“Because You Left / The Lie”
January 21st, 2009
Going into tonight’s two-hour premiere for Lost’s second season, I was unsure. Not about the show, really, so much as unsure about my own ability to get back into a Lost frame of mind. I’m only a few days out from the mindfrak that was the BSG premiere, and to enter into a similar level of complexity so soon was something that didn’t feel normal. I love this show with all my heart, through the slow periods and the various leaps through time, but there is a point where you wonder how many more twists and turns you can take.
But from the moment that Marvin Candle puts a record on and heads to the Orchid station to investigate a new discovery, it becomes very clear that there is never a time where a Lost frame of mind feels overbearing. What makes “Because You Left” and “The Lie” so effective is that they are operating are on a whole new plane: what was once a simple construct of present and past, and then present and future, has been eternally complicated by a whirlwind tour through what we’ve experienced, what we know, and what could happen in the future. Before, we were the ones who were traveling through time, but hearkening back to Season Four’s pivotal “The Constant” the show has unstuck its characters in time and we’re just along for the ride.
The result has us perhaps the most confused we’ve ever been, but it makes sense: our characters are just as confused, just as at the whim of the island and whatever crazy sense of time, space and fate this show is holding going into its fifth and penultimate season. This two-hour season premiere, more than the flashforwards or the Oceanic Six before it, has this world in a constant state of change that has fundamentally altered our sense of the show’s direction. If Season Four was drawing the line from Point A, the island, to Point B, the rescue of the Oceanic Six, then now we’re drawing a line between points constantly moving, evolving as we watch into something we haven’t come close to understanding.
We’ve gone from knowing what happens and wondering how the show will take us there to slowly discovering what needs to happen and growing increasingly doubtful that it’s an achievable goal considering the variables involved. The sheer uncertainty of this premiere is exactly what the show needed to put me into a Lost frame of mind: I don’t understand you, Lost, but at the end of the day I will always believe you.
While aired as a two-hour premire, these are two distinct episodes with two distinct focuses. The first, “Because You Left” is the most disruptive of the two hours, while “The Lie” eases us more slowly into the show’s new structure with a much more human focus as opposed to an investigation into the island’s timehopping or the idea of destiny (at least until its conclusion). It’s a good balance, in my eyes: after the opening hour raises more questions and introduces more phenomena than we can keep track of, the second hour strips it back and returns to one of the show’s most affable and conflicted characters in order to demonstrate the real impact of those events.
“Because You Left” works because it is so disorienting, and because the characters are even more confused than we are. The characters are trying to realign themselves with reality, even while Faraday knows that this is almost impossible and when Locke instead reconnects with his past and future in a way that we don’t yet understand. It’s also a nice little tour for us as viewers, reliving moments such as the plane crash of Eko’s brother or the destruction of the Hatch as moments in time more than moments in their lives. We slowly (Faraday isn’t much for the quick talking, is he?) learn that what’s happening is the equivalent of being unstuck in time, but the problem lies in the fact that our cast are the ones moving, traveling to different points in the island’s life. It results in a brief cameo from our good friend Ethan Hunt, and eventually in “The Lie” a meeting with a group from the Dharma Initiative.
The two most profound realizations we get in the episode are those which seem to have impact in the future that we do not yet understand. Locke has an altercation with Richard Alpert wherein the latter is aware that he has been shot by Ethan before Locke tells him, and where he gives him a compass that will prove to a past version of Alpert that he has in fact met him before. We all knew that there was something different about Alpert, considering that he doesn’t age and all, but this adds a whole new layer to the proceedings as it seems like everyone (like Alpert) can move between different periods of time. How exactly Locke’s new acquisition will come into play isn’t answered here, but it certainly implies that the people who are on the island have their own role to play in saving their own lives. The idea that Locke is going to have to die raises another question, especially because he is the biggest question mark: does he get off the island by dying and rising again, or is the death he refers to the one that happens off the island and that we see in the future serving as a lynchpin for Jack’s return to the island? There are clearly some characters on the island, and off of it, who have a role to play in this giant chess game of sorts.
This became increasingly clear with the episode’s other major revelation, one that much more clearly explains why Desmond Hume would still want to assist the Oceanic Six. He wasn’t on that plane, and he could easily be content sailing the world with Penny on their fancy boat. Unfortunately, Daniel Faraday knows that he is different, that he is able to help them in some way that no one else can. The implication is that he is a bridge between these two worlds, that the relationship they share due to Desmond being Faraday’s constant gives them a connection. The idea that Desmond’s interaction with Faraday comes to him not as a dream but as a memory implies that, unlike what Faraday had told Sawyer, it is possible to meet someone where you hadn’t met someone before presuming it is the right person. I was curious to know how they would get Desmond back into the fold, and this seems like a highly compelling reason to do so: he’s now off to Oxford to find Faraday’s mother, and to do his part in this madness.
