For examples of stupidity, see Jack Shafer at Slate's response & Salon's write-up. I can understand the critics' not relating to the characters anymore, but not the vitriol directed at the actual narrative concept of parallel universes. Admittedly, you don't see it that much in the mainstream, but it was used in Sliding Doors for crying out loud, which is hardly art-house cinema! If TV critics have their minds blown by this idea, then that says something very sad about the poverty of imagination in television. Does Jack Shafer explode with rage when he reads Phillip K Dick or see the last scene of 25th Hour?
As for me, I wasn't bothered by the parallel reality storyline. Personally, the narrative that grabbed me was the one in 2007 on the Island, but it was nice to revisit with some of the cast members lost in previous seasons and get gentler moments with even the current cast members. There was something strangely moving about seeing Locke & Jack actually connect, after seasons of seeing them argue & both move in douche-ier directions.
And while I don't agree with "Darlton"'s claims that this new season is accessible, I can see what they're getting at. In one timeline, you've got all the sort of sci-fi/fantasy/mystery elements that get the theorists & wonks going. In the other, you've got a return to the character-based soap-opera of the first season and a half.
Of course, each timeline contains both those elements to some extent. But if you hate all the Dharma Initiative/Others stuff, you can enjoy Jack-and-Locke daddy issue theatre!
But I enjoyed both. And it was interesting how the two contrasted. For some reason, the 2004 timeline felt desaturated & washed out, while life itself had a sordid quality. As much as the character of Kate still annoys me, the change from selfish fugitive (who takes a pregnant woman hostage) to take-charge adventurer was a change for the better. The same with Charlie's growth from self-destructive addict to brave martyr. I think you can argue both sides of these people are inter-related (in both realities, Charlie searches out death, but at least in the 2007 reality, he died for something worthwhile), but they show growth.
Wrapping this up now, so onto my comments:
- Love Flocke/Smokey. Terry O'Quinn certainly gets his fair amount of show-off time, but his delivery of "I'm disappointed in all of you" hits several notes at once (sincere disappointment, anger, parental condescension) that most actors would be hard-pressed to match.
- I'm starting to feel like the writers don't know what to do with Sun & Lapidus anymore. It's especially disappointing with Sun, who is probably one of the most complex characters in the show, but she keeps on getting dragged along in other peoples' schemes. My disappointment with Lapidus' treatment is more at the waste of Jeff Fahey's considerable talents.
- Woohoo! John Hawkes! I thought he looked familiar, but it's to his credit that I couldn't place him as Sol Starr, who is not that different a character, but is expressed in such a different way.
- I think the writers have a plan with Man-in-Black & Jacob, but I'm still not completely sure how the survivors' experiences have been shaped by both. I'm guessing all the ghosts have been agents of MIB, except a good portion of their advice has been benign. Whereas Jacob seems friendlier, but some of his assistance in the real world (saving Sayid but not his wife, encouraging Sawyer's hunger for revenge) actually has a darker tone. And why is Smokey active in the Outer Temple when the people of the Inner Temple want to & know how to keep him out?
- Also, what is the relationship between the Dharmaville Others & the Temple Others? Cindy, Zach & Emma were with both, but Alex didn't know about the Temple. Why has Richard's group been camping out in the woods for three years (since they clearly didn't return to Dharmaville) when they could be at the Temple?
- I think criticism of the Oceanic survivor's Jughead plan as selfish is a little harsh. Short-sighted, yes, but bombs don't SINK islands. Also, it's not just that Jack/Kate & Sawyer/Juliet are unhappy. Almost everyone that crashed with them is now dead, as are Faraday & Charlotte & almost all the other Freighties. Plus Rousseau, Alex, Nadia, a large portion of the Others & at least a few of the passengers of Ajira 316 (though that last group the 1977 people didn't know much about). In the face of that, it is hard to remember how the Island has positively effected them.