Lost s6 ep 16

First of all fairness, I think, requires me to acknowledge Sky’s innovative decision to simulcast the next and final episodes of ‘Lost’ at the same time as the American west coast transmission (along with some other international broadcasters).  This means that UK viewers can see it from 5am on Monday.  I won’t be watching but I will be recording for viewing later that day, and it means I won’t need to spend the rest of the week avoiding spoilers.  I’m not dewy eyed about Sky: they’re not sacrificing a valuable chunk of advertising real estate and there’s as much in it for them as for the viewer.  But we all know that if the BBC had the rights to ‘Lost’ they would presently be contemplating when to show season 4, so gratitude where deserved.  Anyway, now to business.

“I don’t really know where to start”Jacob

Any lingering feeling that ‘Lost’ might run out of steam or inspiration as it approaches the end was surely blown away by this titanic episode (‘What They Died For’).  This was stupendous TV – as good as anything we’ve had all season, which is to say very, very good indeed.  In fact, were it not for the fact that I’m hoping that it will be topped by the last couple, I’d be pointing to this as pretty much the perfect ‘Lost’ – everything you could ask for, whether you want mythology or just a great story.

I know I keep coming back to the flash-sideways, but I really have enjoyed them an unseemly amount.  This week we had Desmond successfully putting into action his plan to bring together everyone who was on Flight 815: it looks as if they’re all going to a concert recital by Jack’s son.  And, of course, we had Desmond smacking Ben around, which starts to remind Ben of the beating Desmond gave him in the original timeline.  The relationship between the original and sideways worlds remains unexplained – presumably to be unpacked in the finale – but seeing the ‘Lost’ characters, recognisable yet somehow different, in the sideways timeline has been immensely entertaining and rewarding.

On-island, meantime, Jacob is now visible to the remaining “candidates” – there’s a beautifully judged moment when he explains to Kate that she was scored off the list because she became a mom, but that it’s “just a line of chalk in a cave; the job is yours if you want it”.  Not surprisingly, though, it’s Jack who steps up.  And while Desmond’s hunting everyone in the sideways, here everyone’s looking for Desmond – he’s  Widmore’s failsafe, apparently, in a way which one would guess will be explained to us next time out.  I have a minor reservation about how “the rules” – which I understand will never be spelled out – have become something of a get-out for any plot development the writers want to get away with.  It’s not clear to me why Flocke doesn’t just kill everyone if he wants to – he chases them all onto a submarine, he tracks them around the island – but there’s something of the Bond villain about the Man in Black, I suppose, explained away by reference to “the rules” if need be.

What this episode demonstrated, beyond doubt, is just how much Ben (Michael Emerson) brings to the table: his wry ambiguity when going toe-to-smoke with Flocke on the one hand; on the other, his reaction to finding out how much he means to Alex in the sideways juxtaposed with his emotion at the loss of Alex on the island.  It also confirmed just how much of a triumph the season has been for Matthew Fox, who has redeemed Jack as a character and enhanced his own acting reputation in the process.  And for those of us who lamented every episode without Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), we had our vindication.

But not half as much as the showrunners.  This season has been every bit as good as I could have dared hope, to the point where one can start to believe that the final episodes could live up to the level of expectation they’ve had around them for months now.  And even allowing for the possibility of anti-climax after the show finishes, this season has been every bit as good as could have been wished for, and this episode was pretty much the perfect set-up for the finale.

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Lost s6 ep 15

Not for the first time this season we are obliged, I would suggest, to admire the sheer bloody-minded courage of showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.  In fact if anything this episode, ‘Across the Sea’, was significantly braver than ‘Ab Aeterno’.  With ‘Lost’ nearly finished the writers chose to set an episode around 2000 years ago and spend most of it on only three characters, none of whom could be described as regulars, and one of whom (played by our old and revered friend Allison Janney) we’ve never seen before.

And in consequence this episode has polarised critical and fan opinion.  The problem, I think, is that we haven’t really been taking Lindelof and Cuse at their word.  Until this episode most of us have been labouring under the misapprehension that at some point ‘Lost’ is going to devote several episodes to list after list of “answers”.  Meantime Darlton have been quietly but persistently saying that (a) character development is more important to them than anything else; and (b) they will answer the questions they regard as essential but, that aside, there will be plenty of unanswered questions come the end of the series.  I think we now have to believe them.

I might be completely wrong here.  But what I’m getting at is this: there are only two episodes to go, albeit the last one will be 150 minutes long, and plenty of character arcs still to be tied up.  So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this episode pretty much wraps up everything we’re going to be told about the backstory and mythology of the island.  Are we going to get any more about the smoke monster, for instance?  Or the origins of Jacob and the Man in Black?  Or why the island needs a Candidate?   In the remaining time I would guess we’ll get a result to the conflict on the island, the appointment of a new guardian, an explanation of the flash-sideways, and some sort of resolution or convergence of the two storylines.  But that aside I’m speculating that we’re pretty much done with answers.  And if I’m right we’re at a momentous stage in a show which has traded on mysteries for its entire run.

