Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thoughts on Sundown...

BIGMOUTH: I rate Sundown a 7/10 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology and 3 for character).  For me, the episode served mainly as a referendum on the flash sideways storytelling device, and the results unfortunately were mixed.  In terms of the negative, Sundown helped crystallize what I find frustrating about these flashes.  But on the positive side, it offered a glimpse of where I think the LA X storyline is headed, and it's a direction I could see myself enjoying. 

Let's start with the constructive criticism.  I was obviously disappointed that Dogen departed after only a handful of episodes.  But even more frustrating than his untimely demise was the failure to give him a flashback, which would have shown how he came to the Island.  Instead, Dogen had to tell us how he lost his son, how Jacob visited and offered to save the boy if Dogen came to the Island -- all of which was infinitely less instructive or satisfying.  Forget what Sanada's outstanding performance deserved, I think the audience needed a Dogen-centric episode before he died.  But that presumably was impossible because it would break the flash-sideways formula. 

RIP Dogen

It didn't help that Sayid's story in the LA X reality failed to move me for the most part.  His initial scenes with Nadia and her children were forced, and the whole love triangle with his brother Omer seemed trite.  Things picked up a bit with the (re)appearance of Omar and Keamy, who were part of the mercenary team Widmore sent to the Island in Season 4.  In the LA X reality, Keamy was a menacing loan shark, and I enjoyed his showdown with Sayid.  Frying an egg has rarely seemed so ominous, and it was perversely satisfying to see Keamy plead for his life.  While we're on the subject, give credit where credit's due: LOST does a nice job of shooting fight sequences.

"The debt's forgiven. Alright?"

Ultimately, however, the flash sideways told us nothing we didn't already know about Sayid as a character.  His flashbacks and flash forwards have already made it clear he's a killer, albeit a remorseful one.  Maybe the point was to show that the murder in his heart had nothing to do with the Island or Jacob's pushes -- Sayid was simply a victim of fate.  Still, none of this shed any light on his apparent conversion to the dark side.  Of course, it's hard to fault him for siding against Dogen and the Others, who he believes twice tried to have him killed. By that same token, I wonder what would have happened if Sayid had actually followed Dogen's directions and stabbed the Man in Black before he spoke.

"Now why'd you go and do that?"

On that note, what do you all everybody make of the Man in Black's offer to make Sayid's wishes come true?  At first, I figured Smokey might conjure up Nadia's ghost like he did with Emily Linas.  But a comment by Lostmio got my whackadoo wheel spinning.  She suggests that Jacob's deal was actually to save Dogen's son in the LA X reality, the existence of which depends on Dogen's coming to the Island.  I suspect the Man in Black will make a similar offer to Sayid, but with a twist.  Sayid will be told he can trade places with his LA X twin, allowing him to see Nadia again. What the Man in Black won't mention is that the LA X reality's survival actually hinges on Sayid's staying on the Island.

Apparently, the "Rules" don't forbid Jacob and the Man in Black from misrepresenting or omitting key information.  We saw this last week when Jacob used a noble lie to get Hurley and Jacob away from the Temple before Smokey's rampage.  Then there's the Man in Black's disturbing whopper to Clairessou that the Others were holding her Aaron in the Temple.  Speaking of which, like NetProphet, I found it odd that Claire seemed completely unperturbed by news that the Man in Black was lying to her.  Alternatively, if she didn't believe Kate, why save the latter's life by telling her to jump in the pit?  I get that Claire is supposed to be nutty, but still.  Is she just toying with Kate?

It puts the lotion in the basket...

Okay, enough criticism.  I mentioned above that I liked where I thought the LA X storyline was going.  My optimism springs from the appearance of Jin as an apparent kidnap victim by Keamy and Co.  I'm guessing the latter worked for Widmore in the LA X reality, too.  If so, the kidnapping may relate to some conflict between Widmore and Jin's employer, Mr. Paik, maybe even over the sunken Island itself.  Remember, to avoid paradox, both branches of the timeline should logically spring from one common root in which the '77ers traveled back in time (from the Season 1-5 branch) and caused the Incident.  If I'm right, Widmore will still recall having been on the Island.

"No English!"

The model for this conflict is the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  Damon Lindelof is a big fan, and there are many parallels between lluminatus! and LOST, including the mysterious recurrence of the number 23 in both.  Part one of the Trilogy involves a nuclear standoff between cold-war superpowers over a small island off the coast of west Africa called Fernando Poo.  It's eventually revealed that Fernando Poo is a remnant of the sunken island of Atlantis.  I'll bet that Hydra Island is similarly all that remains above water in the LA X reality.  Widmore will use the Hydra as a staging ground to retrieve something (Jughead?) from the Island.  Look for that DHARMA submarine to play a role in the salvage operation.


That's all from my end.  Wayne has some family obligations that may delay his recap this week, but be sure to check back later for his thoughts.

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WAYNE: Nice bait and switch giving us a flash sideways for Sayid in an episode titled "Sundown." You always think these episodes will be about Sun, but in Season 1, "House of The Rising Sun" was similarly Sayid-centric. Sundown is when a Muslim offers his last prayers for the day, and sundowning also refers to mental illness. Also, and this is more just coincidence, one can equate the Others with Sundowners, what would amount to migrant workers in Australia, no set home, carrying rolled up tents on their backs, moving from place to place.

