Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thoughts on What They Died For...

BIGMOUTH: I enjoyed "What They Died For," which gets a 8/10 on the Sickness Scale (3 for characterization, 5 for mythology).  This was one of the few times all season when they managed to recapture the urgency of Season 4, my favorite of the show.  This was particularly true in the Mirror reality, where crazy Desmond drove the action.  I really like Brian Gajus's suggestion that the Mirror storyline will climax at Daniel Widmore's concert where, as MikeNY hilariously puts it, there will be a "a mass enlightenment/Kumbaya moment."  In the Crash reality we received another mythological update via Jacob's fireside chat.  As I and many others surmised, Jack chose to assume the role of the Island guardian.

The main thing I didn't like was Zoe's pointless demise.  Again, why introduce a character at all if you're not going to pay her off?  Widmore could easily have spoken the expository dialogue Zoe delivered about the Island's magnetic anomalies.  At the very least, I would have liked to see her revealed as the daughter of Radzinsky -- her bespectacled intensity screamed such a link. I don't mean a whole Zoe-centric.  All it would have taken was Zoe's giving her last name to the Man in Black.  Indeed, I've often wondered if the latter was trying to sink the Island by pushing Stuart Radzinsky mentally.  It would have been very cool if the Man in Black had replied: "Radzinsky, eh?  I knew your father well..."

I want to see this.  Okay, let's talk a little mythology, starting with Ben's murder of Charles Widmore.  Many wonder how this was possible given their bedroom confrontation in "The Shape of Things to Come," where Ben said he couldn't kill Widmore.  My take is that Widmore and Linas were both Candidates, and the rules say Candidates can't kill each other.  But con men like Ben are adept at satisfying the letter of rules at the expense of their spirit.  When Miles reminded him of Alex's murder, Ben hatched a plan to exploit a loophole in the Rules.  He allowed the Man in Black to claim him, which meant he was no longer technically a Candidate.  Once that happened, Ben was free to kill Widmore.

The big question is whether Ben's commitment to the Man in Black will be as short-lived as his allegiance to Ilana.  Ben seemed to accept the Man in Black's offer of the Island after he leaves.  But later in the episode, the Man in Black makes it clear that his plan is to destroy the Island.  Maybe Ben's thirst to kill will be enough to sustain his turn back to the dark side.  I suspect, however, that Mr. Linas still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.  Look for that walkie-talkie he gave to Miles to figure in some final betrayal of the Man in Black.  Indeed, the success of Ben's budding Mirror romance with Danielle Rouseau may depend on it.  Things would sour quickly if she remembered the awful things he did on the Island.

I'll tell you what they died for.
  Let's also talk a bit about Jacob's campfire tale.  After "Across the Sea," I think we have to take what he says at face value.  That episode established by dialogue and example that Jacob is terminally incapable of lying.  There will always be some question whether Mother was reliable.  I maintain she instinctively knew the truth about the Island the way the Man in Black instinctively knew the rules of Senet, though I can see both sides of the argument.  Where Jacob and the Man in Black are concerned, however, I think it's clear the former speaks the truth about what the latter is and the horrible things that will happen if he escapes, information that didn't come from Mother. 

This doesn't, of course, mean Jacob's speech to his flock was clear.  Jacob says he chose them because their lives were miserable and they needed the Island as much as it needed them.  What wasn't clear to me was whether he used these criteria to select all of his Candidates, or if he just used them to narrow the field to six.  Jacob also explains he crossed Kate off the list because she became a mother, but says the job is still hers if she wants it.  This may simply underscore that, despite being a demigod, Jacob was still capable of the same arbitrary and whimsical decisions as any other human being.  Or he may genuinely prefer not to separate children from their mothers after his traumatic upbringing.

I'm gonna destroy the Island.  Jacob also tells them they must kill the Man in Black to protect the Light at the heart of the Island.  The Man in Black confirms this by announcing he will use Desmond to "do the one thing that I could never do myself... destroy the Island."  These comments suggest to me his plan has always been to destroy the Island.  Ever since he became Smokey, he's known where the Source is.  The problem is that, by merging with the Island's security system, the Man in Black became subject to its programming, which prohibits him from harming the Island.  But Desmond is immune to the Island's electromagnetism and can safely enter the Light to do what the Man in Black can't.

And that brings me to one last whackadoo speculation for your pleasure.  Jacob never told the Candidates how to kill the Man in Black, but I suspect that Desmond will somehow be the key.  It may be his immunity to the electromagnetism, his exception to the Rules, or some combination thereof.  However it happens, look for Des to make one last heroic sacrifice in service of humanity and his beloved Penny.  That's all for this recap -- over to you Wayne.

