Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOST Redux: 3E12 Par Avion

(At the request of a reader, I will be reposting old editions of my LOST column as they no longer appear on the internet. I will not be making any edits to them, so please be aware that they represent a moment and time--my thoughts and analysis after watching an episode's initial airing.)

I don’t know French, so excuse me if I’m talking down to any of you, especially any possible foreign fans. Apparently, the title of this episode translates to “by airplane” and is a phrase that is most commonly used on postage stickers. Therefore, its cultural context is most likely one of “air mail.” It makes sense why this phrase was used as the title of this episode with the whole bird mail scheme. I do, however, think it is a little strange to use a French phrase for an episode about the Australian on the island. I guess the phrase is in such wide cultural use that it doesn’t make much of a difference.

Initially, I feel it’s important to discuss why this escape plan will fail. The main reason I feel the need to discuss it is that the writers of the episode utilized time within the other storyline to explain why it would fail. The Russian was talking about how he got to the island and described a beacon that no longer worked because of the Electromagnetic Pulse. Why question is, if Dharma can no longer get to the island (assuming Prince Ben and The Good Guys are Dharma), then how are any scientists that read Claire’s note going to get to the island? The answer is that they’re not going to. At best, Claire informed the world of the survival of some of the 815ers. Beyond that outcome, her plan didn’t do much.

Let’s move on and discuss her flashback though, hmm?

WHAT WOULD DUNCAN MCLEOD DO?

This flashback had its weak points and its strong points. Typing that sentence seems kind of absurd. Everything has its weak points and strong points. What I mean by that statement then is that this flashback contained two extremes of quality with few average qualities in between.

The strengths of this flashback were twofold. First off, it was mythology heavy, but in a simple way. A theory I’m pretty sure we all had was confirmed last night. Claire is Jack’s half sister. Since I pretty much knew that (I considered their relation a “theory that was all but confirmed), the revelation wasn’t any spectacular. There wasn’t anything that could have been done to make the revelation spectacular. However, I would still argue that it was done extremely well.

At the beginning of the flashback, you got the sense that something important was going to be revealed. The scene opened with the aftermath of the accident. Instantly, I wondered why show the aftermath of an event and not the event itself. The answer is the same reason the crash of 815 has only been shown in flashbacks. The show is about the aftermath of the crash and not the crash itself. Likewise, this episode was about the aftermath of the car accident and not the car accident itself.

Still, as the story dove into the aftermath, I wondered where it was going. In the second scene, Claire’s perfect health was established. Sure, she had a broken arm, but considering the carnage of the accident, I would say her injuries were pretty fortunate. She was experiencing a little bit of the Hurley Numbers Curse. Then, the utter hopelessness of her mother’s condition was established. The only way Claire’s mother would ever live is if she was hooked up to machines. Here was the point at which I was sure something was going to be revealed. I don’t know about you, but an entire flashback about a character pining over the decision whether to take her mother off of the heart and lung machine isn’t very gripping drama to me. I understand that, realistically, the decision is very tough and agonizing. However, I am the type of person that says make a decision, follow through with it, and deal with the consequences. An entire flashback of Claire not dealing with any consequences would have been agonizing to me for all the wrong reasons. It was too dreadful of a scenario for the writers to follow through with. It was also nowhere near unique enough to be a part of the greater LOST story. LOST has always taken common stories and twisted them slightly to make them their own.

Then, the writers put their twist on it and built just the right amount of tension. Claire’s mother would not be taken off the machine. As Christian later told us, it is illegal in Australia to take someone off the machines. Claire and her Aunt then questioned who would pay for the hospital usage. As fate would have it, a benefactor decided to pay the bills. At this point, we were all thinking the same thing. Our theory about Claire being Jack’s sister was all but confirmed. However, that little but still added tension. Ever since last season, the possibility existed that the writers would twist us. The same could be said for this episode. In order for the plot to progress, the benefactor had to show up. However, until that moment the possibility existed that it wasn’t Christian.

Finally, the writers teased us for a few more seconds. An American doctor had come to take care of Claire’s mother. At this point, if the doctor wasn’t Christian, it would have been a pretty stupid twist. Still, the possibility existed. Claire walked into the room and the theory was confirmed. Just the right amount of suspense made the moment stronger than it had the right to be. I went off on how this show is crazy. Really though, was information we all knew was coming crazy? No, but it was written in a way that made the moment powerful. It’s like when you imagine something happening your whole life and then when you do it’s so surreal. The buildup affects the outcome more than we care to admit.

