Saturday, May 08, 2010

One More thing about Lost Season 6, Episode 14: The Candidate

Spoilers. Some people have been complaining about a major scene in the most recent LOST episode, and I wanted to give a brief reply. This is a typical mode -- trying to argue that the element people hated was actually a strength. Every time I do that, I feel like I loose "points" with folks for trying to justify something they see as just bad. Over-reading never makes anyone happy. But I feel compelled to give it a go anyway.

Here is the scene on Hulu, if you are in the US.

Here is what I said about it on Smartpop

It was a really beautiful scene, in spite of the fact that it was a little silly that Sun got trapped like that (watching it with friends someone asked “what is she trapped by” and the answer was “a device … a plot device”). My first reaction was that there was something really off about watching two parents die together when one could have been saved — should’t there be some kind of “our child’s future is more important than your not leaving me”? But upon consideration I think it adds to the moment. It becomes really hard-core. He promised they would never be apart again. And so they won’t. I found that really powerful BECAUSE he knew what he was leaving behind. One of the most emotional scenes in Lost I feel like. Except for that plot device pinning Sun.

(I will also add that of COURSE they should be talking in English. Not only because Jin has not spoken Korean in 3 years, but for the more important reason that this is a big emotional scene. If the audience has to read they are looking away from the faces. Speaking Korean makes a kind of logical sense but that does not make it the right choice for this scene. Also, I don't know how familiar the actors are with Koran but they might do such a powerful scene better in English.)

Here is what Seth Stevenson said about it on Slate

After following the ins and outs of Sun and Jin's relationship for six seasons, I should have been riveted by their last goodbyes. Instead I was bored. Here's my faithful transcription of their tragic parting:
Sun: "Save yourself."
Jin: "No, I'm going to get you out of here."
Sun: "Please go."
Jin: "I'm going to get you out of here."
Sun: "Please go."
Jin [in subtitled Korean]: "I won't leave you. I will never leave you again."
Jin [switching back to English]: "I love you, Sun."
Sun: "I love you."
I want to care. I want to be wracked with sadness and moved to streaming tears, as Hurley and Jack were. But how can I surrender myself to emotion when the script is so jarringly flat? I'm sure the writers are trying hard, but this scene reads like zero effort was put into crafting specific, memorable dialogue.

Here is what my friend Katie said about it in the comments

I am not at all convinced there is a mother in the world who, when faced with the choice of dying alone or orphaning her child, would choose orphaning her child. But even if there were, that mother would at least, like, MENTION it in the "should you die with me or not" discussion. That it doesn't even come up is the writers willfully ignoring the issue because it would ruin their sad little scene.

Stevenson is right that the dialogue is jarringly flat and Katie is right that someone should MENTION orphaning the kid. But that explains the scene right there. They love each other so much, and don't want to leave each other alone again (she does not want to die alone; he does not want to leave her to die alone) that their dialogue is flat BECAUSE neither wants to mention that kid, the thing that should so obviously make them split up at this moment. Each waits for the other to do it, until it is clear they have a kind of silent understanding not to mention it. It happens on her part when he goes down to try to free her one last time -- you can see the look on her face as she struggles not with the realization that she is probably going to die, but with the realization, kind of horrible as Katie will agree, that she is not going to mention their daughter because she is scared, and really does not want to die alone. He makes the decision not to mention the kid when he speaks in Korean -- speaks to her as he did before the kid was born. The final "I love you"s are not examples of flat dialogue -- because each one carries the force of "thank you for not bringing up the obvious reason I/you really SHOULD die alone underwater."


Jeflee said...

I TOTALLY agree with you Geoff. Their loss of words is exactly what made that scene work for me. I also don't quite understand people's arguments of what realistically WOULD have been said or how much or in what language, when obviously, none of these people have ever died before; I know that's not an entirely compelling defense of the scene, but it's at least as valid as what most people's criticisms of it are.

Go, no, I'm staying, I love you, are the EXACT things that need to be spoken in that scene -- any much more would have been overdone. And I think anyone with a long-time partner knows you don't always have to speak aloud in order to get what the other person means. "You need to go," speaks more than enough. I like that the writers trusted the the actors and I thought they came through. Sun's eyes and body language especially were fantastic.

You could also say that Jin's decision to stay, and Sun's decision to let him, falls in line with the cycle of "bad" parenting present in the island universe. So the show gets it both ways, Jin gets to self-sacrifice in true hero form and we get a fatalistic star-crossed lovers moment, but also the themes of the island-reality continue to pervade through the generations.

Geoff Klock said...

Jeflee -- EXCELLENT observation about Bad Daddy Island. If the show had more time I would want that kid to grow up, or time travel or SOMETHING to get back at those people.

Katie Davis said...

I did think about the bad parent issues in relation to this...but I argue if that's what the show was going for, it would have been more explicit about it. Sun would have mentioned the kid and then they would have chosen to die together anyway. At least, I haven't known Lost to be as subtle about their themes as what you guys are suggesting.

Telosandcontext said...

While I like the general idea of this idea, I can't really get on board with this falling into the theme of "bad" parenting. Parents die all the time while away from their children and that doesn't make them bad, even if bad is in scare quotes. Geoff's original point about choosing to die over the hope of reuniting with Ji Yeon is what made the scene so powerful. Jin CHOSE to never be away from his wife ever again and THAT is what we wanted out of these two. Their child isn't their redemption. Their choosing death over separation is. And that's beautiful.

neilshyminsky said...

I'm sensing a split here between 'good art' and 'bad parenting'. And my point is simple - it can be both. It's a haunting and beautiful scene. It's also undeniably selfish. And, at least for this parent, the latter prevents me from fully appreciating the former.