Thursday, June 3, 2010

"I Think You Do What You Do Best. Take Care of People."

I suppose I should be quoting Jack or Christian here, but those two sentences from Ben are my favorite line in the finale, and that exchange with Hurley is my favorite scene in the finale, especially when coupled with their later exchange in Sideways world. I miss Ben's glasses and sweater-vest at the end there, but then I guess he isn't quite Dr. Linus anymore. Anyway, Hurley sharing the Apollo bar with Ben in Cabin Fever is one of my all-time favorite moments in the series, and ever since I've been hoping to see some indication of a bond between the two characters. I was a little disappointed that we basically didn't see them interact with each other up until the finale.

But The End made up for it, with Ben having probably his only purely heroic moment on the Island when he shoves Hurley out of the way and steps into the tree's path. Then later, despite his disappointment at having been passed over again, he furnishes a water bottle so that Hurley can be sworn in as Island protector. And then there's that wonderful moment when he reassures Hurley by telling him what we've all known all along - that Hurley is a man who excels at taking care of people, mostly in very simple, ordinary ways. I love that he says it, and that he means it, and clearly admires Hurley's altruism, and that Hurley then extends a hand to Ben, uplifting him by offering him the position of his assistant. And I think it is a good idea to have someone with some experience there to give him a better idea of how things might work, and his cleverness might come in handy. For instance, it's Ben who suggests that Hurley might be able to change the rules. In any case, they seem to have made a good team, based on their parting words to each other outside the church. I can't wait to see that extra footage of them together.

If that's the scene that made me smile the most, the one that made me cheer the most was Frank showing up in the water and being rescued by Miles and the newly-mortal Richard. There was such gentleness in the way they lay him in the boat, too; I just found the whole thing very sweet, and such a huge adrenaline rush to see that Frank survived after all. Though I notice that when Miles mentioned Frank to Kate, she didn't even bat an eye. Shouldn't she have said, "I thought that guy was dead?" Also - why didn't Frank suggest flying off the Island before?

But I love the Frank, Miles and Richard team. Frank and Miles know each other somewhat well but never liked each other much during their Freighter journey, and Richard barely knows either of them. Richard is the ancient Island adviser, Miles the cynical ghost whisperer who doesn't even realize he once was a Candidate, Frank the heroic pilot spared the carnage on the beach because Ilana saw the value in him. At this stage of the game they're about as clueless as the rest of us, but they're determined to make the best of a bad situation. Their best lines? Miles: "I don't believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape." Richard: "I think I just realized that I want to live." And Frank's simple "Amen" as the plane rose into the air was quite moving.

And Rose and Bernard. I wasn't very surprised to see Hurley take over as Island protector, and I wasn't at all surprised to see that Rose and Bernard were the ones who got Desmond out of that well, though I was tipped off by having seen the scene with Smokey, Ben and Sawyer at the well ahead of time. The paw prints tipped me off, and I very much hoped I was right. I so miss Rose and Bernard, and I loved this scene with them as much as last year's, and even more because apparently, they actually sought Desmond out. Probably Vincent found him and they responded to his whining, but in any case, it seems to have been a much more proactive response than their being reluctantly found by Sawyer and the gang in The Incident.

I think it was Doc Jensen who commented on their "wrong-headed isolationism", but I'm pretty sure I don't think there's anything wrong with the path they chose, except that it meant that we got to see them a lot less than I'd like. Rose and Bernard are mature and wise, and all they need is each other for "Live Together, Die Alone" to work for them. And they're pacifists. They do help out a couple of key times, but otherwise they stay out of it, and I say more power to 'em. They make a lovely couple of Bombadils. I'm still disappointed that their music from last year's finale isn't included in the season five soundtrack; maybe this will make it into season six's...

No more Jacob. Evidently he simply disappeared almost immediately after Jack drank the water, and we never got to see him again, except as a kid on Jimmy Kimmel, and I don't quite know what that was about. Maybe it's a hint that after he died again, he was trapped on the Island again? He told Hurley that he would never see him again, but I'm sure he was wrong about that. But how soon did they see each other again? There on the Island, or on the other side of the doorway in the church? Of course, Hurley doesn't exactly choose to see these people. They decide to come to him. So maybe what Jacob was saying there was, "I won't be bugging you anymore." Except that Hurley wanted to be bugged. In any case, I think there's a lot that Jacob doesn't know. For instance, I'm pretty sure he doesn't know the Sideways exists.

I wanted to see him again. And yes, I'm coming to realize that I'm about as big a Star Wars geek as Hurley (but with a proper appreciation of Ewoks), and I really wanted Jacob's brother (who allegedly was supposed to be named Samuel, but I feel weird calling him that) to be like Anakin in the end. Like Anakin, he was "special", and he had a very close kinship with this show's Obi-Wan, Jacob. Closer, even, than Anakin and Obi-Wan; I mean, the two were twins, and they were each other's constant companions for the first 13 years, and as often as possible after that. But after becoming mortal again, we got no indication of Jacob's brother feeling apologetic for all his Smokey misdeeds. No, he seemed just as ruthless as before.

