Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"No, I'm done lying": Lost blog-a-thon, Season 2, episode 18


Synopsis: Hurley starts seeing a "friend" named Dave from his time in the mental institution on the island. Dave tells him this entire experience is a figment of his imagination. Meanwhile, Locke finds himself pushed to the sidelines as Jack, Sayid and Ana Lucia deal with the false Henry Gale.

So a friend of mine from college recently sent along a bunch of in-development scripts from major studios. And one of them was a pretty loathsome horror film about some cooking staff trapped in a mental institution during a power outage. And part of the loathsomeness stemmed from the fact the horrific suffering seemed pointless. But the thing that got me was that the inhabitants of the asylum were monolithical, one-dimensional crazies, capable of absurd evil with no rhyme or reason to their affliction. It acted as if Arkham Asylum were meant as a realistic depiction of mental illness and it was kind of sickening.

So, kudos to this episode for avoiding that. Whatever else you can say about Hurley, Lost's writers and Jorge Garcia have never treated him as less than a whole human being. We see him as a nice guy (in some ways, he's the nicest character in the main cast, a fact which the character of Rose acknowledged in-show) and his mistakes usually end up hurting only himself. Compare that to Charlie, whose sympathetic issues have pushed him into incredibly dark territory in recent episodes this season.

But, you know, I called the main twist really early in. I've seen too many horror/fantasy films that rely on unreliable memory or dreams to know that if no one else directly interacts with a character except for one person, he's a ghost/imaginary friend/alternate personality.

That's not to short Evan Handler's work as Dave. He exudes malevolence, but of a very earthly kind, that of that one asshole friend who sort of gives you an adrenaline rush through his asshole-ness.

So too the character of Hurley and our genuine concern for him keep us interested. And his sort-of-breakdown causes one of the best moments of the episode, when he administers a very public beatdown to a surprised Sawyer.

And for a few moments, the double-bluff that the writers play that this might, for once, actually be all in Hurley's head hold power. But despite the clues (not all of them pointed out by Dave, to be fair, which increases the likelihood of them being true), a St. Elsewhere kind of ending after we've become invested in all these characters would make people worldwide want to destroy their TVs. Even with the extra twist ending at the end.

Frankly, the Hatch plot is much more interesting. I like how Locke is struggling against what seems like fate trying to pull him back to his pre-crash life. The other survivors don't know how dismissive they're being, but the episode really gets his POV across, as he lies on the bed and waits for people to tell him what that gunshot was for.

Grade: B-

Other Comments
  • So, that's Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) as Doctor Burke. I really hope he doesn't twig to the fact Walt's a mutant.
  • And yes, the poster on his office wall looks a lot like the Island. So, points to you, deranged figment of Hurley's imagination!
  • I like that Hurley and Libby's relationship, for all it's gentleness, has a slightly disturbing side. Is she in love with him or in love with fixing him (just like Jack with his ex-wife)?
  • Also, John Locke is really having a bad day. Down to one good leg, then your sense of purpose gets taken away? Harsh.
  • Also, Dave leads Hurley through the wilderness, through a garden, to a cliff and promises Hurley a new world if he just jumps. See, it is this symbolism that stacks the deck too heavily against Dave for us to believe him.
- "God doesn't know how long we've been here, John. He can't see this island any better than the rest of the world can." - "Henry"
- After Libby suggests the survivors will share food of their own accord: "Great plan, Moonbeam, and after that we can sing 'Kumbaya' and do trust falls." - Sawyer
- "Don't you have an adventure to get to? I think Timmy fell down the well over that way." - Great ep for Sawyer quotes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote of the week

"She was silent and I felt for the first time that she was unhappy. This was a revelation to me. I knew that grown-up people were unhappy - when a relation died, for instance, or went bankrupt. At such times they were sure to be unhappy: they had no option: it was the rule, like mourning after a death, like a black margin round the writing paper. (My mother still used it for my father.) They were unhappy to order. But that they should be unhappy in the way that I was, sometimes, because something in my private life, to which perhaps I couldn't give a name, had gone wrong - that hadn't occurred to me." The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Nobody says anything bad about the dead": Lost, Season 2, Episode 17


Synopsis: When Jack leaves Locke and Henry behind in the hatch, the blast doors shut, catching Locke's leg and forcing him to rely on Henry to press the button. Meanwhile, Ana Lucia, Sayid and Charlie find the balloon. Jack and Sawyer play poker. And Locke remembers how his father destroyed his relationship with Helen. It involves his dad faking his own funeral, some laundered money and the mob.

