Friday, April 24, 2009

When "Special" Doesn't Really Mean "Special"

This week was a LOST recap show (translation: filler the producers came up with in order to time the final 4 episodes in line with April/May sweeps). The teasers called it a "special" LOST, which as we all know means "not nearly as special as a regular episode would have been." Way too optimistic, marketing guys. It reminds me of the way the smaller sized candy bars are called the "Fun Size." As a kid that baffled me. In what possible universe is a miniature sized Kit-Kat more fun than a big one?

I did watch the "special" episode, hoping for a new piece of information or two. It was kind of interesting to see the stories of the Oceanic 6 played out chronologically, rather than in a flashback/flashforward format. But the only new info I got out of it was that Charles Widmore definitely was the one who planted the fake 815 crash site. The episode where Miles speaks to the dead man in the restaurant sort of confirmed this, but there was still some debate on the boards about the fact that he could have been a spy collecting info about someone else to give to Widmore. Looks like that particular theory can be laid to rest.

I've also been catching up on podcasts. One of my favorite recent podcasting moments was on the Lost Community when a man from Arizona named Kimball called in. The name and location made me think he was probably LDS, and his comment made me sure that he was - he explained that even though the Losties in 1977 are unable to change the future, they still have free choice or "agency." He compared it to the fact that God already knows what we are going to do, but that doesn't change the fact that we still use our agency to make those choices. I don't know if I agree with him, but I was tickled to hear an LDS perspective about LOST.

The main reason I like the podcasts is all the listener theories. There are some pretty interesting ones out there. One popular one is that the Incident is going to be caused by Miles getting too close to his baby self (remember the Edgar Halliwax video where he sends the rabbit on a trip through time? He warns that if the rabbit interacts with himself in a different timeline, the effects will be disastrous.) The season finale is called "The Incident" so it's probably safe to say we're going to find out if that theory is right pretty soon.

Lots of people are also theorizing about what group Ilana, Cesar and Bram ("Shadow of the statue" folks) belong to. My first thought was Widmore, but we know now that can't be right because they kidnapped Miles in order to ask him not to work for Widmore. It could be Ben, but I agree with those who think they're part of the newly reconstituted Dharma Initiative. A few clues - the producers release interactive online games in between seasons, and during the most recent hiatus the game was all about DI recruitment. It was a series of tests to determine applicants' abilities in all kinds of academic areas (with a cool twist - they leaked cheats so that it was easy to win at all the games if you used them. But then they revealed at the end that they had tracked who used the cheats, and the people who used them weren't accepted into the top groups because of their lack of integrity. Ben definitely would have failed that part!) Then at Comic Con 2008, this video was shown:

The person behind the video camera seems to be Daniel Farraday. Which leads right into next week's episode, "The Variable." The teaser says that Daniel will come clean about what he knows about the Island. All I can say is - it's about time! I can't wait to find out what he's been hiding, and hopefully to see what he did during those years he spend off the Island. The title is interesting too - I'm no scientist, but isn't a variable usually the opposite of a constant? ("The Constant" was the first time travel related episode on LOST, and probably one of the best episodes of the entire show.) With only 4 episodes left in the season, and 21 episodes total for the rest of the show (!) we should have a lot of answers coming soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Like it Hoth

First things first - Miles really is Pierre Chang's son! I was doing a happy dance because for once I guessed right!

I was touched by the scene where Miles realizes that at some point, his dad did love him. The flashbacks were great and tied in well with the theme of father-son issues. I hope there's more redemption for these two in the future. The big question is, why did Lara and Miles leave the Island? I think it will be because of adult Miles - he'll try to warn his dad about the upcoming Purge (which happens sometime in the 1980s or early 90s) and Dr. Chang will force Lara to leave with Miles. He won't be able to explain to her why, since she wouldn't believe him if he told her, so she'll interpret it as him being a jerk. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!

I think Miles' ability is connected to his history on the Island. Maybe he's exposed to electromagnetism and it affects his senses, similar to how Desmond was able to see flashes of the future after the Swan station imploded. I hope we find out soon. It might have something to do with the season finale, which is titled "The Incident." Another theory I've read on the message boards is that Pierre Chang will lose his arm during The Incident, since in some of the Dharma videos from the 80s (where he says he's Marvin Candle or Edgar Hallowax) he appears to have a prosthetic arm. When Hurley talked to Miles about Luke Skywalker losing his hand in his lightsaber fight with Darth Vader, that's immediately what I thought of.