Otherwise, “Because You Left” was about disorienting us and the characters with their collective new realities: the only person who appears to really know what they’re doing is Benjamin Linus, although the end of “The Lie” seems to indicate that even he isn’t in anything close to control of these questions. The off-island activities are, in many ways, the same as the ones on the island: they all know at least somewhat what they need to do, but they have no real sense of direction. We spend time with all of the Oceanic Six in the episode, and the episode does a good job of keeping the drama on that side of the story in line with the island. Sayid’s dishwasher kill was one of two fantastic action moments in the episode that felt at least a bit tongue-in-cheek without ever sacrificing the legitimate danger of the situation; it reminds us that this man is capable of killing, and that the stakes are extremely high for reasons we don’t quite understand.
The same goes for Kate, who takes her son and some stowed away cash and heads on the run from a court order demanding a maternity test to see whether or not she is related to her son. It may be a much smaller mystery than the whole, you know, manipulation of time and space, but the question of who is behind the order, and why they would order it, is certainly coming into play: one wonders if perhaps Ben’s plan for bringing everyone together truly does involve forcing their hand by taking away their lives. Just as he flushed Jack’s drugs down the toilet, perhaps he is putting Aaron in danger in order to convince her that she needs to go back to the island to finish what was started. The opening hour doesn’t really delve into any of the wider questions, choosing instead to give us mainly a very human view on the life after the crash. The one larger picture we get is Sun, who meets with Charles Widmore at the Seoul airport and seems to indicate that she has plans to kill Benjamin Linus that he may be interested in. Sun remains a wild card here, and I’m curious to see where they take the character.
“Because You Left” also has the genius that is Daniel Faraday in fine form: he is incredibly central to this series now that physics have taken such a pivotal role, and this is clear from his meeting with Desmond, his confrontation with Sawyer, his concern for Charlotte who is showing signs of the kind of symptoms that killed Metternich on the freighter, and (of course) his appearance in the construction area of the Orchid as it was being built in the 1970s under the guidance of Dr. Marvin Candle. That opening was clearly a play on past ones: whether it was Desmond in the Hatch with “Make Your Own Kind of Music” or the Others and their book club in Season Three, the show loves both its music and its openings where we discover ourselves in a place we didn’t expect to be. The opening gave us tidbits about the Arrow station (Station #2), some of Candle’s awareness of the question of time travel, and the realization that Daniel Faraday was there when it happened, and that his journey on this island spans exactly as much time as we thought it did. Faraday was behind the camera for Candle’s Comic-Con video, and we still have a lot of gaps to fill in on his particular journey.
But “The Lie” isn’t interested in those gaps so much as it is in regrounding this story within its characters: the flashing more or less stops for the length of the episode, giving our island folk time to settle into a new environment. Rather than this temporal struggle, it is instead a personal and psychological struggle within Hugo Reyes, or Hurley as he is affectionately called, about what happened to the people he left behind. The episode opens with the moment on the Searcher, Penny’s boat, where the Oceanic Six sit around and decide to tell the lie that will eventually tear Hurley apart. There’s no question of right or wrong: Jack’s reasoning for wanting to keep the island hidden from Widmore is not unjustified, in the same way that Hurley’s insistence that the world will believe them all if they stick to the same story isn’t possible, if perhaps more idealistic. But what it does to Hurley, we eventually piece together, is get him stuck in a mental institution, and now that he’s out he continues to question that original decision they all made.
I love Jorge Garcia in this role, and the focus here works because Hurley is so easy to like and to see him in such a state of psychological distress is one of the show’s strongest dramatic devices. But the journey he takes wasn’t the one we expected: when Ana Lucia of all people comes to him in a dream and tells him not to get captured by the cops and to take Sayid to someone he trusts, Hurley presumes this is some part of him giving him instructions on how to keep himself safe. But the irony of course is that Jack is working with Ben, and that taking Sayid to Ben leads the latter to Hurley’s home and appeals to the very desire never to lie again that has been eating him alive. In that moment, I expected Hurley to cave – I expected him to stop fighting it, to give into Ben’s demands and head off with him.