Comments: And then, after that amazing episode with "The Whole Truth", we get a more mixed bag with this one. I don't know if it's the pun in the title or the way the cliffhanger gets squandered or the fact that Locke's daddy issues don't really take any new turns, but this episode falls a little flat for me.

On the plus side, I appreciate the Henry/Locke dynamic that develops, first reluctantly and then blossoming into full-blown trust... until the end. And I also enjoyed the poker game and Jack and Kate's night conversation. We even get some new meta-plot clues (what's that ultraviolet map for? what does the question mark represent? who is dropping supplies?). Finally, the final reveal is well-played. [SPOILER ALERT] The balloon is there, but the grave isn't for Gale's wife. The body buried there belongs to a guy named Henry Gale! [END SPOILERS] Fade out.

On the negative side, the focus on Locke and Henry comes off as Keystone Cops-ish more than claustrophobic. Sure, I buy Locke injuring himself in his eagerness to escape. But stuff like the shelf collapsing... yeesh. I half expected Henry to keep stepping on rakes while he stumbled into the computer room. And Locke's interactions with his father didn't really expand much on the last few episodes. Worst of all, Katey Sagal was wasted, except for that moment at the end during the proposal. Anyone could have said no. But the expression on her face, that mix of pity and sadness, that was great.

I don't mind that the plot-heavy/thriller episodes need to alternate with character development episodes and quieter moments. But when those quieter episodes come up, I want them to actually tell me new things about characters. "Locke is searching for someone who'll stay with him" doesn't cut it.

Grade: B-

Other Comments:
  • When Hurley said that the food in the hatch would only last a month for a single man 5 or 6 episodes ago, I wondered how Desmond and his partner had lasted as long as they did. Nice to know that wasn't an error.
  • So, did all the Lost writers have daddy issues? Because, between Kate, Jack, Sun, and Locke, we already have a lot of explicitly bad fathers. And I'm not even counting the people whose fathers haven't shown up or are absent. And of course, Michael and Walt's relationship... blarg.
  • I became kind of suspicious how Henry knew the numbers after being told once. I've got a pretty good memory, and I can never remember the sequence.
  • Two con men in the Lost backstory. You know Locke's dad has to have run into Sawyer at some point. [Older Mr. K retroactive spoiler: Yup, I kinda called this one right. Emphasis on kinda.]
- Jack: "When I want the guns, I'll get them."
- Anthony: "Two hundred thousand gets you a great honeymoon."
Locke: "I didn't do it for the money"
Anthony: "I guess some maid's going to get a helluva tip."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sonic Weapon Fence actually does make a good name for a band

So that post below, the LOST recap, that is one of several orphans from when I planned to do this whole LOST recap-blog-a-thon, since there wasn't much dedicated coverage, episode-by-episode, on the AV Club or my favorite parts of the interweb.

I didn't follow through with the entire thing, but I did write up maybe five or six more episodes, which will also be posted here over the next couple of weeks.

Because (and I know, I'm burying the lede), I have both finished LOST up through season 5 AND just in time too. Season 6 starts February 2nd, and while I'm unsure if I'll be able to watch that night (it's complicated), I am impatient for the chance to see it.

And so my posting might be a little LOST-centric over the next couple of weeks remaining. I've got a LOST drinking game that I joked about on twitter, along with a couple of thoughts on what LOST means to me and TV going into a new decade. And maybe I'll watch the Rifftrax version of the LOST pilot.

Until then, listen to some Sonic Weapon Fence, who are a pretty good band for a novelty, tv-themed band and who I recommend over Previously on Lost.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Wow, you guys have some real trust issues, don't you?": LOST, season 2, episode 16

"The Whole Truth"
Synopsis: Jin has grown overprotective of Sun following her near-abduction. Sun thinks she is pregnant. In flashback, we learn that Sun was learning English from her former "fiancee" while married to Jin, and that Jin is impotent. Meanwhile, in the present, Locke asks Ana Lucia to interrogate Henry Gale in hopes of finding out if he is an "Other".

Great, another Elizabeth Sarnoff-written episode. Or co-written, I should say. I have fond memories of her work on Deadwood, where she wrote "Amalgamations and Capital" and "Here Was a Man" (among others), in addition to co-producing the entire second season (the strongest season, I'd say).

And her work on "Abandoned" was quite good, finally giving Shannon (Maggie Grace's character) some interesting backstory that wasn't predicated around Boone's obsession with her or another character's tragedy. Of course, that was also the episode that killed off Shannon. So, plot-wise, a bit of a draw.