A big point that Arianne reminded me of was that this episode pretty much disproves the theory that Sun couldn't travel back to 1977 with the rest of the Losties on flight 316 because she was on the Island then as a baby. Now that we've seen Miles be in close proximity to his young self, that can't be the reason Sun didn't flash back too. So it's still a mystery why she (and Ben, Ilana, Bram, Frank, etc) didn't go back.

The numbers made a comeback in this episode. I love that Hurley saw the workers stamping 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 on the hatch. The numbers on the microwave read 3:16, referencing Flight 316 and John 3:16 (and 16 is one of the numbers from the hatch.) Miles' mother is going to rent an apartment that's $400 a month, which then gets doubled to $800. Little boy Miles finds the dead body in apartment 4, and the key is hidden beneath a white rabbit (Through the Looking Glass reference) with a number 8 on its ear. Naomi offers Miles 1.6 million dollars to join Widmore's crew. And according to Lostpedia, Miles has 15 piercings on his face in the flashback (I admit it - I didn't actually count them.)

The scene with Naomi at the restaurant pretty much confirmed that Charles Widmore was the one behind the staging of the fake 815 crash site, even though Widmore insists it was Ben who staged it. I guess it's possible that the man Miles "questioned" was delivering information about Ben to Widmore, but if I had to make a bet my money would be on Widmore being the mastermind.

My favorite scenes were the dialogue between Hurley and Miles. Their banter was hilarious and reminded me of the exchanges between Hurley and Charlie in past seasons. Hurley: "You're just jealous my power's better!" Having Hurley "write" The Empire Strikes Back was genius (and explains the title of the episode - I was wondering how Star Wars was going to tie in!)

The biggest mystery for me at this point is the phrase "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" Last episode Ilana and Bram asked Frank Lapidus this question and then knocked him out when he couldn't answer. And Bram asks Miles the same question in the van, then tells him he's playing for the wrong team. It has to be code for something, but what? I think Bram and Ilana are part of a new group that is trying to lay claim to the Island - possibly a new incarnation of the Dharma Initiative. They don't seem to be connected to Ben. What do you all think?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

LOST on Overheard in New York


In Penn Station:

Girl #1: This whole Ben situation is really starting to piss me off.
Girl #2: I know! I just don't know what his deal is.
Girl #1: He called me like twelve times yesterday.
Girl #2 (stopping in the middle of Penn Station): He called you? (pauses for a moment) Oh, you mean Ben your boyfriend, don't you?
Girl #1: As opposed to?
Girl #2: Ben from Lost.
Girl #1: Don't talk to me for an hour, please.

Raise your hand if Ben Linus has ever entered an everyday conversation!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dead is Dead

The title (and Ben's line that it comes from) puzzles me, because everything that happens on LOST seems to indicate that dead is NOT, in fact, dead. People come back all the time, from Charlie to Christian Shephard to Yemi to Locke. So can we discount what Ben said as a lie? The guy is a compulsive liar after all and stretches the truth even when it's not necessary. Or is there some truth to it? Maybe the people we think are alive aren't as alive as we think. (Princess Bride: "I do not think it means what you think it means"?)

There were some pretty big moments in this episode and lots of Island mythology. We saw Ben kidnapping Alex, with the new information that he didn't set out to take her. He was supposed to kill Rousseau but when he realized she had a baby he had mercy on them both and just took Alex. We don't see the merciful side of Ben a lot, but apparently at one point he had one. And it resurfaces when Ben is preparing to shoot Penny Widmore. When young Charlie Hume emerges from the boat (named "Our Mutual Friend" after the Dickens novel Desmond always carried with him) it causes Ben to rethink murdering her just long enough for Desmond to wake up and give him a walloping. I'm so glad Penny is alive! For a minute I thought Ben would be successful and Penny's death would provoke Desmond to go back to the Island too, but I'm glad I was wrong. If no one else ends up happy at the end of the series, I hope Penny and Desmond do.

Funny moment of the night was when Ben tells Sun "what's about to come out of that jungle is something I can't control" expecting the smoke monster...and out walks Locke. What he said is no less true, as he comes to find out.

Another major event in Island mythology was Charles Widmore being banished, apparently for having a daughter (Penny probably) with an "outsider." More Old Testament overtones there. Charles predicted that one day Ben would have to choose between his loyalty to the Island and his love for his daughter.

And the climax of the episode...Ben confronting the smoke monster.

First Ben summons the monster, apparently by letting water go down a drain. (Someone on the forum commented "looks like the SM lives in the u-bend like Moaning Myrtle.") When Ben said he was calling the smoke monster to be "judged" I thought it might be similar to when Eko was killed and the monster revolved around him, with flashes of light and images from his life. It was almost exactly the same, although Ben seemed a lot more scared than Eko did (maybe because he knew what was going to happen?)

