Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Midside: S5E03 Jughead

Welcome back once again to another edition of The Midside LOST style. I feel like I just finished my two columns from last night and here I am again composing a new collection of my insight. The season is almost three weeks old, and I already feel like I’ve been at this for months. If time is like a record that skips, then call me DJ Wells, because I’m scratching this shit like it has poison ivy.

I’m not even really sure what that means, I just thought it sounded cool; which is really how I think about most of the stuff I write, really.

This episode featured the complete and utter destruction of our perceptions of certain characters, and I would like to point out that I anticipated this destruction a few seasons ago. What was it? Well, let’s jump into that question right now.


Up to this point, the writers had played on the societal belief that corporations and their CEOs suck to provide us with a less than positive perception of Penny’s father. Wow, that sentence had a lot of Ps in it. Anyway, this time, Widmore finally received the Ben treatment. We were reminded of the “bad” things he’s done, but also shown a different side of him through “good” things he’s done.

What the writers are great at is providing us concrete evidence that support both sides of a question. Let’s run through what we have with Widmore.

1. He sent a boat to the island to “kill everyone.”

Did he send a boat to the island? Yes, most definitely. My problem is with the second half of this statement, which Penny made in this episode. Martin Keamy most certainly wanted to kill everyone and seemed to indicate it was a protocol. However, other members of the boat crew (most notably our three new main characters, Frank, and the captain) seemed to not want to implement the protocol. It wasn’t until Keamy killed the captain that he could implement the protocol.

As for Widmore’s intentions himself, it’s hard to tell. He rarely ever gives a straight answer (does anyone on the show?). Whereas other characters will defend themselves or rationalize, Widmore obviously does not feel the need to explain himself. He has only come close two times. First, when Ben came into his room he said the island was his. Second, he told Desmond that the situation was old and didn’t concern him. Did Widmore intend to kill Alex? It’s impossible to know whether that was Keamy working of his own accord because Widmore never claimed the act when Ben accused him.

2. He kicked one of Ben’s guys in the face.

In “The Other Woman” Ben showed Locke a videotape of Widmore kicking one of the Others. Widmore then looked up and the tape stopped. From Ben’s perspective, this action was bad. He was attacking one of Ben’s people. However, we, as more omniscient (not completely) and objective observers have no idea about the true morality of this action. Why was the Other not on the island? How did he get captured by Widmore? It’s entirely possible that Widmore had a legitimate reason to be angry. Maybe the Other was committing sabotage or espionage. It would be extremely short sighted of us to judge Widmore for this action

3. He told Desmond he wasn’t good enough for Penny.

It’s hard not to condemn Widmore for this action. He completely insulted and denigrated Desmond in what seemed like an elitist moment. However, two things give me pause about this moment. First, this series of events eventually led to Desmond becoming the time traveler he is today. Second, we haven’t seen Widmore act that elitist since. Even in his scene with Sun in “Because You Left” he wasn’t that elitist. Sure, he was straightforward, aggressive, and cold, but he wasn’t that much of a snob. Also consider his scene with Desmond in this episode. He treated Desmond much more like an equal this time. Was there a reason he was a jerk the first time? Well, yeah, there’s always a reason. Was there a good (and/or moral) reason he was a jerk before? That distinct possibility exists.

4. He was keeping that girl alive through financial support.

Just as Christian Shepard was supporting Claire’s mother, Widmore is supporting Faraday’s early mistake. Interestingly, a parallel could be drawn between those two cases that we’ll get into later. Regardless, paying the medical expenses of a person on her death bed does not seem like the actions of a bad person. The logical response is that he is only doing it to tie up a loose end as he was funding the research that harmed the girl. This response causes two problems. First, Faraday has never been shown in a negative light and now we see he is connected to a “bad guy.” Is Faraday bad now or is Widmore good? Second, is it a bad thing to take care of every contingency in a plan of action you undertake? If you want to best complete the plan, doesn’t that mean you’ll pay close attention to all the details and outcomes? The idea of only doing something to tie up loose ends makes more of a negative statement on humanity than Widmore.

5. He was on the island before Ben.

Before Ben was born, even. This turn of events is a major blow to Ben supporters. One of his main claims to the moral high ground was that he was on the island before Widmore, if Widmore had been on the island at all and hadn’t just discovered it and was trying to conquer it. Instead, we now know why Widmore called the island his and that he may have more of a claim to it then Ben. However, the true answer to the good vs. bad dilemma in relevance to this issue exists in a much deeper mystery: Who is Jacob?

The illustrious Jacob, though perhaps fictional, seems to be the true owner of the island. Although, that statement could be a lie as well. If Jacob is real, when did he come to the island? If he is real, is he alive or a ghost? If he is real, is he a time traveler? If he is real, what is his relationship with Richard Alpert? Richard Alpert has supposedly been around forever (according to Juliet). If so, how is the island not his? He also said that the selection of their leaders starts very young, but at the time he seemed to be the leader. While this line almost surely explains why they kidnapped Walt, it doesn’t explain why he went from the leader to the second-in-command. Maybe at the time we saw him in this episode, the leader was gone. Or maybe…

…I still maintain that “The Man Behind The Curtain” was a huge clue as to the true power structure of the island. Richard Alpert is Jacob as the man behind the curtain was the Wizard of Oz. Alpert created Jacob to be in control but not act like he’s in control. Go back and watch how he deftly controls Ben while letting Ben think Ben’s in control. Likewise, whenever there is a major moment shown in the island’s past, who is there? Richard Alpert. Finally, also in “The Man Behind the Curtain,” go back and watch how Alpert slickly uses the tape recorder containing Ben’s message to Juliet to manipulate the situation.

