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.

Lost s6 ep 9

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that this episode might divide viewer opinion a bit.  Not fan opinion, though – it’s hard to think of another episode which rewarded loyal Losties with so much unpacking of the mythology of the show.  And I have to say that I absolutely loved it;  partly, perhaps, because of the sheer courageousness of it.  Remember, this show is broadcast in prime time on a major US network.  Yet for most of its length it was essentially a kind of costume drama, with huge chunks of subtitled dialogue, and featuring a character who, while clearly important, has spent a fair amount of time on the periphery of the show.  That takes an almost foolhardy amount of confidence, or just balls

What we also got was a quite sensational performance from Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, rarely off the screen and quite different from the subtle, enigmatic figure we’ve seen before.  On top of that, though, there was pretty much everything a ‘Lost’ fan would want to see: The Black Rock, the statue, the smoke monster, Richard’s immortality, Jacob vs. the Man in Black, predestination vs. free will, and a great big dollop of religion which appealed to – or at least resonated with – the cradle Catholic in me.  And that was all done with pace, tension, and wit.  Another one for the all-time list, I’d say.

Lost s6 ep 8

It’s a bit of a responsibility blogging Lost.  It’s the last season, it’s the show the entire internet is talking about, and it’s LOST, for crying out loud.  Poor Jed has shouldered the burden manfully for a while now so I’m giving him a break for a week and taking my turn with this episode all about Mr James Ford aka Sawyer aka Jim LaFleur.

In the “normal” Lost universe, we first got to know Sawyer as a conman; a lying liar who’s very good at telling lies.  I didn’t much like that Sawyer.  Sure, he was almost parodically good-looking with that face and those muscles, but he was also mean and cruel, and I don’t like mean and cruel.  As time wore on, or,  more accurately, went backwards, he kept the face and the muscles but lost some of the mean and the cruel.  And I liked him so much more; hey, during his time as Jim LaFleur, happy, loved-up Dharma Security Chief, I liked him a lot.  But, despite how great happy, loved-up LaFleur was, even he was part of a con – he was based on lies, too. 

And that seems to be Sawyer’s curse, whatever universe he’s in.  In his flash-sideways, he’s not a criminal, but he’s still a liar.  In an idea so simple it’s genius, he’s chosen the opposite path; he’s still a con artist, but he’s one on the other side of the law.  “Surprise!” 

So he’s LaFleur again, just not happy and not loved-up.  In another clever touch, he’s partnered with the only other character who can match him snark for snark, and in a nod to his legions of swooning fans, he shows a lot of skin, has a lot of sex, and does a lot of smouldering.  Something for everyone, then. 

Oddly, though, the episode has had mixed reactions from the fandom.  Me?  I enjoyed it. The off-island story wasn’t fast-moving, but Josh Holloway twinkled and glowered his way through it with considerable charm and charisma, and it was packed with plenty of nostalgic references to past seasons –  the weakest of which was the shoe-horned- in reappearance of a certain superfluous  character who served little purpose in her previous incarnation and was purely a plot device in this one (which reminds me – Kate was in it too), but never mind.  Ok, all the shirtlessness and whatnot was deeply cheesy, but thanks to those “puppy-dog eyes”, they just about carried it off.

The on-island story wasn’t too pacy either; it didn’t tell us much that we didn’t know, and I’m bored with Crazy Claire and Soporific Sayid, but the plot simmered very nicely, and, for once, I was cheering on Sawyer’s double/triple/quadruple-crossing.  It’s about time the old guys fighting over the island – yeah, all of you, dead or alive, in submarines or on land – got a taste of their own medicine.  This Sawyer might still be a liar, but he’s not the same one we started off with all those seasons ago.  Con or not, LaFleur’s in there, somewhere, and he’s awesome.