So was it any good?  I reckon it was.  It wasn’t in the class of some of the hall-of-famers we’ve had in this season, but nor was it the bust that some advance opinion suggested it was: it was a solid piece of storytelling which, once I accepted that it wasn’t going to be flash-sideways-ing all over the place, won me over.  But even if I’m wrong about my “no more answers” theory we are very much in the end days of ‘Lost’ and, such has been its grip on our imaginations for several years now, that’s quite a big thing to come to terms with.

Lost s6 ep 14

Only four episodes to go after this, counting the final week’s double ep as two.  So there’s an increasing need for ‘Lost’ to get to the point, and it certainly did this week in an episode which – at least in its on-island aspect – barely paused for breath.  It’s Flocke vs Jack and Sawyer, then Jack vs Sawyer, as the question of whether Flocke is a force of evil seemingly gets a final and definitive answer.  But not without what looks like some major bloodshed, as a few big names fall by the wayside.

This leads to what I’m prepared to argue is perhaps the most emotional five minutes or so in the whole existence of ‘Lost’: the deaths on the submarine followed by Hurley – everyman Hurley, Hurley our voice, Hurley who often seems to be the voice of sanity (despite not actually being sane a lot of the time) – breaking down and crying.  It felt like a significant and cathartic moment – these guys have been through a lot, as have we, and one way or another they’re not going to be around for much longer.

I continue to be more intrigued by the flash-sideways than the majority of ‘Lost’ fans, as far as I can discern.  This week Locke vs Jack in an entirely different setting, and confirmation in passing that on-island death doesn’t necessarily mean sideways death.  It’s odd that we seem to regard the flash-sideways as some sort of substitute for the on-island real thing, despite the fact that – as best I can remember – sideways life has been rational, while the island stuff has been supernatural from the start of season 1.  I assume that we’re on our way to a resolution of that conflict pretty soon.  Anyway, a great week for Matthew Fox, Terry O’Quinn, and all of us: this was just about flawless.

Lost s6 ep 13

This episode, ‘The Last Recruit’, wasn’t one of the all-time greats this season has already produced: it wasn’t a ‘Happily Ever After’, or a ‘Dr Linus’, or even an ‘Ab Aeterno’.   But to my mind it was every inch a terrific example of what ‘Lost’ can do.

It certainly answered the criticism that, even in its final season, ‘Lost’ can still take a while to get where it’s supposed to be going.  This was as action-packed an episode as we’ve had for weeks.  In sideways-world we got to see some of our new favourites – Sawyer the cop, Jack the father, Ben the teacher, Desmond the factotum – and in ways which brought their off-island storylines closer together (and, in Sun’s terrified reaction to seeing Locke, further evidence that the two worlds are linked). 

This was reflected in the on-island action: in fact, as ‘Lost’ is now having a week off, there was a definite feeling that the period of everyone shuffling around from team to team has just about come to an end, that battle-lines have been drawn, and that the climactic battle is about to start.  And I still don’t know whose side I’m supposed to be on.  So while this episode fell a little short of all-time classic status there was more than enough to love: it was fast-moving, advanced the storylines, and just about everyone got something to do.  In short it was really, really, really good, and I liked it a lot.

Lost s6 ep 12

I’m genuinely delighted to say that this week we have, as special guest reviewer of ‘Lost’, Unpopcult’s favourite mathematical constant, e.  e has established herself as one of our most perceptive commenters, as well as someone whose advance notice of American shows to be watched or avoided we should probably pay more heed to than we do, as she’s normally right.  So, here’s e on ‘Lost’ episode 12:

There’s a hole in the bottom of the well..

There’s a hole in the bottom of the well..

There’s a hole…there’s a hole…

There’s a hole in the bottom of the well!

Maybe that song is a little too American for Unpopcult readers but darn! if I wasn’t humming that song all morning after watching last night’s episode.

The episode was called “Everybody Loves Hugo”. And you know what? I do. Who can’t love him? He’s unassuming, personable, funny, and unabashedly fills the role of the audience stand-in. He says the things we’re thinking, asks the questions we need asking. So it’s lovely when Hurley gets an episode of his own, where it’s not just about him being useful to others. Instead, it’s about Hurley finding himself.

Admittedly, I did not start watching Lost until last season. I had to google up some back story on Hurley and Libby to figure out what that was all about — but it didn’t diminish my delight one bit in Hurley’s discovery of his Island past. He got the girl, he got his kiss, he got some valuable memories, once again pushing the alternaverse versions of our characters forward towards…what, exactly?

Both good guys and bad guys (if you can call the Widmore family bad guys — him, certainly. She’s more creepy than “bad”) are working at cross purposes, across realities, towards some end point that remains unclear.

