Wednesday, May 19, 2010

“What If All This... Maybe This Is Happening For a Reason. Maybe You’re Supposed to Fix Me.”

It was always going to be Jack. It all started with him opening his eye in the jungle, and this whole experience has been about refining him into the man he needs to be for this final, all-important step. And Jack finally joins my pantheon of firm favorites. Probably no other character has frustrated me as much as he has, but at long last he is ready to let go and embrace this role he’s been preparing for, even as Sideways John lets go in order to become the man who can at last walk down that aisle. I never wanted John to leave the Island; I wanted him to remain indefinitely in this place where he felt so happy and whole. But maybe he doesn’t need the Island to be complete after all. Or maybe he could still return. I’ll get back to him.

But first, Jack and Jacob. Before the episode, I said that the title probably referred to a Jack Makes an Inspirational Speech moment. Then as soon as Jacob showed up, I said, “Oh, it’s going to be Jacob Makes an Inspirational Speech.” Jacob finally faced his most resilient Candidates and spoke to them directly. When Jack stood up, I was so reminded of Frodo, announcing, “I will take the Ring! Though I do not know the way...” And Jacob, like Gandalf, is profoundly moved by this decision, even if there always was a certain air of inevitability about it. What a monumental difference between this scene and the one last week.

The respect between Jacob and Jack was tangible, the affection flowing from the old guard to the new, and I again marvel at whatever quality it is in Mark Pellegrino that allows him to exude such ethereality. (As well as more earthy humanity. The scene from last week in which Jacob realizes that his brother is serious about leaving? The cheeky laugh slowly dying on his lips, gradually fading into pensiveness and, at last, flat-out worry? Genius.) Last week, Mother said, “Now you and I are the same,” and I shuddered. This week, Jacob said, “Now you’re like me,” and I cheered. The method of transfer in and of itself has to have a positive impact on the Island psyche. Instead of cowering and bitterly drinking out of a sense of obligation, Jack bravely accepts the responsibility and absolves Jacob of any sense that he is forcing this upon him.

The basics of the scene were very similar. We did learn that the wine was not an essential component, that it was Jacob’s words and Jack’s acceptance of them that really mattered. Drinking was an important element, but it didn’t matter what the substance was. Though I confess that what I thought in that moment was, “Jacob turned the water into wine.” Note, however, one key difference between what Jacob said and what his mother said. “You’re going to need to protect it for as long as you can, and then you’re going to have to find your own replacement.” Jacob told Jack “as long as you can,” but there he stopped. I think he believes it ends with Jack. Something will change.

Jacob didn’t reveal anything too earth-shattering this week. Everything he said merely confirmed what we saw last week and what we could’ve guessed, namely that he brought people to the Island who in some way reflected his own situation. The most startling thing he said was that he hoped that Smokey could be killed. We’ve never heard that from him before, but what it immediately reminded me of was Obi-Wan telling Luke that he needed to kill Darth Vader. At this time, Jack and Jacob are on the same page in that regard, though it seems clear to me that Jacob doesn’t know how to put this monstrosity he claims responsibility for out of commission. So how will Jack proceed? When he reaches the light, will he suddenly realize what he has to do?

I’ve drawn comparisons to Lord of the Rings before, but this week they seemed strongest, and I have a feeling that the Source is the Island’s Mount Doom, where it all will end. And it will indeed be cataclysmic. Ben, who spent so much of his life seeking that elusive Power, may be the one who makes it all work at the last minute, possibly unwittingly. Or maybe it will be Smokey himself, tumbling into the depths from whence he came. Yes, I think I like that even better. Desmond, who mysteriously made it out of the well before anyone could come to claim him, is like Aragorn, a man who has a destiny that he must come to embrace after years of wandering, as well as an epic romance from which he draws strength. Whatever he does with the electromagnetism will be like the tactical offensive on Mordor, the physical attack, but it will all come down to Frodo and Sam - Jack and Hurley. I’m more convinced than ever that Hurley is the most important player in all this. “I’m just glad it wasn’t me” clinched it for me, and made me think of Prince Caspian: “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.” And I think the producers are teasing us by having Hurley and Desmond wear red all season. They will be the keys to the whole game, as reflected in Sideways world.

