Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lost 6.01-6.02: "LA X"

“Nothing is irreversible.”

It’s hard to know even where to begin writing about last night’s two hour premiere of the final season of “Lost.” So much happened. There were sad deaths, mysterious maybe-not deaths, and reappearances of old friends. The Island appears to be pretty well screwed. And, what do you know, one of the show’s biggest mysteries was actually sort-of answered. It was a lot to take in, and I think a lot of it will make much more sense as the season progresses (or not…this is "Lost," after all). Overall, it was a very satisfying episode, with all of the character beats and crazy twists I expect out of the best episodes of "Lost." Note my qualification about the “best” episodes. "Lost" doesn’t always hit the mark, but when it does, it’s spectacular. And that is why “The Constant” is still my all-time favorite episode of television. This episode didn’t quite reach that level (part of me doubts that anything else ever will), but it was definitely towards that end of the spectrum (with “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Eggtown” being firmly at the other end, of course).

All it took was the teaser of the episode for "Lost" to have blown my mind, yet again. It wasn’t Oceanic 815 making it through the turbulence and not crashing that stunned me- I was suspecting that some permutation of “alternate timelines” was where the show was headed. The first thing that shocked me was when Desmond of all characters asked to sit next to Jack on the plane. As I made very clear in my Top 5 Characters of "Lost" post, I’m a huge Desmond fangirl. I was (and still am) concerned that Desmond could be marginalized due to the real life legal troubles of the actor who portrays him, so it was nice to catch a glimpse of him so early on in the new season. The alterna-815 scenes were a veritable buffet of old favorite character cameos, but more on that later. The second thing to blow my mind in the teaser was the fate of the Island in the alterna-verse. It is most definitely completely submerged underwater, New Otherton, four-toed statute, and all.

"LA X” featured two distinct storylines, one in the altera-verse of 2004 if Oceanic 815 had never crashed, and one on the Island in 2007 where our Losties are left right where they were when Juliet set off Jughead. The 2004 scenes seemed to be more about nostalgia, while the 2007 scenes seemed to be more about mythology. Judging from the "Lost" blogs I frequent, I appear to be in the minority, but I preferred the alterna-verse scenes. Besides being in “full squee,” as Joss Whedon would say, at seeing Desmond, I also enjoyed seeing old favorites Boone and Charlie. Both were in slightly different circumstances than we found them in on their original Oceanic 815 trip back in season 1. Charlie almost choked to death on a balloon of heroin, and Boone left Shannon behind in Australia.

One of the things that was really interesting about the alterna-verse is that at least some of the characters seem to have some awareness that things aren’t right. Jack freaks out when the plane hits turbulence, while Rose is the calm one. Rose, in general, seemed to have a knowing look about her. Jack has some serious déjà-vu when Desmond introduces himself. After Jack saves Charlie’s life, Charlie tells him that Jack shouldn’t have saved him because he “was supposed to die."

The interactions between all our regular characters now thrown back into 2004 were truly a delight to watch. I loved Sayid being his typical badass self, helping Jack save Charlie by busting down the airplane bathroom door. I loved Sawyer warning Hurley not to brag about his lottery winnings, because people would take advantage of him. I loved that Sawyer had Kate’s back even before really getting to know her. As she tried to escape from the Marshal at LAX, she ran into Sawyer on an elevator. Sawyer noticed she was wearing handcuffs, and he helped her get out of the elevator without raising the suspicions of any of the other passengers, some of whom were law enforcement. It was fun to see Kate hijack Claire’s taxi as she continued her escape, since those two characters are so closely connected through Aaron. It was a bit shocking to see Sun and Jin go back to being the fractured remnants of a couple that they were at the beginning of the series. The difference was brought into especially sharp relief when Jin was detained by customs for not declaring some cash he had on hand, and Sun refused to speak English to help him out.

