonour for “The Glass Ballerina”.

September 3, 2014

Back to the Island 3.1 – A Tale of Two Cities

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 2:42 pm

Back to the Island 3.1 – A Tale of Two Cities

“I don’t think you’re stupid, Jack. I think you’re stubborn.” – Juliet Burke

Summary: Jack, Kate and Sawyer are prisoners of the Others, who live in a nice Dharma Initiative village

The Best Bit: In an episode centering on how much of a stubborn, obsessive arsehole Jack Shepherd is, the best bit is, as you’d expect, something Sawyer does. Specifically, Sawyer’s cranky struggle with the weird Skinner-box animal cage he’s been put in, his triumph at ingeniously solving it using lateral thinking, his disappointment that his reward is a Dharma fish biscuit, and his utter deflation when Tom Friendly tells him that “it only took the bears two hours” to solve it.

The Worst Bit: Okay, at this point, do we really need yet another insight into how Jack is a stubborn, obsessive arsehole? He single-handedly destroyed his own marriage and, for an encore, drove his recovering-alcoholic father back to the bottle that eventually killed him? Bra-fucking-vo, heroic leading man Jack!

The Mythology: This episode is all about the tease – the Others’ were all minding their own business, baking muffins, reading books and fixing plumbing when Oceanic 815 crashed. They live in a Dharma facility but “that was a long time ago”. They seem to have access to impressive resources – Juliet had Jack’s life story in her file, which they seem to have put together in just a few weeks despite being on some uncharted island in the South Pacific. Just what exactly do they do all along, and why have they been pretending to be murderous ninja-hobos all this time? Mysterious! Oh, and it turns out that “Henry Gale” is really a guy called Ben, who is probably the Others’ leader.

The Literature: Juliet’s book club is reading Stephen King’s “Carrie”, which one member dismisses as trash that, intriguingly, “Ben wouldn’t read on the toilet”. It’s Juliet’s favourite book, so the other club members must have been disappointed to be robbed of a good literary stoush by the sky turning weird and a plan exploding overhead. The other literary reference is the title, but for once I’m stumped. Is it referring to LA and Sydney? They are hardly mentioned. And there’s the Oceanic survivors on one side and the Others on the other side, but that’s kind of a long bow to draw. I hereby accuse the producers of wedging a gratuitous literary reference in for no reason whatsoever.

The Episode: It’s all setup, from the flashback of Jack being a destructive, life-ruining arse to the present where Jack is being a destructive, life-ruining arse. Juliet is introduced as a smart woman with a lot of very strong emotions she is working hard to suppress. Weaselly manipulator Henry Gale is reintroduced as Ben, a ruthless manipulator and the leader of the Others. Tom Friendly is reintroduced as, well, a friendly guy who doesn’t mind administering the odd clinical beating. And Kate, we are stunned to learn, wears a summer dress well and has a great line in upset stares when Ben tells her that “the next two weeks are going to be very unpleasant”. We also meet Carl, but it’s safe to say it will be some time, if ever, before we care about Carl.

The episode is okay. The opening scene with Juliet popping open a CD and having an unsettling emotional breakdown to the tune of Petulia Clarke’s “Downtown” is a nice callback to Season 2’s opening scene with Desmond. With only three of the principal characters present, and spending most of their time in cages of one sort or another, it’s not the most action-packed episode, but it does have some nice psychological drama elements. Juliet is presented as someone who has learned to survive in Ben’s company by controlling herself carefully and playing some of the same mindgames we’ve come to love from him. Sawyer is concerned with living in the moment and surviving, reflected by his incarceration in an animal cage. Kate is required to do nothing, literally, but to look pretty in this episode. And Jack is, as always, an arrogant, self-obsessed arse.

Seven fish biscuits, and we really need to cut Jack out of this diet.

