Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Midside: S5E02 The Lie

Nominations for the lie:
-LOST having a pre-decided ending.
-Jack being the main character.
-Ben’s “We’re the good guys, Michael.”
-Jin being dead.
-Barack Obama’s presidency.

Political commentary aside, this episode blew the last episode out of the water. It’s almost unbelievable to me that Kitsis and Horowitz wrote a better episode than Lindelof and Cuse. But part of the reason for this episode being better is the intentions behind writing. This episode was more of a story. The last episode was more of a setup for stories such as this one. Still, some things confused me. Well, of course they did, this is LOST.

The first two episodes were clearly written to go together, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just write a two hour episode. Couldn’t they have made this “Hurley” episode two hours long? Instead, we had an “exposition” episode without any real focus (except maybe time travel) and a character based episode. Then, at the end of the latter, they seemingly inserted a line to make the episodes symmetrical. By all means, it shouldn’t have worked. But you know what? It did work. And that’s why I love LOST. None of this stuff should be working, but it is. And here’s why…


In my last column (about Because You Left) that I posted a few hours ago, I wrote that I considered the “flashes” to be the group of survivors on the island who were traveling through time. Apparently there is information that contradicts this claim. Mainly, LOSTpedia labels this episode as Hurley-centric. While the site is not the end all and be all LOST knowledge (in fact, I have major problems with a lot of its content because it’s more what people believe and want to be true than what actually is true), there is some kernel of truth to the show being a “Hurley episode.”

The main piece of evidence is that the episode was written by Kitsis and Horowitz, the writers who always write Hurley episodes. Thus, it would make sense that Lindelof and Cuse were trying to establish a similar tone and style to past Hurley episodes by assigning those writers to the story. Why would they want to establish that similarity if they didn’t intend for the episode to be about Hurley in the eyes of the viewer?

Likewise, the story mainly focused on Hurley’s problem with the lie, a condition that we are lead to believe to be unique within the Oceanic Six. The episode opened with a scene following Penny’s rescue of the group in which they discussed whether they wanted to lie or not. We then immediately cut to Hurley dealing with the consequences of agreeing to the lie. How could this episode not be about Hurley? Furthermore, the majority of the “present” (flashforwards) focused on Hurley. But that fact is where my problem with labeling the episode as Hurley-centric exists.

Though Hurley was the main focus of a lot of the scenes, the “present” still had scenes with just other characters. That storytelling technique is unprecedented for a flashforward or a flashback. How could the episode be Hurley’s when his scenes aren’t even his? Not to mention the fact that the “flashes” aren’t technically occurring off the island. The smart response, and I’m sure some of you are thinking of it, would be that it’s Hurley centric, not Hurley only. True, I can’t deny that fact, but then how far does an episode get pushed before it’s no longer character centric? Of course, you could always argue that an episode is centered on any one character, as long as they are the main character. This claim, while I personally have no problem with it, presents a major problem for some contingents of LOST fans. If every episode features a new main character, and the number of centric episodes per character has leveled out, it’s no longer possible to say there is one “main character” of LOST, not Jack, not Locke, not Kate, not Ben, not even Sawyer.

And if you didn’t realize it (although I’m sure you did, bit I’ll say it for emphasis), the first centric episode of Season Four and Season Five belonged to Hurley. Considering that Lindelof and Cuse have continually called him the heart of the show, that fact is not very surprising, but coupled with it, it’s pretty revealing. Maybe Hurley is the center of LOST. Or maybe not, because if anyone is, it’s Desmond.


Count me on Hurley’s side on this moral quandary for one simple reason: the lie caused an extremely large number of people to deny an extremely large portion of information. On the surface level, the O6 denied the existence of their friends and the actual island entirely. On the next level, they denied the unique events they experienced. On yet another level, every person with knowledge of the island is now denying the existence of the island and the actual events of the plane crash. This idea raises an interesting question: who is morally responsible for revealing the truth surrounding the island?

The list of characters who know something about the island and crash is long: Penny, Desmond, Charles Widmore, Mrs. Hawking etc. Does knowledge of a situation require that you reveal everything you know about that situation? I don’t think so. It seems ridiculous that if other people are lying about a situation and you know it that you are morally responsible to go out of your way to prove they are lying. The importance phrase I used here is “go out of your way.” The important distinction may be that your moral responsibility is to act in accordance with the truth as long as it is relevant to your wants and desires. Thus, Penny isn’t acting immorally because she was never interviewed or connected with the rescue (that we know of). If she were interviewed and lied, that would be an immoral decision. However, the idea of “acting in accordance with the truth” raises an interesting question, especially when considered in relevance to the key question of the show (that I will keep touching on because I don’t believe it will be revealed until the series finale): Is Charles Widmore good or evil?

Charles Widmore faked the plane crash. He put a mock up of flight 815 on the ocean floor and filled it with bodies that didn’t belong to the passengers. Wasn’t he then acting immorally? He had knowledge of the plane crash and lied about what actually happened. He was not acting in accordance in reality. This point is where I have to ask what acting in accordance with reality is. What I mean is: Widmore may believe that the best way for him to act in accordance with reality is to protect his interests in the island by limiting the knowledge other people have of it. Thus, lying about the plane crash would be a moral decision in that sense. Of course, just because a decision is moral, it isn’t necessarily right. If his decision, for instance, leads to a World War or genocide (::cough::Ben::cough::), then it was the wrong decision. This morality/correctness dichotomy is how we can be moral (good) people and make bad (wrong) choices.

