“Whatever Happened, Happened”
April 1st, 2009
[I'm still technically on a blogging hiatus (hence, if you were wondering, my lack of coverage of Chuck, or HIMYM, or the season premieres of Greek and My Boys), but I learned my lesson last year when it comes to Lost - when I went back to revisit past reviews, I found that I hadn't reviewed "The Constant," and that fact still haunts me to this day. As a result, Lost is one show I want to consistently recap, even if doing so will become more challenging over the next couple of weeks as I prepare/participate in/recover from my trip to Los Angeles.]
“Whatever Happened, Happened” is an odd episode in the sense that it is most definitely eventful in terms of its on-island material, certainly one that I couldn’t resist blogging about, as the fallout from last week’s episode becomes a struggle between life and death, between right and wrong, between past and present, but its off island material (and much of its subtext within the main storyline) surrounds one of the show’s more consistently weak elements, a love triangle that has turned into a square without an uptick in real interest. It’s an unorthodox episode for Lindelof and Cuse to tackle themselves, at least on the surface.
Very quickly, though, we realize that this episode isn’t about Kate’s relationship with Jack, or Kate’s relationship with Sawyer, but actually about Kate. It’s the first time in a long time that she has emerged as a character in her own right, less interested in discovering who she was or even who she is, and discovering instead what role she is supposed to be playing. Too often, Kate has been a foil and not a real character, and when you really consider it she hasn’t had a substantial or effective episode in a long time.
This one isn’t perfect, but with Lindelof and Cuse at the helm we get a couple of tantalizing hints, a predictable but well executed “flash” for Ms. Austen, and a compelling if not groundbreaking metaconversation about time travel – I’ll take that.
This will, however, be more brief than usual, but I want to start off with my favourite part of the episode, Jack’s refusal to help Ben. It isn’t that it is surprising, but rather that Jack actually does have logic on his side: letting Ben die seems like the immoral if quite sane thing to do, especially when he couches it in the terms of purpose, one of the key questions of the episode. He tells Kate that, last time he saved Ben’s life when he was in a position to do so, it was for Kate; now, that purpose doesn’t hold its weight anymore, and he’s left with no imperative. Jack may not know why he’s back on the island, but he also has been so deep into an identity crisis, turning to drugs and alcohol before any sort of proactive solution, that you get the feeling he’s waiting out for that epiphany that might not be coming.
For Kate, however, her purpose is more clear: as we learn through her flashbacks, a collection of visits with Cassidy (Kim Dickens) and his daughter, Clementine, wherein we learn that Kate had a confidante about whom she could discuss the truth about what happened on the island, and we see how a sudden awareness of the transcience of her arrangement as Aaron’s fake mother is like a ticking time bomb, and that the only way she can stop it is to find his mother. It’s not the most graceful of transitions, and there’s no surprises: leaving Aaron with his grandmother was not some sort of terrible tragedy, but rather a moment of self-awareness and realization, an actual epiphany in the form of a good samaritan with Claire’s long blonde hair.
It works, though, for two reasons. The first is that this is the most entertaining Kate has been in a long time: there were real consequences, and compared to what we saw of her with “Eggtown” (which never quite connected) or her other quasi-flashforward in Season Four there was also a sense of urgency. Kate has never had personal urgency, always usually caught between two men or positioned between two options. Here, while she was certainly positioned between the island and dry land as all of the Oceanic Six were, she was more aware of her own role, independent of Jack and independent to a degree of Sawyer. Her realization that she needed Aaron, having lost Sawyer and feeling distance from Jack, and that while selfish it was something she had to do in order to survive to this point, just as giving Aaron to his grandmother was something else she had to do.
The other reason is that we got some really interesting tidbits throughout, courtesy of the characters with weaved in and out of Kate’s story both in 1997 and 2004-2007. I was particularly fascinated by the notion that Sawyer jumped not to save everyone else but rather to save himself from the real world. In a sense there’s some logic in that: we knew beforehand that Sawyer was not as desperate to leave the island as everyone else, and I like how we realize that Sawyer is now in precisely the same position; while everyone else is focused on leaving or solving problems, Sawyer has created a nice life for himself with Juliet, having become more mature, and going back now (daughter or no daughter) isn’t in his plan. Lindelof and Cuse did a good job of making Kate’s storyline not just about her own existential crisis, but engaging with some questions about the role of other characters, Jack and Sawyer in particular.
