Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Talk to the Flocke: Reactions to the "Lost" episode "Across the Sea"

Well, son of a bitch. That didn't quite go how I figured, now did it? Here's what last night's episode taught me, and I mean this without any semblance of sarcasm: Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse do not understand what an answer is.

To us, their loyal and often insanely frustrated viewers, an answer is the end point of a line of questioning. It's not, under any circumstances, providing something that instantly begs another question. For example, you do not answer "who set up the rules for the battle between Jacob and the Man in Black" with "Some crazy woman who isn't really their mom who was already on the island." We're going to have a few more questions there. "Why can't they hurt each other?" Oh "Because their mom made it so they couldn't." Really? Why? How can she do that? Who is she? I doubt in the remaining 2 hours we find that out. So congrats on "answering" things with more questions.
We should have seen this coming when we got the "answers" to the numbers. The "answer" was "They're the numbers assigned to the six remaining candidates." Oh, well then how the hell do they have magic powers? How does assigning those numbers make Hurley win the lottery? Is it coincidence? The reply from the creators/producers on this matter was, "we don't want to ruin the magic by explaining away everything." I see, said the blind man...

What I'm saying is this: They think episodes like "Across the Sea" ARE answering things. They think they're doing a good, satisfying job and that they're revealing things to us. They do not realize that most of us are pulling our hair out after some of these "answers." More frustrating still is when they decide they really want us to get something. That final sequence showing the "Adam and Eve" answer was perhaps the single most insulting thing the show has done. Not because I didn't like the answer. Actually, that was my favorite part. No, but because they were seemingly so afraid that we wouldn't remember or grasp that these two were Adam and Eve to the point that they constantly intercut the two scenes (the discovery by our 815 people and the burial by Jacob). What. The. Hell? I mean, if you wanted to show a brief clip, that would be fine by me. It would be almost poignant. But to do the back and forth as if someone is standing there going "get it? GET IT?!" Oy vey.

I wanted to like this episode so much. On some levels, I really did. But overall it just didn't do the very heavy lifting it had to do and fans are, I think, pretty mad. It sure wasn't the overwhelming move towards brilliance I had been praying for. Instead what we got was a strange, messy little episode. Oh, one more note, although how something ends is important, it's not the entire determinant of whether or not something is great. What I mean is, if I listen to a beautiful song but I hate the last note, it's still a great song. I fear that "Lost" is slowly hitting some wrong notes at the end here. That doesn't mean I won't have loved this ride.

Things I liked
  • CJ, is that you? - Despite the fact that her very existence makes my brain hurt, I loved the performance of Allison Janney in this episode. Her crazy, brutal mom/goddess thing was really intriguing and represented a high-wire act as far as acting goes. If she goes too far, she's Mrs. Hawkings in her later episodes, all chewing scenery and acting stupid (oh, and by the way, did you notice her "it's not time yet" line mirrored Mrs. Hawking's note to Desmond...interesting). Instead, she was able to make the totally bizarre sound like it was coming from someone who totally accepted what she was saying. I believed it because it sounded like she did. Nice work, CJ from "The West Wing." I still love you.
  • Smokey's transformation - Although I would have loved to see the smoke pour out and rain down fury upon the people the Man in Black had been forced to live with, instead of the weird assertion that his mother somehow killed all those people, I did like the scene of him floating down the stream into the light that made him dark. That was cool.
  • The sympathy vote - I like that we are still able to feel for the Man in Black. The last few episodes have made us loathe him so much that we put to rest the "good guy/bad guy" theories pretty handily. I think this made a clear point: The person who was the Man in Black before he became Smokey was actually a pretty good guy whose mother was murdered and who felt betrayed. Perhaps the best writing in the show this season is that we're able to simultaneously pity and hate this character. That's a nice job.
  • The light itself - I knew they would blend the "light" with the "electromagnetism." I totally called this. It was the only way to weave together the science and faith of the show. I actually like it. See, it's okay for me to have the answer of what makes the island so powerful and magic simply be the mom's response that "this is the source." I like that. It is Eden, even if it isn't called Eden and isn't Eden literally. I buy that whatever "light" or "force" that she says is strongly there and yet is present in all of us to a degree can't really be defined but that science chooses to see it as "electromagnetism." I'm okay with that as an answer. I don't need to know where the tunnel takes you or what happens inside there. I like the idea that we, as humans, couldn't even comprehend it. That was cool with me.