And so I fear he may have used up his last chance. Unless Jacob's brother really did die, totally and utterly, back in Across the Sea, and Mother's warning of a fate worse than death was a bit of a red herring, and Smokey was just drawing on the brother's memories just as he drew on Locke's. That's possible, and probably preferable. I could live with that, even if it means admitting that Smokey himself is pure evil and he managed to seduce me a bit too. Especially when he saved the gang from Keamy. But if the soul of the brother in black has been entangled with this demonic force for 2000+ years, then it seems he had one great chance to repent for his misdeeds and he blew it. Or could there still be hope for him after his death? I don't know. I just know that I felt bad for the guy, and that Jacob is one of my very favorite characters in all of LOST and I don't see how he can ever forgive himself, in an afterlife he didn't expect, for forever condemning the one person in his life who was most important to him. And yet I feel certain that Jacob and Hurley will meet again. So... lots of questions there. Hoping one or two might get answered when the DVD comes out.

Sawyer was quite lovable here. Snarly but heroic on the Island, stalwart and confused in the Sideways, just an all-around great guy. I would have liked one last bear hug between him and Hurley; their relationship is one of my favorites on the show, and I think they could have had a more heartfelt farewell. But I guess they were in a hurry. I liked Sawyer's little chat with Jack as he tries to understand what just happened between him and Jacob, and I loved his interaction with Sun and Jin in the Sideways, and their absolute affection for him, and pleased amusement that he wound up a cop. And I was so happy to get one more Apollo moment. Those candy bars really are quite potent. It was cool to see the payoff of the "going dutch" conversation, and really moving to see Sawyer and Juliet remember each other. Again, score one for Apollo!

The only instance that confuses me a bit is that there was an Apollo ad on the side of the bus that hit Edmund Burke. Was he really that bad, that his death was such a victory? Or was the victory of gaining Juliet so great that it completely overshadowed the death of an innocent bystander? Come to think of it, that scene was a lot like Nadia's death. Edmund was holding Juliet back, while Nadia was holding Sayid back. But Nadia was definitely a good person. Ah, well... Clearly there were a few problems with the way that Jacob chose to run things.

We saw very little of Claire on the Island, but ultimately it was Kate who convinced her to board the plane, which was absolutely as it should have been, though it wasn't really until this season that I realized just how crucial the bond between these two was. Claire giving birth to Aaron was her most significant moment on the Island, but it was also Kate's. As much as I wasn't thrilled about watching yet another labor on this show, Claire's birth scene in the Sideways was really powerful. And Charlie's involvement completed the perfection.

I loved seeing Hurley first encounter Charlie, and having that huge goofy grin on his face as he saw his good friend alive again for the first time, while Charlie simply responded with surly bad humor. His tranquilizing him was hilarious, and it didn't improve Charlie's mood. He remained a sourpuss until he saw Claire, and though he didn't quite understand yet, he was mesmerized by her from that instant on. And when the memories finally did come flooding back, I think Charlie's response to his enlightenment may have touched me most of all. Powerful stuff. I do wish that we'd been able to see more of the concert, and I really was hoping for a performance of Saved, or whatever the name of that song in Fire + Water is. Frankly, I found it really hard to connect with the music they were playing; it felt choppy and incomplete, and not at all familiar. I've no doubt that most of the concert was fantastic, but I'm a little bummed that we didn't get to see it. On a side note, when Claire asked that guy where the bathroom was... Was that Paolo??

I didn't mind Sayid and Shannon. I do feel like the writers didn't do a good enough job of establishing their relationship in season one and two, or maybe did too good a job of establishing Sayid's relationship with Nadia. Because everybody wanted Sayid and Nadia and nobody wanted Sayid and Shannon. But I did find the moment moving in spite of myself, especially taking into account Boone's involvement, which signals his acceptance of the relationship, along with his willingness, once again, to take a beating for the sake of others. Of course, there was no mention of Essam, but I found that once I realized what the Sideways really was - which I figured out shortly before the finale aired, or the gist of it anyway - I didn't really need to see Essam or Tom (Brennan or Friendly) or Annie or Sam Austen or Mr. Kwon or anybody else. I can just trust that they were there somewhere and that they found their own way to the gateway.

Everything about John Locke was beautiful in this episode, from his concerned inquiry about Christian's missing body to his intense enlightenment - actually, that was probably my favorite enlightenment moment, complete with Terry O'Quinn's 1000-watt crinkly smile - and his absolute forgiveness of Ben outside the church. Everything about it was so beautiful, and so reinforced Jack's scathing Island comment to Smokey: "You're not John Locke. You disrespect his memory by wearing his face, but you're nothing like him. Turns out he was right about most everything. I just wish I could've told him that while he was still alive."

