Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Lost - The Candidate (6x14)

After a fantastic episode a couple of weeks ago, which built a lot of forward momentum, an ill timed week off and a generally week hour has slowed everything back down. This episode will probably get some big reaction for the deaths and ending, but it's a pretty terrible episode, with perhaps the most pointless flash-sideways of the season, and a plodding island story that kills a couple of people, but drags along the way and doesn't feel in any way like a show in the last couple of episodes of its life span.

Perhaps my biggest issue with the episode is a kind of unfair one, and that's that it just isn't good enough to be this close to the end of the show. When you've got four hours of show left, the stakes are raised, and not only does the show have to be good at its own terms, it's got to compete against all the possible stories out there to tell. Was this the best way to spend one of the show's final hours? I don't think so, and unfair though it may be, that weighed on my perception of the episode.

But, the episode itself is deeply flawed. Let me start out with a reliable punching, the alt-verse stuff. After last week's great drawing threads together episode, we go to yet another Jack wants to fix something storyline, something that was played out back in season one, but rears its head once more. I'm sure you can read stuff into the storyline, and if this had been the third episode of the season I'd be ready to do that. But, once you've blown up the alt-verse conceit in the Desmond episodes, just having Locke mutter something about the button isn't enough any more. This story had no place in this chunk of the season, and at this point, there's no way that the alt-verse storyline can pay off in a way that justifies the many digressions and tangents it's taken. At this point, things need to be coming together, and this story didn't do that at all.

The whole thing was a debacle, and arguably even worse than the dire Sun/Jin sideways scenes. Why was this here? Who decided this was a good use of show time? It's a baffling call, hitting the same tired beats again and again. I don't think it's inherently a bad idea to take time out from the drama to tell a small story near the end, but it needed to hit harder emotionally.

And, that sequence dragged the whole episode down by pulling momentum from the show every time it was cut to. That said, the on island stuff wasn't helping. We've already seen our characters shuffled around to various locations for reasons outside their control and imprisoned by larger forces for the entire season, so why not do it one more time? There's a lot of sloppy bits in the first half, not the least of which is the worst casting choice of the series, the guy playing main Widmore goon. He looks like he should be working in an office IT department, not shooting people on an island, and that takes you out of the scene.

Things continued in a fairly perfunctory way until the bomb on the submarine. This was a great sequence in many ways, it looked fantastic, and was arty and beautiful and reminded me of a James Cameron film. The sequence itself worked great. The problems came in the way it resolved a lot of the long running arcs of the season.

The whole season has had this runner of Sayid being turned evil, only he never really did anything evil, and there was no real emotional conflict about what to do with him. He was just sort of there, which is okay if he's being kept on the shelf to do something later. Instead he gets a pointless sacrificial depth that I suppose was meant to redeem him, but wound up making me just wonder why they brought him back in the first place. Both him and Claire had the 'infection' idea going on, but it's unclear what that did to them, I'd rather have seen this play out in a more dramatic way, and now that the character is dead, it's unclear why he came back for this season at all. With so many characters around, why not just let him die last year?

Lapidus is another baffler. I figured they were keeping him around to fly the plane off the island, but apparently he wandered around for a season just to die. Why have him there at all? It makes no sense, I enjoyed the character, but he never really got to do anything. I have no problem with having extraneous characters who don't have a purpose in the show's endgame, but at least give him a unique role, as he had last year with Sun. Ultimately, I'm annoyed that such a great actor got wasted saying one jokey line an episode for two seasons before getting killed.

The Sun and Jin death worked well, and nicely echoed Charlie's death in season three. I loved the shot of Jin's hand floating away after his death. What does this mean for the two of them in the alt-verse? We'll see. That said, this is another set of characters who wandered around the whole season with no real purpose and then just get killed.

But, I guess you could say everyone wandered around with no real purpose. All the talk of fate and destiny can be cover for lazy writing, and that's what this episode felt like. I always hate when a convoluted series of events is explained by “That was his plan all along,” and this episode just never gelled. I loved the execution of the final sequence, but the writing throughout was sloppy and squandered much of the momentum of the previous episode. I hope things are righted for the push towards the series finale, but it feels like the writers got distracted by the alt-verse and the Jacob storyline and forgot to actually give the characters any agency or emotional arcs in the final season.


suncore598 said...

Though I understand your argument about picking the wrong time to put in a small story near the end of the series, Patrick, I have to disagree with you on your other points.

I thought it was a great episode. I'm loving Jack's growth as the new Man of Faith and I'm hoping Sawyer learns to trust him again after this mess. I'm also thinking Claire is beginning to open her eyes to Flocke.

About the infection, I think it works by making people like Claire and Sayid more receptive to Flocke's will since he creates the infection. But it takes a strength of will to overcome which is what Sayid had when Desmond confronted him with the dark cost of his actions and more or so when he sacrificed his life to save the others. Mysteries like the infection I think are made to leave them up to the audience to figure it out without creating big chunks of exposition to deliver the answers.

suncore598 said...

Oh, and I haven't received your responses to the messages I sent to you last week about certain storylines of my show.

Patrick said...

