March 10, 2010

Lost: "Dr. Linus"

"You had me fooled with the sweater vest. You are a killer."

I'm going to keep the general overview short for this one.

I didn't like it. Not at all.

The reasons I didn't like it have been exhaustively documented here, here, and here, but suffice it to say, there was almost nothing redeeming about this episode. The alternate timeline plot was a too-cute-by-half attempt to mirror the scenario Ben was faced with back in Season 4, only this time at a Los Angeles area high school. The fact that the figurative "gun to Alex's head" was, this time, barely more than a water pistol (more on that below), didn't seem to negatively impact the Lost writers, however, who apparently thought they were being quite clever in their scenario design.

Now, all that being said, the alternate timeline didn't seem so bad in this episode. Of course, that might have been because the action on the Island was so boring that trips to the alternate timeline seemed like a blessed reprieve from the tedium.

I am, of course, being too harsh...but not by much.

In this, the final season of Lost, the writers apparently thought it would be interesting for us to observe an entire hour of Ben being called out for killing Jacob only to be inexplicably forgiven at the end, thus leading us to a post-episode state that almost exactly mirrored the state of the characters prior to the episode's events. Now that's a good use of time. In the "B" plot (or the "C" plot depending on how you want to treat the alternate timeline) we then got yet another episode of the "Jack and Hurley Power Hour". Now with dynamite! It was nice to see Richard again, but answers have yet to be forthcoming even from our favorite immortal slave.

So it is with mild sadness but overall indifference that I bid adieu to "Dr. Linus." It's sad only because Ben episodes used to be something that I truly looked forward to. Now they are, like so many other aspects of Lost, simply hollow echoes of happier days. Here's hoping for nothing but Locke episodes from here on out.

11 hours remain...

Quick Thoughts

Touched by an Angel: So the scene with Richard Alpert and Jack was certainly interesting, but it was supposed to be tense right? Well, they kind of gave away the game by having Richard mention Jacob's touch, didn't they? I mean, if Richard can't commit suicide because Jacob touched him, then we know (from the events of last season's finale) that Jack can't commit suicide either. Now, I suppose Jack doesn't realize that (because he doesn't know that Jacob handed him a candy bar way back when), but still. There can't be any tension when we know what we know right?

Also, the whole Jacob's touch thing raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Does it mean that the candidates (whom Jacob touched) can't age? How then did young Kate and young Sawyer grow up to be the strapping and buxom young adults that they became? Or does Jacob's power "lock" someone in to their ideal age (late 20s/early 30s) for all eternity? And what of Michael? Since Michael was the only character on the show whom we saw share Richard's "no suicides" curse, it is safe to assume he was at one point touched by Jacob? Further, since the "no suicides" curse is implied to be a manifestation of Jacob's gift, what then are we to make of the fact that it was Christian Sheppard, not Jacob, who seemed to be shepherding (pun firmly intended) Michael about his appointed duties back in Season 4? That means that Christian was a stand-in for Jacob in Michael's plotline, but a stand-in for the Man in Black in Claire's plotline. Who or what is Christian?

Well, at least Lost still gives us these fun mental exercises, even if I am somewhat less than convinced that the show will ever adequately address them.

Diamonds in the Sand: Okay, so despite all my negative comments, I laughed out loud not once, but twice at this one, both times at references to my favorite of Lost's many season 3 missteps: Nikki and Paolo. The fact that Miles communed with my favorite misplaced international diamond thieves while standing in the Oceanic graveyard (How much fun would an episode where Miles simply talks with all of the survivors who died over the course of the series be by the way? Oh the stories they would tell.) was funny enough, but the blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of Miles carefully considering one of the stolen diamonds in the final montage put me over the edge. Good show, Lost. I hope Miles gets to keep the money.

Slow motion Reunion: Just an aside, but how many slow motion reunions featuring some portion of the cast coming around that small tuft of bushes on Oceanic beach have we been treated to over the course of the series? 8? 9? This episode even featured some of the same dynamics as years past: Now playing the role of estranged outsider, pioneered by the lovely Juliet, please welcome Richard Alpert! The lack of people on the beach does serve as a constant reminder of just how many people have died over the course of the series, though. What used to be a scene filled with extras (the other, unnamed survivors of Oceanic Flight 815), now is populated by but a handful.

The Unused Triumverate: When the female Jacobian cultist took Ben off to dig his own grave, was I the only one left looking at the remaining beach dwellers, Sun, Lapidus, and Miles, and thinking: "Look, it's the three most underserved characters in the history of the show." I mean, Libby had a better character arc then either Lapidus or Miles and that's saying something.

Broken Scenario: As I mentioned above, I have no doubt that the Lost writers thought they were being quite clever in making Ben's alternate scenario into an exact mirror of his confrontation with Keamy in Season 4, but they failed in the execution. In this episode, Ben makes a play for power by threatening to blackmail his school's principal. The principal responds by threatening to withhold (or presumably write a negative version of) a letter of recommendation for Ben's favorite student, Alex Rosseau, thus destroying her young life. This whole situation was designed to present Ben with the same decision he faced in Season 4: Power or Alex. However, as we find out at the end of the episode, the principal eventually does write Alex a letter of recommendation and Ben is presumed to have backed down. Why?

Once the principal has written his letter, he has no leverage over Ben. Writing the letter is the equivalent of Keamy letting Alex run free in the jungle before then asking Ben to come out of New Otherton. Why wouldn't Ben simply blackmail the principal after Alex is "free?" Some might suggest that the principal could still contact Yale even after he gave his letter of recommendation, but once Alex is accepted (or attending the school) I would think that ship would have sailed. Surely a man as smart as Ben would know this. Thus, the decision would be an easy one: back-down now, but take the principal out later. This failure in scenario design completely upends the meaning of the alternate timeline plot. It's easy enough to see what the writers were attempting to get at, but by failing to put together a competent scenario, we are left wondering if alternate timeline Ben is simply a stupider version of the Ben we've come to know.

French Connection: Maybe it was just me, but did it bother anyone else that Alex Rosseau was speaking English in this one? Presuming she was raised by her mother, why would she not be speaking French (or at least sounding a bit more like English was her second language). Seems like a missed opportunity to have some more fun with the whole "butterfly effect" question.

The Widmore Effect: If there was anything that was nice to see in this episode, it was the last second "L O S T" reveal of one Mr. Charles Widmore. Despite being a significant presence in the middle seasons of the show, Mr. Widmore, I was afraid, would be forgotten before all was said and done, even after I guessed that he was the individual coming to the Island in my review of "The Lighthouse". Like I said in my comments on Jack and Hurley's visit to the survivors' old cave in that one, I'm just happy to see some of the older plotlines get featured at this point in the final season. Every question may not get answered, but at least they aren't forgotten.

Missing in Action: Not much to add here except to note that this was another week where we were left wondering just what happened to Sawyer and Jin over the course of the last few episodes. Makes their absence in last week's episode seem all the stranger.

This Week's Cameo: In this week's episode we got to spend a little extra time with our favorite exploded high-school scientist: Artz. Of course he was substantially less exploded in this one, which made him substantially less interesting. Go figure. Special mention also goes to William Atherton, aka "that guy", who many of you may know from his memorable stints as various forms of annoying government/media administrator in 80s classics Ghostbusters, Real Genius, and Die Hard. He may be type cast, but he plays that type well.

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