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Posts Tagged ‘Lost’

Message In A Bottle

May 24th, 2010 No comments

WARNING: The following post is nothing but spoilers for the final episode of Lost. Turn back now, if ye wish to be unspoilt!

As the airdate of the Lost finale approached, I became concerned the series might end in one of two ways:

  • Jack and Locke sitting alone on the beach, starting the Jacob/Man in Black cycle of violence all over again.
  • A final title card replacing the word “Lost” with “Found.”

Fortunately, neither of these happened. In hindsight, the actual final shot (Jack’s eyeball closing for the last time) was just as obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me.

While I wasn’t surprised that my wife and I reacted very differently to the episode, it seemed odd that I was less bothered by its focus on matters of emotion and spirituality rather than explanations of the nature and purpose of the Island. I think of myself as more skeptical about the possibility of life after death, and more likely to get caught up in niggling details like the experiments of the Dharama Initiative. Yet I felt generally satisfied by the conclusion whereas Vic was frustrated by what she felt was a cop-out.

That said, we both bawled uncontrollably. I think it was the dog. I was already tearing up during the final scene between Ben and Locke (yes, not Charlie and Claire or Sayid and Shannon, but Ben and Locke), then again during the last group hug. Yet, it was the shot of Vincent the dog sitting next to Jack to be with him as he died that sent both of us right over the precipice.

Emotionally, it all worked for me. I enjoyed that final opportunity to see (most) everyone together again, reconciling their “happy endings” in the so-called Sideways world with their memories of the friendship and love that developed during their stay on the Island. It felt earned. And after all the death on the show (by the end, they were down to about a dozen surviving characters, and that’s including Penny and Walt), it was comforting to have everyone back for a tearful curtain call.

I suppose that I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of hard explanations because I was already reconciled to my expectation that we’d already found out pretty much everything we were likely to learn about the Island, the Others and the Dharma folks. With the producers being coy about such simple details as the Man in Black’s name, I didn’t think it likely that they would offer a definitive answer about the Glowy Cave That Must Be Protected.

I’ll admit that I would’ve preferred that the final conflict not have come down to protecting a Mysterious Glowy Cave that had only been introduced two episodes ago. However, I can live with that. The Glowy Cave is clearly a MacGuffin; what it does is less important than how the characters react to it. Once you start down the path of explaining The Origin of the Glowy Cave, you’re entering Kingdom of the Crystal Skull territory. Maybe the glow represents immortality, absolute power or unlimited rice pudding. Maybe it’s the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase, or Repo Man’s trunk. I think that all you really need to know is that pulling the cork from the bottle is bad.

Besides, when the producers actually began to answer questions, the results could be rather clunky. Oh, hey, remember those mysterious whispers? They were the voices of those who had died on the Island yet hadn’t passed on! Do you feel better being told that?

A popular speculation in the early seasons of Lost was the castaways were dead and the Island was Purgatory. (After all, that’s Twilight Zone twist ending #2, right next to “It was Earth all along!”)  This was flatly denied by producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Yet…that’s precisely what the Island was for characters such as Michael. And, while I take the show at its word that the events on the Island “really happened,” the Sideways world which dominated so much of this final season turned out to be itself a transitional afterlife.

Like the Glowy Cave, it’s best not to get too bogged down in the nature of the Sideways world. Was it the product of the atomic explosion that concluded Season Five? A gift from Hurley in his new, semi-omnipotent role? Whatever. It’s clearly not too bad a Purgatory, given that one can realize their rock n’ roll dreams and/or get it on with Rebecca Mader therein. And let’s not think too much about an afterlife in which people can be murdered again, or give birth to the same children a second time.

Already, the concluding minutes are being wildly misinterpreted. I read a couple of reviews that suggest that the entire story is Jack’s hallucination just before his post-plane crash death, even though 1) that would be an unforgivable cheat, 2) the show definitively states otherwise, and 3) he’s wearing different clothes.

Similarly, there are some who feel the views of the airplane wreckage over the closing credits are intended to suggest that there were never any survivors in the first place. I’ll be honest, I don’t know the point of those shots, but I’m going to take it on faith that the explanation given within the show is the explanation. Everyone died…eventually. Whether it was sooner or later, for a time they all wound up in the same metaphysical place. There’s enough wiggle room so that if you absolutely want to turn it into something less satisfying, you can do it.

For my own part, I’m content. There was enough there there. And I’m ready to move on.

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Welcome To The “Lost” Island National Preserve

March 31st, 2010 No comments

The hounds of hell have been loosed this morning: Lost fans are furious that last night’s episode was sullied when ABC  superimposed a graphic counting down to the return of the alien invasion series V .