So, if lying could be moral for Widmore, couldn’t it also be moral for the O6? Yes, most certainly it could, but I don’t think it was. It was moral for Jack. He believed it was the right decision to make. However, he then impressed his decision on the others, making it an immoral decision for them. The person who this immorality has had the biggest effect on is Hurley. He has literally been imprisoned by the lie twice, first jail and now actual prison. The reason he seemed insane to begin with is we appear that way when we act outside our desires. Hurley wanted to protect his friends. He realized his lying did exactly the opposite. Likewise, Sun, Sayid, and Kate are all trying to deal with what they realize to be negative effects of their lying. Kate wants to be happy with Aaron, but her scenes with him are coated with guilt. Sun knows that lying is a disservice to her husband and is working with Widmore to alleviate that guilt. Sayid is trying so hard to alleviate his own guilt, he became an assassin for a man he despises, piling an immoral decision on top of an immoral decision.

This convoluted idea of the morality of the lie, of course, comes from the decision to leave the island. It could be argued that the decision to leave the island was wrong (but certainly not immoral, they wanted to leave it) and thus that decision is why their lives suck off the island. I’m not yet ready to make that declaration. There are far too many confounding factors surrounding the escape. Sure, leaving the island caused their friends to be unstuck in time, but not really. Ben caused their friends to be unstuck in time by turning the donkey wheel. Do they even have to go back? Yes, they will go back, but Ben is the one that says it’s needed, but them doing so doesn’t mean it’s a requirement. Ben always has a hidden agenda. What is it this time? Why does he want the O6 to go back?

Moving outside of this philosophical mumbo jumbo: How will the 06 get back to the island?


The twist of Hurley being arrested creates an interesting possibility in the story that defies our expectations. The end of There’s No Place Like Home created the idea that the O6 would reform (like a superhero team) and return to the island with Ben. Now, Ben always has something up his sleeve, so it’s always possible for him to somehow break Hurley out of jail (or pay his bond), but I see two other options, one that is much more possible. Of course, we’re also talking about LOST, so the Cloverfield monster could appear and destroy the city, freeing Hurley, and we’d buy it.

1. Desmond uses his time travel powers to free Hurley from jail or stop him from being arrested. It’s only a matter of time before Desmond starts to utilize his powers to change the world. The plot has been thrown in our face Flashes Before Your Eyes. Also consider the entire Charlie dies plot line. A large horde of people are annoyed Charlie could have survived The Looking Glass station. Did you ever think that the possibility of Charlie surviving was intentional? Desmond could change time. He did change time. He saved Charlie over and over again. Maybe the “universe” wasn’t trying to kill Charlie, but rather Desmond was flashing to a series of coincidences where Charlie died and convinced himself Charlie had to do because Mrs. Hawking told him he couldn’t change time. Then, in the end of the arc, Charlie didn’t die because he had to, but because he wanted to, symbolized by his closing of the door.

Much more likely, however, is the following: Desmond can’t change everything about time, but he can change some things. Charlie was going to die, but Desmond changed how he would die, and that how changed the course of the island. Charlie’s death (rather than an arrow to the neck) allowed the O6 to get off the island and Ben to move the island. Thus, there are some facts Desmond can’t change, but he can change a lot by influencing events (kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?). I’m not sure what that all had to do with Hurley in jail, but I’m glad I said it.

2. Widmore pays Hurley’s bond, into his custody. I see this outcome as more likely because I don’t see any other reason Hurley would return to the island. He clearly will never go anywhere near Ben for the rest of the series (which is a smart decision). Likewise, Sayid is the one who told Hurley to stay away from Ben, so I find it hard to believe he would follow Ben back to the island (maybe out of guilt). To add another interesting fact to the foray, Sun has forged a tentative working relationship with Widmore and clearly blames Ben for Jin’s death. Why would she follow Ben back to the island and not Widmore? Finally, who just found herself re-connected with Sun? Kate. And there are pretty slim odds those lawyers with the paternity tests weren’t sent by Widmore. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were sent by Ben. Regardless, I see 5 of the O6 returning to the island with Widmore and the sixth (Jack) returning with Ben.


Awesome possible series finale scene alert:
Ben kills Jack and says, “Thank you, Jack.”

My friend Dan came up with that idea and I think it’s brilliant. It’s the perfect tragic ending to the Jack character. Imagine if he’s standing across from his father and Widmore (who are friends and allies), realizing he’s betrayed them his whole life, tears rolling down his face, and Ben shoots him in the back. I would be heartbroken at that demise and I hate the guy. Hell, it would make me feel sympathy for the character because he would recognize the error of his ways and then realize he’s going to pay for them.

This idea is, of course, born from our belief that the “twist” is that Widmore is the good guy. This belief is tough for us because it’s so obvious to us that Ben is the bad guy. Of course, in many conversations and throughout the internet we see people continually asserting that Ben is the good guy. However, it is important to note that he has been yet to be shown as the good guy. That belief is an assumption created by Lindelof and Cuse in a brilliant set up. Through lines such as “We’re the good guys, Michael,” not fully revealing anything about Widmore, making Widmore mistreat Desmond (which maybe he knew Desmond had to get to the island, so he mistreated him on purpose and sent him on the solo boat race), not revealing much about Widmore, and playing on the cultural assumption that businessmen are evil, Lindelof and Cuse have made us believe Widmore is evil and Ben is good, or it will turn out that way anyway.

But, what if, in the end, they never go through with that twist, making the twist the lack of an expected twist, or, as I will refer to it from this point on: the Non-Twist Twist.

And if you disagree with that. Well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

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