written by: elizabeth sarnoff and jim galasso, who also cowrote this season's 'recon.'
directed by: jack bender.
cinematography by: stephen st. john. there really were two shows here - a quiet parallel drama and a crazy balls-out battle with bombs, planes, and sinking subs. both looked great, and even the cgi sub looked much much better than it did in season 3.
quickly: wow, sad. an exciting, epic episode that wipes away half the candidates on the island, while in the parallel, jack gets only slightly closer to finally giving locke the operation that will inevitably allow him to walk.
- parallel jack and locke
- what smokey wants
- echoes of the past
- the dead
- next episode
1. parallel jack and locke
the parallel story was focused almost entirely on revealing the details of the (alternate) accident that put locke into his wheelchair - the question comes loaded with a lot of mystery: is anthony cooper still a ruthless con man? does parallel locke still have his kidney? was locke pushed out the window?
and the answer (that locke crashed a plane as an inexperienced pilot) raises even more questions: why would the sinking of the island so dramatically alter the relationship between locke and his father? the changes we've seen go deeper than evacuting dharma from the island and removing jacob's touches from the timeline. did jacob also touch cooper at some point in the past? will we ever get full understanding of how the parallel works?
i think it's an important point because the parallel must have strict rules governing the variances between it and the original timeline. it would make sense that sawyer chose a less destructive path if jacob was never there to give him a pen when he needed it, or if kate learned her lesson about theft as a child instead of much much later. i want to know exactly what is happening in the parallel, and it sounds like damon and carlton understand that is the primary question of the season - half of this years' storytelling has taken place in this alternate world. perhaps once the entire cast wakes up to it, they will finally start asking these same questions.
i loved the way the parallel story existed in a quiet, calm and peaceful space - where there were nothing more than quiet dramas and small revelations, and how it was juxtaposed with full-on island war. it was especially jarring to see the flash that jumped from jack and claire listening to the music box to ratted-out crazy rifle-wielding claire picking off widmore's goons at the dock.
the parallel story existed to get us to one place: a full-on parallel reversal between jack and locke culminating in jack echoing locke's final suicide-note message: 'i wish you had believed me.' the moment almost redeems the original hollowness of locke's letter when we first discovered it. it also properly paced the storytelling so that locke can end up on jack's operating table in time for a final act 'resurrection.' perhaps when sawyer finally finds anthony cooper, realizes he's a vegetable, he will awaken locke to the truth about who cooper is, and it won't be so hard for locke to let go of the guilt for injuring his father.
we were again reminded of a mystery still open in the parallel: where is christian shepard's body?
bernard's lines, 'pretty weird, huh?' and 'of course i do [remember cooper and locke's accident three years ago], jack.' seem to indicate that bernard is already 'awake,' and he and rose probably have been since the moment he returned from the airplane bathroom.
2. what smokey wants
man, he had us going. he had jack going, too. if the show knows anything, it's how to play ambiguity. now with the death of four characters there's no more doubt: smokey lied about needing to leave with all the candidates. what he needs is for all of them to be dead, and then he can leave - a feat he can probably accomplish without aid of any vehicle, or assistance. after the sub sank, he knew instinctively that not all the candidates had died - once they're all dead, he can probably just smoke away to 'home' or wherever he wants to be..
what's odd is that locke didn't just allow everyone to get on the ajira plane and have it blow up the way widmore had wired it. was it all just a ruse to win additional trust from jack and sawyer?
are the rules against killing the candidates different from the rules for killing jacob, because man in black seems to be having a pretty easy time picking off the candidates, when it took him over a hundred years to finally kill jacob. there were also the rules governing the power struggle between ben and widmore, which based on widmore's easy violation (via the killing of alex) seem to be more of a gentleman's agreement rather than the fundamentally inviolate axioms that govern jacob and mib.
3. echoes of the past
not only did we revisit the cages from the early days of season 3 (no fish biscuits again!?) - widmore's pointing of the gun at kate was a callback to when juliet used the same move to tame sawyer when he and kate were tasked with building the runway.
this is also the first episode that features the entire main cast in the same place at the same time since the season 4 premiere, when everyone met at the front section of the plane to choose sides between locke and jack.
many elements were reminiscent of past season finales:
- the bomb was made of the exact same brand of c4 as the massive explosive wired up on the freighter in the season 4 finale. sayid's analysis of the bomb mechanics was also similar to his diagnostic skill in the same episode.
- whether or not to touch the bomb was an echo of the central argument of the season 2 finale in which desmond, locke, and eko debated whether or not to push the button - both choices with disastrous outcomes.
- the sub departing the island, heading for home happened in the season 5 finale, with sawyer, kate and juliet on board.
- sayid blew up while holding a bomb, as did arzt in the season 1 finale (though ilana's death was much more in that vein). the self-sacrifice is an echo of michael's death in the season 4 finale.
- underwater explosion and major character death by flooding: season 3 finale, when charlie died.