October 18, 2012

MRP Day 18 – Back to the Island 2.24 – Live Together, Die Alone Part 2

Filed under: back to the island,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 11:52 pm

Back to the Island 2.24 – Live Together, Die Alone Part 2

“I’m sorry for whatever happened that made you lose your faith, John. But it’s all real. And now I’ve got to go and make it all go away.” – Desmond Hume

Summary: Desmond and Locke allow the Swan Station to count down to catastrophe o’clock and the Others take Jack’s gang captive.

The Best Bit: Mostly this is the Desmond show, and he is very good in it, but Terry O’Quinn steals the show as usual with a single moment. Realising that his decision to trash the Numbers computers and let nature take its course was pretty far from sound, he looks at a wounded and dumbfounded Mr Eko and says in slight disbelief: “I was wrong.” He wrings a lot of emotion out of such a short line – we can’t miss that Locke has suddenly realised that all his past decisions have let to this one fateful moment, in which he has made the worst possible call, one that he has no time to correct.

The Worst Bit: The action in the episode is all a bit passive for a season finale. There are a couple of dramatic sequences, but most of them follow from Locke’s (stupid) decision to not enter the Numbers into the computer – which leads to electromagnetic shenanigans – and Jack’s (stupid) decision to play along with Michael’s trap, which leads to him and the others getting trapped. Most of the episode is taken up with philosophical debates, which, while dramatically very satisfying, fly in the face of the promise of the previous episode that Sayyid would sweatily sweep into the Others’ camp and go all gangbusters on their arses. Disappointed!

The Mythology: This episode is packed with new information – some of it actually resolves outstanding questions. Most of it raises new questions, of course.

The night that Locke got Boone killed and hammered on the Hatch for a sign, Desmond was down inside planning suicide. Locke’s unexpected appearance gave Desmond hope that someone had come to rescue him from his button-pressing purgatory. This is of course the same Gordian Knot that Locke circumvents by rebelling against the button-pressing doctrine, albeit on the basis of some pretty flawed thinking.

We see confirmation that the Pearl Station which observes the Swan button-pressers is a fake. The records meticulously recorded and submitted by the Pearl lab rats have all popped out into a vast pyramid on a hill somewhere, completely ignored. What then is or was the Dharma Institute’s purpose in setting up the Pearl Station – observation outpost, twisted psychological examination, endurance study testing boredom thresholds or deliberate mental torture?

Kelvin says that the Swan Station sits atop “geologically unique electromagnetism” (which sounds scientific right up until the moment that it sounds like drooling babble) and that the Incident creates a buildup of the electromagnetic charge. The button discharges it and if it is not pressed – boom!

When the Numbers clock runs down, the Egyptian hieroglyphs reappear and the Swan Station’s magnetic properties go crazy. Desmond turns the failsafe key and releases the ‘electromagnetic energy’ (whatever it actually is), which makes everyone’s ears hurt and makes the sky turn purple and oversaturated. Then – we presume – the Swan Station blows up. The last time something similar happened, Oceanic 815 fell out of the sky onto the Island

‘Henry Gale’, apparently the leader of the Others, claims that they are the good guys. And while they do hold Jack, Kate and Sawyer at gunpoint and put bags over their heads, they also let Hurley go and they don’t welch on their deal with Michael. He also hints that they “got more than they bargained for with Walt” but doesn’t elaborate.

Penelope Widmore, Desmond’s long lost love, has apparently set up a tracking station in the Arctic (judging by the I-guess-Russian accents of its crew) to monitor electromagnetic anomalies. How she knows that the electromagnetic spike from the Island has anything to do with Desmond is not explained.

The Literature: After Kelvin dies and traps Desmond alone at the Swan Station to press buttons indefinitely, Des gets all liquored up and starts on his suicide project, reading Dicken’s “Our Mutual Friend”. Luckily he finds a written pep talk from Penny instead, and the Locke interrupts his pity party, so he never gets to read it.