I like elements of what Jack's doing, but it didn't make the episode work above the other issues for me.

As for the infection, I don't think it needs to be totally explained, but I think that as a story, it just didn't work, either for Sayid or Claire to date. I don't see why any of the Sayid stuff couldn't have been done by having him just drawn to Locke without any of the resurrection stuff. What did that add? Same goes for Claire, the infection just takes away character agency.

And send over those docs again, I'm not sure which ones you mean.

suncore598 said...

They weren't docs. They were questions of mine concerning two storylines of two of my female characters. I'll resend them in one message to you.

Shlomo said...

dude, I agree, but really enjoyed it nonetheless.

Shlomo said...

y'know i believed smoky when he had previously claimed his goal was to get everybody on the plane because he needed everyone to be there to leave together.
but dramatically it never seemed like such an interesting goal.

Now, apparently, what we've got is a scenario, where locke is trying to get the candidates to kill each other. I think this is much more of a dramatic conflict to end the series with. Its basically like a mythological-"survivor"-mash-up. Jacob has brought the candiates to the island to "replace" him--but which one? apparently smoky, wants them all to kill each other so none of them can "replace" jacob. Its more like a game show, with jacob as "producer", and smoky as the "host". And just like with a game show, both come out a little morally tainted--neither can really claim to be "good" or "bad".

but this dramatic scenarion- these supernatural rules, fit with what has come before.

* Jacob gave richard lists, but didnt tell him how to approach them, so the others tried to kidnapped them, and decided to kill those who were not on lists.
* Smoky couldnt kill them himself, so he killed the other people and has been trying to manipulate them ever since they came to the island

Theyre kind of arbitrary, but they (kinda) make sense of whats come before, and set up a great endgame.

Patrick said...

That's definitely true. I just wish some of this stuff had happened earlier in the season. It feels like we're just getting to the interesting stuff, and with so much still to resolve both on island and in the alt-verse, it's going to be a rush to the end after a very leisurely start.

But that's always been one of the show's problems, they can nail the finish, but the journey's often a bit rocky.

R.P. said...

Man, I usually enjoy reading your reviews, but not when it comes to lost. You complain way too much. I actually feel for your, because you're unable to enjoy this show like the rest of us.

Patrick said...

There's parts of the show I've thoroughly enjoyed. Almost everything in the fourth and fifth seasons were really strong, so it's been frustrating to see a lot of, what I perceive as, stumbles, in this season. It's precisely because I so love elements of the show that I'm so critical about it.

wordswordswords said...

I personally like that you're critical about it, Patrick, but I think your expectations may be different than many others'. Not higher or lower, just different.

For example, I interpret FLocke's current plan to make everyone kill everyone else as a new plan. The initial plan was, "Hey, let's get them off the island with me." That's acceptable to his overall plan, which is Leave Island ASAP. Now, he's realized this is getting a tad complicated so, New plan--make them all kill each other. That works too (apparently).

Now, as ok as I am with this change of plan for the character, I would like it (a lot) more if FLocke telegraphed it to the viewer in a clearer way. But he CAN'T, and it's not a character thing, it's a writer thing. Claire has been such a weakly drawn character all season, and Sayid not much better that the writers have no one for FLocke to confide in anymore. He's evil, yes, but he has no little evil henchman to tell his thoughts to. So we are left in the dark too.

This is a minor complaint, though, compared to how annoyed I am about the lack of attention to a few other significant characters this season. Sayid got the short end of things. Ben really has been left out in the cold. And Richard--set up as this hugely important figure on the island for seasons--is basically reduced to a regular whipping boy for the other characters.

It's poor writing, and it's a direct result of this split that they set up with the alt-verse this season. That was a bad idea from the start, and, what's worse, it hasn't been executed well at all. The only reason for us to care what the alt-verse characters do is if we assume Flocke does escape the island and the only way to put him back is via the combined efforts of the alt-verse cast. I assume that's where we're headed, and if so, then FLocke should have escaped in the first or second ep of the season. That would have made us care.

Patrick said...

Exactly, the alt-verse has progressed so slowly and we still don't have a clear idea of the stakes, so it's impossible to emotionally connect to those stories. I feel like the creators have a highly inflated idea of how exciting it would be to see people like Charlotte or Keamy again. Except, they're playing radically different versions of the characters, so it's just seeing the actor again, not the character.

And, I totally agree about Richard and Ben. Richard's solo episode had some great moments, but since then he's just been basically an exposition source who can move the plot along when needed, not a character. And Ben was once the pulse of the show and a totally magnetic character, right up to his dealings with Smoke Locke at the end of season five, but this year he's done nothing at all, and has minimal resemblance to the character we saw previously.

The show is so cluttered with characters, and even busier due to the alt-verse that, even though I love characters like Richard, Ben or Lapidus, it really made no sense to have them on this season at all when they contribute nothing to the overall story.

Anonymous said...

Across the Sea dissuade you from your usual review?

Patrick said...

I've been on the road, so I haven't had a chance to see the episode yet! But, I've avoided spoilers and will be checking it out in a couple of hours. Look for a review then!