It’s almost hard to believe. Yet again, we’ve reached this point. Everything happened so quickly and was sprung upon us and now…this. No, I’m not referring to another season ending twist. I’m talking about how the season has already ended. The shortening of the number of episodes combined with the strike molded what feels like a completely abbreviated run. Where does this finale rank among other finales? Follow me into The Midside and we’ll address this consideration as well as other more specific ones such as: Who’s on the island? Who’s off the island? Who’s dead? Who should we trust, Widmore or Ben? And, in a point sure to be unique to The Midside, who is the Most Screwed Character of Them All™?
PLAYING THE PUNDINTRY GAME
Disclaimer: Before I begin this section, I would like to acknowledge what I have in past columns. I hate the lists media sources such as ESPN make. They create impossible scenarios as a way to increase ratings or readership. For instance, over the Patriots 18-0 run, they were constantly compared to the ’72 Dolphins. It’s impossible to compare the two teams. They are from separate eras. They could never be on the field together. Such a comparison is nothing more than frivolous fluff. However, there is a specious air to it, as they both had huge undefeated streak. The comparisons become especially troublesome when the pundits turn to players and try to rank the best quarterback, wide receives, running backs, etc in history. How exactly, over the entire history of a league with ever shifting styles, rules, and conventions, can a definitive list be created? It can’t, and thus I find such lists ridiculous.
If I hold such an opinion, how can I attempt to rank the LOST seasons and finales? I won’t. While an argument can be made concerning ranking things within a consistent work of art, such as a television show, I still think such a list would be ridiculous. Creating one would be like ranking the chapters in a book. However, I do think that it is important to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each season and finale, which can be especially highlighted in comparison to one another. And if one happens to be weaker or stronger than all the rest, so be it. Likewise, this discussion is in no way meant to be a definitive statement on the relative quality of each season. Rather, it is my attempt to place the fourth season and it’s finale within the scope of the LOST universe. And I will start with a cross section of the finales.
The interesting thing about the season finales is that each has featured a variation of the same technique. The common term used when referring to them is “game changer.” The episodes contain a “game changing” moment or fact. However, each season has contained a different type of a “game changer.”
Season One featured the least revolutionary moment(s). The story did not change drastically and the technique had been used a thousand times before in television cliffhangers. In fact, the producers even compared it to the classic “Who shot JR?” question from
Season Two succeeded in fine tuning the techniques used in the first finale. Locke, Desmond, Eko, Sawyer, Kate, and Jack were all placed in such danger that we had no idea what their fates would be in the coming season. Charlie, Michael, and Walt went through such crucial events that we had no idea how they would react. Likewise, characters were inserted into the mythology. Suddenly, Penny and her artic station were trying to find the island. The idea of rescue and the characters that would help that story unravel were in our minds. Ben and the Others were revealed at the dock. Ben uttered his iconic “We’re the good guys, Michael” and one of the biggest debates in LOST history began. But, these questions would not have stood strong on their own. In fact, it could be argued that the good/bad Others debate had been in place since Ethan, the kidnapping of Walt, or Goodwin’s treatment of Ana Lucia. However, it obviously didn’t resonate in our mind until Live Together, Die Alone. Why? Because the questions technique was combined with another: the destruction technique. This concept was also used in the Season Three finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that episode, most of what was familiar for the show over the first three seasons was destroyed: the high school blew up, the Hell Mouth was closed, Buffy quit the Watcher’s Council, and Angel left. However, there was only one question that remained with the show: What will happen when Buffy goes to college? The show had a natural setting to transition to. Likewise, LOST destroyed the Hatch. In contrast, the show had no logical locale to transition to, so the writers hit us with a plethora of questions. They turned the sky purple. They showed us a four toed statue. It was the ultimate mindfuck. Where this finale failed is its inability to include every character in the storyline. Claire, Jin, Sun, and Sayid all remained the same. This shortcoming most famously manifested itself in Sayid’s absence from Season Three.