The Episode: I could complain that Sayyid, Sun and Jin don’t get much to do after the setup of last episode, but the fact that Sayyid’s plan to raid the camp is a nice bait-and-switch that makes the Others seem just that little bit smarter and better prepared – and therefore scarier – than the crash survivors. They assumed that Michael would blow his own cover, so they prepared a double bluff to get Jack and the others to a different place from where they thought they were heading. Henry’s reappearance at the end, claiming to be the good guy and living up to the bargain made with Michael, is clinical and menacing – his “Bon voyage, Michael” is flat-out sinister – while the hints of almost familial bickering among the Others is more curious still.

Most of our heroes get not much to do, other than Desmond, Locke and Eko, and with the latter spending half the episode unconscious from his own dynamite  blast, it falls to Desmond and Locke to exposit and debate their way to the thrilling conclusion. Desmond’s realisation that he caused the Oceanic crash (by taking a bit too long to get back to the Swan after accidentally killing Kelvin) saves the day at the last minute, while Locke, who thought he was freeing them all from a false god, instead realises he almost killed everybody. So, good for Desmond, I guess.

In an amusing end-note to the conclusion of the first season, the Hatch which was a compelling mystery element back then, is blown off and flung down to the survivors’ beach. That and Henry’s “We’re the good guys” speech are clear declarations that, once again, Lost intends to reinvent itself in the next season. It’s no longer about survivors waiting for rescue, nor is it about exploring a strange and sometime hostile Island. So what will Season Three be about? Well, the obvious (and correct) answer is The Others.What’s the deal with those guys, anyhow?

“Live Together, Die Alone” is an exciting and dramatic episode, but it does have more of the feel of a setup for something else than a climax in its own right. Eight out of ten for being the muscular ankle rather than the foot kicking arse.

October 4, 2012

MRP Day 4 – BTTI 2.23 – Live Together, Die Alone Part 1

I did kind of plan to sing the praises of Atomic Robo in today’s Relentless Positivity outing, but I only have the electronic versions from Comixology and my wife had the iPad all evening. But that bad-ish news borders dangerously close to negativity, so we will veer wildly off in a new direction.

I wrote the first half of this Lost review so many weeks ago that I had forgotten most of what happens in the episode. Which means – hooray! – I get to watch it again. And while it may be less that crystalline in its perfection, it’s a pretty good one. Technically, it’s only half an episode, since the Season 2 finale screened as a double-length episode – but the DVD boxed set divides it into two, so once again that’s how I will review it. Besides, there’s quite a lot going on, so splitting it up makes things easier on me. And that makes me happy! Yay!


August 26, 2012

Back to the Island 2.22 – Three Minutes

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:50 pm

Deadlines are drawing nearer on several writing competitions that I plan to enter. Why, then, am I using up my precious time on Lost reviews?

Good question. A better question would be “Why did I just spend all weekend playing the last mission in Tropico 4 over and over again?”

The answer is, of course, because it was hard.


August 24, 2012

Back to the Island 2.21 – ?

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 8:35 pm

It’s been a bit of a trying week or two. The workshop that I’ve been preparing for and planning for all year finally arrived (and went off without a hitch, which was a great payoff for the three sleepless nights and the possibly-cracked tooth that preceded it). Now it feels a bit like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. While I’m sure I’ll yoke up a new one there soon enough, for the moment I actually have a clear head, which feels good. I am going to try to knuckle down and get my fiction on this evening, because that’s been the primary victim of my recent deranged preoccupation with my day job.

But before I get to that, here’s some more Lost. I hate losing momentum on this because I am enjoying the rewatch, so I am going to try to use these reviews as warmups for the fiction writing. I will be curious to see whether that affects their quality at all.


July 15, 2012

Back to the Island 2.20 – Two for the Road

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:05 pm

Back to the Island 2.20 – Two for the Road

“I don’t believe that parents and kids should work together.” – Christian Shepherd

Summary: The survivors debate what to do with Henry Gale right up to the moment Michael turns into a monster.

The Best Bit: Well, hell, the last thirty seconds are utterly devastating, but it seems a bit of a copout to rate the whole episode according to its punchline. So rewind a little while to the scene where Jack admits to Locke that he was right not to trust Henry’s story. Locke, with a completely straight face, tells him “You did what you thought was right at the time you thought it, Jack”. Which may not have been intended as a devastating smackdown of Jack’s entire attitude, but that’s certainly what it is.