Lost s6 ep 7

Okay, it might all have been planned from episode 1.  But luck can play a part as well.  “Things I am grateful for”, exec producer Damon Lindelof Tweeted this week, “Alfredo Sauce. My Waterpik. And last but not least, Michael Emerson”.  Emerson, of course, was originally cast to play Ben Linus for a handful of episodes only.  But not only has it become the Emmy-capturing part of a lifetime for Emerson, Ben Linus has become utterly integral to ‘Lost’: lucky for Darlton, lucky for Emerson, lucky for us.

And this was his finest hour.  In what was comfortably the best episode of the season so far – and which will, one suspects, go into the all-time top 10 of many ‘Lost’ fans – Emerson gave us as many different facets of Benjamin Linus as we could wish for, and still left us guessing.

This week there was a clear and explicit link between the flash-sideways and the on-island action, both past and present.  We got our first sight of Dr Ben Linus, history teacher, a few episodes ago, and we weren’t disappointed with the fleshed-out portrayal we got here: a conscientious and committed teacher, slightly fussy, devoted to his ailing father, disappointed with his stalled career.  Given a chance to satisfy his ambition in a somewhat squalid way – and a way which would involve a substantial betrayal – what will Dr Linus do?

Back on the island we were reminded more than once of what Ben’s ambition had brought him there, as he was unmasked as Jacob’s killer and forced to dig his own grave (I am so not warming to Ilana, BTW), before being offered freedom by Flocke: and, once again, a major choice.  And after last week, when we saw Sayid apparently rejecting redemption, it was fascinating to see Ben grapple – in two timelines – with the same possibility.

What gave it emotional depth, of course, was Michael Emerson’s quite astonishing performance.  In the past I’ve enjoyed every moment of Emerson’s measured, wry intensity; here he added shades of pathos (“He’s the only one who’ll have me”) on the island, and compassion and empathy off it, resulting in as good an acting performance as we’ve yet had from anyone in ‘Lost’.  Even now, though, I find myself wondering whether Ben was being sincere when he made his on-island choice, or whether he’s up to something.

So richly compelling were the Linus plots that they ran the risk of overwhelming the rest of the episode, but there were no makeweight plotlines this week: Jack’s apparent retreat from rationality; more about the candidates; Richard’s immortality; and a terrific Jack/Richard scene in The Black Rock which brought it all together.  And, in the final seconds, the return of a very big name indeed to the island.  There isn’t that long to go now for ‘Lost’, and on the evidence of last week and this the writers are starting to move through the gears.  This, though, was Michael Emerson’s week.

Lost s6 ep 6

I keep coming back to this, but as far as I’m concerned every episode of ‘Lost’, at this stage in its lifespan, is judged by two criteria: as a piece of storytelling in itself, and as a contribution to the ultimate resolution, now no more than a few episodes away.

This Sayid-centric episode, I’m pleased to say, was a supreme example of both.  I’m more and more drawn to the idea that the off-island flash-sideways are in fact part of an extended epilogue to what’s happening on it: so Sayid gets to see the love of his life, Dogen’s son lives, Kate escapes, and so on.  (Yes, I know there are flaws in this, but there’s still plenty of time to go.)  And what this flash-sideways also seemed to confirm is that sometimes you can change your destiny, but sometimes it is what it is: Sayid might be a good or a bad man, but he’s also a killer, and an excellent one at that.

On the island there was a palpable and mounting sense of dread as Dogen charged Sayid with killing Flocke (I understand that Un-Locke is now also out there as a suggested name) and the inhabitants of the temple were faced with a stark choice, with the smoke monster held in reserve to convince stragglers.  Terry O’Quinn is just bringing the screen alive at the moment,  but it’s worth saying that in this episode Naveen Andrews as Sayid matched him stride for stride.  And feral Claire, sad, unsettling, and creepy in turn, is turning into an unexpectedly key player in the show’s final hours.

So by the end it looks as if we might have seen the last of John and Yoko, Flocke’s got himself a posse, and off-island Sayid just can’t stop stumbling across other off-island cast-members.  Next week: Ben as a teacher!  It should be good,  but it’ll need to go some to match this week.