Wait, how did we get to Richard Alpert? I thought we were talking about Charles Widmore. We were, and that’s how crazy LOST is. Widmore brings us to Alpert. Of course, I think everything brings us back to Alpert. Maybe it’s how much he looked like Jeff Probst in this past episode. I am way too obsessed with Survivor. Which reminds me…


I don’t know if anyone else picked this up while watching, but I almost immediately noticed that the only two characters from Season One that were in this episode were Sawyer and Locke, and both of them were barely around. Locke was a bit more of a presence due to his conversation with Alpert. Sawyer, on the other hand, was nothing more than the kind-of-angry guy and the World’s Worst Time Traveler. I’d love to see him be Doctor Who’s companion for just one episode. It’d be hilarious. But, in all seriousness, Elizabeth Sarnoff cannot write Sawyer. She turns him into a stereotype of what she thinks he is and writes him unwitty “witty” lines. I’m mildly offended everytime she does so. “Stay here in crazytown”? What kind of a line is that? Hey Sarnoff, go write for Grey’s Anatomy where McDreamy, McSteamy, and McDouchey can get away with saying bullshit because the audience is so shallow that no one cares.

This episode featured relationships and characters introduced from Season Two on. The fact that we were able to buy it speaks well of the writers. Think about it. This show is barely even the same show we started watching in 2005. There’s an island. There’s a mystery. And that’s about it. Now, it’s a science fiction time travel (possible) masterpiece focusing on the relationship between five British characters.

Thus, t’s important to mention Ellie and Eloise. Ellie was the annoying British girl in the past that I wanted to die. Eloise is Faraday’s mother who is in Los Angeles, according to Widmore. Are Ellie and Eloise the same person? Signs point to yes. Now, is Eloise also Ms. Hawking? Signs also point to yes. This turn of events makes Faraday’s financial relationship with Widmore even more interesting, as well as his interest in time travel. Is Faraday Widmore and Ms. Hawking’s son? Is he interested in time travel because it’s part of his family history? Or did Widmore simply fund Faraday because he is his son and has no idea what Faraday was actually studying? I would lean towards the former before I would the latter.

Another interesting discussion is the now inconspicuous absence of Penny’s mother. Is Ms. Hawking her mother and thus Penny and Faraday are siblings? The possibility is now on the table.

Of course, Hawking and Widmore could just be brother and sister and this whole discussion could be moot. I’m just not sure I would be satisfied with the lack of explanation of who Penny’s mother is then.

Despite all this mumbo jumbo, we still haven’t discussed Desmond. And you know what? I still don’t really feel the need to. He more drove the plot to all these revelations, almost standing in for the audience, than had any epic moments himself. The only other interesting element of his story introduced is Charlie. Now we have three different babies with three different relationships to the island that will probably end up on it. Charlie wasn’t born or conceived on the island. Ji Yeon was conceived on the island, but born off of it. Aaron was conceived off the island, but born on it. This observation must be important. Why? Not because I made it (because I didn’t), but because two is a coincidence and three is a pattern.


So there we have it, another episode, another week, another column. And it doesn’t stop. Next we have “The Little Prince.” Could this episode be about Aaron? Maybe, but I’m not going to bother speculating. Cue the ending…

If you disagree with any of this, well then…you might possibly be right, but probably not, so I’m going to say it anyway:

Shut up, you’re wrong.


Pat Manion Clemson '11 said...

What happened to the, was it, Grey's Anatomy catch up? That was the only reason I read this blog...kidding. A year later and I'm still hooked, although I'll admit, I feel like I should be re-watching every episode before I watch a new one -what with all your previous episode references from past seasons that (as you mentioned last week) undoubtedly display the forgetfulness and ignorance of TV watchers or at least mine since I can barely keep up with some of your plot analysis. Or am I just not a true LOST fan? I would hope not but its a possibility. Anyways, haven't left a comment in a while and thought I'd say hello oh and by the way, not sure if you've got a counter on this blog but I'd be curious to know how much its gone up since I was in your 103 class- I give the URL to every LOST fan I talk to, good lookin out I guess. Hope all is well and you don't have a bunch of shitheads for students, but since thats inevitable I guess its just worth noting. Take it easy and keep entertaining me.

-Pat Manion

Jayemel said...

Thanks for the comment, Pat. It's good to see you're posting comments on blogs at 3:40 AM rather than doing work or sleeping.

The difficulty with "new" LOST is it's so information heavy that sometimes the individual stories of each episodes feel like they're being sacrificed. We pay attention to what we're discovering every week ("OMGWTFWidmorewasontheisland.") rather than what the characters are experiencing.

I'm interested to see how the later seasons of this show endure repeat viewings and the test of time.