Monday, November 16, 2009

Lost Revisited - Season 2

[Andy Bentley continues his revisiting of LOST. I make a brief comment below.]

Space Ghost: But why, Warren?
Warren: Well... (laughs) (dramatic sting music) Never mind why. The past is just the future that already happened. Now come on over here and I'll cradle you.
-Space Ghost Coast to Coast, September 4, 1998

To recap, our survivors of Oceanic 815 have been scattered. Jin, Michael, and Sawyer have had their ship destroyed and Walt abducted by “The Others”. Charlie, Claire, Sun, Shannon and Sayid are at the beach camp and Jack, Kate, Locke and Hurley are standing over the blast door looking down at.....

The Hatch

The Hatch leads down to an underground station known as The Swan which will replace the waterfall camp as the other main setting on the island. The station was once one of many outposts for the DHARMA initiative, a 1970’s research outfit that was exploring the island’s “unique properties”. DHARMA loses a bit of it’s mystique and mystery after seeing this past season, but the discovery of it’s remnants is still excellent - particularly the orientation film. The film is spooky with it’s institutional look, weird synth soundtrack and it’s deliberate omitted scene. The fact that it’s all from 30 years ago gives the mystery more heft. The Station provides many modern conveniences including running water for a bathroom and shower, music, literature, processed food, and unfortunately a fresh set of guns and ammo. These modern conveniences are a large part of the survivor’s desire for rescue. With them satiated, the second season becomes less about survival and rescue, and more about the mystery of the island and it’s inhabitants. However the most significant aspect of The Swan is...

The Button

Jack, Kate and Locke all end up down in the Swan where they meet a man named Desmond Hume (more on Des’ next season). Desmond explains he has been entering in the same numbers printed on the hatch every 108 minutes in order to “save the world”. Desmond is gone by the 3rd episode, leaving the button pushing duties in the survivor’s hands. This test of faith is based on Pascal's Wager and variations of this riddle have been seen throughout film and literature. The button brings the science/faith conflict between Jack and Locke to a full boil and the two spend most of the season bickering like an old married couple. I was even toying with the idea of editing footage of the two bickering to the Odd Couple theme music . Their conflict is particularly aggravating because of Jack’s stubborn nature. Towards the end of the season, the conflict of the button shifts to Locke and Mr. Eko. Mr. Echo is one of.....

The Tailies (Ana Lucia Cortez, Bernard Nadler, Libby Smith, Mr. Eko)

The missing tail section of the plane is brought up towards the end of the 1st season - something I caught only on my second viewing. The crash and subsequent survival of the people in the tail section is told over the first half of the second season, cumulating in the excellent flashback episode The Other 48 Days. The plight of the tailies is like a bizarro version of the first season of LOST with Anna Lucia and Mr. Eko taking on the roles of Jack and Locke. Whereas our 815 propers had time to bond and rebuild before the Other (Ethan) kidnapped Claire, The tailies are attacked the night of the crash and have three adults abducted. This infects the group with a sense of paranoia that is personified by Ana Lucia, a former cop who feels guilt over murdering the man who shot her and by proxy, killed her unborn baby. Her fears are ultimately justified when they discover they have also been infiltrated with an Other. They discover a DHARMA station as well (the Arrow) however it lacks the furnishings and supplies found in the Swan. The editing of the scenes in The Other 48 days ads to the bleak and cold nature of the tailies story with scenes ending abruptly with a hard cut to black. The tailies were not received well by the audience in part due to Ana Lucia’s abrasive nature. More importantly, they shifted the focus off our main cast which were already divided. By the end of the season, Ana and Libby are dead and Mr Eko isn’t far behind. Considering the larger mythology of the show, Ana and Libby do not seem to be a factor, although many still debate Libby’s appearance in the same mental facility Hurley was in. Mr Eko, however, appears to be being groomed to be a major player in unraveling the mysteries of the island. His faith is old testament where Locke’s is more new age. He is the only person to encounter the smoke monster, stare it down and remain untouched. The smoke monster sits out a lot of the season, but in this scene, the camera brings us inside the phantom where images of Eko’s past flicker in and out. It’s hinted that because Eko has made peace with the evil he has done and his role in his brother’s death, the monster willingly retreats. That is, until next season.

The 815ers

After five seasons, I’m under the impression that certain characters need to, as MJ says, ask the man in the mirror to make that change. Two seasons in, only John Locke seems willing to take that spiritual plunge.

Jack is still stubborn and unwilling to accept the fantastic elements of the island.

Kate has moments where she begins to settle, but has an emotional breakdown midseason where she feels smothered by the island and needs to escape.

Sawyer bonds with Michael and Jin on their perilous journey back to camp and is greeted with warmth upon his return. Because he feels unworthy of these emotions, he hijacks the guns in an elaborate con, causing even Kate to despise her attraction towards him.

Both Hurley and Sayid find comfort in the love of a woman, only to have it taken away by death. The two become emotionally distant and fall back on familiar crutches

Jin and Sun are a bit of an oddity. Jin seems to have become a better man on the island, thriving in the fishing trade of his father while Sun tends to her garden. The couple still have the usual conflicts in marriage, but it’s a far cry from the emotional turmoil the two had in the show’s opening.