Season Three took what made the previous finale so strong and built upon it further. Rather than using the destruction technique, they used the switch technique. The majority of the characters saw their roles flipped, as well as, of course, the story. Character wise, we saw the first glimpses of Locke becoming the new Ben, when he threw a knife in Naomi’s back and everyone looked at him like a nut case rather than a guru. Ben was tied to a tree, a powerless prisoner rather than the warden (like in the Season Two Finale). Jack’s leadership was finally cracking, as even Rose show signs of mistrust of the “good doctor” by mocking his mantra. Sayid, Sawyer, and Juliet, three characters who all had tenuous relationships with each other, were suddenly allies in battle with a begrudged respect for one another. Hurley was no longer the bumbling sidekick, but the hero that saved the island badasses (Sayid, Sawyer, Jin, and Juliet). Charlie, well, he died a hero rather than a character. And, thus, Desmond, presumably no longer had visions. Finally, the Others made their exit, disappearing to The Temple for an entire season. Story wise, with the change from flashbacks to flashforwards, the emphasis of the entire show changed. The point was no longer who these characters were, but who they would become. This switch is something we all struggled with in Season Four. We were so used to getting to know the characters, that we had no idea how to just be “friends” and share a journey with them. Likewise, Season Four featured only one “traditional” flashback in The Other Woman, while Confirmed Dead, Meet Kevin Johnson, and Cabin Fever featured flashes more similar to 3 Minutes, The Other 48 Days, and The Brig. Yes, everything was so switched that, at times, Season Four felt like a sequel or spin-off series. Thus, this success is also the shortcoming of episode. There was such an attempt to conceal the twist that not enough attention was paid to the notion of putting the past to bed. We still had (have) so many questions about the past, that we weren’t (are not) ready to let it go. This Doberman like grasp is what made Rousseau’s death so disappointing. We wanted to see her flashback. In similar fashion, I was disappointed in Ben’s Season Four episode being a flashforward. I still wanted to know what happened to Annie. Therefore, while Through the Looking Glass was a smashing success as not only did we all go through the glass, but we smashed it, it failed in the sense that we weren’t quite ready for that journey. We went on it, but it hindered a season that already faced such challenges as only airing during the spring half of the television season, a shortened number of episodes, and an unforeseen writer’s strike.
This season’s finale was most successful in using the complete technique, which is not a surprise considering that before it even began the writers stated that they created a two part set up: the first half of the season would ask question and the second half would answer those questions. And the two parts did just as they said. The finale literally picked up where the Season Three finale left off, using our new information to explain what happened in that scene and what happens after it. It is common knowledge that Season Three was the season of the Others. Likewise, Season Two was the season of the Hatch. We now know that Season Four was the season of the Rescue. Thus, similar to the destruction of the Hatch, all concepts associated with the rescue were destroyed. The freighter was blown up. The island is gone. And like the switch at the end of Season Three, the characters all have new roles. Yes, Season Four was truly the most complete season. However, where it failed is in living up to expectations. The previous two finales were so ridiculous that it would have been nearly impossible for There’s No Place Like Home to live up to them, and it didn’t. I don’t mean to say the finale was awful, but comparatively, Season Two and Three’s finales were superior to Season One and Two’s. However, Season Four was extremely successful in telling a complete story and rectifying the failures of the Season Three finale. I no longer care about the past.
What do I care about? Over the remainder of this column, I’ll discuss these new roles for the characters and how they do create intrigue. I will follow it with a consideration of who we should trust, Ben or Charles Widmore. Finally, I will conclude with a statement concerning how the changes leave me as a LOST fan going into yet another eight month hiatus.
DEAD OR ALIVE
Let’s play a game. No, I’m not going to put you in a trap that is barely impossible to escape from and then claim I tried to help you save your life. Rather, I’m going to run down the list of LOST characters, starting from most dead and ending with most alive. Then, I will reveal who is the Most Screwed Character of Them All™.
Deader than a Doornail
This category is comprised of Michael and Keamy. Before the finale, I figured both of them were dead, and I definitely knew they were following the first part. When the C4 was revealed, I was sure that it was linked the device Keamy strapped to his arm, thus making it a heart rate monitor, thus meaning Keamy would die, the freighter would explode, and Michael would go down with it.
Say what you will about Keamy, but he was an ultimate badass, someone you would want to have on your team. In a way, he is one of the most tragic characters on the show. He had the potential of being an ultimate action hero villain (or hero? Movie casting directors, look into this idea), but was a short lived reoccurring role on the show. Additionally, who ultimately ended his life? Ben. Yeah, we know he is a bit more badass than he lets on (as seen in The Shape of Things to Come), but his “first” death as so much cooler. His fight with Sayid was awesome, and it said a lot that he could only be taken down by being shot in the back. Although, I suppose he was distracted by Locke enough for that fact to hold true. Regardless, Keamy, you will be missed. You were one of the most badass LOST villains.
Michael, on the other hand, will not be missed. When referring to the abbreviated season and the negative effects of the strike, Michael’s story must be noted. This season was supposed to be his redemptive arch. He is one of the most hated characters in LOST history. Consider the fact that the reason he is hated is for killing Ana Lucia and Libby. Now consider how hated Ana Lucia was (she barely even gets mentioned anymore). How hated must Michael be if people hate him for killing her? Thus, it would have taken a much more in-depth story to truly redeem him. However, they did clear up his story with Jin and Sun, the characters he was most involved with from the beginning. The problem is, though he tried to make sure Jin took responsibility for his own son, Michael did not take responsibility for Walt.