The crown jewel of the alterna-verse scenes, was, surprisingly, a scene between Locke and Jack. I am not the biggest fan of either character, but this scene was too stunning to ignore. Both characters are in the Oceanic Airlines office, dealing with lost luggage. Locke has lost his case of knives, and Jack has lost…his father’s corpse. Jack is irate, but Locke manages to calm him down, noting sagely that Oceanic didn’t lose Jack’s father, just his body. Jack asks, as a spinal surgeon, what happened to Locke and offers a free consult to see if there’s anything he can do to fix him. Locke says his condition is irreversible, but Jack isn’t so sure. The scene is poignant because Locke is more the wise soul that he was at the beginning of the series than the pathetic sap he was revealed to be by the end of his life. It’s also interesting to note that Jack, who was definitely the “Man of Science” when Oceanic 815 originally crashed, is willing to take things on faith when it comes to his ability to do his job.

While the alterna-verse scenes were more quiet and cerebral, the 2007 scenes were where a lot of the action and big reveals happened. The first transition to 2007 was actually quite jarring. Kate is randomly up in a tree, and the sound is distorted to match the distortion Kate herself is hearing following the explosion of Jughead. The gang quickly reassembles by the Swan, only it’s not the 1977 construction site anymore, it’s the big, post-failsafe key turning hole in the ground. They waste much of the first hour trying to save Juliet, who is still underneath a whole bunch of wreckage, but their efforts are in vain. She dies, and this time it sticks. I kind of wish the writers hadn’t made Juliet temporarily alive again. It kind of cheapened the very poignant goodbye between Sawyer and Juliet in last season’s finale. This was a kind-of-unnecessary rehash. What was interesting was that Miles, who can speak with the dead, listens to Juliet and tells Sawyer that Juliet said “it worked.”

Hurley also speaks to dead people in a different way. The person he speaks to is Jacob, who was recently killed by Ben. Jacob tells Hurley that it is incredibly important that Sayid, who was gravely injured by a gunshot late last season, be taken to the Temple to be healed. The Temple is a mysterious place, and it has the potential to reveal many of the Island’s mysteries, but I’m wondering if it might be a bridge too far. I’d rather be spending these last precious hours of Lost with the characters I’ve come to know over the years instead of suddenly being saddled with even more new characters. And there were new characters aplenty at the Temple. Most notable were a man who speaks only Japanese (he seemed to be the highest ranking Other there) and his mouthpiece, who looks curiously like John Lennon. There’s a pool of what is supposed to be magical healing water at the Temple, but the water isn’t clear anymore. The Others try to heal Sayid anyway, holding him submerged in the water until an hourglass runs down. It doesn’t seem to work though, and the Others pronounce Sayid dead. The one thing I liked about this subplot (the Temple itself was kind of lame) was its symmetry. Ben was taken to the Temple as a young boy to be saved after Sayid shot him, and now Sayid is also there to be saved following a gunshot wound.

The big reveals of the episode happen with the Ajira 316 survivors, you know, Ilana and her crew of “shadow of the statute” people, plus Sun, Frank, Ben, and what appears to be Locke. What I found most intriguing about this plot was how powerless Ben has become. As I’ve mentioned before here on the blog, I love to hate arrogant, in control Ben of seasons 2-4. There is something fascinating about his complete fall from power, though. When he realizes that “Locke,” who convinced him to kill Jacob, is actually Jacob’s mortal enemy the Man in Black, and the Smoke Monster to boot, Ben is shaken to his core.

I was very pleased that we got the first big answer of the season right in the premiere- the identity and nature of the Smoke Monster. It’s still a little fuzzy, but it was definitely the most concrete information we’ve gotten on the long-standing mystery. The Smoke Monster is the Man in Black, and he is currently taking the form of one John Locke. It was entertaining to watch Terry O’Quinn play two very different characters in one episode, the super-confident “Locke” and the vintage John Locke of 2004. The other big shocker came in the final moments of the episode. Sayid, who had been presumed dead, suddenly gets up. He’s quite dazed, and he wants to know what’s going on. No matter what this iteration of Sayid is, be it the Sayid we know, a “changed” Sayid, or Jacob inhabiting Sayid’s body, I’m glad that we get to see Naveen Andrews on TV for at least a little while longer.

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