Friday, February 22, 2008

The Midside: S4E04 Eggtown

I’m not quite so sure anymore. I don’t mean to say that LOST isn’t the best show on television. It still is. It’s still the best show on television ever. Lately, I’ve been watching Sliders on DVD from the beginning, and it’s an enjoyable sci-fi tri, but you can just notice the lack of quality. The characters aren’t as deep. The episodes are simple premises expanded over 44 or so minutes. Everything is an individual thought experiment. No, LOST still blows all that kind of television away. It still blows serialized shows away. My problem is that it is becoming a bit too self referential.

It was cute in the first few episodes this season when Jack and Kate bantered about their character types. It was clever whenever Hurley made an in-joke to the audience. Now, however, things are becoming a bit too tedious and over done. Like the latter two acts in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the writers aren’t bothering to come up with anything new, but rather are harping on the mythology they’ve already built. Oh, it’s another Jack Sparrow rum reference. Oh, it’s another sea turtles to explain the unexplainable reference. I’m ok with occasional nod to your past, but when it takes over, you’re in trouble. In this episode alone, Ben referenced season two (mentioning “old times”), Locke referenced season two (essentially reiterating the originally clever “We’re going to have to watch that again line” with his “maybe you’ll see something you missed the first time”), and the writers referenced season one through Sawyer carrying the backgammon game to Locke. It’s like everyone is going through the motions. It’s like we, the audience, got what we wanted and it blew up in our face.

You see, when you slow down a story, you’re forced to focus on the characters. What defines the speed of a story is plot progression and the plot progresses through events. Events can be as small as a disagreement between two characters about ice cream or as big as one character killing another character. LOST has slowly sped up since season one, shifting it’s focus from the characters to the plot. In season one, it took us 24 episodes to open the hatch. In season two, it took us 24 episodes to not push the button. In season three, it took us 23 episodes to kill the Others. In season four, we’ve split into two groups, met three new people from off the island, killed a person from off the island, and sent two of our own off the island. While all this stuff is going on, we’ve barely seen Desmond, Juliet, Claire, Sun, Jin. Heck, Michael is listed as a series regular and we’re 31% through the season (25% through the pre-strike season order) and we’ve yet to see him.

Look, I don’t mean to complain. My point is just that LOST is shifting in a unique way. We’ve just started the second half of the story and the show is already iconic. It’s like comparing Clerks to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Both movies are well done and entertaining, but for their own reasons. Clerks is a honest attempt at a stand alone film. It is what it is. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a movie that revels in drawing from its own context. The crazy thing about LOST is the first half of the story will have more episodes (71) than the second half of the story (48). Actually, we’ve seen over half of LOST, but we also actually haven’t. It’s when I start to consider facts like these numbers that I realize that LOST is still an experiment in process. There’s never been a show like it. And I truly do hope it succeeds.

MAYBE IT’S NOT ABOUT THE ANSWERS. MAYBE IT’S ABOUT THE CHARACTERS.

The most jarring thing about this flash forward was the way the episode started. Locke had the eye opening moment, but the episode belonged to Kate. This twist is a perfect example of the self referential nature the show has taken on. I said twist in the last sentence because the writers were playing on our expectations. We’ve come to expect that the eye open means the episode belongs to that character. Then, they showed Locke in a white shirt. For those viewers like me that don’t read spoilers and previews, these events set up the expectation that what we’re watching is a Locke flash forward on the island. Not so, it’s quickly revealed that we’re still on Original Island Time, as Ben is locked in the basement the way Locke was in season three (too many references!). It’s not even a Locke episode. It’s a Kate episode.

Maybe I’ve watched too much Law & Order during the strike, maybe I’m too much of a fan of Elliot Stabler and the crazy guy from Criminal Intent, because I just wasn’t feeling the whole way Kate got off. If I were the creators, I would have put a call into the giant office building Law & Order surely has and asked their writers to guest write this flash forward. I’m not saying the reason Kate got off doesn’t make sense. It does. The only person who could corroborate that Kate murdered anyone was her mother, who refused to testify. Every other charge could surely be swept under the table, especially considering Kate’s celebrity status. Let’s not forget that we’re living in a country that left OJ Simpson off of a double murder. What I am saying is that Kate’s mother being the only corroborating witness was buried underneath all the Jack theatrics and legal worrying. The Law & Order writers would have balanced the personal story and the legal story. They always do. Heck, they probably even would have brought back Nathan Fillion as a character witness. I mean, if you’re going to reference yourself, go all out.

Then again, LOST isn’t a legal show, it’s a crazymessedupomgwtfpolarbear drama. That term is legit. Wikipedia that shit, I swear. Ok, so it’s not in Wikipedia…yet. If we all start using it, it’ll get there. Really though, the point is that what matters most is the relationships between Kate and Jack (and coffee, grr), Kate and her Mom (and Sabrina the Teenage Witch), and Kate and…Aaron? What matters not so much is how get became free, but that she isn’t really free. She’s tied to the island through Aaron. She’s tied to her mother through love. She’s tied to the state legally. Kate can no longer run. Though my bet is that Kate goes back to the island with her mother and Aaron one day, cures her mother, and lives the rest of her life there. I’m almost willing to be that the reason she didn’t let her mother see Aaron was to cover up the secret the Oceanic Six are hiding. I mean, surely Zelda would use her magical with powers and dedicate the kid’s DNA. But seriously, Kate’s mom surely would have known that Aaron wasn’t actually Kate’s son.

