Friday, February 20, 2009

TV this week: LOST, BSG, 24

LOST. Finally, Lost gets its groove back, and in the most obvious way possible -- a return to what made it good in the first place. People crashed on a mysterious island where they do not know what is going on (why is Jin in a Dharma suit? What year is it?), Each person has a mysterious past (Why did Kate change her mind? How did Locke end up dead? What made Hurley return and why did he bring a guitar, why was Sayid in handcuffs and why was he being taken to Guam, why is Ben beaten and bloody, and who is the stewardess and the arab guy on the plane?). We will learn about the island and these people's past together -- alternating in many episodes, I imagine, between the past in LA and the present on the island. Except this time around we ALREADY care about these characters because we are in the middle of the story, and I expect answers will come faster this time than they did in season one. I had originally been annoyed that they were going to get back so quickly -- I thought the story would be "Season 5: the story of how they got back and what happened while they were gone" with the last shot being of them arriving again, followed by "Season Six: what they had to do when they arrived." This is better though. Of special interest in this episode is the deeply weird structural game being played with the characters -- Locke is the new Christian Shepard (the guy in the coffin, same shoes), Hurley is the new Charlie (the guy with the guitar), Sayid is the new Kate (escorted in handcuffs), Ben is the new Locke (physically damaged), and KATE (here is my theory) is the new CLAIRE -- I am betting she got pregnant when she slept with Jack before the left, as that will also play into the long term story about how the island kills pregnant women. Plus there is a weird little symmetry -- the actor who plays the Arab guy, his real name is Said, and he played a torturer in the wonderful and underrated Three Kings, so I guess he is the new Said. I also adore the look of anything Dharma builds -- that hatch in LA is fantastic, and Ben saying "My mother taught me" and "who cares?" made my day. The "Who cares" line, about the other passengers, was especially good because it tells you about him as a character, while also making us complicit with him -- we DON'T care about them because we know they are incidental characters. Anyway, it is VERY good to have LOST back.

BSG. The question this week is did you mind the fact that BSG broke the famous rule of Show, Don't Tell? I highly recommend Neil's reading of this week's BSG, which I thought was well put -- the show is really just messing with us, and as someone who loved the end of the Sopranos I am totally fine with it. The four episodes of personal conflict followed by one massive mythology info-dump serves to remind the audience -- and the audience always needs reminding -- that we are here for stories about people first and long term mysteries second. Though I am sensitive to the complaint that this week's episode was a little to Black Box Theatre, all the exposition was framed by a major conflict where the person talking was threatened with death, and regardless of what you want to say about the theoretical problems, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to hear more. And in the end the show did a great job setting up Brother Cavil as this Miltonic villain of the rest of the show. But the show was not error free: that Anders memories was triggered by a bullet seems ridiculously contrived
and I have to admit that, just as I did when it turned out Earth was all Cylons, my primary reaction to the news was more confused than impressed because I cannot keep all the history straight in my head.

24. Foolishness. There is one season of 24 and every season just remakes the template. Here -- the mole and the regular citizen who agrees to go along with a bad guy for Jack and it all goes wrong -- and that was already done THIS SEASON.


Anonymous said...

I always read Alan Sepinwall's reviews of Lost ( and was amazed that he completely pooped on this episode, calling it "an hour of Jack packing" with all the interesting stories left out.

I disagreed completely, and I'm glad to see that you also felt like this was a return to season-one-type stories. Personally, I have always appreciated the faith vs reason theme as well.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

I love Ben. He was even lying about his mom teaching him to read. She died during childbirth. Even his casual, offhand comments are lies. Ben is my favorite character.

I also thought Locke's note to Jack was very, very sad. The man felt like a failure his whole life, till coming to the island. He thought he found his true purpose - the one thing that would redeem him - and he failed at it repeatedly. And all he needed was Jack's help.

All that said, I am a little skeptical of how goofy the rules are getting. "We need to recreate the circumstances" smacks too much of the sort of goofy, Stan Lee style "This is the accident the gave me my powers - so of course, it can also take them away!" pseudo-logic that doesn't really work at all. I trust the writers, but at this point they need to be moving towards answers, not still playing around with goofy stuff.

I do still love Lost though. And Ben is completely awesome.