Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last Lost: "Lighthouse"

by Ryland Walker Knight

After seeing four by Dorsky (more later, non-Lost fans), helping my bud Brian haul some keyboards, and fixing a supremely late dinner sandwich, I settled into the couch with the DVR for what amounted to a pretty basic episode with very few answers. But I guess I can't expect the show to live up to the promos, cuz that's what promos do: they whet the whistle. In any case, this lighthouse was cool, but hardly a revelation. Just another component in Jacob's all seeing all knowing apparent benevolence. Okay, so Jacob's been watching these "losties"—in particular Jack—for a while now; not too big a surprise given we've seen Jacob alive (and seemingly well) in the days of man'o'wars and unstylish smocks. Nor should it surprise that Jacob wanted the lighthouse inoperable after all. No, the biggest scare was: Is Jack going to fuck up Hurley?

Of course Jack wouldn't hurt Hurley. Lindlelof and Cuse don't want to lose even more good will with their audience. Besides, Hurley's got to stick around to talk to Jacob's ghost or spirit or whatever. What made the scene shake, though, was how uncool Matthew Fox was: he really got wild eyed. He really sold Jack at the end of his rope. But you'd like to think a dude who was willing to admit he came back to the island because he was broken and was wrong about just about everything since that return (and knows it) had already hit rock bottom. But no. The pile-on continues. Jack's almost a Job. (I don't want to admit the links between Shepherd and who in the bible was a shepherd, or simply what a shepherd is, just yet—but, there, I gave the thought a thought.) And don't get me started on the off island junk of this episode, though there were wrinkles in the otherwise cornball "dad issues" plot. —The main wrinkle, of course, being not Jack's memory problems, and that mysterious scar on his torso, but Dogen showing up at the recital hall; but that was too vague to draw any conclusions from at this point.

Another bit of obvious was that Claire's really and truly off her rocker, now friends with Dark Locke, and convinced (poisoned against) the others, or the temple people, as those responsible for Aaron's disappearance from the island. The best thing about that reveal was the line reading of, "Oh, that's not John, that's my friend," while Terry O'Quinn just smiled. Otherwise, those few scenes were just Emilie De Raven doing her usual thing, you know, and coming off as the least believable murderer around. Put otherwise, I was bored by her reversal. More interesting was Jin telling a lie about the truth only to lie some more in order to save his skin. It's easy to forget, now that he's so sweet and altruistic about finding Sun, that Jin spent a lot of his adult life before the island as a henchman, as a killer, as somebody who knows how people are manipulated and manipulable. But those were flashes inside a pretty predictable bit.

Sorry if this bit of blogging seems too blasé, but, well, the episode didn't wow me. Part of this is because I was tired, and I'm tired now as I type this; part of this is because I had all kinds of angles on light and shadow and color and different registers of gravities still piling in my head; and part of this is because the episode lacked any real urgency. What made seasons 4 and 5 so great was their hurtling through plot. Each episode made a claim on a character. There's nothing new here that needed a full episode to unravel. The really daring thing to do would've been to get the lighthouse broken and Dark Locke's appearance into this week well before half-time; after all, all I did seeing these things happen was wait for what would come next. In that, it's great television, designed to addict. And Lost has always gotten the medium: in a lot of ways, ways that I know very little of, the show is about, or at least seems interested, in various television histories as part of its own mythology. I can sense this, and I've never seen an episode of Gilligan's Island, or very much Star Trek (in any iteration), let alone any other adventure shows I'm sure it references, like cartoons. Ed Howard mentioned comics in the comments on the season premiere, and that seems apt, too, of course, though I don't know which comics, exactly, would come into play here (I read Batman and Sin City and then-newly-formed Image comics almost exclusively in middle school). Basically, though, it's about the broader "sci fi" or "adventure" genres (and their sometimes overlap) as media in themselves, how they appropriate and redeploy certain tropes or myths to prove, among other things, that good and evil exist to fight.