THE REST OF THE TRIBE

I’m worried for Sawyer’s life. The Doubt (a phrase I’m coining) is getting the better of me again. While it’s way too premature to say that Sawyer and Kate are over, this episode had Jack and Kate written all over it. Essentially, the episode ended with, in Original Island Time, Kate slapping Sawyer and, yawn, running away and, in flash forward time, Kate leaving the door wide open for Jack to walk through. This pill is bitter and tough for me to swallow. Why would Kate continually go back to a guy that treats her like crap? Then again, as a relative of mine said, that behavior is not exactly atypical.

My other problem is the Randian nature of the relationship between Sawyer and Kate. A lot of people bemoan the fact of how selfish the two are, as if being selfish is a bad thing. The Doubt is what’s telling them being selfish is a bad thing. “Oh, I can’t be selfish, that’s taking away from others, isn’t it?” Yes, selfish is taking from others if your values tell you it’s ok to take from others. In the Randian sense, good people (good defined by their values being logically in line with objective reality) will do good things by following their self interest or, in other words, by being selfish. When Kate comes into Sawyer’s room and he looks for sex, there is nothing morally abhorrent about that action. He wants her because she makes him happy. Because she is the highest type of woman he has ever found. In fact, the morally abhorrent action is Kate’s running away, where she doesn’t do what she wants because she is too afraid.

And in that definition of selfish lays my fears about LOST. They referenced The Fountainhead. Josh Holloway says he loves the book. These people are aware of Ayn Rand, but continue to push the anti-Randian relationship. Kate continues to go back to the guy who treats her like crap, not only showing she has a poor sense of self value, but leaving Sawyer without a storyline. Yes, it will reflect the show poorly if Kate ends up with Jack, but it isn’t the death knell for the show. What will be the death knell for the show is if Kate ends up with Jack and Sawyer is left storyless or, worse, dead in some “self sacrificing” move like Casablanca. Yes, Humphrey, letting the girl go will save all the Jews from the Nazis, but you aren’t really sacrificing anything. You had to choose between staying in Casablanca alone or traveling into rough waters, metaphorically, for the woman you loved. You took the easy way out to protect yourself. You’re so noble.

The point is that the writers need to decide what cart they want to ride, hitch a horse to it, and pull away. We’re all getting sick of this back and forth crap. Unfortunately, they may have written into the show’s end by intertwining it with the flash forwards.

On another Sawyer note, I enjoyed his relationship with Hurley and how he’s become a homebody. Think about it. It all makes sense for this character. I just miss his humor a little bit. Instead, we’re stuck with Miles as a poor version of him.

Wait, wait, there are breaking news on the other characters. Here we go, this just in:

-Locke still throws things against walls because he has no idea what’s going on. It’s nice to see people make progress.
-Yes, yes, I do believe we had a Juliet sighting. She yelled at Charlotte.
-Desmond has once again disappeared, this time literally. His helicopter is MIA. It’s all about the time gap.
-Sayid, after his triumphant return last week, has disappeared again. I miss him already. Maybe it’ll rain soon and he can look like a dog with wet hair again.
-Claire has a baby. Well, Kate has him too. I’m confused.
-Crazy Dan can’t remember three cards. Is it a training exercise or is he going through some sort of therapy? By the way, a bit eccentric, smaller build, could he be any more of a replacement for Charlie? (Thanks to Chandler Bing for this one.)

LOSTOLOGY

There’s always been a nagging feeling in the back of my brain that Ben was more than a representative of some alive island, especially considering how smug he has remained this season. For someone to be able to do what he did off the island, he had to have some sort of backing. I’m even starting to believe that the illustrious Jacob is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Sure, the island is still super natural, but all this political stuff is just that, political. There are two factions fighting for control of the island. Right now, Ben and his people (if he’s in power or down the command chain), hold control of the island. His opponents think that capturing him will give them control of the island.

This theory explains a lot of things such as how Locke can’t see Jacob’s house now. However, it also doesn’t explain a lot of things, such as how it was such a happy coincidence that Locke was shot right where is kidney that his dad conned him out of was. Am I willing to concede that there could be three forces at work on this show (two man, one super natural)? Yes, but that outcome seems rather convoluted for LOST. I still think the Ultimate Reveal will be something rather simple, like a character turning on a light switch and seeing someone or something in his room and the LOST logo popping up, leaving us to work everything backwards ourselves.

The other interesting angle I am seriously starting to consider is the involvement of Christian Sheperd. Now somehow, miraculously, his son and his grandson are two of the 60 odd people we’ve met on the island that get off the island. That outcome is a bit too coincidental, especially in this show, for me. Couple this consideration with the fact that Christian ran to Australia before the crash and seemingly led Jack around the island in White Rabbit, and everything starts to look a little crazier.

As for the Time Gap stuff, I’m not even going to touch it. All I’m going to say is this: Aaron looked pretty old for these people to get off the island soon. He’s only what, a few months old at this point? Maybe I should start calling it the Baby Gap instead. Bad jokes, for the win.

FREDDY ADIEU

LOST is still awesome. I don’t know any other way to put it. Even though one of my friends predicted the Aaron twist as Kate walked into her house, it was still a shock. Continually, this show finds way to confuse me and no other show or person has ever been able to do that in my life. The writing, though a bit spotty this season, is still amazing. And if you disagree with any of this, well, then there’s only one thing left to say:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Jayemel can be reached by email at jmlesniewski@gmail.com.

1 comment:

dj said...

Post your entry for S4E05 already