This season she also wrote "The Hunting Party", which was also good, though not quite as much of a stand-out. It was notable for giving us a Christian Shepard who was right and not responsible for what went wrong.

And now "The Whole Truth". This is an episode obsessed with the way people lie to others and deceive themselves and the difficulties they face in setting things right. Sometimes it can be funny, such as when Hurley gets caught with his private food stash while Sun is trying to covertly take a pregnancy test. Both fail to catch the other's suspicious actions as they try to conceal their own.

But it has much more serious consequences both individually and in the group. Our title for the recap comes from Henry Gale, but it echoes the comment that Libby said to Michael a couple episodes back about Ana Lucia and the rest of the Tailies. If Ana Lucia was complaining earlier about the camp being too trusting, they're now reversing courses, to their detriment.

Everyone's own lies and self-deceptions seem poised to endanger at least three of the survivors by the end. Jin and Sun's story resolves somewhat happily, with Jin accepting both that Sun is pregnant and that she has been faithful to him, whispering in awe that it is a miracle. And the Island is a place for miracles, it's true. On the other hand, that wonderful shot of Sun's lengthening expression as Jin holds her suggests this might just be another lie.

And as for dealing with Henry Gale, we get perhaps the most concrete expression of his possible malignity in this episode, but he is only as effective as he is because everyone else helps him.

Locke and Jack are now locked in mind games with each other. Locke brings Ana Lucia in to interrogate Henry, it seems, as much out of a desire to annoy Jack as to figure this out. And we're not sure if Jack is concerned for what Ana Lucia will do to Henry or what Henry will do to Ana Lucia.

For her part, Ana Lucia decides to resolve this simply, by just getting Henry to draw a map of where the balloon is. She sets out without telling Jack or Locke, presumably so she has an extra bargaining chip to draw Henry out with, or maybe just because she's afraid of Jack & Locke jumping to conclusions.

It makes less sense to me that Ana Lucia's group ends up being Sayid and Charlie. They are all united by their hatred of the Others. But needless to say, Ana Lucia and Sayid have plenty of reasons to distrust each other, while Ana Lucia seems a likely candidate to expose Charlie as the false Other attacker. When she stares at Charlie's profile, I worried that she might recognize the fabric of Charlie's clothes matching that of the cloth used to bind Sun. Instead, she just notices that Charlie's got a gun. Which, given the events of the previous few episodes and the current AWOL status of the gun cache, must certainly bring up some troubling questions for Sayid and Ana Lucia. But they don't get asked yet.

The problem doesn't end up being with the group, though. Because [SPOILER ALERT!] in a really nice final scene, when Locke and Jack decide to be nice to Henry by letting him out for breakfast, he reveals that he drew a map for Ana Lucia and speculates that, if he were one of the Others, he'd just draw a map to a place where the Others would be sure to ambush the survivors and trade for him. And then he asks for milk. FADE OUT.

This episode had a well-balanced mix of character moments and plot advancement. Jin and Sun were really the emotional heart of the episode, but I especially applaud the less-common character combinations that rubbed up against each other in awkward or tense ways. It is really easy to build chemistry or drama out of the same love triangles or friendships. But everyone is still living in the same small space and they have to work together on everything from picnic tables to exploration.

Episode Grade: A-

Other Thoughts
  • I really like the way they establish Jin's own difficulty in, even at this point, understanding what everyone is saying: they blur the English into gibberish. This episode, he basically admits that everyone except Sun is an "other". It's suggested that he's holding onto Sun in part because she's the only one who understands him. What a scary thought, for him and her.
  • I love the way that final moment is shot. It totally eschews the now cliche "look at what the other character is looking at, audience" shot that LOST uses way too much for commercial breaks, opening credits and cliffhangers. Just a brightly-lit, cheery room that we know isn't going to stay cheery for long.
  • Sayid doesn't even want to admit the possibility that Henry is who he says he is. And even Ana Lucia is put off by that. That's not a good sign.
  • It's a nice touch that Bernard and Rose, after being reunited, still have arguments. I'm glad they weren't tempted to let them be boring perfect people and write them out.
  • Geronimo Jackson sighting: Locke looks at their album cover and record while talking with Jack.
  • Speaking of Deadwood, good alternate title for this episode would be "A Lie Agreed Upon".
-"Locke and Jack are only thinking about Jack and Locke." - Ana Lucia
-Sun: [in Korean] "I love you."
Jin: [in English] "I love you."
- "Breakfast is ready! We've got papaya, papaya and papaya." - Charlie