Thursday, May 6, 2010

"They're Leaving Us!" "No, Trust Me. You Don't Want to Be On That Sub."

“Well, that was about the most depressing episode of LOST ever.” So said my dad after watching The Candidate, and his thoughts were echoed by most of the people whose initial reactions I’ve been reading online. This was a major downer. Shocking and explosive and infuriating all at once, and yet also incredibly touching, with three major characters dying in ways that felt meaningful and fitting. And apparently one major character who kinda got the short end of the stick. More on those later, which will contain copious comparisons to major deaths in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so if you’re waiting for the movie to find out about those, be warned...

So The Candidate was a Jack episode after all, and next week is when we get Smokey’s backstory. After seeing the preview, I thought, “They’re going to try to make us all feel sorry for Smokey now, and feel that he’s in the right. After what he did tonight? I don’t think so.” But Doc Jensen posted a short interview with Darlton, and they said that the purpose of tonight’s bloodbath was to unambiguously indicate that Smokey is evil. So it’s probably safe to assume that the point of next week’s episode isn’t to make all of us Jacob-philes jump ship to Team Smokey. Though could it still lead to us hating Jacob? I fear it could. We’ll see.

There was no Previously On LOST this week, just a cold open on John’s pristinely white pillow as he came to after surgery. Yet even that experience didn’t jolt either of them into Island awareness. Throughout the episode, Jack continues to encounter people who had been on the flight with him, and he finds that increasingly bizarre, and when John is semi-conscious, he repeats phrases from his Island life, and his memory seems triggered by seeing Jin and hearing Jack’s “I wish you believed me,“ but neither of them is truly aware of the other reality. You’re running out of time, guys...

I loved the meeting with Bernard, who we haven’t seen since the season premiere, and the conversation with Claire, which was much more the sort of thing I wanted to see from their Island reunion, which would have felt even more satisfying because of their shared history. But I have a feeling that their Sideways selves will start to remember very soon.

As has generally been the case, the Sideways storyline was much happier than the Island storyline. John survives his surgery; Jack starts to bond with Claire; Bernard turns up, once again radiating wisdom and contentment. But there was sadness sprinkled in as well. John may be a “candidate” for surgery that could restore his ability to walk, but he doesn’t want it.

Why? Because he believes that he deserves to be in that wheelchair. Whereas Island Anthony paralyzed John (maliciously), Sideways John paralyzed Anthony (and himself, accidentally). Terry O’Quinn was heartbreaking in the scene recollecting that fateful plane crash - one that injured rather than undoing injury. The reversal of Jack and John in their Man of Science / Man of Faith statuses was especially clear here as they inverted the conversation about the ease of belief / letting go.

Given Sawyer’s investigation, it seems likely that Anthony still conned Sawyer’s parents. So what changed? Did he reform as a result of forming a relationship with his son, or out of remorse for what happened to the Fords? I’m going to assume that John and his dad didn’t meet until after the murder-suicide, which would make John at least in his twenties at the time. I can’t see him having this warm, meaningful relationship with his son all through his growing-up years while roaming the country coldly huckstering people. But who knows? What I do know is that for the first time really, I felt sorry for Anthony. In his current Sideways form, he really is a pathetic sight. And Helen’s consideration for him makes me like her even more. Of course, I like Sideways Helen better than her Island world counterpart; I always thought Helen was expecting a little too much of John for him to just completely cut his father out of his life, even if that clearly was what was best for him.

Anyway, lots of great Sideways scenes with oodles of connections to previous episodes, from catch-phrases to Catch a Falling Star, and some fantastic Jack-John interaction. But it’s hard to focus on that very much with such monumental things happening on the Island itself.

Compelling question: Where is Zoe? Much more compelling question: Where are Richard, Ben and Miles? And what exactly was Charles up to for most of this episode? What would have happened if Jack and Sayid hadn’t followed Smokey’s orders, or if Sawyer and company had refused to leave their captivity? And is it possible that Kate is still a Candidate, but one whose eligibility Jacob has managed to keep secret?

