Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LOST - 6x05 "The Lighthouse" Review/Gush

This season is heating up quickly, with a barrage of revelations in the last two episodes, specifically in regards to the famous Numbers. First there was the cliffside cave in last week's "The Substitute," now our roving band of misfits have found a mysterious lighthouse. When I first saw the episode title last week, I immediately thought of The Lamp Post, the only off-Island Dharma station that we know of which was used by the Oceanic Six to pinpoint the location of the Island in Season 5 and fly back. This new Lighthouse is also to used to find the Island and reinforces Jacob's dying words: "They're coming." Who - or what - is coming is still unknown, but that mystery gets stronger with every episode.

Meanwhile, in the Alternate Reality, Jack's got a son! ("Wow," says America.) This is big. At first, it seemed strange and random. But the more the episode went on, the more I appreciated this different perspective on a very familiar character. After five seasons of Jack-centric episodes dealing with drinking and random violence (we'll get to that later) and Jack's daddy issues, this episode offered a fresh take on the subject with Jack being the father figure for once.

When I was growing up, I read a lot of comic books and some of my favorites were a Marvel series simply titled "What If?" They were the most random exercises in creative thinking and expounded about stories and characters we already knew very well. The Lost writers seem to be taking that approach to the AltReality with episodes like last week's Locke-centric episode where he seemed to have been paralyzed by something other than his father and now Jack with a son. The real question is, Who's the mother? Is it Sarah, Jack's ex-wife from the Original Reality, or someone new?

My biggest draw to the episode was finally finding out some info about Claire. After not appearing on the show for almost three whole seasons, it's real strange to see her back and taking on the role of the Island's resident Crazy Loner, formerly occupied by Danielle Rosseau. The similarities between the two characters can not be ignored. Both are mothers who have lost their children, both have been left alone to fend for themselves on the island. Claire mistakenly believes that the Others have Aaron and is waging war against them for it. The Others DID have Rosseau's baby, Alex, but while she retreated to the far side of the Island, Claire has stayed close and has been actively pursuing and murdering Others until she can find Aaron.

Jin, "saved" by Claire, is just as afraid of her as the Others. Whether he has real reason to is to be determined. Obviously, Claire is a little deranged and hell bent on a single goal. This is never good. Causal references to her father (dead) and Her Friend (the Smoke Monster) do not say much about her overall mental health. When Jin told Claire the truth, that Kate had taken Aaron away from the Island, she had an internal freakout and Jin smartly said that he had lied and that the Others did have Aaron. I wonder what game Jin is planning. He doesn't want to lead Claire back to the Temple, he wants to go find Sun. Maybe he thinks this is the only way Claire will let him go?

Meanwhile, the Claire storylines continue in the Alternate Reality when Jack's mother finds her husband's will and there's a reference to a Claire Littleton. With the revelation of a son and now this latest bit of gossip, I'm actually excited for the next Jack-centric episode in the Alternate Reality. Just like I was at the end of last week's episode when Alternate Locke met Alternate Ben/History Teacher. I think is a clever way to keep the fans interested in the Alternate Reality which may (or may not) have anything to do with the true finale of the series.

Back on the Island, Hurley is getting some much needed respect via the writers. After a couple seasons in the background (or in his case, the mental institution) this ability to speak and get directed by Jacob is a fascinating development. For so long we've heard about "Jacob's orders" or "Jacob's lists", now we're finally seeing it!

So Hurley leads Jack through the jungle - where they briefly meet Kate who is doing What She Does, wandering around the jungle looking for Claire apparently - and they end up in the Caves, another reference to Season 1. Speaking of Season 1, the "Centric" portions of each episode this season so far matches with Season 1. And seems to continue. Episode 5, Season 1 focused on Sun, next week's episode is called "Sundown." It's a cool trick. These references to the original season really help reinforce the idea of a final, closing chapter of this great journey.

Now, onto the Lighthouse. I don't have a problem with buildings magically appearing based on story necessity as others do (see: all comments online.) I can believe this is a huge Island and Jack has not necessarily seen all of it. The lighthouse was really cool-looking and a had a spectacular "ability." It really did feel like a scene out of the classic adventure game, Myst. And to give a immediate answer to the questions brought by the cave from last week was a brilliant touch. It's not like the Lost writers to be so direct. But I like it!

Jack's eventual violent outburst was hardly a surprise. He's done that quite a bit and viewers should not be surprised. He's a tortured character. Remember when he was in Thailand and he forced the girl to give him a special tattoo? That intesnity of purpose is a trait that also forced Jack to expose his father as a drunk to the hospital they both worked for. That need of Jack's to "know" everything also drove a wedge between himself and Kate in the post-Island world when she was just trying to fulfill a promise to Sawyer and sent Jack back into the world of drugs and alcohol.

