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Season Premiere: Lost – “LA X”

“LA X”

February 2nd, 2010

“Nothing is Irreversible.”

To say that I am excited about the final season of Lost is an understatement, but it doesn’t tell the entire story.

I was excited, for instance, for the final season of Battlestar Galactica, but that season had clear expectations in terms of dealing with the identities of the final five Cylons, and was divided into two halves so as to stretch it out further. With Lost, there is no such clarity, as the show could be headed in any bloody direction we could imagine, and it will be completely over in only a few short months. And this is a show that I started watching on day one, that I remained devoted to throughout its run, and that was an important part of my transition into TV criticism.

So “LA X” is the culmination of a six-year journey, and my only hope going into the premiere was that it would feel like the beginning of the end without feeling like the end of the beginning, that it would seem like it was the same show that came before while clearly marching towards a conclusion.

And what we got was an episode of television that turns the show’s world upside down while simultaneously fitting pieces together to work towards that conclusion, and by balancing the two almost to perfection Lindelof and Cuse have made this just as exciting and eventful as I hoped it would be, all while making me even more confused than I was before. It starts a season that promises to probe the above question in terms of an abstract impression of these characters and the journey they have taken on our television screens, a ballsy move that promises another year of complex but precise television.

Welcome back, Lost – we missed you.

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Lost – “Follow the Leader”

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“Follow the Leader”

May 6th, 2009

There is something very jarring about “Follow the Leader,” which isn’t really that surprising. As, essentially, the season’s penultimate episode before next week’s two-hour finale, it was bound to be a transition episode, but in the second half of this season it felt like a more substantial transition than we’re used to. The show has been doing a lot more traditional episodes in the back end: Sayid, Ben, Miles and to a certain extent Faraday all had quite simple episodes that relied on the show’s old flashback structure to deliver character pieces for their individual focuses.

This week’s episode didn’t do anything even close to this, in many ways proving one of the least connective episodes in quite some time. The episode was almost entirely without a key theme, and ended with a cliffhanger that was less a huge shock than it was a subtle ramping up of tension. Episodes that only move pieces around are not that uncommon in this series or any other serial drama, but this one in particular felt really vague and distant: this isn’t to say that it was a bad episode, but rather that the big picture never really became any more focused as time went on.

If I had to draw attention to one element of the episode that perhaps explains this, I’ll point to Richard Alpert, who was the source of almost every cut between past and present. It’s no coincidence that this character unaffected by the flow of time would be the one constant in these two stories, and the one man who has always remained an unsolvable enigma that, even with a few clues dropped here and there, has never become more focused in his own right. He also sits in a unique position as it relates to the episode’s title: he’s never actually been the leader, always remaining nothing but the advisor, and it raises important questions about his role in this legacy.

And yet it doesn’t answer any of them, or really any of the questions we have: rather, it puts all the pieces into place for a finale that might get around to some of those pesky questions.

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Lost – “Some Like it Hoth”

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“Some Like it Hoth”

April 15th, 2009

There are many things that make “Some Like it Hoth” seem almost nostalgic. First off, it’s perhaps the most simple flashback episode we’ve seen since the second season. And second, said flashbacks felt like they should have come as part of the fourth season, considering that Miles was first introduced there without explanation and that the producers have said they would have liked to have told this story if not for the season being shortened. As a result, “Some Like it Hoth” can’t help but feel like a smaller story against the larger episodes of the year thus far.

At the same time, though, I watched this on the plane on the way back from California, and it was a pleasant surprise: while it was certainly small, it showed that Lost has perfected these particular episodes. The way in which it handles the episode’s smaller moments show both that the series is operating in a good place right now, and that they know how to keep an episode light on mythology from becoming boring with just the right comic touches.

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Lost – “Whatever Happened, Happened”

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“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.

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Lost – “He’s Our You”

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“He’s Our You”

March 25th, 2009

When “316” first aired, it became immediately clear the way in which the rest of the season would unfold, the stories of how the Oceanic Six made their way onto that airplane serving as a new mystery, small but structurally valuable. In a couple of instances, there’s some really important character-driven reasons we’ve yet to uncover (See: Kate), or events which give us reason to be fearful (see: Ben).

But our question for Sayid has little to do with his agency, considering he was led onto the plane in handcuffs: Sayid swore he would not have anything to do with Ben, and whatever got him onto that plane was either something immensely powerful or something wonderfully manipulative. The mystery for Sayid was much less how he got on that plane, since it was clearly not in his control, but rather what he came back for, the same question that at one point Sawyer asks Kate point blank.