Probably Most Likely Almost Certainly Dead
It comes as no surprise that Jin died. He was this season’s Charlie. What is so disappointing is that he didn’t go out the way Charlie did. He went out because Jack was a douchebag. Although, if they had waited thirty more seconds for Jin before they took off, would the chopper have blown up with the freighter? Perhaps, yet still, Jin essentially went out begging for his life, yelling at the top of his lungs for the chopper to come back. I would have at least liked to see him try and clip one of the wires, or tell Michael which wire to try and cut. I mean, he’s Asian, he should be good at that kind of stuff, right?
(ABC Pop-up: This statement is a politically incorrect style quip that Jayemel has made in many past columns.)
While his death scene may have been wussy, like Charlie, he completed a full arc that inverted his character. In the first few episodes, he seemed like a jerk. The writers played up the Korean male dominated culture stereotype. He seemed to mistreat Sun. But, in what would appear to be the opposite of that stereotype, he gave his life for his wife. There is the smallest off chance that he dove off the boat at the last second, but I doubt it. Thus, I will say that Jin was one of my favorite characters on LOST. He was a true badass who took care of his own business and let others worry about theirs. Amidst the storm of weird occurrences, he always seemed to be an anchor of simplicity through hard work and respect.
Dead, but Not Really
Oh John Locke, are you nothing more than Season Five’s Charlie and Jin? I’m going to have to say no for three reasons. First of all, there is no way these writers are going to use the same storytelling technique for three seasons in a row. Second of all, the biblical imagery surrounding him is too strong. Did you see the way he came down the mountain and became the leader of the Others? The scene was right out of The 10 Commandments. Thirdly, Locke has been tied up with the mythology of this show from the beginning. He will be there at the end. So what’s going to happen to him? It has been insinuated that Locke was an immaculate conception. He has tried to be reborn several times. Now he really is going to be reborn. Locke is the Jesus figure of this story. He is going to out Jordan Collier Jordan Collier (that’s a 4400 reference). As for the shock of him being in the coffin, the reveal wasn’t when I was shocked. Since the whole episode built to us believing Ben was in the coffin, I was shocked and figured out the reveal when Ben walked into the room. The final shot was just very artistic confirmation.
Maybe Dead, Maybe Claire
Claire, we hardly knew you, mostly because you were hardly in the finale. Do I want you to be dead? No. Do I think you are? Considering you hang out with Christian and appeared in Kate’s dream, I do more so now. There is still the outside possibility Christian never died or the island brought you and him back (like they will Locke) and you can only live on the island.
Alive, but Not Really
This category encompasses two characters who have the biggest potential for an upward turn in their story arc: Ben and Jack. I’ll touch on Ben later as part of the Ben vs. Widmore consideration, but I do have to ask what good is he if he can’t get back to the island? Of course, that question assumes he wasn’t lying when he said he wouldn’t be allowed to come back.
I only see one way for Jack to possible redeem himself now: The Ultimate Sacrifice™. Thus, I say that he is alive, but not really. Has anyone degenerated more than him? He went from the guy Kate admires, to the man she berates and slaps before driving off. Jin’s death is (arguably) his fault. Every decision he has made since Day One has led to negative consequences. And he still refuses to believe that the island is “special.” He saw the island disappear and wouldn’t admit it was a miracle. Look, I know I’ve been critical of Jack pretty much since after the opening nine minutes of the series, but it’s clear that the writers are in line with this conception of his character. The question now becomes if he is going to be able to redeem himself. If he is, the only way he can is to give his life (which makes sense if Christian and Claire, his family, are both dead). His possible redemption is tied up with whether they have to go back, which is now tied up with Ben’s possible evilness.
Alive and Kickin'
Sayid, Hurley, Kate, Desmond, and Frank are the characters that are all alive off the island and living (relatively) normal lives. Of those five, Hurley and Sayid have the least normal lives and are now intertwined, as Sayid came to “rescue” Hurley from the asylum. Frank is the least interesting of the three and we may not ever see him again, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. Kate and Desmond are perhaps the most interesting of the five. Kate is seemingly the least likely to go back with Jack, especially considering her dream of Claire telling her not to take Aaron back to the island. Essentially, she now has Claire’s blessing to raise Aaron. Then again, way back in Season One, Claire was told Aaron couldn’t be raised by another. That line was likely just to confuse us and doesn’t have any bearing anymore though. Likewise, I have to wonder what Desmond has to do with this whole going back to the island thing. Is he included in the “everyone” that Ben told Jack is needed to go back? If so, that storyline will most definitely intersect with Ben trying to kill Penny. Does Ben known about Desmond and Penny? Most likely. Will Penny become a series regular? Will she and Desmond side with her father or Ben? Was Desmond’s return not publicized because no one besides Penny and her father knew he was missing?
