Posts tagged ‘Richard Alpert’

Vorlons and cylons and Jacob: Lost Season 6

drowning in symbolism

Lost Season 6: Ab Aeterno

I always prefer questions to answers (while demanding the answers that will ruin my fun).  Lost hasn’t been nearly as much fun since it switched from world-building mode to a self-conscious endgame, too often combining glaringly on-the-nose dialogue with half-hearted jungle-walking scenes to pad out time between those revelations. The multi-layered storytelling (providing us with either an alternative reality to be crushed or an extended happier-ending epilogue to the entire series) is a fascinating device – I keep forgetting how amazing it is to have a major network show with an unexplained non-linear structure! – but the stories it tells are (possibly by necessity) more like bullet-point references to well worn tropes.

Depending on where the season heads, Ab Aeterno was either a refreshing break from that trend or the worst example of this tell-don’t-show headache. Concerning the ethical seduction of Richard Alpert, the episode is (possibly) filtered through the point of view of an uneducated 19th-century Catholic who’s recently lost his beloved wife and been condemned to death for the murder of the doctor who refused to save her – so Heaven, Hell, and the (im)possibility of redemption weight heavily on his mind. Both men offer him a version of salvation: Smokey releasing the starving man from his chains and bringing a vision of his lost wife, Jacob providing the immortal Purgatory that will give him time to redeem himself, or at least delay entering the fires of wife-less Hell.

It’s quite simple here: the Man in Black is sexy, persuasive Evil and the Man in White is remote, dissociated Good. Jacob keeps Smokey locked on the island – the metaphorical cork in the bottle – to protect the world.

Even this simple paradigm is a bit complicated: Jacob is a strange Good, bringing an endless stream of unsuspecting mortals to the island to be slaughtered in a vague effort to make Smokey see good in them (just before he rips them limb from limb, dying in agony and bewildered terror?). Their deaths are their own fault, he reasons, because they had to choose the mysterious right path on their own, without any intervention from him. This seems like the logic of a very old god, angered when individuals don’t chose against their own survival without compelling, or any, reason to do so.

Smokey, on the other hand, is much more basic. After releasing Richardo, he feeds him roasted boar, likely from the same menacing beast that feasted on the dead slaves chained next to him. There’s a clear message about life’s brutality there, an understanding and warning of what humans and gods will or must do when trapped. There may be a greater purpose to uphold or face punishment, but without the Cliff Notes, people have to make decisions based on the little information they’ve got.

Whether I’ll love or loathe this episode will depend on whether the Candidates ultimately take the Babylon 5 route and reject choosing between the powerful beings in favor of writing their own meanings on the blank canvas of the universe, or if it ends like the poor Battlestar Gallactica victims, frantically playing a rigged game in hopes they’d be rewarded with their bare lives. If it is (sigh) the latter, I’m joining Team Smokey, even if it does destroy the world (…more than we already have), solely because he’s got a much better grasp of free will, seeking to break the game rather than simply play it.

half a bottle of wine...thanks?

forget the butterflies: Lost Season Five

Daniel Faraday and Jughead

Daniel Faraday and Jughead

Lost Season 5: Jughead and The Little Prince

It’s almost starting to seem normal to have the A- and B-plots separated by thousands of miles, three years, and uncountable metaphysical planes.

Like a polar bear let loose from its training cage, the action continues to galumph in great strides in both LA and back on the island. The Island 6 are far more compelling than the adventures of the Oceanic 6, although the action in LA will certainly be interesting in retrospect and there are scattered moments of brilliance – particularly the evolution of Sun into corporate shark and vengeful assassin. Ben’s use of human chess pieces is always entertaining as well, especially now that the moves are revealed within the same episode.

(Who could be challenging Kate’s custody of the narcoleptic turniphead? Maybe we’ll find out by the end of the season or – oh, it’s Ben. Hmmm. Oh, oh, but his lawyer – what’s that guy’s story, huh? Is he Kelvin’s secret lovechild half-brother, or what? Ah Lost, never really answers it’s true mysteries…)

Still, these moments are rationed throughout the LA plotline, crammed in the spaces between plot gears. The island 6 are encountering nothing but great chunks of interesting backstory, and – in between being attacked and bewildered and nearly dead, which is any given day on the island – developing an almost warm group cohesion. Juliet abandons her self-imposed isolation to stabilise Sawyer’s shaky emotional state; John begins to explain his motivations, and their lack of solid evidence, rather than clinging to his deluded mystical-John Wayne image. Faraday jumps to protect the group – and Charlotte – from gun-toting hardliners with only his wits and scientific background. Sawyer – who 100 or so days ago was an amoral conman preying on fellow survivors – immediately launches a rescue ambush when he sees Faraday at gunpoint, berating John for looking out for his personal interests.