Charlie and Michael are not very endearing. Both are self centered and possessive. Charlie continues to struggle with addiction while Michael becomes obsessed with rescuing Walt. You get the sense that Michael is not rescuing Walt out of love but merely overcompensating for his absence in Walt’s youth. Michael’s betrayal at the end of the season was shocking the first time around and is still an excellent swerve on a repeated viewing. That brings us to...

John Locke

This time around, I realized how heavily the hatch affects John. He stops hunting and spend almost the entire season within the hatch and must rely on others to bring him news from above. His faith is challenged by a number of characters, including Mr. Eko who takes him on a spiritual journey to the site of Boone’s death which is John’s first major failure on the island There, they discover yet another station (The Pearl) which was built for observing many sections of the island, including the Swan station. John interprets this as confirmation that the button is a hoax and he vows to end the charade. Once he does, he realizes the button was quite real as electromagnetic forces begin to whip objects through the room. In a great scene he looks at Mr. Eko with panic in his eyes and says: "I was wrong". Although Mr. Eko has quite an effect on John Locke, no one affects him more throughout the series than....

Henry Gale/Benjamin Linus

Henry Gale is like a shot of adrenaline for the series. He is captured in one of Russo’s traps and essentially presented to Sayid who takes him to The Swan for interrogation. Gale has a fairly tight alibi as a marooned balloonist but Sayid believes he is an Other in disguise. Michael Emerson (the actor portraying Gale) does an amazing job of playing the character ambiguously to the point where I still believed him even though I knew the truth. Once his lie is revealed, he becomes much more menacing and manipulative, amping up John’s distrust of Jack as a co-leader.

By the end of the season, our group has again become scattered. Michael is reunited with Walt after betraying his friends and the two sail toward rescue. Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley are brought as prisoners to The Others camp where Henry Gale is back in control. The remaining characters are on the beach save for Locke, Eko and Desmond who are all at The Swan. Locke destroys the button and a Huge electromagnetic power surge shoots out from the island, destroying the Hatch.

The second season contains many symmetrical elements, foreshadowing the cyclic nature LOST is evolving into. Stories are told from one perspective, then told from another. Desmond appears only in the first and final few episodes. As described above, many of our characters begin to change, only to revert to their original demeanor.

There are many great moments in the second season, but it does take a while to build momentum. Watching the two seasons back to back, the reveal of The Others seems drawn out and the story arc involving Locke, Charlie and Claire seems out of place for Locke in particular. The flashbacks weren’t as impactfull as the first season as well. Does LOST fall into a sophomore slump? Not really, but there are a few stumbles here and there. If I were to sum up the season in one or two words, I would say ‘trust’ or ‘faith’.

Final Observations

With all his knowledge, I’d have to assume Ben was aware of the EM energy housed near the island. Why would he allow that to be governed by Desmond (a character Ben has had very little interaction with) or the 815ers?
Was Ben really on his way to see John? Did he want to get captured?
One thing that was lacking the second time around was this claustrophobic feeling the Others gave me. Watching the 815ers get beat over and over by them was like having my head held underwater. They were so arrogant and assuming (especially Ms. Klugh) that I was dying for some retribution. Next season....

Top 5 moments
Michael shooting Ana Lucia and Libby
The Swan Orientation film
The opening and closing scene to the 1st episode with Desmond
The lockdown and subsequent reveal of the map to Locke
The reuniting of Jin/Sun and Bernard/Rose

[I remember Season two as my favorite -- the cold open of the first episode of the season is one of my favorite moments on television, ever. Dharma was particularly fascinating, and I even liked Anna Lucia, though clearly I was the only one. Mr. Eko was especially important because he added another level to the faith/science conflict because faith itself was split into pagan and Christian factions -- but alas the Eko Locke conflict that should have been central to a middle season never emerged. One of the great lost LOST stories. How do we feel about LOST having a direction at this point? It seemed like they did NOT, and only got a clear direction and arc for the show into season 3, but the first two seasons remain especially amazing because they are so open -- many people felt they were stalling, but I felt like anything could happen. Now, options seem limited for the 815ers, and I miss my old show.]

1 comment:

Paul said...

Count me as a Ana Lucia fan, too. In fact, at this point in the show, I found the Tailaways a lot more interesting than the half of the regular Lostaways. Give me Ana Lucia, Eko, Libby (I've crushed on Cynthia Watros ever since Titus), and good ol' Bernard over Kate, Shannon, Charlie, and Claire. Outside of Locke, most of the material dealing with the main cast during Season Two seemed stalled out compared to the introduction of Desmond, the Tailaways, and Henry Gale.

Andy is totally right about how Henry's introduction was "a shot of adrenaline". The show took a major turn and became even more facinating. I remember being totally divided as to believe him or not. Great job, Michael Emerson.

I hated that Michael killed Ana Lucia and Libby, but as a plot point it works really well. It would have been more shocking if it had been Kate that died, and would have greatly improved the show in my eyes. Just goes to show you that drinking and driving does not pay, kids.