by Ryland Walker Knight
—Kate doesn't believe in the word "spoiler"
Hard not to feel let down after last week's opener, sure, but hard to be surprised when "Kate" is in the title of the episode. Evangeline Lilly may have model looks but that means she also has model skills: she's best when relegated to set dressing, like hanging off that limb last week. Her posture's not forthright but almost diffident, trying to eek by in just about every scene. We all know she's only got one play when she says she can be very convincing; and we know, thanks to Josh Holloway's determined performance, that this despondent Sawyer won't fall prey to her one-note ploys. Yet, thanks to what seems like a conscious choice to flip things by the writers this season, Kate isn't quite so predictable. She at least tries to turn her back on Sawyer. But prime-time likes to have its prettiest share the screen as much as possible so they get a moment: each sheds some tears (Kate's punctuate the scene), but it's Sawyer's moment—to grieve Juliet, to blame himself like always. Kate, on the other hand, nearly never accepts culpability (actual or contrived) for her actions. It seems like genuine self-doubt and/or self-critique are beyond her. And glib little me would love to make a joke about this being true of Ms Lilly, too, but that'd be mean. (Further, I don't know her.)
So we'll leave Kate. In fact, I was bored with her even before she kicked Claire to the curb. Seeing Ethan Goodspeed show up as the doctor was cute (no needles a flip of all those needles from before), but it hardly seemed to justify, or redeem, all the rote Kate junk of the 2004 non-crash story line. (Maybe we should call that branch 2004'? 2004-prime?) The 2007 island plot, in particular what transpired at the temple, was the good stuff this week. The big surprise here, lucky us, is that Jack sat smack in the middle of it—and I dug him as our proxy for once.
The whole episode smacked of Season 3, which was lame, but that meant a frustrated Jack deciding to play with the rules set by his de-facto captors to ferret some truth; or trust, as it happens. The whole episode was about trust. It made me realize how boring an idea trust is: you can question it all you want, I guess, and it may take certain actions over time to earn it, but trust is a pretty clear cut either/or by my lights. What's more, all the guilt trip strategies employed by this Dogen stooge (who trusts anybody, besides a grandma, maybe, that spends a ton of time with bonsai?) are another example of a typical Lost annoyance and limitation. Like Jack, I find it hard to arrogate to anybody so plainly trying to manipulate me. Like Jack, I don't want hints when I know you have answers. (I think this is a common gripe even die-hard fans have with the show.) Like Jack, I don't want to surrender my friends.
Jack takes this debt he feels he owes to Sayid, as ever, to ridiculous devotional lengths. He tries to take the pill—some so-called remedy—that Dogen designed for Sayid to prove a point (to himself? to Dogen? certainly not me) that it wasn't a cure-all but, in fact, poison. This prompts the big reveal of the episode, which is naturally twofold: that Sayid may, yes, be infected by "a darkness" and that this creeping take-over already took over Claire, Jack's sister. The ramifications are pretty evident pronto. This Dark Locke, as manifestation of the smoke monster, and also of Titus Welliver's Man-In-Black, controls all kinds of facets of this island. His reach is far from comprehensive, but we can guess with a lot of certainty that his darkness is responsible for the murk in the temple's pool, and the appearances of Christian Shephard on the island throughout the series. Because who else—that is, what other physical fingerprint, what other face and voice—would have the power to, as John Hawkes' Lennon translates, claim her? (Quickly: just read that his character's called Lennon, which is hilarious and stupid and I hope exposed as a ruse or, at least, due to some pop culture time capsule thing. I thought, really? and you gave him those glasses?)
Perhaps most intriguing about Claire's reappearance isn't that she reappeared but that it doubles up the Rousseau story: here we have another mother living off the land by traps and rifle guile without her baby. Makes me wonder what hand the darkness played in Rousseau's obvious shift after the murder of her party and the theft of her daughter. The smoke never caught or killed her, after all.
Which brings me back to trust. The darkness seems to prey on trust. If Island Christian has been or was just another manifestation of the Man-in-Black, his appropriation of Claire was designed as a lure, as an illegitimate offer for an illegitimate daughter. And this Dark Locke came out to the beach last summer only to prey on Ben, to turn people's fear of the island's mystical powers against them. This darkness, in whatever form, no matter its human-sounding motivation, is a metaphysical predator. Its machinations make the Others' (to say Jacob's) seem benign. It's out to rob these peons not only of their bodies, their lives, but of their souls. That's the real transgression of Dark Locke: he poached a truly reverent spirit for nefarious ends. Were it not for all the trust proclaimed throughout the show, and not just this episode, I'd say this bad guy represents one hell of a cynical view on life. But I guess that's why he's the bad guy: he inspires the cynicism. Then again, so does the island, so where does that leave us? Like most mass myths, it leaves us with these people—with their all-too-human capacities—and makes it about their choices of consent—to the world, to this world (the island or the branch), to each other, to trust, to the adventure, to life lived beyond the fold.
—Goodspeed? As is, let's get this preemie going?
Funny, too, that, like the island, like this darkness, and despite what ratings tell us, Lost itself—that is, the show—hardly inspires trust in its audience. Guess that's the god complex: it's all a mystery, and we've got to keep you hooked less you check out. Or tune out. Or drop out. Of course I'm hooked. I'm a curious fool.
[UPDATE: We're live at The House Next Door.]