Friday, February 27, 2009

Lost Season Five: Episode Seven

I find myself in a strange position. I think 'The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham' was the best episode of the season - maybe one of the best in the show's history - and yet I don't have much to say beyond "Terry O'Quinn....OMG, WOW!!!"

About once a season, Lost does an episode that is more concerned with character than plot and mystery. When the character in question is Jack or Kate, the episode is usually a bummer. But take the acting skills of Terry O' Quinn and you have a classic on your hands.

The first time I saw this episode, I found Locke's meetings with Said, Hurley and Kate slightly dull. His attempts to convince them to return to the island seemed perfunctory. It was only after Jack told Locke that he may not be someone important, that I realized Locke wasn't convinced that he was doing the right thing. The Locke we see in this episode is a broken man, forced back temporarily into his wheelchair, unsure of who he can trust. Locke figures out that he is not a saviour, at best he is a pawn being played by both Widmore and Ben.

Terry O' Quinn's acting here is so spot-on that he even manages to elevate the performances of Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly. Kate has never been better than when she asks Locke if he has ever loved anyone.

And then there's Ben. O'Quinn doesn't need to elevate the always fantastic Michael Emerson; their scenes together are always mesmerising, perhaps none more so than in this episode. We all know Ben is a masterful manipulator, but has he ever faced a bigger challenge than restoring Locke's sense of self-worth and dissuading him from killing himself. That Ben turns around and kills Locke may have been inevitable but Emerson's performance was so perfect that I was nonetheless shocked.

The 18th century philosipher John Locke believed in natural law, that science and faith could coexist. The Objectivist Jeremy Bentham mocked that theory, having no time for mysticism. In one episode and one mesmerising peformance, Terry O' Quinn made that most improbable of transformations.

Note: I wanted this review to be all about the acting, so all the geeky stuff can be thrashed out in the comments. Feel free to theorize on what role Walt may play in the future, the true motivations of Widmore and Ben, who the two new characters are and how exactly Locke was reserrected. You all can also mourn the early demise of Abbaddon.


Kalsoom said...

I am in complete disagreement - I actually thought this week's episode was relatively bad, compared to the rest of this season. But, the writers were obviously trying to tie off loose ends before we see the O6 back on the island, and they achieved that. Didn't you cringe every time Locke said YOU HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE ISLAND!! No, hi, how are ya, how's the baby/mental asylum/assassin-turned habitat for humanity life? It seemed so contrived! He barely tried to convince them before he decided to kill himself.

At the same time, I thought THIS Locke, this off-the-island Locke - the pitiful, self-doubting man - was extremely reminiscent of his life pre-Island. Could it be that off the island, Locke really isn't as "special" as he is believed to be there? And Bubs, I agree that his acting, esp. with Ben was terrific.

What I did find really interesting was how much was unveiled regarding the Widmore-Ben power struggle - that we learn that Widmore was the leader before he was exiled by Ben, and has been trying to "protect" the island. Unfortunately, these are the same motivations expressed by Ben, and we know one/both of them is lying - what they want is obviously to control the island - and they know Locke is the key to that control. Widmore did say that a war is coming and if Locke wasn't there, the wrong side will win.

Another thing that I found super interesting - Caesar (i.e. guy who always gets typecast as a terrorist/scary Arab dude in movies like Vantage Point and Three Kings) said that he and other people on the plane saw that Hurley (and Jack and Kate at least) disappeared as the plane was crashing in a flashing light - it was as if the island was pulling them back. Could the fact that Ben wasn't part of that be a sign that the island was rejecting him? That the island doesn't want him back?

Also, I have a really really strong feeling that Hurley, Kate and Jack (and I'm assuming Sun and Sayyid) are pulled into a different time than the rest of the plane - i.e. they are pulled into the time the rest of the survivors are traveling in (Sawyer, Jin, et al), while the rest of the Ajira plane's survivors land in "present" day.

If only I could apply such brain power to my job, sigh.

Kalsoom said...

I didn't even raise the point about why Ben decided to kill Locke - what are your thoughts?

bubs said...