That’s ultimately the more interesting question, which makes “He’s Our You” much more about the eventual answer we receive than about anything we get in the meantime. While I find the return to an older style of flashback almost refreshing, a welcome breather after a lot of breakneck episodes as of late, nonetheless we spend a lot of time confirming what we had already presumed before. The value of the episode, then, is in the 1970s, where we see what happens when a man so averse to change decides not to trust anyone else’s word, not to allow anyone the ability to betray him, and to take advantage of an opportunity even when he feels destiny is starting him in the face.

And for the episode’s ending alone, it was all worth it.

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Lost – “Namaste”

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“Namaste”

March 18th, 2009

At the very beginning of Lost’s first season, orientation was a common relationship for all of our characters: all of them had their own baggage, their own identities, but all of them had in common that struggle to reorient their lives in such a way as to fit into this new island structure. We see Jack trying to associate his pre-island struggles with his father and with medicine with his new role as a leader, to uneven success, just as we see Kate come to terms with her crimes and her culpability in the wake of what is essentially a fresh start. Even if some people oriented themselves faster than others, or more successfully than others, everyone had to start at that basic point.

But in “Namaste,” that balance is entirely skewed – if the term means “I bow to you,” then many amongst the show’s cast have no idea who, or what, to bow to anymore. There are three sets of people on the island in these two different time periods: one set who has been there for three years and has become part of the culture (Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Jin), one that has been there before but finds this new territory disturbing regardless of the time period (the Oceanic Six, Frank, Ben), and those who are experiencing it all for the first time (Caesar and the group left back by the Hydra). The problem is that, for the first group, they are part of the culture: they went through orientation, they saw the videos, and now they are integral parts of the structure of this island and its history. Everyone else, meanwhile, is starting anew, but for some of these characters you can’t just stop yourself from recognizing a new captive as an old friend, or reacting when you first see an old lover for the first time.

This isn’t a mind-blowing episode of Lost in terms of major revelations, but it fills in some key gaps that we hadn’t quite pieced together in the last few episodes, and draws attention to our central conflict. The show is purposefully trying to reboot itself in the middle of a season, knowing full well that it’s impossible – that impossibility is embodied by the characters, the characters who are either trapped separated by decades from the people they came to see or those trapped in the distant past with no clue as to their mission. Just as they can’t forget about the past, pretend like nothing happened, neither can I, and this kind of narrative disconnect in fact sends us back to these characters, and even back to past events in previous seasons, to get a real sense of what has changed.

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Lost – “Lafleur”

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“Lafleur”

March 4th, 2009

“…now what?” – Jin ; “…then what?” – Juliet

It has been said that the last two episodes of Lost, “316” and “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” were sort of a launching point for the rest of the show’s fifth season, the one bit of major story material (focusing entirely on off-island activities beyond the bookends of each episode) that felt like it needed to be blatantly exposed to switch gears. “Lafleur,” then, has a lot to live up to: it takes us back to the storyline we’ve abandoned for two episodes, and has created new expectations and new mysteries upon which it is going to rely in the future.

But to answer Jin’s question immediately (and get to Juliet’s later), “Lafleur” establishes that the moment the island stopped “skipping,” the show has gone back to a familiar tune, one less driven by the series’ structure and far more by the series’ characters. What we have in this episode is the closest Lost has come to its initial purpose all season, offering up a few really intriguing character arcs that have created two parallel but ultimately very different series of flashforwards in regards to how these characters got to this place. Faraday seems to indicate that the record is playing the wrong song when they end up stuck in 1974, but the establishment of the “when” doesn’t lead the show to a detailed investigation as to why.

Because James Sawyer isn’t something fascinated with the question of “why,” and when he gets stuck in 1974 he’s going to do everything he can to survive, as if he’s been marooned all over again. And in the absence of Jack and Locke, Sawyer is the closest thing these people have to a leader, and what we see in “Lafleur” is a man finally ready to step into that position and his three-year journey to a sort of peace that operated entirely outside of the show’s mythology, the simple sort of life he never got to lead before.

And then Flight 316 happened, and the show comes to Juliet’s question, and all of a sudden two groups of people fundamentally changed by time are sent back to another one entirely, although this time entirely metaphorically.

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