March 3, 2010

Lost: "Sundown"

"Welcome back to the circus."

Lost has a problem (I feel like this has been a theme this week).

I don't want to harp on this, because I feel like I already covered this ground quite completely here and to some extent here, but it must be said that as the action on the Island heats up (and it really was quite compelling this week), the alternate timeline dream sequences become all but impossible to bear. In this week's episode, the alternate timeline doesn't even contain a fully-cooked story, instead ending in Sayid's mysterious discovery of Jin trapped in an industrial refrigerator. Since it is unlikely that the "Jin in a fridge" plot is going to be picked up anytime in the near future (or ever, depending on how the show treats the inevitable Kwon family flash episode), the whole thing can't help but feel like an incomplete waste of time. When combined with the fact that we still don't know what the alternate timelines are even supposed to be, let alone mean, yet another episode passes feeling like it only contained 20 minutes of real Lost-like substance.

But what a 20 minutes they were.

After being all but promised a knock-down, drag-out temple showdown for the past few weeks, in this one we were finally granted our release. Sure, that release primarily consisted of bearing witnessing to a murderous rampage headed by our favorite smoke cloud and his newly "en-eviled" (technical term) Iraqi torturer buddy rather than any kind of evenly contested battle, but it was release none the less. In an episode that spent many ponderous minutes on such monumental topics as proper etiquette when escorting your brother's children to the bus and the minutiae of pottery repair, it was nice to spend time on the Island watching an enigmatic Asian businessman be drowned by the resurrected ghost (zombie?) of a fallen friend.

I mean, do these plot lines even compare?

As I (and everyone else on the internet, I'm sure) had surmised after "The Substitute", the game in Lost land at this point is really all about setting the stage for some kind of epic, apocalyptic final conflict. After the events in this one, Not Locke now appears to have his team together, notably consisting of Candidates Sawyer, Sayid, and possibly Kate (there is apparently some debate about whether "Austen" appeared on the lighthouse last week, thus making her a Candidate), though I think with respect to the latter that she is far more likely to serve as a mole then fall to the dark side (see below). Presumably Team Faux Locke will eventually be facing off against Jacob's troops, likely to be lead by Jack and Hurley. Other major players like Ben, Lapidus, the Kwons, and that cultist woman whose name I can never remember still have time to choose their sides. Now all we need is something for all these folks to fight over.

And that's what makes this whole alternate timeline nonsense hurt so very much. In a show with less than half a day of material left to show us, it really doesn't make sense to cut that time period in half to show us things like Sayid fixing a vase in his brother's kitchen. Not when there are wars to be won and ancient evils to be put down. Something's got to give, and for the sake of the show, I very much hope it's soon.

12 hours remain...

Quick Thoughts

Last Stand: Okay, so I've talked about this before, but there can be no doubt at this point that the Lost showrunners have effectively taken on the task of reassembling Stephen King's "The Stand" for the grand finale of the show. The Man in Black (which is an icon and term used throughout "The Stand") has assembled his team of broken and defeated men and women (and Cindy), and is ready to fight Jacob's troops for whatever it is they will be fighting for. Will it be the fate of the Island? The World? Multiple Worlds? I have to say that as a major fan of "The Stand" I am happy to see things building up to such an apocalypse. I just hope the show can deliver on the epic conclusion my overactive imagination is starting to envision. We shall see...

A Mole in the Making: This is my last "Stand" reference, I promise (at least for this week), but it really is worth mentioning Kate's presence on team evil, and how closely it comports with the closing acts of King's magnum opus. In "The Stand", the citizens of the Boulder Free Zone (the "good guys") determine that they need eyes and ears in the camp of their evil counterparts (in Las Vegas). Much of the conflict in the middle and end of the book is shown through the stories of the three spies sent to Las Vegas by the citizens of the Free Zone. Like in "The Stand", we now have what very much appears to be a mole in the Man in Black's camp in Kate. She surely does not seem as broken or as crazy as Not Locke's other followers, and I suspect a good deal of the tension in the coming weeks will stem from Not Locke's sussing out of the traitor in his ranks. No doubt this will also be good fodder for Kate's sometimes lover, Mr. Ford. Which raises a good question...