I don’t know if his decision to get arrested is going to come back to haunt him or not, to be honest: I don’t think it’s entirely clear just who is right in this scenario. But Hurley stuck with Sayid’s advice, taking Ben’s word as corrupted and choosing a different path. Hurley was trapped between his desire to be accepted for the truth by people who knew about it and his desire not to be pushed into a corner again. He felt bullied by Jack and Sayid in that moment, and he’s always been led around and forced into scenarios in the past. What we discover in this episode is that Hurley is less interested in being led, by visions or by Ben or even by Sayid, than he is in making his own decisions and being at peace with himself. It was a great episode for Garcia, and I think it helped to have such an intensely personal story following a highly disruptive episode.
This isn’t to say that “The Lie” wasn’t disruptive: while our Island-dwellers stay in the same time period throughout the hour, this doesn’t mean that they are without dramatic impact. The other action moment that felt so delightfully funny despite its morbidity was when a red shirt, who Sawyer nicknamed Frogurt despite his name being Neil, spoke to the heavens about his desire for fire (in the form of a campfire) and received instead a fiery arrow to the chest. It was one of those moments where Lost stops being about theories and just starts being awesome. I like that it can still have those moments, but at the same time this particular period is clearly the earliest we’ve seen: Juliet and Sawyer are confronted by British-accented Dharma employees who are about to kill them before Locke saves the day, pulling one of his re-emerging tricks after not appearing in the rest of the episode.
The second hour doesn’t delve too much further into any of the time travel storyline, although it does provide some more content for Kate and Sun as they meet up in Los Angeles. I still don’t know what to make of Sun: as noted above, she is obviously not going to listen to Ben about going back to the island, but her little guilt trip to Kate about Jin was not nearly as heartfelt or emotionally simple as perhaps Kate would want it to be. No, Sun doesn’t blame Kate for Jin’s death, but at the same time there is definitely a sense that Sun more than anyone else has some emotional baggage from the island that hasn’t been easy to put behind her and that seems to be driving some agenda very different from that of the rest of the Oceanic Six.
But it’s going to have to come to an end fast: according to a returning Ms. Hawking (who Desmond met in “Flashes Before Your Eyes” and who we saw in a photograph at Desmond’s monastery), Ben has only 70 hours to bring everyone together (how convenient that Sun had flown into Los Angeles on business during this particular period, although I guess fated might be the better word). I found that the episode did well to place some definite milestones on the events ahead: we didn’t spent time in a holding pattern so much as we alternated between the two sides, creating immediate danger and confusion on the island in the first hour before extending that confusion and immediacy to the present in the second hour. I feel like both sides have a lot of momentum now, and that’s really what this premiere needed to achieve.
The fourth season was about an inevitability, but there was always an inherent lack of danger because we knew at the very least that some of the characters would end up in particular places. But, Hawking’s statement has the stakes here at a place where we’ve never seen them, where the very lives of everyone involved are in danger if this plan doesn’t come together. And whereas you could draw some lines of sorts last year, I feel as if things are too unstable for predictions or even theories: everyone is just along on Lindelof and Cuse’s magic ride, and we’ve got to keep the faith more than anything else.
- My favourite connection in the episode was in “Because You Left,” when Candle’s record skips in the cold open and Faraday later explains their time travel on the island by evoking the image of a skipping record. It’s a great analogy, but I love how it even connected within the episode itself.
- I also enjoyed seeing Miles more active on the island: as soon as he said he would go look for food it became clear what he was going to do, but the fact that he returned with a boar and knew precisely when it had died was one of those things that will raise questions once people aren’t immediately chased away by flaming arrows after his arrival.
- I’m still not entirely sure why Charlotte is being affected by the time travel in a way that no one else is: we have always presumed she has some sort of deeper connection to the island, so perhaps this is why she is perhaps more unstuck than others? And if so, who is her constant, and will we get a chance to meet them at some stage? She certainly has no recollection of any sort of time travel, so Faraday has his work cut out for him, no matter what he read in his journal that had him so shocked.
- Seriously, Sayid killing that guy on the dishwasher, even though it was so clearly choreographed, was freaking cool.
- Interesting that Ben isn’t working alone here: not only is Hawking what Lindelof has described as a sort of warden of temporality, but there was even the butcher shop attendant, and we presume many others who are hyper-aware of the state of the Oceanic Six. Why is a very question we don’t yet know, but it makes Ben out to be a less manipulative and more subservient actor in these events and I’m always a fan for such conflict within a fascinating character.
- The show remains intensely funny: whether it’s Hurley suggesting that more comfort food would keep him from killing people, or Hurley describing Sayid (“he does ninja spy stuff”) and his time on the island to his mother (which was a heartfelt moment in the end even if I was laughing throughout at how crazy it truly sounded), the episode still felt capable of having a fair bit of fun even when dealing with some rather trying periods in their lives.
- A few numbers sightings: Candle turns off his alarm at 815, and Ben picks up number 342 at the butcher shop.