4. the dead
we lost sun, jin, sayid, and lapidus. a word on each:
- sun and jin: after one poignant scene in which sun returns jin's wedding ring, the couple is tragically disposed of. what has bothered me more than anything are the missing beats in every sun and jin scene. missing beat #1: sun's discovery that jin has learned to speak english, which would fuel their english speaking scenes with an emotional weight instead of audience puzzlement as to why they're not just defaulting back to korean. missing beat #2: acknowledgement that jin is actively choosing to orphan ji yeon by staying with sun. in the last podcast, damon and carlton addressed this issue, saying that they as writers were faced with the same choice as jin, and ultimately chose to have him choose to stay with sun rather than face eternal separation from her - which is fine - but, have the characters address it. the scene would have been much much more powerful if both jin and sun took the time to lay out the full consequences of the choices made. it made me think of the similar (and much more emotional) scene in 'the abyss' - that scene worked because the characters dealt with the situation in the smartest way they knew how, and actively exhausted every possible option before succumbing to the inevitable. i wanted so much more from this scene - i should have been crying through the whole thing, not just when the other characters began to mourn.
- sayid: this one was interesting, because we already watched sayid die at the beginning of the season - since then we've had to question whether or not this resurrected person was actually 'sayid.' his actions seemed in line with who sayid has always been: someone caught between good and evil. he made a choice to prove to dogen that he was good, but then found that the task was a trap and chose the dark side almost out of spite (and because smokey promised him he would be reunited with nadia). despite all the zombie jokes, sayid seemed to still retain his humanity by being conflicted (as he always was) about the choice, and proved to be 'himself' again by not killing desmond in the well. his final self-sacrifice (if you can call it that, since he was kind of already dead) seems meant to solidify in our minds that yes, sayid was resurrected to full health by the temple and was indeed 'himself.' his is such a strange death on the show because we've kind of already mourned his loss. i'm disappointed though that resurrected sayid was killed without answering the basic mystery about his resurrection: what exactly brought him back to life if it wasn't the temple spring? why has there been no other instance of true resurrection from death on the show before sayid? also, all this business of being 'claimed' was raised as a major plot-point in the first third of the season, asking us to question whether or not claire and sayid were still 'themselves.' if it turns out that they were in fact always themselves (which it seems to be, given how they've disposed of sayid), then the temple stuff truly was 'filler,' padding out the early season with inconsequential plot-points.
- lapidus: so much for taking the ajira plane home.. lapidus' death felt like ilana's in that it seemed to come out of having no other plan for the character. it seems like lapidus has only been on the show out of coincidence (he happened to sleep in the morning of flight 815, and he also happened to be piloting flight 316). his character was kept alive for the majority of the season only to give plausibility to smokey's plan to take the ajira plane off the island. now that we're entering the final phase of the story, we know that smokey doesn't need a vehicle to get off the island, rendering lapidus useless. his loss is also part of the 'empire strikes back' storytelling model, in which the characters need to be backed into the worst corner possible before being allowed to find their way out in the endgame. i'll miss him, though i'm sure he'll pop up in the parallel.
locke: it sunk.
claire: what, the submarine? they, they were all on it, everyone.. what? they're, they're all dead?
locke: not all of them.
claire: wait, where are you going?
locke: to finish what i started.
the preboomers for the last several episodes seem to occur one beat after when the preboomer would traditionally occur - in this episode, it could have ended with the shot of jin's hands drifitng out of sun's - or it could have ended with jack crying on the beach. but instead the show is focused on keeping the forward momentum going, so it's not booming after resolutions but instead in the midst of rising action. it's certainly more 'intense,' but one of my favorite things about the show has been when it would occasionally use the preboomer to emphasize an emotional moment. there has been almost none of that this season. while many episodes end with emotional catharsis, nearly every ending has been punctuated by either a declamatory statement from smokey, a submarine poking out of the water, or some other mid-action suspense-builder. i would have preferred this episode to have ended with the shot of the hands, and a single harp-pluck with the 'lost' title card - sun and jin's episodes often ended this way, and giving them that moment would have helped make up for the mess of 'the package.'
but here we are. smokey somehow 'knows' that not all the candidates are dead, and is going to continue to work toward getting all those names crossed off. what are the rules for candidate disqualification? why are kate and claire crossed off the list even though both of them are still alive? is it because aaron's existence makes their desire to leave the island a given, and there's no chance that either of them would choose to take jacob's place?
6. next episode
if reports are to be believed, we are in for a treat - the next episode comes with much advance pre-buzz and promises to explain a lot of the show's larger mysteries. none of the principal cast will appear, and it will be an epic mini-movie, similar to 'ab aeterno,' showing us jacob and man in black's past.. will it also explain the origin of the frozen donkey wheel? will it show us who built the statue of tawaret? will it take place in egyptian times? will we learn about man in black's crazy mother? will we learn how man in black had his humanity 'taken' by jacob and became the black smoke? will we understand what's at stake for man in black and exactly what it means for him to 'go home?' will we finally understand what the stakes are for our characters if man in black defeats them? we better!