The Worst Bit: Considering what happens at the end of the episode, it seems churlish to complain that Ana Lucia’s “cop who regrets taking the law into her own hands” back story is a bit on the trite side. All the same, in the absence of time to develop some layers of complexity, Ana Lucia ends up coming off as two-dimensional. Her entire backstory arc is: she is hurt, she takes revenge, she regrets it, she goes on a short journey of discovery and she gets over it. It’s more than Shannon and Boone ever got, mind you – at least it’s a complete story.

Also, the worst bit is Ana Lucia’s seedy seduction of Sawyer to get his gun. Not only does it seem out of character for her, she’s not exactly subtle about her plan – Sawyer comes off looking pretty stupid to fall for a chumpish amateur con.

And really, the worst bit of all is the sinking realisation you get as the closing title credits come up that you are never going to learn what the deal with Libby was.

The Mythology: Christian Shepherd returns to play boozy plot enabler, talking Ana Lucia into playing bodyguard (which I assume is his code for “good looking drinking buddy”) for his trip to Sydney. Sawyer’s appearance gives us context – it’s the night that Christian drinks himself to death. This episode also marks the first mention of the “great man” who purportedly leads the Others, although the reference (uttered by Henry Gale) is deceptive.

The Literature: Sawyer is reading the manuscript of Bad Twin, the Lost tie-in novel purportedly written by one of the crash survivors. Jack, a philistine, burns the last few pages to get Sawyer’s attention. Such a dick! In other literature news, Hurley expresses his admiration for the instructive romanticism of the 1989 John Cusack classic Say Anything. I only mention it because I still like that movie.

The Episode: Ana Lucia is the focal character, but she’s more of a plot device than a protagonist in both the Island and flashback sequences. Christian Shepherd swings in and takes over her flashback, making it all about him, in the usual style for that family. On the Island Henry tries to kill her, at least ostensibly out of revenge for her killing of Goodwin, the Others’ infiltrator into the tail section survivor group. In the end of each sequence, she takes a courageous stance route and is immediately punished for it: she decides to return to LA to face the music for her extra-judicial murder, and her plane crashes; she chooses not to kill Henry in cold blood and is shot dead. I don’t think there’s another episode where the spotlight character is such a passenger as Ana Lucia in ‘Two for the Road’.

Locke allows his frustration at the various mysteries of the Island to boil over. He demands that Henry explain why he tried to kill Ana Lucia but did not hurt Locke when he had an opportunity to do so. “Because you’re one of the good ones, John,” replies Henry, before going on to spin a web of enticing fantasies that play right into Locke’s spiritual neediness. Henry had been on his way to bring John in, to introduce him to the man in charge, to reveal the truth of the Island to him. It’s amusing because by this point Locke, appearing to be the only character left who really cares about what’s going on with the Island, is obviously standing in for the audience. And Henry is blatantly taunting him with lies (or at best half-truths) about what’s going on. On top of that there’s a scene with Michael describing the Other’s primitive living conditions, about half of which he’s making up off the top of his head. At this point at least half the audience must be developing the suspicion that the producers are raising a middle finger at them…

‘Two for the Road’ is entirely dedicated to maximising the impact of the shocking ending, in which Michael shoots Ana Lucia and Libby and then himself, to spring Henry Gale from imprisonment. It works, but there’s some blatant manipulation going on. Every scene with Libby is there to remind us how sweet she is, how intriguing is her underexplored past and how invested we have become in her relationship with Hurley. Until bam! Wrong place, wrong time. The ending is a hammer blow, no doubt, but it props up what is otherwise a disappointing episode. Six out of ten, for a flabby, liver-spotted long arm of the law.

July 4, 2012

Back to the Island 2.18 – S.O.S

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 12:01 am

Back to the Island 2.18 – S.O.S

“That man doesn’t know the difference between an errand and a fool’s errand” – Rose Nadler

Summary: Bernard formulates a bold plan to get everyone rescued without consulting Rose, which is just plain dumb-headed.