My favorite so far is this excerpt of a piece by the TV writer for the Boston Globe:

How wrong is that? Very wrong. For one thing, Lost fans are Lost fans — that is, we are focused intensely on our complicated show, which we’ve been waiting a week to see, and which is in its final stretch, and we don’t tend to want interruption or distraction. If I had been watching, say, CSI, I might have been annoyed, but not quite offended. But don’t mess with the Lost.

Now there’s some fan entitlement for you. Lost and its followers are so special that the realities of the 21st century television industry shouldn’t apply to them. Not like the hoi polloi that watch CSI.

To be clear, I love Lost, and I dislike the proliferation of promotional graphics cluttering up the screen. However…

TV viewers lost the war against promotional bugs years ago. In the age of DVRs and functionally infinite entertainment choices, the best time to catch your attention isn’t during the commercial breaks that you skip over, it’s during the show that you’re watching. You’re never again going to have the unspoiled viewing experience of olden days, certainly not from free, over-the-air TV.

The implication that Lost is a rare and beautiful flower deserving of special care is absurd. It’s a TV show from a network that not only wants you to watch this show, but the next show as well. (And, as Lost will be off the air forever in a little more than two months’ time, it’s more important than ever for ABC to get you on the hook for the next serialized sci-fi drama.)

As bugs go, it was relatively small. With the exception of the countdown itself, it wasn’t moving. That’s a vast improvement over the ones that take up a quarter of the screen, pinwheeling and whizbanging like the Fourth of July. Or my own personal pet peeve: the ones in which characters walk into the picture and stare at you. If only they were all as easy to ignore as was that simple letter “V.”

That said, there was one scene during which the V bug briefly became a legitimate issue. Sun–a Korean-born character who last night temporarily lost the ability to speak English due to a severe bout of plotcontrivitis–was forced to communicate with Jack through handwritten notes. Her “dialogue” was briefly obscured by the logo. That’s unfortunate. But even then, it was entirely possible to infer what she’d written through Jack’s spoken reply. That’s what I had to do, as I was watching Lost on Dish Network, which “center cuts” all 16:9 programming to fit a 4:3 screen.

I may not like promotional bugs, but they’re far less disruptive than losing 25% of the picture.

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Lost And Found

February 3rd, 2010 No comments

Lost is back for its sixth and final season, and if last night’s premiere was any indication, it should be one helluva plane ride.


As I–and apparently, many others–suspected, this year the show has abandoned its flashbacks and flash-forwards for flashes-sideways into a reality in which the Oceanic flight never crashed. It seems that last year’s season-ending atomic explosion didn’t alter history as Jack and friends had hoped, but rather created a parallel track. Yet this new timeline is not the one we saw in the pilot episode; while many of the expected players were aboard that fateful flight, others were conspicuously absent. And there are other changes both big (the shattered Island at the bottom of the ocean) and small (Sun never learned English?). Now our cast of characters simultaneously exist in two states. It’s Schrödinger’s Plane Crash.

I’m glad to see the show finally pay off the cryptic yet obviously important backgammon scene from the pilot, in which Locke explained the game as “Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark.” At the time I’d thought it was setting up a schism between Jack’s group and a rival bunch of survivors to be led by Locke. Which, in a sense, it did, except that Locke isn’t Locke, but rather Jacob’s mysterious opponent. Who, by the way, is also the smoke monster. And has been conning Ben for at least half a season. Obviously the game continues, but the pawns are only beginning to catch on.

I find it a bit odd that a show that seemed so grounded in sci-fi last season has taken such a hard left back into supernatural territory. I don’t have a problem with it; it’s not like there haven’t been ghosts and similarly inexplicable phenomena since the first season. It’s just that now we’ve got healing pools, angry island gods and jungle temples. (I like that pretty much every review of last night’s show references Indiana Jones in discussing the now-revealed Temple, as if one hundred years of stories about hidden jungle civilizations only go back to 1981.)

It’s great to see a show that had foundered so badly back in season three right itself and become more satisfying than ever. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this journey leads.

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Shaking His Fury Fist

April 16th, 2009 No comments

I think it’s worth mentioning again just how great Lost has been this season. Even though new questions are being posed, others are being answered at a rapid clip.

One thing that’s made me happy about Season Five is the reintroduction of the DHARMA Initiative. That was an intriguing piece of backstory that was tabled once we were introduced to the Others and the Freighter Folk. However, thanks to this year’s unstuck-in-time storyline, we’ve had lots of time among the DHARMA-ites in their prime. Turns out that they’re not entirely as benign a batch of hippie researchers as it first seemed.

Anyhow, I bring this up because last night’s episode paid off something I’d been hoping for ever since we learned that most of the cast had been transported to 1977. “Hmm,” I thought, “That means that Star Wars should be coming out any day now.” And, sure enough, last night we found out that in his spare time, Hurley has been writing the script to The Empire Strikes Back (with a few improvements) with the intention of saving George Lucas a little work. Cute!