Alive and Bitchin'
Sun took a major step into the mythology of this show. Seemingly, she allied herself with Charles Widmore, which would seemingly put her at odds with Jack and Ben. What is she going to discuss with Widmore? Will she run into Desmond and Penny? Regardless, like Jin, her character has been inverted from the Korean stereotype. After buying her father’s company, she became a single mother CEO. Could there be more of a symbolic strong woman? It now also seems like she will be extremely tied up with the series finale and we have to choose whose side we’re on, her’s or Jack. Well, in The Midside we’re on her side.
Alive and Missin'
On the island are the Others, Miles, Charlotte, Sawyer, Juliet, and Locke. I previously discussed Locke, so I won’t go into him again. Miles seems to be the least interesting of the characters, as we don’t really know much about him. Is he staying because he has mystical powers and the island is mystical?
Most Screwed Character of Them All™
You’ve waited for it, and here it is, the final reveal of the most screwed character of them all: Daniel Farraday. Am I the only one who is concerned about what is going to happen to him? I’m not even referring to life or death situation, to which he could also be completely screwed. I’m talking about his complete lack of a storyline. Sure, he loves
BEN VS WIDMORE
From the first episode of this show, the entire notion of “two players, one light, one dark” playing a game has been in place. The imagery was even brought back in this episode, as Hurley was playing chess “with Mr. Eko.” The chess pieces are light and dark. Hurley and Mr. Eko are light and dark. Now, as it would seem, the two players are Widmore and Ben. Although, it is important to note that, with Locke supposedly replacing Ben, it could be Locke and Widmore. That apparent replacement is probably just part of Ben’s overall plan though.
If those are the two sides, we have to decide which one we fall on. For me, the answer is simple. I’m on Widmore’s side. The only thing he has really that I didn’t like is the way he treated Desmond, but I can easily see him coming to respect the man his daughter loves. Likewise, I don’t blame Widmore for Alex death. First off, the question is still up in the air as to if Widmore ordered her to be killed. In The Shape of Things to Come, Charles even blamed Ben for her death. And you know what? I agree with him. If Ben had never taken Alex from Rousseau, she most likely wouldn’t be dead (and neither would Rousseau or Karl for that matter). The argument against Widmore, of course, is that the devil you know (Ben) is better than the devil you don’t, and that the writers could be going with typical storytelling, with the corporate guy (Widmore) being evil. However, I respond to that argument by asking when the writers have even gone with typical storytelling.
Once again, in this episode, Ben proved to me why he is evil. He killed Keamy, condemning everyone on the boat, in a moment of pure emotion. The action is entirely selfish and short sighted. Of course, the argument against that claim is what Ben himself said in the episode, everyone makes mistakes in the heat of the moment. Thus, my problem with Ben is that he continually makes the same mistakes over and over again, and he is a master of spin. Take his approach to Alex’s death. He has convinced himself that he is in no way to blame for her death, even though Widmore rightly pointed out in their conversation who does all the messed up things. As I’ve continually said here in The Midside, Ben has a history of committing atrocious acts. How can such a person be considered good? The only way Ben can be redeemed is if he has some ultimate good he is doing all these things for, and that good would have to be the ultimate ultimate ultimate good that preserves the victory of good over evil in THE UNIVERSE.
That’s where I stand, what about you?
Another year and another season passed. I’m not quite sure if I’m as passionate about LOST as I have been in the past. Sure, I’ll continue to watch the show and write these columns, but my love for the show is mitigated that the next season will apparently flow through Jack. I don’t exactly want to watch a show that is all about Jack making people believe him and then saving the day. Of course, what tempers that is the possibility they don’t have to go back and the role of Charles Widmore in the story. Part of the reason I’m a bit tentative heading into the hiatus is that most of the characters I enjoy are seemingly left without a storyline. Sawyer, Desmond, Farraday, and Juliet are all essentially MIA. Sayid is, thankfully, wrapped up in the main plot. Hopefully we find out where the island is very quickly in Season Five. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure about where this show is headed.
Thanks for surfing through this season. I hope you enjoyed The Midside. I certainly did. I’ll be back when episodes start up again. If you need your Jayemel fix over the hiatus, check out my blog, where I’ve also been cross posting these columns, at http://themidside.blogspot.com/. There I post movie reviews and anything else that comes to my mind. And, of course, if you disagree with anything written there, than you know what you can do:
Shut up, you’re wrong.
Jayemel can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.