Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thoughts on the Other Woman...

The revelation of a Dharma Station named the Tempest has me pondering the Shakespeare play of that name. There are some intriguing similarities to Lost, particularly in Prospero, who overprotects his daughter Miranda the way Ben does Alex. Ghostly Jacob is the rough equivalent of Ariel, an elemental spirit who grudgingly serves Prospero because he freed Ariel from imprisonment. The Cerberus smoke monster reminds me of Caliban, the deformed creation of Sycorax, a powerful witch who died long ago like the Fourtoes. The play begins with Prospero conjuring the titular tempest, which wrecks his brother's ship on the remote island where all of these characters live.

Beyond these specific parallels, I'm intrigued by the Tempest's resonance with other works of science fiction. For example, Shakespeare's play inspired the classic film Forbidden Planet. In this futuristic re-imagining, Dr. Morbius (Prospero) lives with his daughter Altaira (Miranda) and their faithful servant Robby the Robot (Ariel) on an isolated planet once inhabited by an extinct alien race called the Krell (Sycorax). A crew of astronauts lands against the warnings of Morbius, who welcomes them nonetheless. Shortly after touchdown, however, the ship is attacked by a monster (Caliban) that turns out to be a manifestation of subconscious fears using advanced Krell technology.

Many, myself included, have noted the connection between Cerberus and the Id Monster from Forbidden Planet. Another analogy is to Dan Simmons's literate sci-fi novels Ilium and Olympos. The basic premise is that far in the future powerful post-humans have recreated the Trojan War on Mars with themselves in the roles of Olympian gods. These "Posts" use advanced technology that's indistinguishable from magic to intervene in the conflict like the gods did in Homer's epic tale. The Posts are enhanced, for example, by nanotech that allows them to assume the form of "a twisting, cyclone of black plasma-energy, its static electricity discharging in random lightning bolts..."

Shakespeare generally, and the Tempest specifically, figure heavily in both books. One main character is an artificially intelligent scholar of Shakespeare who analyzes sonnets and dreams of meeting the Bard. It turns out that the Posts were transformed into gods by Prospero, a sentient avatar of the Earth's post-internet logosphere. Prospero is served by Ariel, a similarly sentient avatar of the Earth's evolved biosphere. Prospero is also served by Caliban, a monstrous cannibalistic mutant created by Sycorax, another mysterious meta-intelligence whose origin is never explained. And that barely scratches the surface of Shakespeare references -- not to mention Homer and Proust.

Truth be told, Forbidden Planet, Ilium, and Olympos may be even more relevant to Lost than the Tempest. Simmons's works, in particular, read like a handbook for the (pseudo) science of the show. When the Orchid Orientation mentioned "Casimir effect," I immediately thought of wormholes and time travel thanks to an explanation of the connection in Ilium. But I digress -- here are some other reactions and questions to the Other Woman:

* I love it when Lost revisits familiar scenes from a fresh perspective that casts dialogue and events in some new light. A perfect example was the way this episode revisited the opening moments of Season 3 when Ben sends Goodwin on his fatal mission. Now we know why Ben figured he was no longer welcome in Juliet's book club. The only time this technique doesn't work is when it's used to build suspense instead of dramatic irony -- e.g., in the first few episodes of Season 2 when we saw the same scenes inside the Hatch from several different perspectives.

* Speaking of Ben ordering Goodwin to his death, I felt more than ever in this episode that the former has knowledge of the future. Then again, you wonder why he'd waste his time on Juliet if that were the case...

* Jin speaks English! Unfortunately, his fake accent when doing so is even worse than his Korean. Don't get me wrong -- I love Jin's character, which represents one of the few complex portrayals of Korean males on television. As the son of a Korean mother, however, I can say with some authority that Daniel Dae Kim badly needs lessons from someone -- perhaps Margaret Cho -- on how properly to imitate Korean-accented English.