Kalsoom: I agree that this episode didn't have as much plot development and surprises as previous episodes. But it made a far greater impression on me because of how great the acting was. It's the sort of episode I can rewatch many times.

I did cringe every time Locke said, "You have to go back" because of how futile his task seemed to be and the resignation with which he said it.

I also think Locke's despair was far greater than it was in his pre-Island incarnation. As far he's concerned, he has not only been a failure before crashing on the Island, he has also been a failure in leading in The Others and the Losties. After all, he couldn't do anything to stop the flashes and he knows that there is a very good chance that the Losties are going to die. This is what makes his decision to commit suicide so pitiful - he isn't doing it as an act of bravery to save those on the Island, he's accepting defeat.

The flashes only seemed to affect those who had originally crashed on the Island. I don't know why this is the case, although I am hopeful that we will be given an answer soon. It seems that Ajira didn't crash but that Lapidus landed it on the runway that Kate and Sawyer had been helping The Others build back in season three. Which means that they aren't on the Island proper, but in the place where The Others lived. Might it be possible that The Others built that runway because Ben knew that one day he may need it?

There are two possible reasons why Ben killed Locke. The most obvious would seem to be that Ben would do whatever possible to make sure that Locke didn't meet Mrs Hawking. But maybe Ben knows that Locke needs to die and then be resurrected by the Island. Remember back when Michael tried to kill himself but the Island wouldn't let him because it wasn't done with him. It is possible that the Island wouldn't allow Locke to be resurrected if he killed himself and so Ben had to kill him.

Kalsoom said...

Apparently Ajira crashed (or landed, I like your rationale better, the runway logic makes sense, and the fact that Lapidus made a quick getaway with a mystery women on one of the boats) right on the Hydra base - which we learned from Season 3 (when Locke, Kate, and Sawyer were imprisoned) is the Others' side of the island.

I'm interested to see what will happen when Locke confronts Ben about killing him - and what Ben's manipulative answer will be.

The WashPo did a cool interview with Ben two weeks ago where we said that he thinks Ben has good intentions for the Losties now, but after last night I seriously doubt that is true, unless he killed Locke for the "greater good".

supe said...

yes, o'quinn's acting was superb. especially the part where he's initially tying that noose round his neck, that sad, crestfallen look is a-star acting.
ben: ditto!

jack needs a slap! i'll glady volunteer! ok, that's his character and he's meant to be a dumb, naive airhead

actually, i wasn't surprised, we did know locke was going to die and it would probably be ben assisting him.

but all those stinging shots fired at locke from the oceanic handful and putting him in that state of self deprecation, questioning his self-worth before going was a winning touch.
i really like locke and believed in him when he knifed down naomi (manchester - yay!). he has a good sense of what needs to be done, even when he's got no one on his side. sounds a bit like ben there, but where ben is ruthless, conniving, untrustworthy bast-rd, locke is the complete opposite; humane, patient, open minded, unsure at times (as is evident in this episode but very much in sync with his instincts. maybe that's what's made him 'important'.

yes, abbaddon could just have been that exemplary new addition to the show and that scene where he was shot was plain piss-offing unfair.
abbaddon; i don't know about the rest but i mourn for thee.

i liked this episode overall and not only because of my affixiation with john locke (and tunisia - and that french? arabic? spoken by the locals) but widmore's input was interesting and learning yet more of his involvement with the island.
can't wait for next episode. glad to see lapidus is back in the show, hopefully he'd have grown some facial hair too.

naqiya said...

thought you lost fans would enjoy this:

bubs said...

Thanks a lot for that link Naqiya. Allow me to add here that babies are extremely important in the show, especially in regards to the island. We still aren't 100% sure why unborn babies die on the island, although it's most likely because of the time moving differently. And Aaron may potentially turn out to be a very important baby.

Kalsoom said...

Thx for the link.

This is me thinking out loud here, but I'm trying to think just why babies are symbolically important on Lost, and I keep remembering the 3:16 part of the Bible that talks about everlasting life. Children represent youth & life - and on an island that some call death, their birth is very significant, no?

Maybe I'm overreaching here. I agree though that Aaron is VERY important - his name alone has pretty apparent religious parallels.