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All Dolled Up, No Place To Go

March 5th, 2009 No comments

Let’s catch up with some recent televised sci-fi!

Lost: I called it. And I was so intent on skipping through what I thought was still the “previously on” portion of last night’s show that I didn’t realize I had called it until I read this morning’s reviews. I had been saying to Vic that one of the time-hops Our Heroes have been taking through the Island’s past just had to take them to the era in which the freaky, four-toed foot was a freaky, four-toed statue. And that’s exactly what happened in the first minute of Wednesday’s episode. We didn’t get to see its face, which makes me think it must be someone we know, probably the long-lived Richard Alpert given all the Egyptian symbolism and Sawyer’s crack about Alpert’s “eyeliner.”

Battlestar Galactica: Another bit that I called some time ago was that it was significant that the known Cylon model numbers skipped over seven. As we’ve recently learned, there was indeed a Number Seven named Daniel, supposedly dead but probably not. Which brings us to last Friday’s episode, which at least added credence to the theory that Daniel may ultimately be the series’ puppet-master. Furthermore, it suggested that Starbuck, while not a true Cylon, may instead be Daniel’s offspring. But did we have to learn that through a half-hour of piano-playing? Come on, folks, four episodes left!

Terminator – The Sarah Conner Chronicles: I keep meaning to blog about this show, which I’ve been following since it premiered last year. I’m swimming upstream compared to the majority of geekdom in that I hated Terminator 2 and quite enjoyed the third film in the series, which remembered that Sarah Conner’s mission wasn’t to prevent the creation of Skynet, but rather to protect and train her son John to win the coming war with the machines. So, why have I enjoyed this show, which seems hell-bent on erasing the latter film from continuity?

One reason is that Lena Headley’s Sarah Conner is a much more relatable person that the angry, crazy hellion that Linda Hamilton portrayed in T2. While she bears the emotional scars of her life on the run, she’s not bat-shit nuts. 

I also like the way that the idea of a temporal war is being played out, with both sides sending troops into the past to secure objectives in their future present. There’s even an instance in which two time-tripping characters learn that they–despite having shared an intimate relationship during the machine war–are from different future realities. It’s a much better handling of the idea than Star Trek: Enterprise managed during its own temporal conflict storyline.

That’s all cool, but I’ll admit that the story arc has been meandering too much as of late. Shirley Manson, formerly of the rock band Garbage, is playing a liquid-metal Terminator. She’s not much of an actress, but she’s an intriguing presence. And there’s some question as to what her character’s agenda might be. While she seems to be trying to bring about Skynet, it almost seems that she’s trying to birth a kinder, gentler computer. Which would be interesting, except that we’re six episodes from what may well be the series finale, and we haven’t come any closer to finding out what she’s up to. She hasn’t even met our heroes. 

Allegedly, that’s about to change, according to this trailer for the rest of the season.

Dollhouse: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Whedonite. I even bought 17 issues of a crappy Angel comic because it had the imprimatur of a Joss Whedon-approved plotline. So, why did it take me about three weeks to even begin watching the episodes I’d recorded?

Now that I’ve seen the first couple of shows, I think that I know. I agree with Time’s TV critic James Poniewozik that the core concept is deeply flawed. The central character, Echo, is literally a blank slate onto which amalgams of other people’s experiences are overwritten. The idea is that it’s supposed to be a showcase for the dubious acting chops of Eliza Dushku, but it also means that there’s nothing there for the viewer to latch onto.

Why should we care what happens to Echo? Aside from a couple of brief scenes of her previous existence as a woman named Caroline, she has no personality other than the one she’s been given for the current assignment. And how should we feel about a person who would give herself over to a company which will literally take five years of her life and whore her out to anyone with a million bucks in their wallet? (The “whore” thing is not even remotely a metaphor; in the two episodes I’ve seen, she’s been on three assignments that involved her being programmed to be the perfect lover for her client.)

Doubly disappointing is the lack of Whedon’s trademark banter. Perhaps that’s because there are only two likable characters on the series–Echo’s handler and the cop who’s out to expose the Dollhouse–and they’re unlikely to spend much time together. 

It’s not a total train-wreck–there are hints that the concept will open up as Echo begins to remember her past life–but I think that it would play much better as a mini-series than an open-ended weekly. And, given the crappy ratings the thing has been getting, it may get just that chance!