It’s clear that Lindelof and Cuse have a better touch with the love square than anyone else, because it worked really well here: Kate’s decision to try to save Ben creates the right moment of bonding for Kate and Juliet, each with their own reasons for taking part, and Sawyer’s decision to help her (showing sympathy for a child) is designed to give him a more human quality to fit with his newfound maturity. Kate and Sawyer’s talk in the jungle, about Clementine and their inability to have ever had a future together, was mature and simply stated: not a dramatic scene filled with hysterics, but a grownup conversation. It’s a smart decision that helped keep that part of the episode balance, and I thought the Jack/Juliet bathroom sequence was similarly effective at getting the point across: Juliet is settled, Jack is still a wreck beard or no beard, and she’s not willing to let that jeopardize simple morals and ethics.
The on-island drama got plenty of mileage, albeit simple or shrouded in secrecy. The dialogue between Hurley and Miles showed that they want to clarify some things at this stage of the game, and while Hurley was slow on the uptake Miles did a pretty good job: the basic idea is that they are all able to die since this is their present, like they’re almost rewriting history in its newfound non-linearity, whereas people who are living in their past (like Ben) can’t die because then they can’t be living in the present. These were the right two characters for the discussion, but the episode didn’t end up introducing much new to the theory, so we still need to see how they use this discussion (Come back, Faraday!).
The other side of the coin was Ben’s transfer over to the Others, and eventually Ben’s reawakening in the world of the living in 2007. I was so prepared for a Love Square Drama episode that I was shocked to hear Juliet’s suggestion, and while I still don’t quite understand her logic (does she know about their temples and smoke monsters?) it was a smart move to keep the episode from feeling too claustrophobic with Kate and our regulars. We still don’t know the fate of Sayid following the shooting, but what we saw (or heard) of the Others was most interesting – I missed the first name mentioned, but we know that Charles Widmore is still on the island, so the idea of Widmore having been the one-time leader of the Others seems to ring true with what we’ve seen and heard thus far.
It also properly transitions into the next episode: one of the big problems with episodes so focused on individual characters in the wake of the really strong period with “316,” “…Bentham” and “Lafleur” was that they would feel like we’re sitting around waiting for things to happen, but this one moved things along at a good pace while transitioning beautifully from Richard carrying Ben into something that appears like a temple and then Ben waking up in 2007. It was damn effective, and considering that we’re about to spend some more time with Ben next week it’s also a really intelligent move for the series.
And overall, it was just a more intelligent way of handling a Kate story – this is the closest Evangeline Lilly has had to an honest to goodness Emmy submission in a while, based not in sheer melodrama but in some complicated emotions and emotional maturity. When she was sitting with Roger, and she is asked if she has a child and answers no, you feel for Kate in a way I don’t know I’ve felt for her in a long time, at least since the first season. No, a Kate episode is never going to be as good as a Locke episode, or a Ben episode, but nevertheless it feels as if the show, as with Kate herself as a character, has more carefully crafted justification for her continuing role in the series.
- It’s hard not to enjoy pretty much all of Hurley and Miles’ chat, from Hurley’s Back to the Future theory to Miles’ exasperated reactions. I think that the question Hurley asks, about why Ben didn’t recognize Sayid, is important but also kind of answered at episode’s end when Richard indicates that Ben will “remember none of it – he will be ‘one of us.’” It’s not entirely clear what he means by this, but it seems like this is the loophole involved, and some speculation I saw on Twitter about the smoke monster being involved feels right to me.
- The current loose end of the entire narrative is Faraday – while we have some sense of where Sayid might be going, and know Sun and Lapidus were last seen with Christian, there is very little to know for sure about when Faraday could be found, and how he could find his way back into the series.
- Interesting that we’re returning to this idea of selfishness, and Jack and Sawyer’s role reversal: the indication is that Jack is now the one being selfish, and that’s going to be interesting when we focus our spotlight on Jack a bit more in the future.