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!

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