* When I first saw Harper in the jungle, I turned to my friend and said, "she's dead." I figured it was really Jacob using Smokey to assume her form. It appears, however, that Harper is still alive. That doesn't exclude Jacob's involvement, especially since Smokey seemed to scan Juliet in Left Behind. But you'd think he'd use Goodwin's ghost to communicate her. The more likely explanation, therefore, is that Ben sent Harper because he wants to initiate another Purge...

* On a related note, was that Harper's physical form or an astral projection? The whispers that preceded her sudden appearance reminded me of similar whispers heard right before Wet Walt appeared to Shannon and when Taller Ghost Walt ordered Locke out of the ditch. And she disappeared as abruptly as she appeared, into thin air. So, if it was astral projection, are we sure it was really Harper?

* How many rebel spies do you suppose died to get that video footage of Widmore?

* As for Ben's explanation, don't believe his lies. As I suggest in the Cancer Man's Con, his connections to Widmore are more substantial than we're being led to believe. How else to explain that Ben is a main target of the Freighter crew's mission? I believe he's been stringing Charles Widmore along either directly himself or through an agent sent to infiltrate Widmore's organization by posing as a disgruntled Other.

* Reference 108 to how Hurley makes his own luck -- he effortlessly trounced Sawyer at horse shoes.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

The title is derived from a comment Harper makes to Juliet when she trails off after implying that Ben thinks Juliet resembles someone else. His mother? I'll bet there are safes behind every painting and one of those will have that $3.2 million, because I truly expected that the painting that Ben first went to was going to be the one painting everyone discusses, the one of the woman that might be Ben's mother. (If I'm off on the subject of the painting, its late, I'm in Chicago, and I'm freezing...)

Barry said...

I thought Ben was about to show Locke the secret room that Sayid found. There was a ton of (foreign) currency in there - who knows how much it amounts to.

I think the "other woman" could be Annie, Ben's childhood friend that sort of disappeared in the purge.

Lolagrrl said...

Meh... I don't have much to say about this yet... I'm just commenting so I can receive email updates on this blog (LOVE that feature!!)

My only thought: Was that ~really~ Goodman's wife who visited Juliette or was it Smoky? If it was Smoky and the Gas is inert, does that spell doom for the island?

I confused! (Heh... what's new?)

James said...

Ok, why did Robin Anton play "Harper?" Not a fan of that face... Smokey or not, what happened to the rest of the Others? Did they all get botox and lip injections? Also, something I noticed, and may not remember if it was explained, but what happened to the Taily kids that were taken?

I'm not sure if I buy Ben's Widmore blame. We still need backstory on the Maxwell Group, Oceanic Air, Hanso Foundation, Dharma, etc....

I really liked when Juliet pistol whipped Charlotte. Can't wait to see the Farady or Lewis centric episode...

Ciao mein

Alex said...

The Lock and Ben scene gave away key information in my mind. There is no doubt that person he refers Michael...

Who else on the Island would surprise Locke that much that he would have to sit down. Boone, Eko and his creep father are dead/ghost on the island. He does not have any close relations with any of the others, maybe Richard but that would not make him sit down.

Doc Jenson explains this on his EW blog -- If Ben sent him on an exact coordinates and there is only one way (as far as we know) to get off the island safely following the "Farday coordinates". Does this mean Michael ended up at another facility and his memory was rewritten and he is now working for Ben. Ben knew what was going to happen when he sent Michael out there so hopefully this will be address if it is in fact Michael.

Also anyone else think Michael Emerson is due for a best supporting actor award? He has been lights out this season!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Something I thought of after Barry mentioned Annie she "the other woman" Juliet reminds Ben of? Crazier still, could Harper be Adult Annie? Everything I've seen Andrea Roth in has been with yher being a blonde, why the brunette look if not as a reminder of Annie. (I don't think its a matter of not wanting two blondes in the same scene, but who understands central casting...?)

lil-beeyotch said...

The other woman might be referring to Juliet as she was Goodwin's Lover even though he was married? Maybe Juliet is the other woman, a substitute for Harper and Annie and Kate??
I jumped when Kate got hit on the head...the real question I'm hoping BM will answer is who the real enemy is?

