Thursday, January 29, 2009

LOST: Mystery of The Island Puzzle (The Hatch) Review

You might just go as crazy-eyed as Desmond trying to uncover the secrets in this Hatch puzzle.

Jughead Shows Yet Again That Outstanding Desmond Episodes Are a Constant

Ahhh, Desmond. I got the impression from the lovely little interview with Henry Ian Cusick in TV Guide that this week's episode would be Desmond-centric, and I sure was glad to see that the conclusion I'd drawn had been correct. The first scene was a bit baffling initially, and worrisome too, as we didn't know just when it took place. Penny looked like she was having a pretty tough time of it, and for a moment I worried that this was some point further in the future than we've seen yet, and that she might not pull through. But she did, thank goodness.

And isn't their son adorable? Especially in that fantastic sweater? He looks a little older than two to me, but I can buy it. Of course, I was immediately curious about the name of the lad, and we didn't get that until the end of the episode. I confess I was hoping for Charlie; what a fitting way to honor him, especially considering the fact that he facilitated Desmond and Penny's reunion. It wasn't until his name was spoken, however, that it occurred to me that the name could also be a tribute to Grandpa. That seems pretty unlikely, though, since Desmond loathes him and Penny doesn't seem too fond of him either. Still, perhaps it's no accident that these two characters who played such a crucial role in Desmond's life have the same first name. (Maybe, in an instance of supreme LOST weirdness, angelic Charlie winds up on the Island in the 30s or 40s and grows up to be a hothead who snaps his comrade's neck, tangles with Richard and, many years down the line, can honestly say, "I'm my own grandpa.")

I caught myself feeling sorry for Widmore again this week and wishing Desmond would at least tell him Penny was all right. I guess that announcement would have been unnecessary; Widmore knew the two of them had found each other, and if something had happened to her, he would have been able to read it in Desmond's face. I was surprised at how compliant he was. Desmond was pretty gutsy, just barging into his office and making demands. Then again, perhaps Desmond is just playing right into Widmore's hand... I can't really blame Des for not telling him about his grandson. If you want a guy to leave you alone, it's best not to reveal something that enticing. (And if Charles and Charlie are the same person, it's really best that they don't meet... :-P )

I don't think that Widmore knows Ben is in L.A., though you would think he'd know most of the Oceanic Six are there and would suspect that Ben would try to rendez-vous with them. Still, if he knew Ben was there, I can't imagine him sending Desmond off without an explicit warning. Yes, he told Desmond to keep Penny safe, but he didn't point out that Ben intends to murder her. Whatever their vices, I do believe that Ben and Widmore are both devoted to their daughters, despite the Alex and Penny's apparent distaste for them most of the time. It's frustrating to realize that Desmond is headed off to the worst possible place he could go (and I cringed every time the word "promise" escaped his lips, because you know he's going back to that island, and I hate for him to keep breaking his promises to Penny). It's also aggravating that after all that build-up, we probably won't actually get that meeting between Desmond and Daniel's mom for a couple of months. The fact that she's a recluse in L.A. fits with what we saw of Ms Hawking last week, and the pop-up indicated that her first name is Eloise. I'm sure the show never mentioned that before; in any case, it's a juicy tidbit, since that's the name of Daniel's maze-running rodent. (Would he have meant that as a tribute or as substitutionary satisfaction of matricidal urges? Hopefully the former!)

We saw the maze again today, and it's clear that Oxford really did frown upon those experiments of Daniel's. Just what happened to that girl he apparently abandoned after inflicting severe brain damage upon her? I'm guessing that she offered to be his test subject for a human trial of his time traveling tests. Maybe he finally got to the point at which Eloise's brain didn't explode, and he thought the time was ripe for a human guinea pig, but something went horribly wrong. Widmore financially providing for the victim reminds me of some of Lionel Luthor's pet projects on Smallville. His seemingly altruistic endeavors generally have ulterior motives. Maybe he paid Daniel off, promised to take care of her if Daniel would do some work for him. Or maybe Daniel just panicked and bolted.