What I didn't like
  • The pace - Again. These sons of bitches still haven't figured out how to make a compelling stretch of 44 minutes consistently. Sometimes they get it, but most often it moves in fits and starts. I think that they could have condensed all of the events in this entire episode to the first half hour. Really, I do. I think they then could have dropped in on Jacob and the Man in Black throughout the centuries for a lot of fun. Missed opportunity based on heavy handed writing. My gut tells me this is Carlton Cuse at work, because I've seen other things and read other things from Lindelof that had more movement. Bad, Carlton. Bad.
  • What's in a name INDEED? - If it turns out that Jacob's brother's name is Fred, I'm going to stab someone. In an episode in which there are really only 3 characters, only one person's name gets used...and it gets used so frequently that it's maddening. Everyone wants to yell Jacob, but nobody says the other brother's name? Does he not have a name? Are you kidding me? It better be revelatory. It better be so important that when we hear it we are instantly floored. If this name happens to be some throwaway thing, then this is the most maddening decision they've made in awhile.
  • The dialogue was, at times downright Lucas-ian - Dare I say it? Everyone spoke as though they were auditioning for a role in Star Wars Episode 7. Nobody spoke like they were people. I get that these characters have significance and whatnot, that they are not "normal people" per se, but come the frak on. This dialogue was so "on the nose" that each of them may as well have been wearing Groucho Marx glasses.
  • The lack of payoff - This is the big one, right? We still don't get what the game is these two are playing, what the rules are, how other people are involved in the game, what the stakes are, exactly how long it's been going on for, who they really are, and so on and so on. We got little answers, yes...but this was supposed to be the one where the pinata broke and all the truth spilled out. So much for that, huh?
  • The kid is Jacob - By virtue of using the same kid as an actor, we can now conclude that the boy appearing to Flocke on the island is Jacob.
  • Jacob and the Man in Black are twin brothers - We don't know who their mom is or where they really came from, but we know they are brothers.
  • Adam and Eve aren't married - They weren't lovers, they were quasi-mom and son. It was the Man in Black and his pseudo-mother.
  • The light is the source of the island's power - The nature of this light remains a mystery, but that's the origin of the powers.
  • Smokey became smokey by light - I get this, actually. See what I think happened is that the Man in Black went in as a person...and all of that person stuff was stripped away and killed. I think that all that's left now is his dark soul. His body died but because of whatever his wacky momma did, he can't "die." So now he's left as this monstrous, bodyless, angry soul that is all evil. All the light that was left in him is gone to stay in the light hole. I'm not saying it makes a ton of sense, but this is what I think happened.
  • The more things change... - We still don't know what the stakes of the game are, where these two came from, what their powers are, when they decided to gamble with human lives, what happens when and if Flocke gets off the island, why bodies have to be dead for Smokey to look like them, and so on and so on. The legacy of this episode will forever be missed opportunities.
  • Weight-less - The worst part is this: As much as they made me care about the Man in Black here, despite not giving us his stupid name, I don't know squadoosh about Jacob. If he is the role that our hero, Jack, is going to step in to, I need to care more about him.
  • Locke tight - Did anybody else forget that Locke was there when they found Adam and Eve. Interesting, no? I now totally believe that we're going to be left with Jack and Locke on that island. Whether its the Man in Black or not, I don't know.
  • Where do we go now? - Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the next few hours will build on these revelations into something incredible. Maybe we WILL find out things that I've been asking throughout this post. It's possible. Did anyone else notice that the emphasis on wells and their connection to the light certainly may have a role with Desmond, who is all "electromagnetized" (another word for "the light") and was pushed in a well? Methinks that will be involved in the ending.
Look, I don't have a good grasp on what happened here or what's going to happen, and that sucks. Unquestionably sucks. I wanted to give this episode an A (maybe an A+). It gets a C. Why? Because what was good was very good and what was bad made me get stabby.

I want better. I want to believe that next week, which is "Lost" week, will include no less than 154 actual minutes (not counting commercials) of brilliant material that ties together the last 6 years. I am just running low on hope. This episode kind of knocked the wind out of me in a bad way. I still love this experience, I'm just not sure about where we're ending up. It's been that kind of week, I guess. My luck is nothing if not bad right now. So, here's hoping I'm wrong.

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Anonymous Juan Complexion said...

I agree with most everything you wrote, except for the final grade. I think you're being charitable.

I should've stopped watching as soon as I saw the second twin being swaddled in a black blanket (after the first was swaddled in a white blanket). How stupid do the writers think we are?

By the way, I'm okay with abstract plotlines and no (or few) answers, but if the writers are going to do that, don't act as if the answers are important. This whole time, we've been hanging on a conflict between two (or more sides) without actually knowing what the conflict is. I still don't know. Without understanding the conflict, I don't understand the characters' motivations. I have to know WHAT'S AT STAKE. As of yet, I still don't know.

Also, I was a little disappointed with the acting in last night's episode. Adult MIB was good, but I was really disappointed by CJ, the adolescents, and even the dude that plays Jacob. Maybe it was just the dialog, but it did have an "Episode 7" feel to it, and that's not a compliment.

May 12, 2010  
Anonymous Aaron B said...

I totally agree Ryan...what I like about the episode were the concepts and what we did learn- I think you are definitely right about the whole what if Smokey gets out/blinking out existence now that he essentially consumed all of the light, but man that episode made my heart sad.

I haven't seen West Wing yet, but I just wasn't into Allison Janney last night (even after the excitement when we all realized it was her) and those kids were just...awful.

My only hope is that LOST got all of its suck out before these last 2 episodes.

Also, sad to say, but my initial response last night was this: "Wow. Sad when the best part of the episode is the preview for next week."

May 12, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you would have told me (maybe you did - I just didn't pay attention) that the episode was going to chronicle the lives of Jacob and MIB, I would have popped more popcorn. But alas, the popcorn I popped was more than sufficient . . .

Also, people need to be able to kill people better. Throwing people against a rock is nice - but it ain't gonna kill a man. Just sayin' . . .

May 12, 2010  
Blogger Ryan said...

First up, thanks to all of you for your comments, they're very much appreciated. Second, it seems like there's nothing but a series of negative things. That's never a good sign. If you're posting here, you're not just a die hard, you're the diest of the die hards. Thus, the fact that we've blasted everything from how people died (I made the same comment about rock bumping), the dialogue, the acting...this is not a good sign. I assume you're all hanging in through the end, but boy are we not happy, huh?

May 12, 2010  
Anonymous Buzz Blumpkin said...

I keep telling myself that it's about the journey and not about the destination. There have been some great episodes in this series. This season's Richard Alpert episode stands out as one of the greats, for instance.

But sometimes I think the show's producers have been trying too hard to keep their viewers in the dark about the end game, and that they may have even changed the end game a few times to keep everyone guessing. I think they got Lost in the mythology.

Last night's episode could've appeared at any time in the series, and it wouldn't have given away anything major that would've re-shaped the series. Last night was, after all, what this WHOLE thing has been about. But can you imagine your reaction if that episode would've appeared in the first or second season? I'm not sure I would've continued watching the show.

May 12, 2010  
Blogger jason said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 12, 2010  
Blogger jason said...

Jacob and MiB being twins was pretty inspired, especially seeing how the first tie-in to the show way back in season one was the novel "The Bad Twin."

The only thing I really hated about the episode was how vague it was when at this point of the show's life I don't see any reason to be, unless it's resolved in the finale. The mother might as well have been speaking pig latin because nothing she said made sense. She "made it" so the kids can't die, can't age, etc. but not even a nod as to how. Then adult MiB kinda just "knows" mixing a donkey wheel with underground water and "heart light" (if you're a fan of E.T. or shitty Weezer songs) will get him off the island. Well, maybe this makes sense because the guy has never seen a ship before. There was a little too much of "The Answer is...just because!" going on last night. And for the record the rest of the season one scene with Adam & Eve includes Jack saying he guesses that the skeletons are 40-50 years old. Try 3,000 years, dumb ass. Point being the show runners didn't know the precise details back then and are shoehorning it all together like every other show does. But that's forgivable. I mean, I have to do quick math just to figure out how old I was 6 years ago much less plot and pace a show of this caliber. But Disregarding major plot points won't be as easy to overlook. Maybe it's just me but I care more about the mystery of the Dharma Initiative than knowing every detail of the magical island. Long ago I just kinda accepted it's magical, like the Force in Star Wars, and just ran with it believing that the characters were more important than the mythology. This season has been all about the midichlorians.

Anyways, to quote the internets, I'm a Lost lover not fighter....and reserving the right to pass judgement until it's all over. If I got anything from last night's episode it's this: We better see someone else thrown down that smoke monster makin' hole and get a glimpse of the center of the island. Maybe it'll be the sideways world?

May 12, 2010  
Anonymous Aaron B said...

Ryan. I was out celebrating our first year of MA done tonight with one Ms. Baxley and decided....

The light...its our wishes. Too much and we become consumed.

The MiB: Wanted off the island, therefore the turning of the wheel would have accomplished that.

Locke at the end of season 4: Was told they needed the island to move, his deepest desire to protect the only thing he really loved ( the island) so the island moved.

The MiB post killing Allison Janney: Bent on destruction, wanting all to be dead, therefore his wish to be corruption came true.

Boom. Hopefully this made sense...

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Ryan said...

Jason and Aaron, you both just killed it for me.

Jason - "Maybe it's just me but I care more about the mystery of the Dharma Initiative than knowing every detail of the magical island. Long ago I just kinda accepted it's magical, like the Force in Star Wars, and just ran with it believing that the characters were more important than the mythology. This season has been all about the midichlorians." Amen my brother. That's absolutely totally accurate for me. I couldn't have said it better, which is why I didn't.

Aaron - I get you. And I think you're right. I think that you are very right. Remember Ben "What if I told you that there was a box..." Remember that? How did the horse get there? Sayid's cat? Locke's dad? The answer is that this "light" this "force of creation" is so present in the island that it can physically manifest things there. I like this very much.

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the answers are spelled out for us, we feel insulted. When they don't get spelled out enough, we feel cheated. The writers can't win! They could sure as hell do a better job- I can't argue with that- but I don't WANT them to lay it all out for me now, when they haven't been doing it for almost 6 years, and I've figured a lot of stuff out just fine on my own, thank you.
We are meant to infer an awful lot from this episode, and Doc Jensen actually had a fair number of them in his column this week. Part of what I love about this show (call me an elitist) is that it takes dedication and at least half a brain to figure it out and enjoy it to its fullest. Not just anyone can jump in and dig it like we do. I kind of like that Carlton and Damon are trusting me to use my half a brain and powers of deduction to spare myself the ridiculousness of "so the voices are the dead people," and "someone got her voice back." No shit, Sherlock! I've been figuring it out thus far, and will continue to do so, even after it's all over.
I liked what Buzz Blumpkin said- it's the journey. We always knew the end was going to be bittersweet and that there was no way to get all the questions answered. Why deny that now? I have faith that there'll be a lot of sweet in the next 3.5 hours...

May 13, 2010  
Blogger Ryan said...

You know, as true as that is, my problem goes like this: When asked about what was and wasn't revealed in "Across the Sea," Lindelof was asked specifically about the Man in Black's name. He said "we're sorry if you don't like the fact that you don't get the Man in Black's name, but you don't get it." It's that attitude that pisses me off. Howsabout I turn that question around and ask you what possible reason you would have for not giving us his name?

May 13, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have faith, Ryan. Maybe his name is going to be the most mind-blowing thing ever and they're saving it...maybe. :) I think it MUST be significant- it's got to be something interesting and awesome, or they would have just said "his name is Fred." Right? I *want* to believe this. Damon does kind of come across like a major A-hole, I will give you that, but maybe saying "you don't get it" means "be patient."

May 13, 2010  

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