So, while it was disappointing that we didn't get to see more of the Lighthouse before Jack destroyed the main part, it was typical Lost. (Remember The Flame?) I have a distinct feeling that the last few minutes of this episode (and that includes Claire's revelation of her "friend") will have immediate repercussions. Which tells me that whoever is left at the Temple is in for some serious trouble. Soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Big Love - Season 4 - Midway Review

Awhile back I promised to write a recap/review of the current season of Big Love. I couldn't quite nail down my feelings about this new season after the first couple of episodes. Big Love is a nebulous kind of show, a sort of Shepperd's Pie of a dozen different kinds of TV shows with some heavy doses of inspiration from HBO shows of the past. This new season, especially, has gone off in some weird tangents and trying to decipher what the creators and writers actually have in mind in terms of theme has taken a better part of half a season.

HBO seasons are typically 10 episodes, this past Sunday's episode of Big Love was episode 6 and a turning point for a couple major storylines and so I feel like it's a good time to stop and reflect on this tumultuous ride.

The main storyline of this season involves Bill's run for State Senate; a crazy self-destructive plot that will probably end very badly for Bill and his family. Obviously, the character doesn't think that. Like in his ridiculous schemes from seasons past, Bill is nothing but self-assured. He believes he's on God's path and how could God steer him wrong? The last few seasons, as Bill makes insane decisions to meddle and interfere with the goings on at Juniper Creek, to wage war on the violent and unpredictable Greenes, and to open a Mormon-friendly casino, the audience is asked to stand by him and believe just like he does. This season, that belief is tested to the limits. The idea that Bill would run and then win a State Senate seat only to publicly out himself as a polygamist is SUPER crazy. Last I checked, polygamy was illegal and though Bill plans to fight and change the law, that's a long process that could not be done within a single episode.

As such, the main thrust of this season, with all this political back-and-froth and a random trip to Washington D.C, feels ultimately pointless because I'm pretty sure that Bill will lose the race and then what? He's exposed himself, lost his best friend, shattered his family, and wasted thousands of dollars, for what?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the writers will surprise me. They have so far. I did not expect this storyline to last this long, but with Bill winning the nomination and with a strong backing from a Utah Senator, it seems like he may actually win. The scene in the latest episode, "Under One Roof," when Bill takes his three wives to a home he plans to buy for them, a massive house on a hill reminiscent of Roman's Big House, was powerful and showed me more about why Bill wanted to go on this mission, instead of his preaching about equality.

But, of course, the political storyline is just a small part of the huge tapestry of this season. Big Love has always cast a wide net, but this year, that net is the size of a stadium. We've got Nikki's daughter, complications with her creepy ex-husband, JJ, who I suspect will attempt to murder Bill by season's end. Nikki's mom, Adeline's, marriage to JJ and all the craziness that inspires.

We've got Margene and her new business, which seems to be doing very well, and is causing Margene to rethink her situation within the family.

We've got Barb filling in for Bill at the Blackfoot Casino, dealing with the Native population there, hitting girls with her car, and giving speeches to bored employees about the shared history of the Mormon and Native people.

We've got Sarah and Scott, getting married to Passion Pit's "Moth Wings" and secretly adopting an Indian baby.

And then there's Ben. His storylines have never been that interesting to me, mainly because they felt forced. His sexual longings early in the series seemed to be a little premature and then his questioning of the faith shortly thereafter ultimately unnecessary because he fell in line quickly to follow in his father's footsteps as the seasons have gone on. Except he always had a "thing" with Margene. This was something I did enjoy because it developed slowly and believably and hit just the right amount of teenage angst and genuine friendship. When Ben showed up to Margene's live show, it was a sweet gesture and Margene's grateful kiss, misinterpreted, began a series of events that have led to Ben being banished by his father, falling in with Bill's mischievous mother, and now kidnapped in Mexico by the Greenes. One word: Awesome!

And then there's Alby. Oh, Alby. Why do you always set yourself to fall? This character, the closeted son of the Prophet, was always a strong point for the series. He's played with deadpan sincerity by the actor, Matt Rose. His gay tendencies are a classic Shakespearean flaw that was manipulated very well by his mother and father and yet somehow he prevailed. His new wife, Lara, was a perfect conniving match for the greedy Alby and they successfully ruled Juniper Creek while Roman was in jail. After Roman's murder at the end of last season, a Trust was established to take over the finances of Juniper Creek (this was all done between seasons and with very little explanation in this new season, hence a lot of early confusion). The problem? The trustee, a gay Mormon who wants to rid himself of his impulses, is caught in a love affair with Alby that ends very badly.