Faraday was stopping the contamination gas machine thing [sorry about the technical wordlessness] but they had the gas masks, so they wouldnt have really cared if everyone died incase they failed to cool it down?
I dont know what Ben was talking about when he said the people from Not Penny's Boat are here to kill them off? He might as well have been lying, maybe he is/was since Faraday and Charlotte are claiming that Ben planned on using the machine himself...
and I think Michael is definitely the one on the boat working for Ben...but how would he get into the boat in the first place?
Maybe he contacted Widmore under Ben's command and showed Widmore and his people how to get to the island? Maybe Faraday got the co-ordinates from Michael through Ben??
The person can't been on the island since I'm assuming the same person helped unlock the door for Des and Sayid.
Locke is beginning to kind of scare me, maybe he is going to turn into some freak Ben?
How did Harper disappear and appear out of thin air?? The whisperings and stuff seems to suggest that she is dead and part of the EM souls?? Maybe Ben can contact the dead...what did she mean when she said Ben is exactly where he wants to be??
..hmmm so many questions! I am hoping BM [and the other posters] will answer them!
BTW I raised the issue about the other 'Others' in the comments for The Constant...curious!

Jason said...

Michael Emerson lights out acting? He spent the first two episodes getting beaten up, and outside of that has had maybe 10 minutes of screen time over the rest doing his usual good job.

Good episode, could still use less Jack/Kate and less Locke being a retard (Not a fan of how they are writing his character right now, although I love Locke overall).

lisa (lost pezhead) said...

i was leaning towards ben's mother being who juliet looks like.

i suppose michael is the one on the boat, but i keep thinking it's just so obvious....i almost want it to be someone else completely unexpected....but i really can't think of anyone else...except perhaps walt, which would be more of a shock than michael.

can you ever trust ben? what is sawyer going to do about ben walking around??!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

@Lisa, I agree that Juliet might remind Ben of his mother, but at the same time I've read that the Whatever Happened to Annie? issue would be addressed. @lil-b, I think the others are simply still at the Temple (probaby by the Four-Toed Statue?) because Nector Carbonnell (Richard Alpert) is on CAIN now and they may not have a proper storyline. There's no real leader now, as so many died at the end of last season.
@bigmouth, where are you, man?

frank said...

New here, and fairly new to the show. But love this whole site, and the ideas coming from the fans of the show.
Juliet reminding Ben of Mother, can't see that simply cuase he never knew the woman, and his father was far too distant to have shared anything with him about her. I think she reminds him of the girl he met on the island in school as a child. Perhaps she died trying to have their child. Who knows??
Locke , sorry John but I have lost all faith in you. Then again perhaps I never had any.
Yes I think it's Micheal on the boat, but that does seem too easy a choice.
Ben and Whidmore. Man I can't wait to see what's going on there.
Who is the 6th. That's what I am really needing to know. Is it someone from the plane, could it be someone from the island Ben mixes in?
Well enough from me for now. Except they showed the taily kids with the flight attendant and the others a few eps ago , can't remember exactly when. Thanks again great site keep up the good work

zombie_soiree said...

BM, one thing I didn't see mentioned in the blog post or in the comments is the fact that Shakespeare left open a distinct possibility that the events of "The Tempest" may be a figment of Prospero's imagination. The boundary between what is dreamed and what is actually seen is deliberately obfuscated in "Tempest," which is why it is one of his greatest achievements. Of course, the world can be full of magic if you exist within the nutshell of your own fantasy.

Anyway, keep up the good work!


Bigmouth said...

Z: Wow...I never knew that! As I mentioned in my latest recap, I've been pondering that possibility again after they mentioned Vonnegut so conspicuously. I wouldn't, for example, be surprised if the final shot of the series raises at least the specter that this has all been a dream. The same is true of Slaughterhouse 5 and Turn of the Screw, which have also been referenced. But I will be disappointed if they decisively embrace the dream explanation, something neither Shakespeare, Vonnegut, nor James does.