Unanswered questions in Desmond's past and future... Why was he kicked out of the army? I keep thinking we'll find out, but none of the Desmond episodes have explained it so far. I'd also forgotten about Desmond almost becoming a doctor. Was that back before the monastery? Desmond told Widmore that he raised his brothers. Will we ever get to meet any of them? Finally, are Desmond and Penny married? Obviously it would've had to be a covert wedding, but surely it wouldn't have been impossible to find a priest who would marry them. On an unrelated note, I've noticed that Desmond and Charlie both always seem to be wearing scarves off the island. Is that a big thing in England? I don't recall that it was... But scarves become both of them quite well.

I really can't say that I missed the Oceanic Six and Ben this week. Not only did we get all that great stuff with Desmond and Daniel, John was thrown into the mix as well. And golly, it's a good thing he didn't shoot that upstart back at the army camp. I'd already been pondering whether he might be this season's Keamy; certainly he doesn't seem like a nice guy. But young Charles Widmore? If John had killed him, I'd think that would have ripped a giant hole in the space-time continuum. But how is it that there are no consequences to John knifing one guy and Widmore killing another? Are we supposed to think that only a select few people are of any real importance in the grand order of the world, and the rest are dispensable redshirts? Or were those guys who died like Charlie, destined to die anyway, and originally were killed in some sort of skirmish around the same time?

Could it be that Widmore was tapped to be the leader of the Others? He said it was his island and would be again; maybe he was in charge at some point between 1954 and 1971, which as I figure it is around the time that Richard first appeared to Ben. Or maybe he was supposed to be, but something interfered. I'm back to thinking that Richard is probably tied to the Black Rock somehow and has achieved some sort of immortality. It would seem that his job is to serve as leader when the Others are between leaders; maybe once he finds someone who is able to prove himself worthy of the job, he can move on. Certainly it seems that Ben was a mistake; the ball was in his court when he saw the plane crashing, and he could have made everyone's lives so much easier by forming an alliance with the castaways then and there instead of waiting around until his folks and the 815ers had wiped half of each other out. Richard seems like a wise, level-headed leader, but he can also be ruthless. He killed those guys from the army (and then apparently stole their clothes). He seems to have been responsible for the death of Juliet's ex-husband, and I get the sense that he's the one who orchestrated the Purge. So he's not any less violent than Ben; he just seems more capable of making reasoned decisions, and he doesn't spend so much time lying and trying to manipulate people.

Daniel is good at thinking on his feet. It was impressive how quickly he managed to formulate a strategy for getting out of their situation alive, and uncanny how he actually managed to hit upon the soldiers' reason for being there. Unless he already knew about it, which given his knowledge of the island wouldn't be that surprising. Still, well done. And Richard seemed convinced by Daniel's declaration of love for Charlotte. It reminded me of The Princess Bride, when Inigo swore on the soul of his father that Wesley would reach the top of the Cliffs of Insanity alive. I'm worried about Charlotte, though. Desmond never was in that bad of physical shape. He was close, but not that far gone. Daniel had better hurry up and find her an anchor. Charlotte hasn't had nearly enough to do yet, and I shall be very disappointed if they just kill off C. S. Lewis without even giving us a compelling reason for her name.

I loved the meeting between John and Richard, though it seems to be leading to a circular direction: Richard thinks John is special because John told him he told him he was special. He was at the hospital for John's birth because John told him to show up. (Maybe he can leave the Island and return at will as long as he's not the current leader?) He wanted John to pick up the compass when he visited him as a five-year-old because the compass was what John gave him to prove he had spoken with him in the future. By that same token, perhaps Widmore got involved with Daniel because he knew Daniel would wind up on the Island. And Daniel wound up on the Island because Widmore got involved with him.

When I saw that the title of this episode was Jughead, I wondered if that was a military term; I knew Jarhead was, and I was hoping this episode might shed some light on Desmond's army experience. If I'd bothered to Wikipedia it beforehand, maybe I would have guessed that the title didn't have anything to do with Desmond, at least not directly. Maybe, as Dad postulates, the H-bomb is responsible for some of the Island's bizarre properties. It's certainly an ominous sight.