“We’re very close to the end,” Jacob said, and it made me sad, though not quite as sad as when he told Hurley, “When this fire burns out, you’ll never see me again.” Sad for me, and sad for Hurley, who I’m certain will deeply miss him. We’ve often contemplated Jacob as a phoenix, and I did have a feeling that he was actually physically there when Hurley encountered him in the clearing, though I don’t know how his ghostly boy body was able to physically take his ashes from Hurley. Or why he was such a twerp. He was Peter Pannishly pixie-ish there, just as he was when Desmond saw him; why didn’t he just politely ask Hurley to dump his ashes in a fire? At any rate, we did get a physical resurrection of Jacob, but not a permanent one.

Again, rather like Gandalf, only more abbreviated, because I get the sense that Jacob is going to blink out of existence any minute now. That he won’t be around for the last chapter. Maybe that fire is very special and will continue to burn just long enough that he can see this through to the end, but I don’t really think so. The Candidates will have to figure this out on their own. At the same time, however, I’m not entirely convinced we will never see him again. I foresee a Grey Havens, and at last a reconciliation with his brother as he bids farewell to his Candidates. And Jack will go with him. Hurley will toddle back to his parents and Libby with a “Well, I’m back,” but I’m not at all certain that Jack and Kate have a cozy life together ahead of them. I’m starting to think, actually, that my Kate-Tom shipper dreams actually have a chance of coming to fruition. I don’t think that Jack will make it to Sideways world. He and Jacob are the same, and he will leave as Jacob does. And David, like Jack, will have to come to grips with the loss of his father, but unlike Jack, he will have the blessing of their reconciliation first, and he will be able to be at peace with it.

Kate moved me in this episode. Like Jack, she has frustrated me time and again throughout the series, but in season six, I’ve applauded her selflessness, her fierce devotion to Claire and determination to get her back to Aaron. And there was something so sweet and sad about the way she lay her head on Sawyer’s shoulder in such a defeated manner. Jack's ex-wife Juliet awaits Sawyer in Sideways world, but Kate and Jim will always have the easy rapport of old friends - and Kate, as a Leia figure, will cherish the memory of the brotherly/sisterly bond between her and Jack. If this all plays out as I suspect it will.

Kate was affronted that Jacob had crossed her name out - and actually, I was surprised to hear his acknowledgment. I had pretty much decided that the cave belonged to Smokey. That there were two lists of names, and Smokey had crossed Kate out in error. I do still think the Lighthouse list is the more important one. She’s not crossed out at the Lighthouse, and that’s because she still is a viable Candidate. Jacob crossed her out because he didn’t like the idea of her having to abandon Aaron, but she could still do the job if she wanted. Again with the choice. And it puts his conversation with Richard about not wanting to force people to do anything into context. He was forced, and he absolutely doesn’t want to repeat the sins of his mother.

And Sawyer... I applaud Josh Holloway again for breaking my heart in the scene with Jack in the jungle, when he acknowledges that it was his actions that led to the deaths of their friends. (Including poor Frank, who again didn’t merit a single mention here. I mean, come on, guys! Show the poor pilot a little respect!) The pain in his eyes was so profound, yet this time, it yielded much-needed humility instead of more destructive rage. Sawyer was mellower here than we’ve seen him all season. Naturally, he would be the one to waspishly coax out of Jacob the knowledge that they all came from broken situations. But this is a Sawyer who is at last fully ready and willing to work with Jack on whatever he needs him to do. This is Han finally discarding the “anti-” for good and embracing the “hero”. He tried to make a snarky comment as Jack took on his role, but his heart wasn’t in it. He knew it wasn’t just “delusions of grandeur”; Jack genuinely needed to do this.