I’m very curious about who exactly rigged up the airplane. Smokey says Widmore. I don’t know if I buy it. I’m not at all sure that Smokey could be killed even with a massive explosion, and I think Charles knows that. And I don’t think he wants all of the Candidates dead, at least not yet. Jin, at least, seemed valuable to him; I wonder if he was able to accomplish anything that Charles wanted done. It doesn’t seem likely to me that Richard and the gang would’ve set the plane up to explode. Partly, I don’t think they would’ve wanted to kill anybody other than Smokey if they could avoid it; conversely, maybe Richard, recalling his Black Rock experience with Jack, would have figured that with the Candidates on board, the explosives would fail. Mostly, though, I think they would have simply blown the plane up right then and there instead of laying a trap that could be foiled.

So ultimately, my guess is that Smokey put down the C4 himself. This makes two times that “Locke” has blown up a submarine with C4. Must get a real charge out of it! Anyway, he didn’t seem too surprised to see the explosives on the plane, and showing them to the castaways was the perfect way to gain their momentary trust. And of course, he did exactly what he told them Charles was doing. It’s fascinating to think of all the many ways in which Smokey has manipulated these people over a long stretch of time. And Sawyer, who thought he could pull off his most audacious con yet... Sadly, Smokey was one step ahead the whole time, though I didn‘t realize just how nicely everyone played into his hand until just before the commercial break when he glared so sinisterly and told Claire she didn’t want to be on the sub.

Sawyer made me so sad in this episode. On the one hand, he was being proactive and heroic, trying to outwit Smokey and save his friends. And at least he clearly felt badly about abandoning Claire yet again. (Smokey, meanwhile, seemed pleased with this turn of events. He appears to be protective of her. Why? Does he have some sort of sentimental attachment, or did he figure his plan might fail and she could come in handy if it did?) But I so wanted Sawyer not to simply take off in the sub, and I really wanted him to trust Jack as he delivered his pleading speech as the timer ticked down. But he couldn’t make that leap of faith which, granted, was a hard jump to take. If Jack is tied in knots over Juliet, Sawyer is about to have some major pangs over Sun and Jin.

Sun and Jin, whose arc came to a bittersweet close with this episode. In a placid moment, they discussed Ji Yeon, and Jin put his wedding ring back on. And this tranquil domestic scene brings to mind two sad conclusions I’ve come to following their demise. Assuming that Sun took it and didn’t just put it back where she found it, she probably still had Charlie’s ring when she died, and it went down with the sub. Disappointing.

Second, I get the impression that Sun did not make any contact with Jin’s father after her return, but I had hopes that once she and Jin returned to Korea, he would come clean about his dad, she would come clean that she already knew about him, and they would invite him back into his life. Now, I fear Ji Yeon will never know her paternal grandpa; the Paiks don’t know he exists and would disapprove of him if they did. The only chance would be if Mr. Kwon sought her out himself, but given his personality, I can’t really see him going pounding on the Paiks’ door. I’d like to think there’s still a teensy chance of spotting him in Sideways world, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Of course, the main event of this episode was the shocking deaths of four major characters, along with the near miss of another one. When Kate got gunned down, I really thought for a moment that she might be done for, especially after Charles and Sawyer made a point of reiterating her superfluity. I’m not sure they’re right about that, but I was still really nervous about her. considering that Jack never even got the chance to administer first aid, she must not have been hurt too badly if she was able to make it up to the surface intact. Hooray for Hurley!

He didn’t get to do too much in this episode, and I was frustrated with him for agreeing to board the sub despite obvious misgivings. But he was in a tough position. What if he’d put his foot down and refused to leave? I don’t know if Sawyer would have been willing to go through with his plan if Hurley hadn’t been on board. He cares more about Hurley than anybody else on the Island, with the possible exception of Kate.