I can't keep track of how many redshirts have bitten the dust since the show started, but there can't be many survivors of 815 left. The only ones we know about for sure are Sawyer and John, and I presume that Rose, Bernard and Vincent are all right, though I have no idea where they wound up. Are they headed to the creek too? And did the survivors who wound up with the Others start time traveling, or did they become immune as part of their Otherization? It was kind of nice to see Daniel, Charlotte and Miles together for a good chunk of the episode, and I liked Daniel's rebuffing of Miles for his bad attitude, as well as Miles' sulky reaction to Daniel's lack of concern for him upon their reunion.

I dig Sawyer's initiative in rescuing "the geek," and I thought his exasperation with Daniel for telling Other Girl that they were from the future was a hoot. (Also, I've watched The Lie three times now, and that scowl on Sawyer's face at the beginning of the scene that ends in Neil getting shot with a flaming arrow cracks me up every time. He has every reason to scowl, of course; but man, if looks could kill!) I was surprised that he did it, but sometimes honesty is the best policy! These people all seem so violent, her included, but I guess they have a right to be edgy when people are trying to blow up their island. She reminds me of Bonnie from the Looking Glass. Pretty tough cookie. But she might turn out not to be so bad. If we bump into her again. If she said what her name was, I didn't catch it. Could she be somebody we know? IMDb calls her Ellie; is that short for Eloise? That would explain Daniel's shock of recognition. If Charles Widmore is on the island in 1954, why not Eloise Hawking? Speaking of which, I recognized the woman who was checking records for Desmond, and after consulting IMDb, I see that she was the gate attendant at Sydney Airport - the one Hurley picked up, I think. The names are different, but I can't imagine they would cast the same actor in a completely different role unless they're just trying to mess with our heads. Which... they probably would do. Maybe she's just a red herring...

The more I contemplate this episode, the more interesting I find it. I think it's dropping all sorts of fantastic clues. I'm guessing that we won't see Desmond again for at least an episode or two, but I don't mind; he's worth the wait. It looks like next week will focus on Kate, along with the island folks. It would be really helpful if Daniel could figure out when they're going to jump, and to where. But it seems his top priority right now is trying to save Charlotte's life. The next episode is The Little Prince. Maybe we'll see Kate reading it to Aaron or happen upon the book in some other way. Within the world of the show, perhaps Aaron is the prince, or maybe young Charles Widmore - though I'm not sure what time they've jumped to. Could refer to John, too. Whoever it is, I'm guessing it will be mythologically significant. Meanwhile, Jughead has given me plenty to chew on!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Season Five Is Underway!

So I've been waiting for more than 200 days for the fifth season of LOST to start, and now the long hiatus is finally over. It wasn't as bad as the year before, since I found the season four finale much less depressing than the third, though I'm disappointed in myself for writing so little in the way of fan poetry this time around. I shall try to amend that this year.

Because You Left, The Lie is a bit of a cumbersome title. It doesn't exactly roll right off the tongue, but... Wait a minute. Strike that. I just realized they are two separate titles, not one awkwardly phrased title. That makes so much more sense. The central notion in Because You Left is the idea that Jack has to join Ben in rounding up the others, and that really weird stuff is happening on the island and it's all Jack's fault. The Lie is more focused on Hurley, but there's a whole lot of lying happening all around. There's the Big Lie that's giving Hurley a nervous breakdown and forcing Kate to go on the lam. There's Daniel's dishonesty with Charlotte about what is happening to her and Sun's declaration of forgiveness that seemed more like an accusation. Of course, in all of this, there's the fact that we're following parallel storylines instead of having flashbacks or flashforwards with a particular character. I suspect that convention will be used a lot less from here on in.

I tried very hard to avoid spoilers for eight months, but I was not entirely successful. There are too many theories and tidbits buzzing around, and some land directly in my inbox with little or no warning attached. So I knew we'd be seeing AnaLucia and Ms Hawking again, but I didn't know the context. I enjoyed AnaLucia's scene more than I expected and thought she looked a lot better than she did on the island. She seemed entirely in her element, just as Charlie did in last year's premiere.

Ms Hawking is mysterious and ominous as ever. I wasn't terribly surprised to see her conversing with Ben; back in Flashes Before Your Eyes I figured she had some connection with the Others, given her intimate knowledge of events unfolding on the Island. Where did the meeting with Ben take place? It looked to me like a monastery, but maybe I was just thinking that because I know she has ties to the monk who mentored Desmond. And I don't see how it could have been that monastery; I'd think it would have to be in L.A., given Ben's extremely limited time. Based on her complex board writing and Daniel's half-finished instructions to Desmond, it seems probable that she is Daniel's mother, which would strengthen the bond between Desmond and Daniel.

