March 16th, 2010
There are only so many ways that we can talk about the “Flash Sideways” structure of Lost’s sixth season before we discover its deeper meaning, only so many ways that we can pass judgment while technically reserving judgment.
However, I will contend that those who suggest that the structure is meaningless without a sense of the big picture are overstating things: yes, episodes like “Recon” might become more interesting with a rewatch once the pieces start to come together, but the structure is capable of being interesting in its own right. Like the original flashbacks, the segments are more dependent on individual characters than the show has been in a long time, and so we love episodes featuring Locke and Ben while we become frustrated with episodes featuring Kate and whatever other character we don’t tend to like very much.
I’ll be curious to see how people respond to “Recon,” a Sawyer episode that threatens to rewrite the character’s fairly popular transformation during the “LaFleur” story last year. Part of what made Kate’s flash so problematic was that it felt regressive: it’s one thing to hearken back to an earlier structure that focuses more on these characters, but it’s another to show them more or less exactly as we’d seen them before. Some even argued that Sayid’s flash had the same problem, in that it didn’t show us anything new, or really change our perception of the character.
Personally, I think that we can take a lack of change as a fairly substantial clue to the deeper meanings at play here, but what makes “Recon” work is that the changes we’ve witnessed on the island feel as if they have heavily influenced the James Ford we meet in the flash sideways. The changes between this Sawyer and the one we saw in the first season are not dissimilar from the changes between the Sawyer who crashed on Oceanic Flight 815 and the Sawyer who was known as Lafleur, and it’s the sort of change that says more through simple character drama than any plot-based exposition could ever accomplish. The scenes are as much a reminder as they are a reveal, and while that might not currently seem fitting for a final season I think it’s all going to work out in the long run (or the long con, if you prefer).
Constants, Favourites and the Overlooked: 10 Important Episodes of Lost
February 1st, 2010
When you start listing your favourite Lost episodes, you’re inevitably going to overlap with other people’s lists. However, this overlap occurs for many possible reasons: it just isn’t that these episodes are the best, but rather that they are (as James Poniewozik’s list at Time points out) important. Yes, we pick the “Pilot” and “Walkabout” because they are stunning episodes of television, but we also pick them because of how they informed how we understood this world and its characters, and if they hadn’t worked then the show would never have been what it was. Similarly, we choose “Through the Looking Glass” and “The Constant” because they managed to introduce hugely complex narrative devices while remaining grounded in emotional stories of love and loss that broke/healed my heart, respectively.
And while those other lists cover why those episodes are constants on these futile efforts to focus our love for the show in such a narrow fashion, I want to focus on some other relatively common episodes and similar episodes that are not nearly as common on these types of lists. While it might mean that some of the episodes are not equal in quality to others, it nonetheless demonstrates that Lost is a show that had its roadblocks, and the ways in which it managed to overcome those concerns and anticipate/reconcile potential problems may be its most important televisual legacy.
So, after the jump, the six episodes that (in addition to the four mentioned above) round out my lost of “10 Lost Episodes that I have Deemed Important for the Sake of This Particular Article, but Which Do Not Constitute a Definitive Top 10 List, Which Would Be Impossible to Write.”
“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.
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.