But I’m glad that Hurley got a heroic moment later when he got to swim Kate to safety, and then there was that moment on the beach. It seemed to take a second for it to sink in; at first he just sat there in silence, a trace of mist in his eyes, and I remarked that surely we’d see a more forceful reaction than that. And a moment later we did, violent and gut-wrenching, conveying a sense of despair and grief that spoke for us all. It’s only the second time he’s cried on the show, I think, the other being The Beginning of the End, and it was just painful to see.

There were three major death scenes in this episode, which I’ll discuss in order, from my favorite to least favorite. I loved Sayid’s death, which recalled both Charlie’s sacrifice in the Looking Glass and Juliet’s determination to detonate the bomb. Considering everything that has transpired, especially in the last season, it’s about the best outcome I could see for him, at least in Island world. Yes, it was sad to see him go, but so wonderful to see him so fully himself again, back to being the first-season take-action hero, willing to risk his life for others and using his technical savvy to improve their chances of rescue.

Before he died, he confirmed that he hadn’t killed Desmond, and “It’s going to be you, Jack” seems like a possible indication of Jack’s status as the ultimate replacement for Jacob. Then again, I think Sayid has always underestimated Hurley, who I still think may be the one for the job. At this point, I think I will be surprised if it isn’t one of those two - unless it’s nobody at all, or unless John is somehow restored. But if John can come back, I would think Jacob could too, rendering the Candidates unnecessary... Anyway, if we’re making comparisons to Deathly Hallows - and I am - Sayid’s death reminds me most of Dobby’s. Violent, messy, throwing himself in front of a dangerous weapon in order to shield his friends. Dobby’s sacrifice focused Harry, turning him from a corruptive path, while Sayid’s purified himself. As destructive as it was, it truly was a beautiful moment.

Then there was Sun and Jin. I knew from the moment I got a glimpse of Sun’s drained face even after she had supposedly been freed that she wasn’t going to make it. But would Jin stay with her? That was the question, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted the answer to be. I’m still not.

On the one hand, I wanted Jin to live, and had he left Sun at the last minute, he almost certainly would have survived. He could have helped Jack and the gang defeat Smokey; he could have returned to Korea to be a part of his daughter’s life and introduce her to her grandfather (though without Sun, access to Ji Yeon could be hard to attain); he could have lived a life in which a piece was always missing but which was still productive and meaningful. Instead of dying for her, he could have lived for her. I’ve never been all that enchanted by these stories in which one lover dies so the surviving, perfectly healthy lover commits suicide. While remaining with Sun to the end was a noble gesture, was a moment of shared company enough of a trade-off for all the living he had yet to do?

But Sun and Jin’s story has always been about their journey together. And from a story standpoint, I think it made more sense for their arc to end together, especially when you take Sideways world into consideration. If they die together on the Island, perhaps they can simply migrate together into their Sideways selves. At any rate, they, too, reminded me of Charlie in the Looking Glass, ultimately more than Sayid - the tranquility of it, the romantic aspect, the powerful hand imagery, the drowning, the sense of futility and, of course, that exquisite Giacchino music. This rendition of Life and Death was less lushly orchestral, more like the gentle patter of raindrops - or tears - as the water slowly engulfed them. Gorgeous.

Sun and Jin remind me of Lupin and Tonks. Their relationship was messy, and their baby made things even more complicated - in Harry Potter because of the werewolf blood, here because of the Island fertility nightmare. Ultimately, they came to a place of peace and happiness in their marriage to each other. Much as Tonks chose to leave her son to fight alongside her husband at the Battle of Hogwarts, Jin gave up the chance to take care of his daughter to remain with his wife as she died. Both orphaned their children, but just as Teddy became a part of the extended Weasley and Potter families, perhaps Ji Yeon will have extended family in the form of the remaining castaways. If any of them make it off the Island, I’d like to think they would make an effort to connect, if not now then sometime in the future, and tell her about her parents.