Richard is the Elrond in all of this, or the Yoda, and I’m left scratching my head a bit as to what happened to him. Did he die? Can he? Jacob made him ageless; we don’t actually know if he made it so that he can’t be killed. Was he actually in danger when Daniel was waving a gun around? (Well, no, because Daniel never would have shot Richard. But if he had...) We’ve left Dharmaville. Miles is running around in the jungle somewhere, and so are Ben and Smokey. What about Richard? Because he is Richard, he could still be alive. But if that was his end, there was something serenely satisfying about it. Him and Ben sitting together like old friends, then Richard calmly rising to face his old enemy and getting blasted to kingdom come before the tiniest sound could escape his mouth. Sudden and violent, but also strangely peaceful. If this was his end, it was fitting. And I was so moved by the moment when he told Ben that he buried Alex for him. Richard, I love you.

And then there is Ben. What a conundrum. “Benjamin, you never cease to amaze me,” said Smokey, and I agreed. We never know what’s coming next from him. I had really hoped that he wouldn’t kill Charles. I was sure they’d meet, but I didn’t want Ben to be a murderer yet again. I hated it. However, the more I think about it, the less I hate it. I think Ben was scheming. You could see that little twitch of an idea when Smokey offered him the Island. Ben needs Smokey to think that he wants it.

Now, once Ben revealed his position, Charles was dead whether or not Ben killed him. While he might have survived if he hadn’t done that, I think Smokey would’ve found him sooner or later. In any event, unless children or mothers are involved, Ben has generally not been too concerned about collateral damage, and that’s what Charles was. (And Zoe too, and I cringed when she died because I know a lot of cheers went up. Me, I just wish she'd had a chance to become interesting.) And given all of the bad blood, he didn’t feel too badly about it. But I’m glad to see that Charles, too, was on a path to redemption. That he was ready and willing to make up for the crimes of his past. That Jacob enlightened him. It was a different Charles we saw in Oxford talking to Desmond in Jughead, in L. A. talking to Eloise in The Variable. It was Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning. No, not that dramatic; he still had a good bit of his old arrogance left in him. But he found a better path, and the Sideways will reward him by at last giving us a scene with Charles and Penny together, reconciled like Ebenezer and Fred.

I think Ben did it for two reasons: to stop Charles from revealing any more vital information, and mainly to convince Smokey that he was back on the Dark Side. And now Ben will try to do what Sawyer could not: pull the ultimate con on the ultimate conman. “He doesn’t get to save his daughter,” Ben said, and I was angry, because sparing Penny was such a major redemptive moment for Ben. But again, upon reflection, I believe that was part of the deception. He needs Smokey to see him as angry and vengeful and power-hungry. And Charles doesn’t get to save his daughter, but Ben does.

In Sideways World, Ben was a flat-out hero, albeit a rather comical one. When Desmond showed up at the school again, I just burst out laughing: “What, you didn’t make a big enough impact last time, so you’re gonna try again? And how is it that you’re not in prison yet?” And then Ben came charging up, ablaze with righteous indignation, and all I could think of was The Andy Griffith Show when he hollered, “I’m making a citizen’s arrest!” And then he so boldly bellowed, “I won’t let you hurt Mr. Locke!” Yes, indeed, destined kindred spirits. Mom realized before I did that Desmond had come for Ben, not John. Now Ben has some small measure of enlightenment, though he doesn’t yet know what to do with it, except to pass on his suspicions to John. And so the man who choked the life out of him in Island world becomes the key to his finally getting the life he deserves in Sideways world.

“You’re, like, the nicest guy ever,” indignant Alex told her hero, the man who was the closest thing she’s had to a father, and that is what Ben always had within him. I wonder how much he remembers now. I wonder if he realizes what befell Alex on the Island. In any event, he was profoundly moved by Danielle’s comments. And the more I think about it, the more satisfied I am with the notion of Ben and Danielle ending up together, as I believe they will. It’s as though Ben was always meant to be Alex’s father. And we mustn’t forget that Ben was ordered to kill Danielle, and instead he spared her. And he tried to spare her again when the freighter came to the Island. However, I cannot count myself fully satisfied unless Ben takes Danielle back to his house and shows her the doll he’s kept in his room all these years and tells her about the friend he made and lost all those years ago, who helped show him how to love and inspire him to become a teacher.