When it comes to my sickness score, the character component is directed much more towards Dogen than Sayid. There was little to be gained from Sayid's LA X reality, because we all know that, whatever he does for a living, it sure isn't translating documents. As with Sawyer and, to a certain extent, Kate, their stories were done in Season 1. There were always new layers in the episodes focusing on Jack, Locke, and Sun. From a writing standpoint, considering the main action driving Sundown, I couldn't imagine us getting a story about Claire and her sundown sickness.  But the scenes in the other reality offered little. The only interesting moment was when Sayid found Jin in the locker. Also, seeing Keamy and Omar gives an indication that we might see an LA X version of Widmore, the man who hired the mercenaries to hunt Ben down on the Island. 

If the Lamp Post exists in the LA X reality, can Eloise and Widmore possibly not know that the main Island is underwater? The tote board would still be streaming coordinates, the pendulum still moving. I can imagine a periodic food drop --this is still 2004, after all --planned where the plane looks for the Island but can only find Hydra. Yes, Jughead detonated in 1977, but as lostmio mentioned a few posts back, it could take years for the Island to sink. I would rather have seen Widmore and Eloise in this episode, because I do want to know if the fate of the Island is known. Sayid can fight, he's a killer, he loves Nadia. We know that. Whatever the parallels to the main storyline, the LA X story was unnecessary, but it was the only real way to structure this specific episode.

In "Solitary," Sayid banished himself (as opposed to being banished by Dogen) from the beach camp only to be taken captive by Rousseau. I now suspect that her torture chamber mirrored Dogen's because she had been at the Temple to be tested for the sickness. Claire was familiar with the side entrance to the Temple, and she was branded for her sickness. Perhaps this is the reason Danielle mentioned The Dark Territory, referring to it in such a way on her map.. She knew of the Temple's close proximity. Rousseau also has one telling line, when she tells Sayid that "she knows what he is." Not who. What.

Solitary is also the episode where Hurley creates his makeshift golf course that has only two holes. In a S2 episode, "Enter 77," which was also Sayid-centric, Sayid, Kate, and Locke discover the Flame Station, where Locke plays computerized chess -- again, a game with two players -- where the computer always cheats. Meanwhile, back at the beach camp, Sawyer and Jack play ping pong on the table recovered from the Hatch. Two players. Was 'Sundown' supposed to remind us that Sayid is adept at playing two roles, that of assassin and also that of Nadia's true love? He's an enigma now, because not much good came from his resurrection. Sayid couldn't even get a straight answer from Dogen, who simply told him that the scale tipped "the wrong way." Reminds me of all the "good guy" references, and, as Lapidus told Bram: "In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you that the good guys are the bad guys."

Dogen the banker from Osaka, who mortally wounds his son in a car accident.  He's promised by Jacob that the boy would be saved if Dogen would come to the Island, though he would never see the boy again. Dogen gets the head job at the Temple, perhaps because of his organizational skills, as he does have that little office with books and the typewriter. I was initially surprised that Dogen had some formidable fighting skills for a former banker. And yet, so did Juliet, presumably because they were both trained by the Others. Speaking of Juliet, here again we see the duality of science and mysticism, for as Dogen was not allowed to ever see his son again, so, too, was Juliet never allowed to leave the Island once Jacob cured her sister of cancer. The difference is that Juliet was allowed to see her sister at the park in Miami via a video transmission from the Flame. Granted, Dogen did tell Sayid that he had to stay at the Temple, but would it have been possible for him to ever see his son as Juliet did Joanna?

I see it this way: Juliet was recruited to fix the problem of allowing for future generations of Others via science, while Dogen was brought to the Island and to protect the current generation of Others via faith and mysticism. The one thing I don't get is why Dogen tells Sayid that he is the only one who can keep the Man in Black out of the Temple. We've seen the ash. So what's the deal? And where the hell is Richard? Perhaps ensnared by the Man in Black until after sundown, thus allowing Richard's possible presence to not influence Cindy, Zack, Emma, and the rest from leaving. One thing the Man in Black has done several times is point his fingers at the Others and tells him how disappointed he is in them. And I don't think it's a dig at Jacob, rather one at Richard. The Others are willing to give up their personal freedoms to someone who might very well have been a former prisoner.

Some final thoughts on the episode, and I will again assert that I believe Jacob has been cheating like the Flame computer in this game, if only because the Man in Black cannot leave the Island. He can only now recruit, with Sayid, Claire, and Kate (who, I think, will be playing the Sawyer con). Now here's where I go off the deep end.

The loophole was not Jughead. It was the creation of the LA X reality. Just as Jacob could offer people a choice to leave their old lives behind (and I'm thinking more of the current group of Others that were traipsing around with Richard), the Man in Black now has a choice for his recruits. Sayid, you can get Nadia. Claire, Aaron will not be raised by another, not even Kate. The reason Kate will not fall for this is because she knows her fate in the LA X reality is no different than in the current one. Granted, the two realities have no sign of merging yet, but I can see the Man in Black telling the tale of this new reality. Cindy could be with Gary "Bad Twin" Troup, Zack and Emma with their parents. This is why I think of the LA in the LA X reality as a snow globe, because it will close in on itself like the noose that killed Locke. Maybe the Man in Black's "home" is the LA X reality, where there isn't any ash to constrain him, and he can go wherever he wants.
Rating: 7 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology, 3 for characterization)
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