Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unraveling The Lost Season 5 Finale ("The Incident")

You wanted answers and now you have them. We knew the Season 3 finale, "Through The Looking Glass" would be a turning point for the show but at the time completely unsure how. In the final shocking minutes of that episode when it was revealed that the flashback centering on Jack was actually a flashforward and what came to be known as the "Oceanic Six" had gotten off the island, Lost became a completely different show. A far better one. It's been deeper and more complex, going places we never thought it would with characters and situations we could have never expected. And it probably lost some viewers in that transformation. Forget about missing an episode. You can't miss 30 seconds. It requires a lot of commitment and if you're not a hardcore sci-fi fan the series' descent down the worm hole likely caused nothing but frustration. But if you're like me and are, what occurred this season was pure magic.

As confusing and complicated as it's all been there's also been a nagging feeling that we've been building toward this all along and that if you went back and watched from the pilot episode the pieces would fit together. Not all of them perfectly, but enough of them to think that writers/producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse did have a master plan all along. And this plan, while it may have gotten derailed at times (notably in season 3) is only now starting to come into full view. We can now say we've been given more answers than questions, not that there aren't still a whole lot of questions. STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FINALE YET.

The big picture was far bigger than we had originally thought, which is really saying something considering all the crazy theories that were floating around. As we suspected it was bigger than the crash of Oceanic 815. But it's also bigger than the Dharma Initiative, The Others, the ageless Richard Alpert, and the ongoing power struggle between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore. All of these elements were, in the most literal sense, pawns in a giant game between Good and Evil or God and Satan, or something. That became clear in the opening minutes Wednesday's Season 5 finale "The Incident," and then became even more clear by the end.

We were treated to the long awaited debut of Jacob (Mark Pelligrino) and introduced to his arch-nemesis (Titus Welliver) who seems to have shape shifting abilities of some sort. Through flashbacks we saw Jacob was present in pivotal moments in the characters' lives, such as when Locke's evil kidney-stealing father through him out of a window. And now Ben (manipulated by a man we now know ISN'T John Locke but Jacob's nemesis) has killed him. Or has he?

One of the more interesting developments to come out of the latter episodes of this season was the complete psychological castration of Ben. The master manipulator is now a shell of his former self and it's really been something else seeing Michael Emerson completely shift gears to play a character who's weak and helpless He's now as much a victim as those he's victimized for the past three seasons. Turns out he was never REALLY in charge. He just thought he was.

The only thing I was completely certain of before the episode started was that Juliet would die. She just seemed to be a character who was MARKED FOR DEATH and that Jacob was excluded from her flashback scene at the beginning of this episode just further spoke to that. But I was hoping I'd be wrong about her demise because right behind Ben she'd rank as my favorite character and is was screaming "NO!" at my TV when she fell down the shaft. And it's still unclear what her fate is. She's been the most under-appreciated, underrated contributor for the past three seasons, hitting her peak in this one. It's fitting that she was at the center of what was arguably the series' most pivotal moment thus far, when bruised, beaten and with every last ounce of strength she tried to detonate the bomb with a rock. Then...FADE TO WHITE. See you in 2010.
If Juliet is gone the show's lost their best actress in Elizabeth Mitchell, but I have a feeling no matter happened or didn't in the finale's closing seconds she'll be around in some form or another (however limited) in the final season. I always far preferred her to the whiny, complaining Kate. And if one absolutely had to go I would have picked Kate, whose snooze-inducing flashbacks have always stunk up the show. At least Jack's whining and whimpering is entertaining, especially when he's bearded, on too many prescription drugs or being given a "timeout" by his daddy during major surgery.

The one, major glaring flaw in the finale was a dreaded re-focus on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle at the most inopportune time possible, just as Jack was going to detonate the hydrogen bomb, presumably preventing the crash of Oceanic 815 and wiping away everything they've gone through in the past 5 years. His explanation? He wants a second chance with Kate. I really hope he was kidding, considering if he was successful the two would have never met and had no shared experiences together. That doesn't exactly improve his "chances" with her. I also didn't buy that Juliet suddenly changed her mind so quickly about Jack setting off "Jughead" solely on the basis that she thought Sawyer still had feelings for Kate. Either way, despite a kick ass Jack/Sawyer fight, that wasn't the best moment for couples counseling.

This season marked the first I actually gave a damn about Sawyer (a.k.a. LeFleur) and I'm convinced it's because of his relationship with Juliet, which was the best developed and most surprising storyline of the year, breathing new life into a previously predictable character. What a shift to actually see him happy and in control for a change, as opposed to the brooding rebel we've seen over and over again throughout the show's run. Actually, nearly everything that took place in the 1977 timeline was pretty flawless.

Who would have ever thought we'd get the curtain pulled back on Dharma operating in its prime (with the Oceanic Six as undercover members to boot), the mysterious Dr. Chang from the videos in action and young Ben shot by Sayid. Every supporting character served a purpose and ones we thought may not have been as important, like Miles and Faraday, were given rich backstories via flashbacks. Even Sun and Jin were tolerable for once. This combined with the time travel aspect would rank this as probably my favorite season.

Other Burning Questions and Observations:

-Rose and Bernard? I was wondering what happened to them. Was anyone else thinking they could have been the two skeletons Jack discovered in the first season?

-Looking back doesn't it seem like Locke was acting way too confident and self-assured to actually be the REAL John Locke?

-Didn't he make a convincing case for why Ben should want to kill Jacob?

-Did anyone else think back to Locke and Walt and the black and white stones from the pilot episode during all of this?

-So what do they do with Locke's body NOW?

-Am I the only one NOT looking forward to Claire returning next season?

-So I guess this means Hurley never gets around to finishing his script for The Empire Strikes Back?

-"I'm a Pisces." Yet another classic Ben quote. Emerson is the man.

-Didn't you just know Miles would rush to his dad's rescue?

-Did you miss a certain character in this episode, "brotha?"

When the show does finally return from its lengthy hiatus in 2010 with its sixth and final season the big question will be whether it opens in LAX. I'm guessing not. Too simple. And if we've learned anything this season (or any other one) it's that Lost is never simple. But I do think most of the action will start to take place in 2007, bringing everyone together and returning the show to its first season roots before closing things out.

I never thought the show to be this strong this late. Choosing an end date has really helped the series re-gain its focus in a huge way. Now the pressure's really on to close to this out right. Its legacy hinges on it. Shows surrounded by giant mysteries often come loaded with expectations that can't be met. Lost has been one of the few to survive that challenge and I'm more curious than ever to go back and watch the previous seasons to see how it all fits together since those episodes would now make more sense. There's something to be said for planning. I never thought Lost would hold together well enough to be ranked among TV's greatest serialized dramas but now I'm starting to wonder.


Ryan said...

Great review, Jerm. Was never that high on Juliet so her death was like "Oh, I saw that coming" more than "NOOOOO!" so it really doesn't compare to Charlie's death at the end of 3 which was the toughest death in the series so far.

Totally agree about Ben, how Michael Emerson doesn't get a retroactive award of sorts for his work as Ben from Henry Gale to manipulated shell of himself he is now, it's beyond me.

jeremythecritic said...

I think it's one of those things where you're either on TEAM KATE or TEAM JULIET. I've yet to meet anyone who didn't strongly prefer one to the other. But yeah Charlie's death was a biggie though.

If Emerson doesn't win an Emmy this year then something's wrong with the world.