Starting the season off with Candle/Wickmund/Halliwax was an interesting choice. It seems to confirm that there's a lot of artifice in those orientation videos; on the other hand, it's clear that this guy is in the know. He's not just some guy reading a teleprompter. Is there some significance to his baby, of whom we only got a brief glance? Could it be somebody we know? Miles, perhaps? Strange to see Daniel there; I'm guessing that's a hint of things to come. I wonder if we'll get to see Little Ben again? I'm really hoping for some intel on Annie this season...

Speaking of returning to past moments, I felt gratified to see Frogurt actually integrated into the show in a semi-meaningful way. Granted, when random redshirts suddenly become prominent, it tends to be a kiss of death, but I find it vindicating, since I was a fan of the mobisode in which the thoroughly irritating young man, otherwise known as Neil, tries to convince Hurley that Libby would never go for a guy like him. I was sure that if this little scene was bothering to officially introduce a character who, as far as I can recall, had only been explicitly mentioned in S.O.S., we were probably going to be seeing him again before too long. From the looks of things, he's already out of the picture, which is unfortunate, though not entirely; he really is an obnoxious character. The assault by aggressively accurate, flaming flying arrows was terrifying. Really eye-popping way of picking off more of the survivors we never noticed were there to begin with. Who could orchestrate such a flashy attack?

As for other minor characters, it was great to see Bernard and Rose again, and I was happy to lay eyes on Vincent during a couple of scenes. Hurley's parents were also a welcome sight, and I was pleasantly surprised at Carmen's reaction to Hurley's rambling tale of woe; it sounded crazy to me, and we know he's telling the truth! Hurley is really the only member of the Oceanic Six with especially close ties to anybody he knew prior to the Island. Keeping the truth from his parents for three years has clearly taken its toll on him. That last scene between Ben and Hurley was outstanding and heartbreaking. For a change, Ben is being a pretty straight shooter, but Hurley, with little to go on but Sayid's warning and an awareness of Ben's past deceptions, rejects his earnest invitation. Complications ensue. Big bad Ben may have a better idea of what is going on than any of the castaways do, but knowledge isn't really power for him; what he knows is enough to scare him witless, and we get hints of that throughout the premiere but especially in his scene with Ms Hawking.

Dan, too, knows much more than most folks do, and it's especially handy to have him around now that the rest of the Oceanic survivors are hopping around in time with precious little in terms of an anchor. Dan gets to serve as Doc Brown, and I suspect he's got his work cut out for him trying to figure out exactly when they are. If he'd had a little more time, he could've just asked Desmond... I'd guess their meeting takes place sometime before Kelvin's death; otherwise, why would Desmond have bothered with the Hazmat suit? And more importantly, wouldn't Sawyer and the gang have bumped into themselves on the beach? We could be in for some seriously weird stuff if they happen to jump into a date between September 22, 2004 and early January 2005; it seems like they might be better off relocating to get as far away from themselves as possible.

And just how do these "rules" work? Did Ben visit the future before and find Alex alive and well, or are the rules Widmore broke unrelated to the time traveling? Dan saying that it's impossible to change the future seems like a gross oversimplification; every tiny action causes a change. But the grand scheme of things is another matter. Still, if Desmond operates outside of the rules, you'd think maybe he could have changed Charlie's destiny. The whole point of the Dharma Initiative is to change the factors in the Valenzetti Equation, right? But if the exact moment of the end of the world is set in stone, it seems like a pretty self-defeating exercise. I don't know; this sort of thing always makes my head spin. But it's great stuff. And nice to see Desmond again, of course. Until I started seeing him in commercials about a month ago, I thought we might be done with him for a while. It was a bit of a relief to see him headed to Oxford and not the island, but I just know he's going to wind up going back there at some point, despite his promises to Penny. Very heroic of him, but not so good for her. How much can a gal take?