I felt like this storyline, while strong, was a little unbelievable and took up way too much time in the first half of the season. I have read that the creators of the show, a gay couple themselves, wanted to show the Mormon perspective about homosexuality and specifically Mormon gays who tried to convert themselves to heterosexuality. I felt like that was touched on a little bit, but it was more Alby and the trustee in a lover's tryst for many episodes and only when they were exposed by Bill did the shit really hit the fan. It should be interesting to see what Albie's next move is, but that storyline really did take up a lot more time than it should have in an already busy season.

And now Ana's back! And pregnant! With Bill's baby!

I bet a lot of fans sighed with exhaustion when Ana showed up on screen. "Another storyline?!" shouted the public. As for me, I'm actually glad she's back because I felt like her storyline was never properly resolved from last season. Sure, it ended and Bill was bitter and angry afterwards, but I actually enjoyed a lot of storylines revolving around the brief Fourth Wife and am very very excited to see what happens next.

So, where do I stand on Season Four? Well, I'm definitely enjoying it. I feel like it lacks a little punch seen in previous seasons, specifically in regards to weird and random situations they find themselves in (case in point: when Sarah and her friends found the Lost Boys House last season. How weird was that?!) There's a definite serious tone this season that doesn't allow for a little comedic relief, which is a shame. But now that the Greenes are back and Bill's campaign is in full swing, there should be some extremely dramatic stuff in the near future.

I said up top that Big Love seems to be inspired by HBO series long finished. Specifically I'm thinking of Six Feet Under, one of the best TV shows ever created. Big Love, to me, is the spiritual sequel both in tone and the way it shows the darker side of America. I don't doubt that Big Love lost some viewers this season, people unable or unwilling to follow everything that has happened. It's the kind of show that demands a lot from the viewer, but the reward is, well, big.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

LOST 6x1 - 6x2: "LA X" Thoughts, Speculations, and Theories

To echo the Internet: "Wow."

This was truly an incredible season opener, for one of the most fascinating TV shows ever. I say this with no hyperbole. I can't remember any other show that so drastically played with time and space. In the first few minutes of this episode, we have 5 seasons of drama and action reset, only to have that realization blown out of the water, and "our" characters back, almost where we left them. Over the summer break, the big question running around was: "Did it work??" The incredible answer: "Yes it did. And it didn't!"

This totally fulfilled my wildest speculation about how the season will unfold. I was hoping Faraday's gamble would work - that would give a lot of weight to the previous season. But I also didn't want to lose our characters, the drama and heartbreak of Jack and Sawyer and Kate and Juliet. I could not conceive of losing them and their history. So the creation of an alternate reality (as opposed to changing the past) is a perfect solution!

And then we get the added benefit of bringing back some old favorites who died on the island, like Boone and Charlie. This was a great touch and I hope these returned characters are dealt with well and not killed off quickly in a fulfillment of their "destiny." Especially Charlie.

The first episode spent a lot of time with Not-Dead-Yet Juliet. This was a little crazy since she died dramatically in the season finale and here she is, yelling for help. Awesome, right? Well, kinda. I'll echo the complaint that with the recap episode and the Previously On segment and then a few of the final minutes of last season replayed early in the episode, we watched Juliet die many times and it was getting a little old before Sawyer even managed to free her.. Only to watch her slip away.

BUT, not before revealing an important tidbit of info. Right before Juliet dies, she whispers a few words that seem to be random ravings of a dying woman. She says, "We should get a coffee sometime. We could go dutch." And she smiles. This confusing bit of dialogue has an extra weight later in the episode when Miles is able to communicate with the deceased Juliet and we find out that she wanted to tell Sawyer: "It worked."

My brilliant and beautiful wife had an incredible theory that I believe will turn out to be true. Basically, the idea is that somehow, in her final moments, Juliet was able to tap into the OTHER Juliet, from the newly created alternate reality, and a scene sometime in the past when Alternate Juliet met Alternate Sawyer and they flirted briefly. So even though our Juliet has died, she was happy because she knew that their gamble had worked. We will probably see that scene between Juliet and Sawyer in the alternate reality late in the season. Props to Shawn for figuring it out early.

The other main conceit during the first episode was the differences between the new alternate reality and established backstories. Some glaring differences are Desmond on the plane. Boone alone, without his sister Shannon. But the really interesting ones are the tricks that the writers pull on us harmless viewers to try and trick us into thinking things were MUCH different. For instance, Locke tells Boone that he actually did go on his walkabout. Hurley claims to be the "luckiest man alive." But as the episode ends, we see Locke being put into a wheelchair and we wonder..How different is this new reality from what we know?