I’m guessing that the writers intend to finish the story in the alternaverse rather than islandverse, at least if they are aiming at a satisfactory conclusion to the series where not everybody dies.

And yet, John Locke? That was just…cold.

Did Desmond just off the real alternaLocke? Or did Smokey somehow make it off the island into otherworld while stuck in Locke’s body and likely alternalife? And did Desmond just enact simple justice?

Obviously, being thrown down a well will put a wee damper on your day. But did Desmond take out his snit on an innocent (as previous alternaflashes have hinted at) or on the real villain (beyond Charles W.) of the piece.

Thinking back, I don’t believe he knew that islandLocke was Smokey when he took his Alice-like plunge down the rabbit hole. So maybe he truly believes that John Locke the mild-mannered substitute teacher was the thug who White Rabbitted him.

So, despite all the Hurley sweetness, and the many minutes of the hour devoted to Hugo’s moment in the sun, for me it’s all about Desmond in the end. Did brotha just kill brotha? And if so, what will the upshot be?

Lost s6 ep 11

“What will survive of us is love” – Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb

‘Lost’ is never easy to write about, but rarely as difficult as this week, which felt to me for most of its running time like some sort of vision.  (The hallucinatory effect was probably heightened for me by watching it immediately after this episode of ‘FlashForward’, thus characters were wandering from one timeline to another, and actors from one show to another.)  It was, however, another one for the all-time top 10, right up there with ‘The Constant’; a perfect illustration of how a wonderful episode of ‘Lost’ can balance the now urgent demand to advance the mythology of the show with the need to tell a compelling story.

Desmond (a never-better Henry Ian Cusick) is back on the island, and on being exposed by Charles Widmore to a massive burst of electromagnetism he slips to… where?  At first it looks like his flash-sideways, and in this reality he’s Widmore’s fixer, his high-powered go-to guy, charged with babysitting Charlie on their arrival at LA X.  It turns out that Charlie’s had a near-death vision of intense and perfect love and he wants to share that experience with Desmond.  Which he does.  What then ensues is as jaw-droppingly brilliant a piece of storytelling as we’ve has thus far from ‘Lost’; scarcely a moment is wasted as Desmond goes chasing after the source of his own vision of love.  It’s a search which takes him and us as close to the heart of the secret of ‘Lost’ as we’ve been since the start of season 1.

So where are we now?  Well, Desmond appears to be intimately connected to the fate of the island and to the overarching ‘Lost’ mythology.  (Although perhaps not as intimately as Eloise.)  The flash-sideways are even more complicated that they at first appeared, as it’s now clear that for some characters one timeline is capable of bleeding into the other.  How widespread this is remains to be seen; it might be that it affects everyone and we just haven’t seen it yet.  And, more importantly – in both realities there’s an unfinished narrative.  We always knew that there was something still to be resolved on the island, but now it looks as if the existence of the flash-sideways timeline doesn’t seem to be an end in itself; Desmond has something to do in flash-sideways land, and all of those happy endings aren’t yet endings.  I think.

But what I came away with, in an episode which had too many shivers-down-the-spine moments to count, was a moving and powerful affirmation of the importance of love, whether romantic or not.  There was plenty of the romantic kind this episode: Desmond and Daniel (Widmore!) have visions of people we know them to love, as does Charlie.  We’ve seen other characters (Jack, Locke) in flash-sideways working towards important relationships with people in their lives.  In a show which has become more and more explicitly about the battle between good and evil – even if it isn’t yet clear where many characters stand in that battle – it might just be that love is as potent a force as any.

Lost s6 ep 10

After last week’s jaw-dropping episode ‘Ab Aeterno’, back to what has become the normal format for the final season: the flash-sideways off the island, and on the island(s) the continuing build-up to what one assumes will be the major confrontation to come.  While I enjoyed this episode, I’m bound to say that for me it didn’t work as well as some of the others.  The major problem for me was that, even after six seasons, I’m still a little bit indifferent to Jin and Sun, no matter what timeline they’re in.  So, yes, we got to find out how Jin ended up in the meat locker and, yes, it was again good fun to see a ‘Lost’ bit-part player in an unfamiliar role (hey there, Mikhail!), but at root I’m not sure I care all that much.

The other slight issue I had with this episode is that it all felt just a little bit static: off-island, we got to a point we saw a few episodes ago, albeit by a different route.  Meantime, the on-island action seemed to involve the characters shuffling round a bit, adjusting positions and alliances, running about on the island: all interesting enough for the ‘Lost’ fan but nothing which really felt as if it was advancing the story too much.  Never mind.  In the final few minutes we got to see what The Package was.  As most of us guessed it’s a who rather than a what, and specifically it’s the character just about everyone’s been waiting to see again.  It’s been too long, brother.