And then there was Frank, my least favorite of the deaths. Why? Because it happened so quickly and unceremoniously I was left wondering where he was at the end of the episode. Like a certain jovial jokester in Harry Potter who died pointlessly after being crushed by a wall, Frank, who has gotten some of the greatest one-liners of the series, took a window to the head. He’d acted heroically before his death, but his death itself was just bad timing, not to mention bad reaction time from him. If he’d just run through that hallway instead of pausing and looking worriedly at the creaking window, he probably could have made it out. Fred never had that chance. Both deaths left me feeling hollow.

What’s more, Fred’s death was noted with some of the most moving sentences of the entire book, like this one: "The world had ended, so why had the battle not ceased, the castle fallen silent in horror, and every combatant laid down their arms?" Granted, this was a character who was introduced in the sixth chapter of the first book and who quickly became like a big brother to Harry. Frank, in comparison with the big three who died this week, was a newbie. He’d only been around for half the series. Sawyer barely knew him at all, while the other three knew him mostly from their time together on Penny’s boat. Still, he’d been a friend to them. He saved Sawyer from Keamy, he dropped them the phone, he flew them off the Island.

And as much as I cared about Jin, Sun and Sayid, I don’t mind saying that he was my favorite of the four, even though his role was never as large as I would have liked. His was easily my favorite of the five flashbacks in Confirmed Dead, and I’m disappointed that he never got a full-blown flashback episode. Like Ilana, there was more to him than we got to see, and I was surprised the Island was done with him. But what really bugged me was that nobody even mentioned him. I’d like to think he was included in Hurley’s “What about everybody else?” but I don’t have great reason to think that. Maybe they just figured he was toast and figured they didn’t have time to confirm it. Didn’t he at least deserve a shout in his direction?

And later, when Kate asked about Sun and Jin, where were the inquiries about Frank? His injury probably didn’t kill him, but even if he managed to come to before the sub filled up completely, if he wasn’t above water by the time they were all gathered on the beach, I don’t see how he could have possibly survived. Maybe we’re supposed to still think of him as a wild card, but unless he’s as indestructible as Mikhail, I just can’t do that. Instead, what I’m seeing is a major character being tossed aside like a redshirt without so much as a “Gee, it’s a bummer that Frank died.” Maybe a more proper memorial will follow, but I’m not sure I’m holding my breath. Rotten luck, dude, going out the same time as Sun, Jin and Sayid.

So we leave this depressing, destructive week with a clearer idea of just how villainous Smokey is. Next week, with Across the Sea, which perhaps is where Jacob and Smokey come from, I expect a major mythological download comparable to Ab Aeterno but going back even further. I suspect that a lot of our questions will be answered next week. We’ll see Titus Welliver and Mark Pellegrino, and I’m hoping we might find out a little something about Ilana, but maybe the whole episode will take place hundreds or thousands of years ago. Will we finally find out Smokey’s name? Will we come to despise Jacob as much as Smokey? I hope for the former and fear the latter, but I’ll just have to wait and see. Only three episodes left...


Beth said...

Gah. I didn't know what to do with myself last night when we watched this episode (and thank you so much for sending it, along with the sweet mother's day card!). I've already had such a tired, emotional week, and though I suspected we might be in for some real havoc last night, since we're getting so close to the end, I wasn't quite ready for the major deaths to start. We're in for it now and no mistaking.

I think it's fascinating that the last time we saw Hurley mourning the loss of a friend in this way, when he cried over Charlie, was in the episode entitled "The Beginning of the End." In many ways, I think last night's episode could have used that for a subtitle, the echoes were so strong and the reality seems so true. Although I was impressed by the way they used "The Candidate" as a title -- how it seemed to apply almost equally to Jack or John, in our two ongoing realities, and for different reasons. Their relationship continues to fascinate me on so many levels, and I like how you brought out here the ways they are "reversing" one another's previous roles.