The second episode spent more time on the Island, in the present. This part is glossed over a little in the first episode and left intentionally vague, but Jack and Kate and other time traveling survivors are now back in the present, where Jacob, Locke, and Ben have begun their war. The revelation about the Man In Black/Jacob's Nemesis/Fake Locke is the Smoke Monster is pretty huge and explains a lot about the dynamic of the island, including the significance of the ash surrounding Jacob's cabin. I've also always been curious about the Sonic Fence that surrounded New Otherton, why would the Others, led by Jacob, need to protect themselves from the Monster if the Monster was just a manifestation of the Island (like I assumed). Well, he's not. He's this guy, whoever his name his. It still doesn't explain how Ben was able to use the Monster to defeat Widmore's soldiers, but we may get some explanation for that in coming episodes.

But the big deal was The Temple, finally! After years of this Others hideaway being cloaked in mystery, we finally get to see it, and it's very impressive! At first I thought they traveled through time again, the Temple looked so ancient and yet well preserved. But no, they're in the present, led by an Ra's al Ghul-looking mofo and his Jewish translator (Played by John Hawkes from Deadwood. That's the sixth actor from Deadwood in a minor role on LOST. Awesome!). I didn't mind the other language or the weirdness of the situation, it actually felt more "right" with the strangeness of the Others. For awhile there, at the end of Season 5 with Locke leading the Others, the people looked a little too much like young survivors of a plane crash, not the wild indigenous population who have been on the island for a long time.

Meanwhile, in the alternate reality, landing in LAX may not have been the best thing to happen to our characters. Charlie is arrested. Jin looks like he's about to be arrested. Oceanic lost Christian Shepard's coffin. Only Kate seems to come out well, freeing herself from captivity and then stealing a cab with everyone's favorite Australian: Claire! It should be very interesting to see what happens next in all these storylines.

The ending of the episode, while satisfying, left me with some definite questions and some confusion. The scenes with Sayid in the Spring were very confusing, but I'm happy with the end result. What is Sayid's importance to the Others? And what will the Others do now that Jacob has seemingly died? On the beach near the Statue, the scene with Fake Locke and Richard was also confusing because I could not understand why the Others did not leap to defend their defacto leader, Richard? They all had guns, but they stood there like dumbasses. I wonder if there's a real reason for that or that was just to serve the overall story.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

For Shawn :)

Beach House on



The End of LOST and What it Means for the Future

So this is what Christmas morning feels like.

LOST will begin its final season tonight with a 2-part episode titled, "LA X," and the excitement and anticipation is palpable, both on the world wide webs and pretty much everywhere. This type of frenzy for a TV show is not completely unprecedented, but it's been awhile since it seemed like the whole country, maybe the whole world, was so enamored by a TV show that its big reveal tonight has been debated and speculated about for almost a year.

But there's a big question looming over everything. When LOST is over, what happens next? Where do we all go from here? Some people are ready to give up TV all together, claiming "there will never be anything like LOST again..", which is very similar to all the people who canceled HBO after The Sopranos ended, claiming "That's it! They'll never be a show like that again!" I, of course, disagree! I believe that not only can the magic of Lost be reproduced again, but that there are shows on TV right now that have the potential to be similarly epic and exciting to the mass audience.

I acknowledge that LOST is special in very unique ways. LOST managed to appeal to a very wide range of audiences by siphoning out tiny bits of information slowly regarding a big mystery. That pulled in many viewers. LOST created some fascinating characters that clicked with a huge range of the population. Unlike the white-washed ensemble casts of the past, the LOST crew was pulled from all corners of the globe, its characters origanting from random countries like Korea, Iraq, and Australia. Yet if you had to pick a setting for the show, besides the all-important Island, it would be Los Angeles, the original destination for Flight 815, and where I believe most of the action will take place in this final season.

So what does the end of LOST mean? To me, I look at the end of a great series as an opening to introduce a lot of people to new and exciting series. Just last week, Caprica began on Syfy. Another series set in the world of Battlestar Galactica (but you don't need to have watched Galactica to understand), Caprica is a very adult take on science fiction, much like LOST. With incredible actors, nuanced writing, and gorgeous futuristic settings, the show has all the right ingredients to become a fascinating look at a society on the brink of collapse. Other series include two new one hour dramas on HBO premiering soon: Treme, from the creators The Wire, a show about musicians rebuilding their lives and their city in post-Katrina New Orleans, and Broadwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi as a gangster in 1920's Atlantic City. HBO is always fascinating in period pieces (see: Rome, Deadwood) and the latter show looks to follow the trend.

While I plan to enjoy every second of the final LOST season, I've got my eye to the future and what will be the next big thing that is the subject of endless dinner conversations and long, meandering, blog posts.