Lost s6 ep 5

“Very old-skool”, observed Hurley to Jack, as they went trudging across the island again.  “Trekking through the jungle on our way to do something we don’t quite understand…”.  Indeed.  I don’t really want to think about the possibility that at this late stage the writers are still playing for time.  So I’m somewhere in the middle on this episode, I think. 

Firstly, it was good to see Matthew Fox – who was, after all, the nominal star of this show when it started – being given something to do.  Fox has been more or less openly phoning his performances in for a season or two but in this episode he looked interested again, and it’s as good a Jack-centric episode as we’ve had in a while.

I’m not sure what I made of it all, though.  It was written and directed by the Lindelof/Cuse/Bender top team, so it plainly wasn’t meant to be throwaway.  And the quote I started with – as meta a moment as we’ve had in the whole ‘Lost’ run – was intended, I would imagine, to reassure everyone that Darlton still know exactly what they’re doing.  But it seemed at times that this episode was doing little more than reinforcing what we’ve already seen this season.  So, for example, yes the names, yes the numbers, yes Jacob was involved in bringing people to the island – we know all that, so how much extra interest is there in seeing Jack find it out? 

As a piece of storytelling, though, the rest of the episode passed muster.  Claire-as-Rousseau was genuinely unsettling, as was the appearance of her “friend” right at the end.  And Jack’s flash-sideways continued what seems to be a major theme of the characters finding a measure of post-Oceanic redemption, while throwing in an entertaining encounter with an island figure in a different context.  I’m still finding the off-island stories intriguing, in particular the occasional hints that flash-sideways characters have vestigial memories of what happened after the crash:  Jack pensively examining his appendectomy scar, for instance.  I assume that there’s a grand plan in place to link these stories with each other and with the mythology, and I’m enjoying the process of getting there.

Perhaps expectation levels are a bit too high (as Damon Lindelof has suggested this week).  Everything still seems to be on course: more bad stuff is about to happen on the island, off-island there’s a lot going on.  A cautious thumbs-up.

Lost s6 ep 4

Was this what we’ve been waiting for?  Hell, yes!  After last week’s let down we needed an episode to convince us that we’re now properly on the final lap, and that’s what we got.  (Incidentally, the reaction to last week’s episode has verged on the hysterical in some places: I still stick to my view that it wasn’t that bad, just absolutely not what we needed or wanted at this stage in the game.  Anyway.)

This week (‘The Substitute’) it’s all about the several Lockes now running around, apart from the dead one.  I understand that convention requires us to call the Locke on the island either Flocke (Fake-Locke) or the Locke-ness Monster.  I’m going with Flocke, and there was a wonderful smoke-monster-cam shot as he drifted through the jungle looking for – well, Sawyer, as it happened, and in his underwear at that.  And off we go, with torches and stuff, into what looks like it might be a key piece of ‘Lost’ mythology.  Meantime, the dead Locke is being buried – with a terrific eulogy from Ben, of course –  and there’s yet another new character for us to assimilate into our ‘Lost’ worldview.  Creepy kid, though.

But this week the flash-sideways was at least as compelling, with Locke back from Australia into a world which was recogniseable, yet significantly different from the one we’ve previously seen him in.  Far too much going on here for me even to try and pick it apart – if you look around you’ll find, for instance, details of the photos on Locke’s desk.  But it’s clear that in this version of reality there are some fairly big changes; it’s also clear that, no matter how history was reset, these characters are going to keep rubbing up against each other.  Terry O’Quinn got yet another opportunity to demonstrate just how good an actor he is, and this Locke – in love, slightly more relaxed, determined yet accepting of his fate – was just as intriguing and compelling as the others.  With a terrific dose of fun, in the shape of the European history teacher we got to see at the end, this was top-notch ‘Lost’.