So, yeah, here's hoping that when these bad people we once thought pure raid the temple in next week's "Sundown" we get a few more dead bodies that matter. That's basically what I want to see at this point: who do they have the balls to kill off? And will Sayid's infection swing him into line with Claire and Dark Locke after all? Or can Dogen speak enough Japanese to confuse everybody? And, really, is Jack that important? Is he really going to take over? Are he and Kate truly destined to rule the island, away from the world, while Sawyer finds his way back to it? Maybe, though, we'll just be lucky enough to get a few more great compositions like those around the mirrors. Those shots, and that scene, showed what they get right on Lost sometimes: marrying outsized structure to a few images, and this season seems all about reflections and refractions, so what better way than beaming back into the world? And what other reaction can you expect from a broken dude who breaks everything? He doesn't see straight anyways, much less in a mirror, and we saw that in the first episode of the season on the alternate plane.

Also, I kinda just want to stop talking about Jack every week.


  1. Was weird to step into this episode w/o having seen any of the show since S3E01. Was like watching amnesiac characters wander around what each thought was their own dream, pursuing their own selfish goals under the assumption that no one they interact with is actually human. But because there is no focalization on the show, everyone appears like this so no one seems human.

    The lighthouse as an icon an idea was by far the best thing about the episode; sad that it seemed a narrative device that was immediately eliminated rather than an element of mystery. When's the last time you saw a thing that took advantage of the fact that when you look far enough into a mirror facing a mirror, you can see the past? (

  2. I've been enjoying this season thus far, and I'm usually willing to cut this show some slack, but yeah, this episode was a bit on the lackluster side. On the other hand, I think you're right to pinpoint Matthew Fox's acting; this was the best I've seen him on this show, and he even went a long way towards selling me on the off-island flashes of him with a son he never had before. The dominant theme of the flashes so far seems to be that the characters, in these alternate realities, are moving towards some kind of acceptance of themselves, their limits, their flaws, that they've never been able to achieve otherwise. So Locke, last week, decided that maybe it was better to enjoy life as a cripple than constantly rant about what he can and can't do. And Kate gets to help Claire keep her baby, rather than being forced to deceive everyone, raising the kid as her own. And Jack now gets to acknowledge his daddy issues and tell his own son what he wishes his dad would've told him, just one time. It's resonant, and makes these off-island bits, if not quite wish fulfillment dreams, then opportunities for redemption, of a sorts.

    So I liked that. The sense of the characters wandering aimlessly, delaying, not so much. They even say, right in the episode, that this feels like old times, and it does, but not in a good way, more like a flashback to when the show didn't have a set end date and would string things along far longer than necessary. There's surely no need for such a lazy pace now. I hope they get back to the urgency and forward momentum of the last couple of seasons, which often moved at a real breakneck pace. But even in this slower episode, I dug the fact that the characters were checking back in with some old-school landmarks, the caves, the skeletons, the smashed coffin, as though winking at the audience, saying, "remember these?"

    As for comics, when I brought that up for the premiere, I was thinking specifically of the DC Comics concept of multiple universes, usually named "Earth 2" or "Earth X" or something like that, and "LA X" seemed like a deliberate reference to that kind of tradition. Comics of course enter the show also through Brian K. Vaughan, one of the writers, and also the writer of some fantastic comics like Y: The Last Man. I remember back in his first episode as a writer, he had Hurley and someone else (it's been a while) arguing about superhero origins and stuff, as though to announce his arrival.

  3. DKaz: Didn't expect this comment, I'll tell ya what. Yea, I dig the idea of the lighthouse a lot more than what they did _with_ the lighthouse. The best bit with it was when they came across it and Jack asked why they hadn't seen it ever; to which Hurley replied they hadn't been looking. Also, fuck yea OUT 1! Tho, duh, Rivette's mirror is more suggestive, and cosmic. This one only goes one way.

    Ed: I like your observation about the off-island stories being about accepting limits, and the characters owning themselves. This seems true, and I hope it builds into something beyond these "aww shucks" syrup moments. Or, I'm still waiting to be moved by one.

    And, yes, that was kind of cool to show an old site, and remind the audience of another leg of the show, but it did drag and feel all too much like that Season 3 which, um, lost so many viewers. As for comics, maybe I'll look into this Brian K Vaughn character.

    A chuckle: it probably says something that Danny sees post-human kinda-zombies wandering in a kinda-void, Ed sees possible redemption on the horizon and I just want people/characters to die.

  4. I think that the end of the 2007-timeline will join up with that of the beginning of the alt-timeline and be read as an epilogue to the characters.