The beginning of John's island reign has not been going so well. All of his subjects disappear, and then he starts jumping around through time and bumping into people he shouldn't be seeing. I would think that the encounter with Ethan might have ripples. (What did he go and shoot John for anyway? What a jerk...) It happened in about the same place as John's previous leg injury; is there a connection there? Before he got shot, I imagined him climbing up to the top of the cliff as he couldn't before and going inside it to discover Yemi still alive, and rescuing him, and thus causing a massively different chain of events. I thought that act of heroism might have been his first big mistake. But of course it never came to that. I loved his conversation with Richard, and the reappearance of the compass he was shown as a five-year-old. Naturally, I'm quite baffled by Richard's gentle insistence that John has to die in order to save the Island, and I suspect that The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, on February 25, is going to be one doozy of an episode. I'm also extremely intrigued by the fact that the episode immediately after that is entitled 316. There's no colon after the 3, but if there aren't massive theological implications there, then my money's on a season five finale focusing exclusively on Vincent.

The preview scene I saw last week was Sayid's double whammy, which was the one scene I probably would have least liked to see twice. Throwing the guy over the railing was bad enough, but impalement by silverware? Grotesque. Not that Sayid had a whole lot of choice in the matter. And can you imagine Hurley's state of mind at that point, stuck with a gun in his hand, his face plastered all over the news, and the only person who has any idea of what he should be doing next unconscious? What a disaster! That storyline was pretty grim, but pulling Hurley's parents into it added both heart and levity. (Just that ridiculous sandwich his dad conjured up made me chortle, and I confess I guffawed when Hurley lobbed his Hot Pocket at Ben. No wonder Jimmy Kimmel picked that scene to lampoon later that night!) I also got a laugh out of Ben’s disposal of Jack’s drugs in a scene that otherwise gave me flashbacks to No Country for Old Men, what with the stashing of stuff in motel ductwork. Anyway, nasty withdrawal symptoms aside, this is a good thing for Jack, and so is losing the beard. I’m usually a fan of facial hair, but that just wasn’t working for him.

If it's so important that the exact people who left the island return, where exactly does that place Ji Yeon? Can she return with Sun? And how does Walt figure into all of this? I had it in my head that Sun was blaming Widmore for Jin's death, but I was thinking of her conversation with her father. Of course, she could blame Widmore, but it would seem that she's more interested in him as an ally than an adversary. Unless her intentions are the opposite of what they appear. If she really does want to help Widmore kill Ben, then I suppose Ben is the second person she blames - and in a way, he's more directly responsible for Jin's death than anyone, though she wouldn't really be able to know that, unless “Jeremy Bentham” told her what happened. Her meeting with Kate seemed awfully chilly to me; her lips spoke forgiveness and even thanks, but her body language said, "You broke your promise, and Jin's dead because of you.” I would think Kate’s role in the freighter fiasco would be especially troubling for her because it would dredge up her own guilt; if she had gone after Jin as she’d intended instead of listening to Kate, maybe things would have ended differently. (See why time travel is such a messy subject? There are so many points at which something could have been done that might stop the freighter from blowing up or the Looking Glass flooding or the plane crashing. Dan says it’s impossible to change the future; it seems impossible not to.)

I want to watch the episode again, of course. I think it’s fantastic that we got two hours in one shot, and what an action-packed two hours they were! Sawyer already managed to get in some (shirtless) heroics, though we also saw some pretty snarly behavior from him. I hope John doesn’t take long to clue him in to the fact that Kate and the gang are alive; he could use a load off his mind. Miles seems to be integrating with the group nicely. Dan and Charlotte are such a sweet couple, but she’d better figure out her connection to the Island, and fast, and even more importantly, find herself a constant before her brain explodes like poor George’s did. I’m sure Dan will be working diligently to help her avoid that fate. I still want to know just what the nature of this bond between Dan and Desmond is. I imagine that opportunities for them to have scenes with each other will be limited, but I’m definitely hoping for a few more.

I don’t think I can pinpoint a favorite moment in the first two episodes (which I’m inclined to think of as one), but I certainly enjoyed the ride. I’m guessing some might complain about Neil; he basically was Arzt all over again. But it worked for me. And while the Back to the Future on overdrive aspect is crazily confusing, so far, it seems entirely workable, with loads of creative possibilities. Rumor has it that next week will bring even more Des and Dan. Bring it on!