Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Lost Season 6, Episode 1: LA X

Major Spoilers

Smartpop asked me to cover all the season 6 Lost episodes for their site, and I agreed. Every week I will link from here to my post over there. But because my review for them has to be written in the like 90 minutes after the show airs, I expect to find myself with more to say when I wake up in the morning, as I did today. So when I do link there, I will also give some slightly more cooked thoughts here.

In my review of Lost Season 6, Episode 1 "LA X" I wrote the following for Smartpop (click the quote for the rest)

"As Lost continued, the normal story began to wear away, revealing the sci-fi fantasy comic book underneath more and more. People’s tolerance for the show depended on what their tolerance for this kind of material was. The show often felt like it was designed to slowly indoctrinate people naturally resistant to sci-fi fantasy comic book insanity to creatures made of black smoke, nonsense electromagnetism, four footed statues, moving islands, and alternate universes. A sister of a friend who stopped watching around the opening of season two was appalled to learn years later they were traveling through time."

Random extra thoughts not on Smartpop

Brad said to me that the real John Locke has to return in the island universe to save everyone. I thought -- maybe he will be the only one to escape the Parallel Universe into the island universe. That would be a cool way to kind of redeem that character, who died a pointless death after so much struggle.

Also -- it occurs to me that one of the reasons that I had a bit of trouble getting into the show was Locke was my POV character. The normal guy like who became the hero. Without him my investment is a bit more blurred among various characters I like a lot less.

My friend Lucas made a funny point in his Facebook status: What kind of self respecting screenwriter can type the following exchange and be satisfied: "JULIET: Sawyer, I have something important to tell you. SAWYER: What is it? [Juliet Dies]." Juliet's role was very pointless -- she had a great death last season, then she comes back to die again, then Miles talks to her after she is dead, kind of dragging the thing out in the worst way. It sort of fits thematically with no one staying dead in any way in the episode (symbolized by the Ankh): Dead Juliet comes back from the dead, dies again and talks; Jacob dies and comes back; Sawyer dies and comes back. Locke dies and comes back. All the dead people are back in the Alternate Universe.

Brad thinks the island is a spaceship and the Man in Black is an alien who wants to go home -- not off the island, but off of THIS! ISLAND! EARTH! after Jacob developed affection for these humans. This could easily dovetail with the religious stuff as the famous crackpot theory about how aliens built the pyramids.

I said the underwater island thing was a little lame because they did not have the budget for it, but if you think about it what were they supposed to do? They HAD to take the island off the table in the Alternate Universe because if you don't then the whole Alternate Universe becomes about how they are going to return to the island, and you can't have that or you get a repeat of the worst part of Season 5.

Also, Paradise Lost goes into the famous Christian paradox about free will and god's knowledge. In Christianity submission to God's will is actually the only kind of freedom; the Freedom Satan wants and offers is paradoxically the worst bondage. The man in black seems to be Satan in this regard, and Jacob, God.

And where the hell was Charles Widmore, who was also absent from the Season 5 finale? I thought he was sort of a big deal? I hope he comes back huge.


neilshyminsky said...

Crazy theory time! (Admittedly, though, this is not entirely my theory. I'm riffing off of something I read elsewhere.)

The flash-sideways to the alternate reality (I think that's what Cuse and Lindelof are calling it) is not a flash-sideways at all. And the alternate reality (Lost-X, as opposed to Lost-Prime) is not alternate. It's this one - the only one - and the sideways? It's actually forward.

But lemme backtrack. There are a bunch of clues that point to X and Prime being linked in some way:

1) It can't be an alternate reality because Jacob says that it 'only ends once'. That rule can't apply if there are two realities. So any theory needs to come up with a way to make these two work together.

2) Jack's bleeding neck? It's too weird a detail to introduce unless we're going to see him get that wound at some point, a point that is prior to the beginning of Lost-X time. So he must acquire it in Lost-Prime.

3) Juliet's space-out before she dies is probably meaningful. As suggested elsewhere on the internets, her proximity to the bomb, like Desmond's proximity to the second incident, might have dislodged her like it did him and sent her into Lost-X. Where, at some point in the future, she'll have the coffee with Sawyer that the two of them were talking about. And she knows it worked because she was just there - and we'll get to see it later. (As for Desmond - maybe he disappeared because he's still bouncing around? Who knows?)

So to sum: Lost-X is actually occurring after the completion of Lost-Prime. My theory is that, by the end of the season, they will have actually prevented the plane from landing on the island. And so this flash-sideways is showing what actually happened to them, with some elements of the past 3 in-story years carrying over: Jack's willingness to entertain the possibility that he can fix Locke and Locke's pessimism being two subtle ones, but also the cut on Jack's neck.

But why does it matter? Well, regardless of who they are and where they come from, Jacob and the baddie appear to be playing some sort of cosmic game to prove the other wrong. Ostensibly, Jacob believes that people are good and his adversary that people are bad. Periodically, one assumes, they cause a group of folks to wash up on their shore and play a game with them. Whether the ship/plane is itself full of despondent people or they choose to focus on them in particular is up for debate, but the adversary's point seems important: the key figures in the game are all very much damaged. He thinks they're pathetic, Jacob thinks they can be redeemed. (And now that I think about it, this is not unlike an issue of The Sandman. From 'Brief Encounters', I think?)

So what I expect is that the flash-sideways/forwards will show us how it actually ends, even if we're led to believe that it's wholly separate from what's happening in Prime - and ends, for the most part, pretty well. Their pathetic lives will turn out okay. And it'll matter because these are actually the only endings that they'll get. Next week's episode is titled "what Kate does". Presumably, Kate will do something in the Prime line, but I bet she'll also achieve some kind of resolution/satisfaction in the X line. This is the only shot that Cuse and Lindelof have to give everyone a happy ending, but to do so without compromising the mythology and/or insulting the intelligence of the fans a la BSG.