The other strength of the flashback kicked in. Here is where my love for LOST grows. Most shows would have let the revelation be the entirety of the episode. When I say other shows, an example I put forward is Heroes. The writers didn’t stop there though. They tried to honestly portray Christian and the way he would approach his relationship with his estranged daughter…and it worked very well. Christian is a character that my sympathy for continually grows. At one point, I thought he was the devil. He seemed to plague Jack and want to tempt Sawyer. However, now we see, especially in this flashback, how he means well. He is a man that struggles so much with the fallibility of being human. Every mistake plagues him. Obviously, we can see how Jack possesses that trait as well. In this scene with Claire, Christian was beating himself up over abandoning his daughter years ago. He honestly wanted to do everything he could to help her because he felt he owed it to her. It was why he offered to become the Australian Jack Kevorkian.

Hold on a second, I need to go on a little rant here. Christian told Claire that it’s illegal to take people off of machines in Australia. Keeping someone on a machine requires money. Obviously, in this fictional case, Christian paid the fees. What if there is no Christian though? People like Claire and her aunt would be forced to scrape money together and pay the fees. So, a government law forcing people to not only spend money, but possibly suffer emotionally. I know it’s tough for some of you to consider a human life through monetary terms, but also consider the emotional investment in keeping someone alive through machines. Then, what if Claire and her Aunt can’t pay? Who pays then, the government? Well, government money is taxed from the citizens, so the citizens of Australia would be paying to keep Claire’s mother hopelessly alive. Long story short, I obviously disagree with this law. Good thing I’m not Australian.

The weakest part of this flashback was the lack of connection to the island event. What makes LOST amazing to me is the exciting storytelling that is masterfully woven together. My favorite episodes are where a lesson learned in the flashback affects the character’s actions on the island. The only influence on Claire’s escape plan seemed to be that watching nature shows gave her the knowledge of the birds being tagged. I guess you could argue that visiting her mother every day taught her how to keep hope alive and knowing how to keep hope alive allowed her to come up with an escape plan and to write such a sappy note.

On a final note, punk Claire was kind of hot. It’s interesting to see the actress play Claire before the pregnancy. Sometimes, on LOST, I forget how young she really is and looks, but she was able to pull off looking about 17 or 18 years old, as the majority of the episode takes place pre-pregnancy.

HEY, AT LEAST IT BUILDS CHARACTER

It’s good to see Sayid getting back in the mix. It took his flashback episode, but he’s finally returning to his old self. He called Locke on about three lies and got frustrated with Locke over killing off the Russian. While I’m mentioning Locke, it’s really interesting to see him vary between two different extremes in two weeks. Last week, he seemed like bumbling na├»ve Locke, especially when he entered 77. This week, his actions made me completely reevaluate those actions. When Sayid discovered the C4, it showed that Locke knew there was a good chance the Flame would explode. He even tried to hide his knowledge of the outcome by lying to Sayid. However, having the C4 reminds us that Locke doesn’t want to leave the island. He blew up the Flame to remove any possible method of escape. Now I wonder what he has planned for the C4. Who or what does he want to blow up inside The Good Guys camp? Is the C4 for the submarine or is it just an insurance policy against any other type of escape method that may arise?

Kate has really been all over the map, lately. On one hand, she took the lead and went over the electric fence first. On the other hand, she needed Sayid to tell her not to run into the electric fence to begin with. How would Kate have survived on the lamb for so long if she didn’t know to avoid giant sinister poles? Then again, maybe you could argue that she’s so blinded by her need to rescue Jack that she isn’t thinking the way she normally would. Running and avoiding people are part of her MO that comes naturally. Rescuing people is a new pursuit for her. Meanwhile, Sayid can tell her how to rescue people because he’s just good at everything.