D. has been saying for ages that he expects all of the castaways to die on island. His reasoning has been that if, as Juliet said following her death, "it worked" (meaning the reboot) then we know, from the glimpse we got at the beginning of the season opener, that the island as we know it is underwater in that timeline. Therefore it doesn't seem like anyone could be left on it, in either a Jacob or a Smokey role. As D. and I have talked, we've agreed that Smokey *must* be contained (perhaps by the island being underwater) or else destroyed. And certainly that's the only sort of triumph at this point that could bring any real meaning to the tragic deaths of so many characters we love.

What's hard to figure is how they are going to creatively reconcile the two realities so that we don't feel cheated in some way. I was reading Arabella's comments over at the Hogshead, and I think she's spot on when she says that, although Jin and Sun are alive and well in Sideways World, they're not "our" Jin and Sun, with the stories we've come to know and understand and love. I don't want the characters to survive just to survive -- that wouldn't feel like enough of a happy or satisfying ending, I don't think. I'm trying to figure out precisely what would help me to reconcile to their ongoing lives in Sideways world and still feel like it wasn't a cheat or a dream -- I think what I'm missing now is the depth of the relationships these characters have built with one another, even through conflict, on the island. Is all of that just gone, wiped out, if they end up getting this "fresh start" in the sideways world? Clearly remnants of the other reality remain in their hearts and minds, to be triggered at certain moments (though why that wasn't stronger for John Locke, given the trauma he went through, I can't fathom) but is that all there is? Will the recover more memories, or full memories, of their island selves and relationships? Will those memories remain vague for the rest of their sideways lives, and yet somehow still inform what they do -- the people they turn out to be, the relationships they make? Will all the lovers find one another (Claire/Charlie, Desmond/Penny, Daniel/Charlotte, possibly Kate/Jack) because that's what they're supposed to do, no matter what reality we're in?

Beth said...

...Comment continued...I got so long-winded, blogger wouldn't let me post the rest of it!

They already seem to be deeply changed people by their island experiences, even if they don't know that about themselves (since they're just living out the reality they think they've always lived out). What will they become aware of and how will the become aware of it? seems like one of the most important questions the writers need to answer right now. I am almost more invested in that than in seeing how the island showdown plays out. Well, at least I think it's equally important, especially for a satisfying emotional resolution.

I am so saddened by the death of Sun and Jin, I almost couldn't bear to watch it. The echoes with Charlie's death were strong and it was beautifully acted, but oh so hard. I agree that Frank got short-shrift -- I actually wasn't entirely sure if we'd seen him die or not -- and that's a shame, because he's a wonderful character and I had hoped he would have more importance in the overall epic at the very end. Sayid...well, it was horrible, but also very heroic, and as you said, the best we could hope for from his character at this point. How wonderful it was that we got him "back" fully for most of an episode. He was indeed still alive and still "in there" -- and Smokey's control can't possibly be as strong as he thinks! "Death and darkness, get you packing..." I kept saying "Sayid seems like Sayid again!" in a very excited voice. I should have known what was coming, I guess, but I was still crying myself to a messy pulp as things unfolded.

Getting intrigued now by the role of the women...well, the women who are left. I think Kate and Claire, maybe even in a one-two punch, could play a huge part in Smokey's downfall. Hoping so anyway.

Erin said...

I think that if we do end up in Sideways world, everyone over there will wind up fully aware of their other existence; otherwise, it probably won't feel all that satisfying. I think Desmond's pretty much got full awareness already, and I strongly suspect that Rose and Bernard do as well.

Others have been showing glimpses - though like you I'm surprised it's taking John so long to catch on, and Jack too. Still, they're definitely aware of something, and as the castaways and their Island acquaintances seem to be bumping into each other more and more frequently, I'm guessing they'll figure it out soon, maybe all at the same time.

This really was a tough episode. There were parts of it I really liked; the Sideways stuff was great, and Sayid, Sun and Jin's deaths were as moving as they were horrible. But it really was a bloodbath, and there aren't many left standing.

My guess is that the plot really won't move forward at all next week, but that afterward we will have a clearer understanding of where Jacob and Smokey have been and how a victory might be attained. I hope that Jacob will still come out of it looking at least somewhat like a good guy...