And while we’re talking about Annie, let me run through the other minor players I’ll need to see before I can be completely satisfied. Tom Brennan, whose relationship with Kate had all the purity all of her others lacked, whose plane was as important to her as Desmond’s photo and Sawyer’s letter. I need to know that he is alive and well. And I’d like to know that he and Kate are together. And her father - her dad by choice, not by blood - needs to be rewarded for being one of the few dads on this show who actually got it right. In Sideways world, Kate is innocent of the crime of which she is accused, and nothing stands in the way of her continuing to have a close relationship with Sam Austen. Similarly, I would really love for Mr. Kwon to get some recognition. Again, he was Jin’s dad because he chose to be. Implications are strong that they aren’t biologically connected; even if they are, he could certainly have abandoned Jin like so many other parents on the show have. But he didn’t, and I need to know that he will be rewarded for his dedication through a relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, even if it’s from afar. And finally, I need assurance that Essam, the gentle philosopher-turned-reluctant-terrorist-turned-martyr whose death led Sayid to be on the Island, is alive and is living a life of scholarly pursuits and working through his bereavement, if that still applies, in a positive manner. Perhaps we will see Nadia mention to Sayid that she got a letter from him (because at this point I’m unclear on whether Sayid even has an address). I don’t need to see him, but I need to know that he has been spared the damage Sayid inflicted upon him.

I don’t know where Desmond is on the Island, but he’s everywhere in the Sideways, always with that hilariously zen manner about him. I mean, he’s cool as a cucumber, and it’s just plain funny to see him cheerfully informing Jim about a “suspect,” who happens to be him. And so breezily asking Kate and Sayid to trust him. Doc said this was a funny episode, and it really was, because as the Island gets worse, the Sideways gets better. And we get AnaLucia as a slightly corrupt cop, and Hugo gets to bumble a bit because, as usual, he’s no good at concealing it when he knows too much. “Oops - I shouldn’t have said that!”

Now what does Hugo have in mind for Sayid? And could he possibly have something very important in the back of that Hummer? While Desmond lied about his identity when he called Jack, is it possible that he does have Christian, and Hugo is transporting him? And/or - could it be that Hugo and Sayid are going to bust Anthony out of his facility, and Sawyer is going to track his escapees down (probably at this all-important concert) and finally have his chance to kill Anthony, which he will this time reject? And will we learn Anthony and John had only known each other a short time before the plane crash, and that Anthony was, in fact, in the midst of his long kidney con? Because the more I think about it, the more I think that’s the only thing that makes sense. Anthony Cooper was the closest thing we’ve seen to pure evil in a regular human being on this show aside from Martin Keamy and Mr. Paik. He doesn’t get to be magically a decent guy in Sideways world.

It was so sweet to see Jack and David’s easy rapport yet again, joking around over that goofy Super Bran and opening their home to Claire, who will go to the concert to watch her nephew’s performance and finally meet Charlie. Jack’s scene with John was absolutely magnificent, mostly because of John, even though I predicted half the words out of his mouth. Oh, to see that huge, genuine smile spread across Terry O’Quinn’s face as John readied himself to let Jack fix him! So powerful.

And so as we anticipate the finale, I anticipate good things indeed, and a major convergence at this concert, and expansive happiness with a bit of sadness sprinkled in. And on the Island, sadness and destruction, but heroism and sacrifice, all somehow culminating in the destruction of the Source, which will spread that light out to one and all, along with the potential to do evil. Island world will close, Jack, Richard, Jacob and his brother will go on to whatever enigmatic West awaits them, and there will be acceptance for all. The Good Shephard will sacrifice himself on the 23rd, and the people from a wide variety of backgrounds will be filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Or it was all in the dog’s head all along.

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