By far, the most one dimensional character of the episode was Desmond. He went from a tortured Scotsman trying to drink away his misfortunes in life to Charlie’s guardian angel. Apparently, all he does now is run around the island and make sure that Charlie doesn’t die. I’m not sure how scaring the birds away when Jin almost catches one saves Charlie though. Wouldn’t you want them to catch a bird so Charlie would have no motive to go looking for one? Maybe Desmond was trying to discourage the whole enterprise. Then, all he did was lie to Claire about his powers until he couldn’t anymore. Didn’t we see that story a few weeks ago between him and Charlie? Mentioning Charlie, how quickly his mood changes. Desmond tells him not to do something and he gets depressed. You think the opposite would be true and he’d start risking his life when Desmond isn’t around. And remember, if you eat a Super Sonic Breakfast Burrito it makes Charlie go away. Maybe whoever is trying to kill him should consider that fact. Sorry Charlie.

Where were Nikki and Paulo? I’d really like them to become regular characters before they get their flashback. If I were the network, I’d be pretty upset that the producers gave series regular money to the actors. We’ve had 12 episodes and they’ve been in a few marginal scenes. Maybe there was extra money in the budget, so they felt like being generous. I’m just worried these characters are going to become the Rose and Bernard of season three. They’ll hang around, have a flashback episode, and then disappear next season. I’m very supportive of the writers, but I think the biggest weakness of LOST is that they’ve introduced so many characters and it’s incredibly difficult to give them all an amount of screen time so it feels like their story is being told. Last night is a perfect example. Plenty of characters got screen time that was worthwhile, but fans of Hurley, Sawyer, and Jack and those of us who are curious about Nikki and Paulo will feel a little disappointed. It’s a shame that after such a strong episode that any of us feel disappointed.

LOSTOLOGY

Here’s the thing about Jack and Claire being brother and sister. It was firmly established that Claire didn’t know Christian’s name and thus it makes complete sense why she and Jack would never put two and two together. However, how is this revelation ultimately going to occur? Obviously, The Good Guys know all about these people’s pasts. They must know that Jack and Claire are related. It’s likely that one of The Good Guys will reveal to either Jack or Claire that they’re related. Writing wise, it will be a delicate situation to handle. What is the character going to do, threaten Aaron in front of Jack and then say, “You wouldn’t want us to hurt your nephew, would you?” Basically, it could make for either a very powerful or very cheesy moment.

It’s kind of ridiculous that Sayid and company could just climb over the electric fence to surpass it. It makes the fence seems kind of weak as a defense mechanism. Then again, they probably never intended to have to defend against anyone like the 815ers. It clearly discouraged people like Rousseau to stay away. She probably would have just turned around and went back to her camp if the rest of them weren’t there. Also, it was probably designed to mostly keep out animals. Therefore, there isn’t much of a worry of keeping out anything over the height of the fence. Finally, there’s always the possibility that the fence is intended to keep out something much more sinister, like the black smoke perhaps. The black smoke hasn’t really been around lately. In a way, it’s good Eko died. With the amount of trekking these people have done across the island lately, someone had to be at least attacked by the black smoke for the story to be plausible. It’s still kind of getting absurd that they haven’t seen the black smoke since Eko’s demise.

I’m not surprised to see Jack integrating himself into The Good Guys. I still think part of the master plan (of the writers, of the forces) is for him to become their leader. Playing pass with Tom was a really neat way to reintroduce him too. At first, as he ran towards Kate, towards us, our preconceptions made us believe he was trying to escape. Then, it became apparent that he was associating with The Good Guys. He was living with them. Kate felt betrayed and I considered whether he was brainwashed or not. Most likely, he’s just acting like he gets along because it’s to his advantage to do so.

The Russian brought back the notion of the list. We still don’t know what this list is, but we do know it is probably created by The Good Guys. Maybe it is the master list. We saw that at the end of season two, Prince Ben made a list that was centered around Jack removing his tumor. Now, we have confirmation that Locke is on some sort of other list that has a more ominous feeling in importance and scope because of how it has been portrayed on the show. Maybe the list is handed down by the higher ups of Dharma to The Good Guys (assuming they are Dharma). Whatever the list is, I’d look for the Russian to be in Locke’s flashback next week, as he says he remembers him being paralyzed. Then again, he knows all about all their pasts so he may have been saying that to mess with Locke. Out of every secret on the island, Locke has been able to keep his paralysis hidden very well.

FREDDY ADIEU

Unless you have something, I’m done. Oh wait, this column is a one way medium. What I say is all that matters. Well then, I’m going to watch some college basketball. I’ve got March Madness. As always, if you disagree with anything I’ve written here, well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

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