The Felgercarb Hits The Fan

February 2nd, 2009 No comments

I’ve been remiss in not giving the final half-season of Battlestar Galactica its due. As I’ve suggested before, giving the series an end date has been a good thing. No more pointless episodes about Romo Lampkin’s ghost cat or how Apollo got his tattoos. Okay, that second one was from Lost, but you get the idea. With only seven episodes to go, every moment is important, and no character has script immunity. While Roslin was in the “next week” trailer and presumably survives the attack ordered upon her by Gaeta, and Tigh ain’t goin’ anywhere until the writers pay off the revelation that his wife was the final Cylon, it feels like anything could happen at this point. And that’s what made last Friday’s episode–the first half of a two-parter regarding a full-blown insurrection aboard the Galactica–that much more harrowing.

Admittedly, I was bit frustrated with “The Oath” at first, as it was the second episode in a row not to answer of the major, nagging questions still in need of a reply, but I ultimately realized that it wasn’t only necessary, but perfectly timed. The revelation that the long-sought-after Earth was a radioactive wasteland (spoiler alert, but Jesus, it’s been about a year since that one aired) should have repercussions that extend beyond an episode or two.  And Tom Zarek–the former revolutionary who became Laura Roslin’s vice-president–would have been a disappointment if he hadn’t tried to assume total control of the fleet as some point. 

What’s clear to me is that even though there are perfectly legitimate reasons to question recent decisions by Roslin and Adama–especially his cooperation with the “rebel” Cylons and his insistence on installing Cylon engine technology aboard the Colonial ships–Zarek doesn’t care about any of that. He just sees an opportunity to get what he’s always wanted: the ability to personally shape humanity’s destiny. And for most of his collaborators, it’s really more about settling scores rather than building a coherent, new power structure or a plan for the future.   

One really does have to wonder what Joe Colonial makes of all this. As viewers, we’re privy to a lot of privileged information that even Our Heroes don’t know. We have every reason to believe that the rebel Cylons are sincere about seeking an alliance with the humans, and that “Final Five” Cylons such as Tigh and Tyrol remain loyal to their Admiral. But all Joe Colonial probably knows is that not only have the people who butchered 99.999999999% of humanity been secretly living among the refugees, but that both the Admiral and the President’s own personal aides were Cylons. And now the Galactica’s not answering phone calls, there’s a lot of gunfire, and the President is fleeing toward the Cylon Base Ship.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

January 22nd, 2009 No comments

I didn’t enjoy last night’s two-hour season premiere of Lost quite as much as did some of the TV critics, but that may have been in part because we didn’t start watching until 10:00 pm and therefore by the end I was willing the show to hurry up and get to the credits. There were certainly some “whoa” moments and a lot of snappy patter, but I think the two episodes played the “mystery character reveal” game once too often. When it worked–the surprise reappearance of the cranky “Marvin Candle”–it was fun. But, for example, when we were meant to speculate over who had called Kate’s cell phone when it was obviously Sun, it was a bit “so what?” And the final mystery reveal, which was supposed to big enough to warrant being the last image of the two hours, left me scratching my head and wanting to consult the Lostpedia. Really, the producers are giving me a bit too much credit when they expect me to remember a bit character who appeared in one episode two years ago.

Still, the show has come a long way from the days I complained that Heroes had overtaken Lost as The Show On Which Shit Actually Happens. My, what difference a couple of years and a set end-date make. It makes me hopeful that Heroes may still pull out of its seemingly terminal tailspin. Even though Lost–and the soon-to-be-ending Battlestar Galactica–are still raising more questions than providing answers, at least I have a clear sense that both shows have answers.

I was also left with the impression that Lost will be settling down into a more linear format as it approaches its endgame, if linear can be applied to a show in which half the cast is unstuck in time and bouncing through The Island’s Greatest Hits. But it does seem to have abandoned its “flashback/flash-forward” structure, in which we are meant to figure out for ourselves where each part of the narrative fits into the overall timeline. Even as Locke and the other islanders pinball through time, they are at least together and sharing a single story, as are the Oceanic Six and their hangers-on.

We also seem to have seen the end of most of the background castaways, courtesy of a mysterious flaming-arrow attack. I love how the producers ratchet the annoyance value of their bit players up to 11 just before offing them: Neil/”Frogurt”–like exploding Arzt before him–gets his at the precise moment that we really want him to shut the hell up.

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Failed His Saving Throw

March 5th, 2008 No comments

Okay, I know that I’m a day late on this, but yesterday was a bit hectic. And I’m sure that everyone in the gaming community already has made the above joke about the death of E. Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, but come on, it’s just too tempting.

I never met the man, and I can’t say that I know anything about him on a personal level. I do know that after control of the game was wrested away from him, he tried but failed to catch a lightning bolt in an oil flask a second time.

Still, there’s no denying that he had a massive impact on pop culture. Time’s TV critic James Poniewozik did an excellent piece regarding his influence. I haven’t seen the episode of Freaks and Geeks that he references, but he makes a good case that the foundations of Gygax’s concept continue to inform the long-term storytelling we see in series such as Lost.

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