The Best Bit: The flashback jumps across several points in Rose and Bernard’s lives together, from the night they met up until the day they board Oceanic 815. The first is their mildly argumentative but sweet first meeting, the third is Significant and the fourth establishes that Rose met Locke in his wheelchair and so is one of the only people to figure out that the Island cures people. But it’s the second scene, in which Bernard’s romantic proposal to Rose at Niagara Falls is only slightly derailed when she tell him she’s dying of cancer, that rules this episode. Both actors are wonderful – L. Scott Caldwell always plays Rose with knowing dignity, but in this scene she is just heartbreaking, radiating poise and acceptance but showing the tiniest of cracks in her composure at causing Bernard distress. And Sam Anderson’s Bernard is sweet and stoic in response. Splendid acting (and tonally a nice counterpoint to the grumpy spat they are having on the Island).

The Worst Bit: There’s nothing too terrible, so I will pick on the gratuitous scene in which Kate and Jack, who have been avoiding each other over the past few episodes, are stuck together face to face in one of Rousseau’s rope traps. Their ironic acknowledgement of the uncomfortable eroticism of the situation does not do quite enough work to disguise the heavy-handedness of them being forced to confront their raging sexual attraction. Maybe we should just blame this one on the Island, which is not always subtle about getting what it wants? Nah. (Fortunately in subsequent episodes Sawyer will take this ham-fisted ‘caught in a net’ metaphor and run it hilariously into the ground).

The Mythology: The Significant flashback scene sees Bernard hijacking their Australian honeymoon to take Rose to see the grotesquely-named ‘Isaac of Uluru’, a somewhat risible outback faith healer. (As portrayed by Wayne ‘Scorpius from Farscape’ Pygram, Isaac amazingly emerges from his stupid story function with some dignity). Isaac’s healing powers are based, he claims, on pockets of energy which may be “geological or magnetic or both” (sic). He then tells Rose that she needs to find her place somewhere else – meaning the Island, though he doesn’t appear to know that. By now we know that there are strange magnetic things going on beneath the Swan Station. What does it all mean? Does the Island have some kind of magic healing energy?

Well, yes, clearly it does, because Rose is cured of her terminal cancer more or less upon arrival and Locke, who was paralysed and manages to get himself horribly wounded every other episode or so, can walk. So the question becomes, what does that even mean?

Oh, and when Jack demands Walt back, Michael shows up instead, which proves that if nothing else the Others have a sense of humour.

The Literature: Nothing. Henry might have finished The Brothers Karamazov by now.

The Episode: A sweet story about a touching relationship that endures every kind of setback and challenge, “S.O.S.” avoids descending into saccharine hell. Rose and Bernard are allowed to be prickly, grumpy, uncommunicative and sometimes belittling, but at the same time they are utterly devoted to each other. It’s not the most important or original lesson that Lost ever attempts to impart, but it’s not a bad thing to centre once in a while on two characters who don’t much care what goes on as long as they have each other.

Rose says something rather provocative to Bernard at one point, which is to the effect that he always wants to do something, rather than accept the situation and let things be. That’s an interesting narrative dynamic. Jack (seen here making the impatient and probably insane decision to trade ‘Henry Gale’ back to the Others if they will return Walt) is a man of action – a decider, shall we say – while Sawyer, who is not all that broken up to be left out of the action this week, is more of a Let It Be kinda guy. Lost might have been a very different series (though probably not one with as many exciting shootouts) if that had been the core conflict in the first couple of seasons.

“S.O.S.” is fine, though the structure pops a seam here and there. Rose and Bernard are unusual audience-proxy characters, inasmuch as they don’t actually care overly about the dramatic situations. They just want to live their lives on the Island and stay out of trouble. It’s nice that they get the spotlight long enough to let us know what the normal people are up to. A slightly creaky eight, or two hands clasped in unconscious abiding affection.

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