The picture above the monster's "vent" appears to be the Egyptian god Anubis being judged by the monster. Guess who else looks like Anubis? Yep - the 4 toed statue.

I am really intrigued by what they're doing w/all the Egyptian references. Is it something about the Island's origins? Or just to indicate that it has been around for a long, long time? If so, could any of the characters have been around for this long - like Richard or Jacob?

The big question for me in this scene is why Ben was allowed to live. It seems the monster decided that it was his fault that Alex was killed. With so much blood on his hands, why wouldn't he be condemned to die? The Island must still have work for him to do. The whole experience reminded me of Saul's conversion in the Bible. It looks like Ben is now a true believer in Locke's authority.

More questions: What is going on with Ilana and Bram? Have they been "infected" like Rousseau's crew? What was Locke doing out in the jungle? Does Ben know how people are resurrected on the Island? Where the heck are Rose, Bernard, and Claire?

Added: I was reading up about Anubis and found this interesting tidbit:

Other Names: Eater of the Dead, the Devourer.

Patron of: destruction of the souls of the wicked.

Appearance: a demon with the head of crocodile, the torso of a leopard and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

Description: Ammit sits beneath the Scales of Justice before the throne of Osiris where she waits for the daily flow of souls to come before Osiris for judgement. During the Judging of the Heart, if the deeds of the soul being judged are found to be more wicked than good, Anubis feeds the soul to Ammit. This results in the total annihilation of the person, and there is no hope of further existence.

Whatever Happened, Happened

Two episodes in one this time since I'm behind. I recovered from a horrific but blessedly short-lived stomach bug just in time to enjoy LOST night yesterday. And enjoy it, I did! But let's back up to last week...

First of all, I've spent way too long thinking about the punctuation in the title. Shouldn't it be "Whatever Happened Happened"? Not "Whatever Happened, Happened"? Seems unnecessary to me. And yes, I am a nerd. This was a great character driven episode, in my opinion one of the best character episodes this season. Evangeline Lilly's acting was phenomenal. I enjoyed the return to the more traditional flashback style for the storyline. It was a bit slower than some episodes this season (almost no answers/development about Island mythology) but a lot of the gaps were filled in from previous episodes, the largest ones being why Kate decided to go back to the Island, and what happened to Aaron. I was so relieved to find out that nothing terrible happened to him (that scene in the grocery store made my heart sink with dread, as I'm sure it did for every parent who was watching). It was no less heart-wrenching though when Kate had to say goodbye. I've always thought of Kate as one of the more selfish characters - everything she does seems to be about self-preservation - so it was satisfying to see her finally do the right thing, even though it caused her great personal pain.

The theme of role reversals continued in this episode. The Losties have all evolved and changed so much that now they are doing things that are exactly the reverse of what we would have expected in season 1. Kate gives up Aaron, and instead of running away from a problem (Claire having disappeared) she's running straight towards it. Sawyer is being a responsible leader and is in a long term, loyal relationship. And most striking of all in this episode, Jack is sitting idly by, waiting for a sign to tell him what his purpose is, having faith that the Island will work things out. It's pretty ironic that by refusing to save Ben, Jack actually created Ben as we know him - since the Others saved him he was forever changed. It reminds me of a quote from Jean de La Fontaine (which I most recently heard quoted on Kung Fu Panda, which gets viewed at least 5 times a week at our house): "A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it." Had Jack agreed to save Ben, he wouldn't have been changed by whatever happened in the Temple and he may have grown up to be a completely different person. But it couldn't have happened that way; whatever happened happened.

I've heard a lot of discussion about the ethics of killing vs. saving Ben as a child. If you could go back in time and kill someone really evil (the example given is usually Hitler as a young boy) would it be moral to do so? In order for it to be ethical, you would have to believe that destiny is set and can't be changed - that Hitler would always grow up to be a dictator and mass murderer and has no chance of growing up to be a normal well adjusted adult. But the problem there is that if destiny can't be changed, that means you won't be able to kill him. If you are able to kill him, then he is also able to grow up with a different outcome, so killing him would not be an ethical decision. Apparently Sayid didn't go through this mental exercise, but I can understand that after all Ben put him through. He's past the point of caring about morals at this point. In any case it's fun to think about. (And for LDS readers, it brings a new twist to the story of Nephi killing Laban.)

I also loved the scene where Miles and Hurley discuss time travel theory and explain how things work on the Island. I felt like the writers had been reading all the blogs and message boards and the whole scene was an effort to answer all those questions about paradox and free will. The way they handled it was very smart, and really funny at the same time.