Even Miles asks for help when he admits he’s joined the nosebleed club.

No wonder I spend the LA times wanting to get back to the island, where the group is pulling together and investigating immediate mysteries, instead of going on with Lost’s business as usual – a loose collection of deeply flawed characters continually compromising their few principles, who each may or may not be plotting to kill the rest, with the world possibly at stake and not nearly enough information to make these decisions.

I’ll probably be fascinated by it in a few episodes, but for now…

Lost uses the interesting form of time travel, in which the timeline is resilient. Someone who goes back in time has always been there at that time, and unless they did a thing with a key and a magnetic field no one’s ever quite figured out, they can’t do a thing to change the future. Stomp on all the butterflies you want, kill all four grandparents, rip open the box with the alive-dead cat – none of it can change a thing. You were always there in the past and you always did exactly as you are going to do, as time and space are far too powerful to be inconvenienced by mere paradox.

This form still allows for character pitfalls. For instance, Faraday, confronted by a leaking hydrogen bomb, tells the 1950’s-era Others to simply bury it in cement and forget about it – after all, he knows the island didn’t blow up. His knowledge of the future makes him ignore its limitations. After all, in 2004 the bomb hasn’t gone off, but what about 2005? And what effect could the loose radiation from a shoddy containment job have had on the mysterious power course behind the donkey wheel? And, now that he knows there’s a powerful, if dangerous and unstable, weapon, will Faraday ever be tempted to dig it up to face off some seemingly greater threat?

There are also pitfalls of a bootstrap nature, the undermining of one’s personal (assumed) causality. John Locke is a particular demonstration of this. He grows up feeling there is some destiny he’s meant for that he’s always just failing to grasp. Arriving on a mystical island that heals his spine and gives him an outlet for his aborted Walkabout studies, then joining the locals as their leader, John feels he has finally achieved his true place. He is King of the Others for all of five minutes before he’s sent reeling into the past, given a compass that will somehow prove his identity (an item that seems trapped in its own closed time loop, eternally passing between John and Richard across fifty years). There he tells the (somewhat) younger Richard that he will be their leader in the future, casually giving them his upcoming birthdate and location before disappearing in a flash of light, leaving behind a prophesy. Based on this, the Others attempt to groom young John for leadership from a distance, eventually culminating in his five minutes in charge.

One mystery solved: does John Locke really have a mystical connection to the island? No. Does he have a destiny? Only the one he’s created for himself – always seeking leadership and validation, and always just overshooting it.

Thus, it’s really worrisome to discover that the origin of the ‘Return the O6 to the Island’ world-saver came from our Mr Locke.

Is it too late for him to embrace the advice of his high school guidance councillor and see if Faraday won’t take him on as an apprentice jack-of-all-sciences?

Where are Rose and Bernard, and, if alive, have they joined the nosebleed club as well?

What other sleeping time bombs lie Cthuhlu-like beneath the innocent jungle?

How did Jin not only survive but get caught up in the island’s time warp? Oh, I don’t even care. I’m just happy he made it. There’s nothing like a bitter vengeance arc undercut by the lost object’s inconvenient existence. This could fill the Desmond/Penny gap left by their reunion – lovers whose relationship is defined by absence, with enough remembered sweetness to leave viewers illogically anticipating an unlikely happy ending.

Not to mention – the poor fellow – he finally learns enough English to communicate with the rest of the group, and now is back in the situation of having only one other person who can understand him! And by the time he’s picked up enough French to ask for a drink of water, he’ll be lifted away to another group, probably one that only speaks Norwegian. By next season, he’ll be the island’s official interpreter.

Speaking of sweetness, there is Jin’s new friend: Danielle Rousseau, marooned with her research team. Assuming the actress’ availability, it would have been easy enough to youth-inize Mira Furlan by 16 years with little more than some conditioner and lip gloss. But with the new actress, Melissa Farman, the young Danielle’s softness and vulnerability is painfully obvious – her rounder face and sunless complexion, with a ready smile and unguarded expression. Furlan has been the paranoid and pared-down survivor from her first appearance – both crazy and hot, as I and everyone else with eyes have noted – and it does require the jolt of a different actress to illustrate the character’s change. Somehow this sweet young woman will have the inner strength – or psychotic break – to murder her dangerously ill teammates, give birth unassisted, and survive 16 years of constant warfare with those who know every inch of the Island.

I can’t wait to see how that happens.