Of course, with this kind of theory I'm either really right or else I'm really wrong.

Paul said...

Hugh Everett III continues to rule pop culture from the grave. Between Lost, Fringe, the new Trek movie, Heroes, Sarah Connor, Flash-Forward, (not to mention various comic book storylines), the Many Worlds Theory has had a hell of a workout over the past two years.

Prest said...

Hey Geoff, enjoyed the article. I'm sure you'll appreciate me pointing out some errors in your article, but I'm a big Lost geek, so I am compelled to. In two separate scenes this episode, it's implied that Hurley had indeed looked in the guitar case. Also season 5 was the one Claire wasn't in. And the DHARMA shark was last seen in season 2, although I guess sharks were referenced in season 3. Anyway, that's enough with the nitpicking.

I will have to disagree with your statement that "The show was originally designed to be just a realistic island survival story with no science fiction/fantasy elements." I thought that the show declared its intentions pretty clearly from the start. An unseen monster throwing Greg Grunberg into a tree pretty much convinced me that this show would be have to eventually reveal that it's built on a sci-fi or fantasy foundation. True, in the first season or two the show seemed to tease us with the question of "is what you're seeing as supernatural as it appears, or is there another explanation?" And obviously I agree that the comic-bookiness has grown more prominent over time, but that particular sentence of yours was out of line. In my opinion.

Anyway, I love reading smart people analyzing Lost, so I will definitely be looking forward to your articles each week!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the gig at Smartbooks, Geoff! I’ll be happy to read along!The alternate universe thing really struck me as an elegant solution at the screenwriter/producer level.  Darlton (as show runners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are now being called for some reason) created a tricky situation for themselves with the bomb thing – effectively there were only two viable choices and both had severe risks from a storytelling perspective.   If the bomb went off and had ONLY reset everything back to 2004, then we’d all feel severely betrayed that we had watched for five seasons and, effectively, the show was starting again at the beginning.  On the other hand if the bomb went off and had ONLY pushed the characters back in sync with Locke and Ben in 2007, it would have seemed like a cop-out and a convenient story device.  Knowing that they couldn’t justifiably only undo or only not do… they did both.  An added benefit being that not only does the character of Locke get to be rehabilitated – the actor does to.  I love Terry O’Quinn, but it is not enough that he is on the show as fake Locke.  I want him to be the real Locke at the end of the show and not Smoke-Monster-Man-in-Black-Locke.  Also, it looks like Sayid is Jacob now, so now “Ultimate Sayid” – the pure, unconvoluted version – gets to be the real Sayid to me.  -Mitc

deepfix said...

I'm increasingly thinking that Lost is, to a certain extent, much like The Invisibles. More of an autobiography of the things that the creators were reading than a true coherent narrative. There will be closure, a story will be told, but not all or even most of the questions will be answered. It's the journey not the destination.

Geoff Klock said...

Neil -- NICE!

Prest -- no problem on the nitpicks. That thing was written faster than I have ever written anything before. 1500 words in 90 minutes. I can't believe there were not more errors.

And there is one more -- my statement about the show originally being just a survival story with no sci-fi elements at the start -- I did not mean the start of the show. I meant the start if the IDEA. In interviews i read apparently the first phase of the development of the show called LOST did not involve any sci-fi stuff.

Anon, Deepfix -- Smart points both.

Glenealy Times said...

I think the key was the dialogue between Locke and Jack at the airport, discussing jack's father. The clue to the merging of the two world lies in the choices the two alternate personalities will make. Jacob is betting (His life) on them making the right decision (free will if you will - though by all accounts with a nudge from him), to bring him back and block his brother's loophole.

Jeflee said...

Glad to see you'll be writing about this season, Geoff. Reading over my own recap/chat with a fellow blogger at, I'm realizing how much reading your past posts on Lost have influenced how I interact with and view the show.

The temple also reminded me of those weekend Hercules/Xena serials. Not a good look. And I wasn't didn't dig the Asian kung-fu guy -- I like that the show throws in so many genre tropes but that one seemed excessive and ultimately adds nothing for me. It's too literal. We've had touches of pirates, hints of fairies, but those more ridiculous genre touchstones were kept just that, touches, hints. We can get excited about the possible existence of time travel and multiverses and people returning from the dead. I don't see what excitement someone can get from a guy in a fu-manchu beard who calmly trims tiny trees.

Neil: That theory fit so well if felt like a spoiler!

James said...

Along with Juliet's apocalyptically-cliched "I have to tell you" death-rattle, you had that annoying thing of characters knowing someone's REALLY dead because it's in the script. Jack can't be bothered with Sayid despite taking bullets out of people every other week! Jack doesn't need to check Juliet because Sawyer's cradling her like she's Jason Todd! etc.

Geoff's right, they totally needed to drop Deadwood-alum #5's name.

Neil sounds incredibly close to it, there. How do you see them pacing that out though? Obscuring the nature of Lost X until the final moments? I kind of feel like all the cards need to be on the table by the climax.

neilshyminsky said...

James: Structurally, the comparison that comes to mind immediately is the comic American Born Chinese. It features three stories, flips between them episodically, but only reveals that the three are intimately, and sequentially, linked in the final act of each. How exactly Lost would pull that off, I'm not quite sure - my guess is that there will be teases, things that don't quite fit, like with Juliet's seeming hallucination and Jack's cut - though I don't think there would be any need to reveal the link until the finale.