Where's Sawyer?: As a Chuck fan, I'm all too familiar with the notion of keeping regular cast members out of given episodes in order to control a show's budget, but in a story as serialized as Lost is, the showrunners often don't have the leeway they need when making budget cut decisions of that type. Case in point, even budgetary reasons can't really explain what happened to Sawyer in-between hanging out at "Jacob's" (big quotes around that one) cave and Not Locke's storming the temple. Where is he? Playing with Jacob's scales? Crossing names off the cave wall? More interestingly, what role will he play with respect to Kate's presence on team Emo? Will he save her? Will he out her? These questions could be the source of some of the best conflicts of the middle part of the season, and I would have very much liked to have gotten a jump on them at the end of this one. Oh well, I guess.

Where's Jin?: As I mentioned with respect to Sawyer, budget reasons can often keep fan favorites out of specific episodes. I originally thought that this was the case here with respect to Jin. He should, after all, be with Claire for the action of this episode so his lack of appearance didn't make much, if any, sense, unless he was being held out for budget reasons. Of course, as it turned out, he was the cypher at the end of alternate Sayid's non-story in this one, so he actually did make an appearance in the episode. Why then was he not a part of the temple invasion squad? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Cowardly Linus: Nothing big, but I couldn't help but enjoy Ben's reaction to crazy Sayid in the Fountain Room. After everything Ben had done to make Sayid evil over the past three years, it was interesting to see him take full account of the monster he had helped create. And a wide-eyed Ben backing out of any room is amusing enough in its own right. Well played, Lost.

Dogen's Backstory: So Dogen wasn't a Samurai, he was just a businessman with a sick son who was lured to the Island with promises of medicinal Valhalla. Not altogether unlike the way a lovelorn Benjamin Linus would force the hand of his lady love, Juliet, three years prior. Still, we didn't really get told who or what was "the man" that brought Dogen to the Island. That might just be a hint as to one of the very last tricks Lost has yet to play...

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: Since Ben's claim in Season 2 that he was one of "the good guys" the show has continually flirted with the idea that who we think of as "bad" might just be "good", and vice versa. While the appearance of smokey and his willingness to kill would seem to have settled the issue, it's worth noting that the only evil so far espoused by the Man in Black is ultra violence, and, for the sake of argument, isn't violence against evil itself a good? Said another way, if we were later to learn that Jacob was a sadistic torturer hell bent on the destruction of mankind, wouldn't opposition to him justify ultra violence? I'm not saying that Lost is going to flip this particular script once again, but I am saying that we, the audience, are so used to narrative cliche that we are reflexively referring to the Man in Black's side as evil without much more to go on then his violent acts. It seems to me the identity of "the man" that convinced (coerced?) Dogen to come to the Island is something that should probably inform our understanding of the powers in conflict on the show, and since we didn't get a clear indication in this one as to who that "man" is, it is possible, maybe even probable, that his identity will change the shape of our understanding. Something to think about, in any event.

This Week's Cameo: If the alternate timeline is good for anything, it's for having unexpected faces show up in unexpected places. This week's donation to the Lost veteran character fund: Martin Keamy, last seen terrorizing the Losties with a "dead man's switch" that exploded the freighter and really, probably should have killed Jin in the process. This time he's some kind of loan shark (who still finds time to make Jin's life...problematic) who meets his end (presumably) at the hands of alternate Sayid.

Sayid's Resurrection: It may just be me, but it sure seemed like Sayid's accent (the primary Sayid, not alternate Sayid) was different in this one. Now I know that his portrayor, Naveen Andrews, himself sports a fairly strong British accent, but that hasn't been evident on the show until now. If the accent change is intentional, as I'm almost sure it is at this point, I believe it was designed to show us that the person (thing?) that came back in Sayid's body is not really Sayid at all. Some have guessed that Sayid came back as Jacob, but that hypothesis now seems incredibly unlikely. Instead, Sayid seems to be something else entirely. Whatever he is, he certainly is not happy with the Others, and seems more than happy to be part of Not Locke's merry band.


  1. Just a note: actors (whose names appear before the "guest stars") get paid whether they appear in an episode or not. So, it wouldn't affect the budget of the episode if they used Sawyer or not.

  2. Thanks anonymous,

    It was always my understanding that while they may get paid for an episode in which they don't appear, that their salary was set based on the number of episodes in which they appear. Sawyer for instance might only be contracted to appear in 17 of the shows 19 hours, or something like that. In that way, the show can control the budget from the front end. As I'm not in the industry, however, I fully admit that this has just been my understanding, nothing more.