Daniel didn't move on with the rest. I guess he needs a little more time to court Charlotte, and mostly he needs more time to work through his issues with his parents, especially his mother. I do love that he gets to be a musician in this ideal world, and while there's still that oddly ethereal quality about him, his mind is clear and undamaged. I'm still not quite sure how this "soul cluster" thing works. Does every single character have his or her own church, and we just saw Jack's? Or was it really a wholly communal experience for those who were in that church together, and it'll be a totally different group with Ben? And another totally different group, maybe, with Daniel? And where does that leave most of the world, who never went to the Island at all? Do they go through a similar experience anyway? Like Tom Brennan. I would've thought that seeing him might have enlightened Kate, but if not that, seeing Kate might have enlightened him. But maybe they don't get to see each other again on this side of the doorway.

I enjoyed the music in this episode as always, but I'm not sure if we quite got the Grey Havens symphonic brilliance that I was expecting. I need to watch it again, and especially the last ten minutes. Maybe it's there, but I was more focused on other things so I didn't notice it as much as I should have. I just didn't get a very strong impression of hearing a piece of music that was the ultimate representation of the series' most potent theme, entwined with several others that were especially moving. Mainly, I guess I didn't hear as much Life and Death as I wanted to.  There was some lovely music at the end there, but I think I need to hear it in isolation before I determine how well it stands up against Howard Shore.

We certainly got a dose of Lord of the Rings, though, particularly with the heart of the Island, which I correctly postulated would end up as a sort of Mount Doom. The visual echoes were unmistakable. Unlike Frodo, however, both Jack and Desmond were fully themselves at the end, and each went down in turn to do his job before being lifted back up, Desmond by Hurley and Ben, Jack by the force of the light. Desmond survived his ordeal; Jack didn't, but that was mostly because of the ceremonial knife. Where is that knife now, I wonder? When the time comes for his reign to end, must it be the knife that ushers Hurley into Sideways world, or can his end be less violent, thanks to another change in the Rules?

I thought it was kinda nice how Kate arrived at the last minute to defeat Smokey. She ended up being the closest thing to Gollum in the end-game I guess, just in terms of the element of surprise, and this unexpected person who Jacob had essentially written off being absolutely instrumental in bringing things to the proper conclusion. And while a part of me still felt like Kate never quite loved anyone in her adult life as she'd loved Tom, I think that's partly because of the guilt that clung to her, and maybe she was finally able to forgive herself for her complicity in his death and accept a new love with whom she had been through so much. Their farewell was heartbreaking, especially Jack's silence when she asked if they would see each other again, but their reunion was exhilarating.

Darlton promised us that Vincent would survive the series, and indeed he did. It was very touching to see Jack departing the Island as he arrived, with Vincent by his side, now an old friend instead of a disorienting stranger. I find it interesting that the name Vincent means "prevailing". It seems like an indication of Vincent being representative of something deeper, something having to do with Robert Short's notion of Snoopy as the "Hound of Heaven," a sort of Christ symbol along the lines of Harry's Patronus or Fawkes the Phoenix. We don't see Vincent in Sideways world, but it's not because, as Jimmy Kimmel quipped, "not all dogs do go to Heaven". It's because Vincent is representative of Jack being tethered to life, even as he dies. A new life, a better life. Or something like that.

It was so nice to finally see Jack and Christian have that chat with each other after so many apparent near misses. All that searching led Jack at last to the empty coffin and the realization that he and his father were now in the same boat, but that it was okay. When he realized he was dead, Jack sobbed, but I'm not sure that it was so much out of sadness as simply the enormity of the situation. At any rate, I loved Christian's comforting presence, and I got a definite reminder of Gandalf's "I will not say 'Do not weep,' for not all tears are an evil."

If I wanted to, I could make a big long list of things that were never properly explained, from the Dharma Food Drop to why Richard (or Charles, or Jacob) decided to execute the Purge when they did to why having babies on the Island is so darned near impossible. I would like to think that some of those answers might come out later in the encyclopedia, on the DVD or in some other form. But while I'm curious, I'm not burning to know most of those things. There were so many ways the show could have ended that would have felt dissatisfying to me, I think. I was very worried that it might all turn out to have been a dream, despite Darlton's promises to the contrary; I can't see any way that I would not have felt cheated by that ending. Additionally, I feared the conclusion could wash away six seasons of redemption and meaning in a sea of nihilism.

Neither of those possibilities came remotely true, and so while they left us a whole lot to puzzle over, I ultimately find myself almost completely satisfied with the finale. Are there certain things that could have been done better over the course of the series? Threads that could have been tightened or lengthened, and others that could have been plucked entirely? No doubt. But as it ends, I find myself simply thinking that I'm glad we got to the conclusion and I liked it, and not even feeling much of an ache that I won't have it next year. Because, after all, I will. I'll have it just as surely as I have Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Narnia and Star Wars and all those other Great Stories LOST so artfully references. And if the finale still leaves me with some confusion, all the more to contemplate in the years ahead.

No comments: