Friday, May 15, 2009

'Lost's' season finale: Touched by a Jacob

From the Chicago Tribune.... 'Lost's' season finale: Touched by a Jacob .....

"All this has happened before and will happen again.

That phrase recurred frequently on "Battlestar Galactica," and if you saw the March 20 series finale of that show, you'll be able to spot the parallels to "Lost's" Season 5 finale.

I don't want to say too much about the "BSG" finale, in case you haven't seen it and plan to watch the show some day on DVD. But let's just say that later in the show's run, there was the intimation that what the characters were going through was part of a much, much bigger picture.

Everylockethatrises "Lost's" "The Incident" puts the ABC show in similar territory. Watching the Season 5 finale the second time through, I began to think a lot more about that beach conversation that opened the episode, the chat between Jacob and his unnamed friend. What's progress? Can humans evolve into anything other than knuckleheads who, say, run around and beat the crap out of each other in the jungle?

Were those two guys on the beach God and the Devil? And if so, which is which?

Or are those two men, one of whom is apparently killable, mortal pawns in the same game that everyone else is taking part in? Is Jacob an angel? Or the Angel of Death? Are they all part of a much bigger tapestry being woven by someone other than Jacob, who's a pretty skilled weaver himself?

When Ilana asks Richard what lies in the shadow of the statue, his Latin answer translates to this: "That which will save us all." Food for thought.

There were parts of the finale that bugged me, and all in all, I can't say it was the best season finale the show's ever done. But there were moments that I liked quite a bit, and everything to do with Jacob and his nameless adversary left me very intrigued. I'll get to more of those thoughts in a minute, but one big thing I think I'll ponder over the next few months is the idea that there's a much larger picture here.

It's bigger than the Dharma folk versus the Others, Ben versus Widmore, Ben versus Locke, the Losties versus the Others, the future versus the past.

Jacobisfired Maybe it's as simple as good versus evil. Or the bigger picture may involve the question of free will versus predestination. The question of whether humans can listen to the better angels of their nature or will always be brutes tussling in the muck.

Now, it's far too late to be having this kind of philosophical conversation. To do that sort of thing properly, we'd need far more coffee, several theology Ph.Ds and a crate of whiskey. Alas, I'm short on all three of those things.

A few not-quite-coherent thoughts are below; I may add to this list of reactions on Thursday, and as always, I welcome your thoughts and impressions in the comment area.

So in "The Incident," we got some answers but are left with more questions: Who is Jacob and what does he want? Why did he go around touching the Losties? Why do they get to be part of Dumbledore's -- sorry, Jacob's -- Army?

Was the crash prevented? I doubt it. Otherwise, what the heck happens in Season 6?

One of the biggest questions is, who was in that box that Ilana was carrying around? Was it the "real" Locke? Presumably it was, and Murderous Beach Guy somehow got into a copy of Locke's body. Maybe he visited Walter Bishop and somehow got an alternate-reality version of Locke and teleported himself into that meatsuit? In any case, seeing Locke's dead body tumble out of that box was a great reveal.

On the issue of free will, I'd say that the show has it both ways. And maybe that's entirely logical -- I'll leave that to you philosophy majors to sort that all out.

Benknife We had characters making a series of personal choices -- Ben, unable to overcome his rage and resentment (which Not-Locke craftily stoked), killed Jacob (and come to think of it, if Murderous Beach Guy can grab a new body, why can't Jacob?). Juliet, wanting to unbreak her heart, sets off the nuke (and come to think of it, how did she survive that fall down the well? Not credible, but let's move on). Jack, thinking for whatever reason that he was doing the right thing, chose to dump the bomb down the well (and there was a great moment when everyone had their "I'm gonna die!" faces on, then nothing happened. Ha!). Sawyer chose to let Jack throw the bomb down the well, maybe because he just couldn't face another round of boxing with Jack. And so on.

Now, did that series of choices actually conspire create The Incident, and cause the moment that they were trying to prevent? That seems likely -- that's been happening all season. We've been told that "What Happened, Happened." OK, then, I'll take the show at its word. But if the characters did indeed cause that which they were trying to prevent -- well, I predicted that was likely to be the case before the finale aired. And the best things on "Lost" are the moments -- like the Locke box reveal -- that I don't see coming at all.

One last thought before the hail of bullets: I think the show made a mistake in killing off Juliet. That scene was tremendously well acted by Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell (and well directed as always by Jack Bender). The show gets points for making her death (well, her fall down the well) moving, but in the long run, I think they'll regret not having Juliet around.

Downinthehole Sawyer and Kate really don't have much of a spark any more (more on that below), and Sawyer and Juliet just really clicked together. I understand that to create drama you often have to deny characters what they want, but in this case, what Sawyer and Juliet brought to the show outweighed anything to be gained or mined from Sawyer's grief.

Was Sawyer always fated to lose Juliet? Was it written in the stars?

To quote Romeo, "Then I defy you, stars!"

Hail of bullets:

* In my opinion, Jack's motivations for setting off the bomb were never really adequately explained. So he wants to not kill everyone on the plane -- but that means he kills a lot of people on the island. He's crazy gung-ho for one of those options, but why? It's pretty typical that Jack's reasons for doing things are headstrong and half-baked, but his motivations this time were particularly thin and frustrating. How in the heck does setting off the bomb get him closer to a love connection with Kate? That was by far the least satisfying part of the finale for me. By far. It was just plain irritating (as are most things involving Jack these days), it didn't make any sense, and besides, the Kate-Sawyer-Jack love triangle is beyond played out. Dear "Lost": Move. On.
* Rosebernard Words can't describe how much I loved the Rose and Bernard scene. "It's always something with you people," Rose said. Oh, you don't even know the half of it, Rose. They "retired," and had completely opted out of the Dharma vs Others shenanigans, and good for them.
* When Ilana was about to show Richard what was in the box, there was a pause, and my husband said, "It's Starbuck!" My husband, he's a funny guy.
* At first I was tremendously irked by Juliet's change of heart. She's not one to be driven by romantic mood swings, so her about face about whether to set off the bomb seemed to come out of nowhere. But on the second viewing of the episode, something I hadn't fully processed before sunk in: When Rose and Bernard talked about being together, no matter what, even unto death, Sawyer slid a glance over to Kate. Juliet had looked lovingly at him at that moment, and when she saw his look at Kate, it broke her heart. And all of her actions from that point onward were driven by wanting to never have her heart broken by Sawyer.
* All in all, I still don't get why Sawyer carries a torch for Kate. I think the only reason that "connection" exists is because the writers and some rabid fans want it to exist. I just don't see the reason for it; in my view, it's a stale plot device. The actors' chemistry, such as it is, isn't really there any more and the whole scenario is just tired. Almost as tired as anything to do with the Jack-Kate love/friendship/whatever. At least Josh Holloway acts Sawyer's love for Kate really well. When we get Jack-Kate scenes, I feel no spark whatsoever. Honestly, Sun and Ben have more of a spark.
* Jacobtapestry It's interesting to note that Jacob visited most of the main Losties at some key moment in their lives years before they ever got on Flight 815. He visited Hurley, however, well after he'd returned from the island -- the day before Hurley returned via Ajira Airways, in fact. What's that mean? And what's in that guitar case? UPDATE: As people have said in comments, he visited Sayid after his return to civilization as well.
* I liked that Miles saved his dad (though now we know how Chang's arm was injured). See, good things can happen between fathers and sons on the Island of Bad Dads!
* In this episode, I think Ben was entirely truthful. And nobody believed him about anything. Which was quite funny at times. Poor Ben, he can never win. I'd almost feel sorry for him if he didn't already feel so sorry for himself.
* The two gun battles -- the shootout at the Dharma Corral and the Swan Blowout -- were typically great action moments from "Lost." I barely mention how fine the show's action moments are, but I should, because, like Sun and Jin's love, I shouldn't take them for granted.
* Speaking of Ben, how great was he when he answered Locke's question about whether Ben would do anything for him. "Yeessss…" So many conflicting emotions -- but mostly resentment -- in that delivery of a one-word line. And Michael Emerson's acting in that final scene with Jacob was superlative as always.
* I've included a large picture of Jacob's tapestry at right. Was the piece of cloth that Ilana found was torn from the lower left corner?
* For years, we've all been asking about that crazy foot statue. Who knew it would turn out to be so important?
* Alan Sepinwall thinks the ship spotted from the shore is the Black Rock, and that Richard may have been on it.
* James Poniewozik notes something that bothered me as well: Having a character voice an objection that audience members may have to a plot point (writers call it "hanging a lantern" on the problematic issue) does not excuse having a lame plot point in the story in the first place. In other words, pointing out that Jack may cause The Incident, that Juliet's change of heart is incredibly sudden doesn't magically forgive those kinds of sigh-inducing developments.
* Also sigh-inducing, as Poniewozik points out -- taking time from, oh, saving Sayid or getting to the Swan for the latest installment of Let's Talk About Our Feelings in the Jungle, starring Jack, Kate and Sawyer.
* Eeek. Jen at Watch With Kristin says that Elizabeth Mitchell got a new show, so there's no reason to hope we'll see Juliet again.
* You simply must read Todd VanDerWerff's hilarious and insightful essay on the finale; it's here.
* Some links to other "Lost" recaps: JOpinionated's take is here; thoughts from the Televisionary are here; and there are reactions from Eric Deggans here. And of course TV Tattle has a great roundup of "Lost" links.
* UPDATE Thursday: I just want to give a general shoutout to everyone who's posted a comment, a theory, an observation or just a reaction: Thank you! I've been reading every single comment and really fascinated by all the ideas percolating. It's one of the best parts of my job -- reading what everyone else thinks. You've all thought of so much stuff that hadn't occurred to me. Thanks again.

Great lines:

* Sawyer to sub captain: "You ain't home."
* Ben to Locke: "I'm a Pisces."
* Sawyer to Jack: "I don't speak destiny." (I just remembered that the season's tagline was "Destiny calls." Ha.)
* Sawyer to all: "This don't look like LAX."
* Miles to all: "I'm glad you all thought this through." Miles should go live with Rose and Bernard, honestly. And I would watch that show.
* What were your favorites?

Rating on the Finale-o-meter: I was leaning toward giving it a 6. Then I traveled here FROM THE FUTURE and Future Mo wanted to give it a 7. Jacob told me to split the difference, so I'm going with 6.5."