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WAYNE: Another 8/10 on the Sickness Scale (5 for characterization, 3 for mythology) because there are a few things left unanswered that will have a conclusion, with the obvious exception of Desmond's role in the finale. In fact, that may be the only answer we really need, though I'd still like to see whether Jack remains the new protector of the Island.  I'm not convinced that role will stick...

Jack's cut.  My complaint with the Mirror reality has been the ham-handed way what happens there always has a parallel in the Crash reality. One  example was when Sun briefly experiences aphasia,  paralleling here inability to communicate the injured Mirror Locke at the hospital.  And I believe that the cut reappeared because it represented Jack's decision to take up Jacob's mantle. It's a leap, I know, but just as Desmond tries to make Jack remember a different, unhappy existence by simply tricking him with a phone call about his father's body being recovered, the cut represents a more mystical metaphor. Jack cuts ties with everyone else by drinking Jacob's cup of water.

Another comic-related reference? The Bleed is essentially the life force between the Source Walls, the veins and arteries of the multiverse, introduced by Warren Ellis as a logical extension to the concept Jack Kirby created decades earlier. I thought of this back in "LA X," when Jack was looking in the mirror on Oceanic 815.  Looking back, I think this represented how, throughout the whole of Season 6, Jack's  Mirror consciousness helped make him willing to accept his fate in the Crash reality.

Clean up your own mess.  This was originally Locke's line, but it applies as well to Jacob's admission that he screwed up where Smokey was concerned.  Sawyer replies with a pointed question: "Why do I gotta be punished for your mistake?" In the Mirror reality, Desmond is the analogue for Jacob, giving Dr. Linus and Substitute Locke pushes both large and small, mirroring the way Jacob pulled everyone to the Island in the Crash reality.

Ben remembers his Crash counterpart when Desmond beats on him, perhaps ensuring that he cannot find happiness with Alex.  Now that he knows she sees him as a father figure, the realization that he was responsible for her Island death will not doubt be traumatic. Was it Juliet's mistake in opening up the bleed to the Mirror reality? Was it Eloise's fault for helping Jack and Sayid remove Jughead's core and thus allow the Incident to happen? Right now, it is left to Desmond to "punish" people by cleaning up somebody else's mess. In another life, brotha.

Ashes to ashes. I'm curious as to what sort of enlightenment Jack was given after drinking the communal water. There are two ways we can look at this, both again coming from comic books. (I'm sure there are other examples to be found in science fiction novels and films, but I'm immersed in urban crime tales. Just this past week, I realized that I've been mistaken for decades on what an ewok actually is.)

Maybe Jack simply gains a general understanding of his duties. There's a character called Green Lantern re-imagined for the Silver Age over at DC. Test pilot Hal Jordan finds a crashed alien ship in the Mojave desert, it's occupant, Abin Sur, an intergalactic peace keeper, gives Jordan a green ring before he dies. The ring explains the pilot's new purpose, without telling him much about the millenia-old Green Lantern Corps.

Or maybe the process resembles the above-cited notion of the Bleed. Warren Ellis first mentioned the Bleed in The Authority, a series about a group of superheroes who appoint themselves protectors of the world (and, by extension, the multiverse) when all other heroes are content to fight arch-criminals without seeing a bigger picture. One character is simply called the Doctor, and each time one of these mystical physicians dies, his replacement can access the collective thoughts of every previous doctor through a type of ancestral garden.

I'm curious whether Jack is only aware of Jacob and his unnamed brother and fake mother, or if he knows the true secret of the Island's origins, the Temple, the little-seen Ruins, and whomever else preceeded Mother and the Romans on the Island. It may not matter, because one last twist may be that Jack will end up not being the Island's protector after Sunday night. Jacob tells him the job is his for as long as he wants it. What if he passes the torch (so to speak) to Hurley or Sawyer so that he might vanquish the smoke monster, thus dying in the process? One last plot-twist.

Unanswered questions. I'm still wondering how Aaron and Ji-Yeon fit into all this even though they have been rarely seen since Season 4. The ultimate answer was that we would see Jacob and the Man in Black as children, but I am holding out hope that, just as we saw Jacob touching a young Kate and an older Sawyer, Jack (or his successor) will touch the two children of the Island, perhaps offering a helping hand to Charlie Hume, as well.

So many deaths with so many questions this season. Perhaps it's as Ben said after Ilana's death, that the Island was through with her, as it was with others before her. Or perhaps it's what the Man in Black said after slitting Zoe's throat: if you don't have anything to say, or if you are not being allowed to speak for yourself, what good are you? Was Zoe's last name Radzinsky? If Stuart killed himself in the Hatch, I think not, but I can see her wanting to continue his work, perhaps funded by Widmore as Faraday was. Of course, there is that 1977-1992 gap for DHARMA that we likely will never know about. Who were Ilana and her crew and why did she train her entire life to protect the final six candidates. Does Jack have all the answers now? 

See you all everybody at the concert.
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