Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crazy Island Reports


For a week or so there, I thought I had the endgame for "Lost" all mapped out in my head, but now I don't know which way is up again. That's what the stakes are like for network TV's best drama right now: every episode is like a whole earlier season unto itself, with the rules changing on a commercial break-to-commercial break basis. It's dizzying, and certain actors work better than others as compasses. There are larger concerns for our core group of plane crash survivors (including one elite set that's now made it through two wrecks, sort of), but the little question that's really bugging me is: What happened to Faraday? The one guy who seemed to have any concrete knowledge of what the hell was going on, and the narrative conveniently managed to misplace him. Perfect.

Here's what I just have no answer for: Why did Sun not vanish and reappear in the 70's from Flight 316, like everybody else (save Ben, which makes sense since he left the island before the time jump-precipitating incident)? Does it have something to do with Jin's wedding ring? I can't figure it out. I thought I had an ironclad theory as to the behavior of the island in this one particular instance, but it's all out the window now.

Eliminating Faraday, and empowering Sawyer as the leader by default of the remaining Dharma imposters, makes for high drama. Sawyer doesn't have any idea what his next move is most of the time -- his speech at the end of "Namaste" to Jack regarding the doctor's leadership on the island three years prior was laced with irony -- and with the incomplete information he has regarding the probably not final demise of John Locke he could lead everyone to ruin. There's also the oddball pairing of Sawyer and Juliet to complicate matters, three years of mutual hostility worn away to relatively functional couplehood and undone in all of three seconds with Kate's return to the island. Elizabeth Mitchell gets too little credit for her role in the "Lost" ensemble, I think, because her character wasn't introduced in a particularly sympathetic light (during the dreary early portion of Season Three, when our heroes literally and the plot figuratively were locked in cages) and her tendency to keep winding up as a consolation prize. Her nuanced take on Juliet's reintroduction to Kate was beautifully played, layers upon layers of mistrust couched in a few icy lines.

Will I ever come to feel the same way about Ken Leung's Miles Straume? Given the shortest end of the stick among the freighter folk when Season 4 became strike-truncated, Miles has served as annoying neighbor-type comic relief for Season 5 thus far. His never-quite-articulated ability to commune with the dead only seems to come up when the writers remember about it. I've always liked Leung, who was memorable without being obtrusive in a supporting cop role in the first Saw. I don't think that the "Lost" producers would have kept him around this long if they didn't have something significant in store for him.

Also under-recognized: The "Lost" hair and makeup people. It's amazing how they keep track of so many different hairstyles and costume changes as the scripts become so complicated that they leave the actors in the dust. Jeff Fahey's Lapidus looks like a totally different guy three years on, with a distinguished airline pilot style instead of his crazy-explorer look from last season. Daniel Dae Kim's hair gets longer for every word of English Jin acquires. (I'm tickled doubly now that Kim, a native English speaker, has to affect a halting accent while Yunjin Kim, who grew up speaking Korean, as Sun has all these long speeches and ball-busting competitions with heavyweights like Ben and Widmore.) Jack and Kate have distinctive "new timeline" hair. Only Hurley looks pretty much the same, which is not insignificant -- every now and then, somebody likes to play the "the whole thing is Hurley's delusion" card, and keeping Jorge Garcia's look the same keeps that red herring alive.

Again, with Sawyer in charge, it's impossible to predict what will happen next. With Jack making the decisions, things followed a pattern -- Miles hit the nail right on the head when he talked about going back to the beach and then leaving it again being more or less the only things these lamebrained castaways ever do. Hard not to recall some earlier conflicts when Sawyer made the knee-jerk, possibly unnecessary decision to treat Sayid like a prisoner. Is Sayid the Hostile who turns Young Ben to the other side? Wouldn't that be great? After watching the last two episodes, "LaFleur" and "Namaste," I realized I needed to watch the classic late third-season "The Man Behind the Curtain" for the nth time. That's Ben's origin episode. This time, I want to see the first appearance of Horace Goodspeed (Doug Hutchison), the head Dharma honcho on the island in the late 70's.

I'm pretty sure "Namaste" marks the first time we've seen the scientist character played by Fran├žois Chau and identified variably as Marvin Candle, Edgar Halliwax, Mark Wickmund, and (as in this case) Pierre Chang in person, as opposed to on a Dharma Initiative training film. It's interesting that he really exists, as I've read at least a few theories out there saying he was everything from a ghost to Jacob to a computer program. Maybe there's a bunch of him? I don't know what the advantage of having numerous aliases in a small, close-knit society like the Dharmas would be. Of course, at least some of the stations involved isolating and misinforming their staff.

If the island had power rankings, Sawyer would be way up while Jack and Sayid would be in the doldrums. Ben has been more or less unshakable from his position in the top spot since first he appeared on the show midway through the second season, as he is roughly eight billion times smarter than everybody else on the show combined. Sun is the big riser this week for having the good sense to brain Ben with a solid piece of wood the first he turned his back on her. Don't trust Ben! Ben is pure evil! Even as a little kid who looks like Chris Mintz-Plasse! Jack, Locke, Sayid, and many stronger men have trusted him even for a second, and all to their peril! It ought to be open policy with all the plane crash survivors (either one) to knock Ben unconscious every time he starts to speak. I'd maybe go so far as to suggest killing him, but I'm pretty sure he can't be killed.

1 comment:

  1. The only explanation that I can think of regarding Sun not time-flashing with them is that when she left the island she was pregnant and she tried to return without her daughter.

    This season has been amazing. For a while I thought each episode got better than the last.

    I wish I knew more about The Swan right now, the Dharma station Radinsky was secretly designing.

    I loved the job Sawyer assigned to Jack.