Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost Episode Review 5.16 & 5.17, "The Incident, Parts I & II"

"I guess all it needed was a little push..."

(Dark UFO has some fabulous screencaps of Jacob's tapestry. Lostpedia has a bit of analysis.)

For 99% percent of this episode, I was positively euphoric. "The Incident" had the feel of an early Lost episode, mixing action, plot, character and wonder in perfect balance.

And then they dropped us down a Hatch for the ending. AUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH!

I actually had the fortune of missing the "Exodus" frustration by watching all of Season One on DVD about two weeks before Season Two began, thus missing out on the "Summer Of Wondering What The Hell Was In The Hatch." Now we get the summer and fall of "Wondering Whether Time Is Fixed Or Mutable." Grrrrrrr....

Still, despite the ending, this was one of the richest, deepest episodes of Lost I've seen. I have so many thoughts and so much to say on it, it's going to take a couple of posts to get through it all. I think while everything is fresh in my mind, let first me go through the stuff I loved, setting aside the Watchmen Issue #11 ending for a moment. Then on Friday I'll go through some questions, theories and tidbits.

1) The Jacob Flashbacks

The opening scene was incredible. We discover Jacob is real, and he has a rival. Jacob is clothed in white, his rival in black. Certainly suggests who's on who's side, eh? Oh, and we get a slightly better view of Jacob's statue - not Anubis, certainly. It looked kinda like Taueret, but I thought the face had more of a crocodile feel to it than hippo. Sobek, perhaps? I'll muse a bit more on the Egyptian god stuff on Friday.

But then we see Jacob visit:

A) Kate, as she tries her hand at shoplifting the NKOTB lunchbox used for their time capsule
B) Sawyer, at his parents' funeral
C) Sayid, saving his life as Nadia is killed
D) Jin and Sun, at their wedding.
E) Ilana, in what was probably the most surprising flashback, asking for her help
F) Locke, as Cooper throws him out the window
G) Jack, after his first major operation with his dad
H) Hurley, giving him Charlie's guitar

Jacob seems to be preserving the time loop here, setting up events (certainly with Sayid and Hurley) that would lead them back to the Island. But he also takes a personal interest in our favorite Losties far in the past. I thought all of these were exceptionally well done and gave me a feeling of wonder I really haven't felt since the first season flashbacks.

I chose the quote above because I felt it was a common theme through the entire episode. Both Jacob and his Rival seem to have manipulated everyone - giving them little pushes - to get to the right place at the right time. Everyone has free will, still has a choice, but they moved the pieces behind the scenes. Zombie Locke's statement "you have no idea what I had to go through to get back here" was quite apt. Was everything the Losties went through all part of the Rival's plan to find a "loophole" and kill Jacob? That's a thought for tomorrow's post.

Oh, and we now know his Korean is excellent. ;)

2) Jacob's rival/Zombie Locke

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." So begins Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Now we know Lost really begins with the arrival of The Black Rock on the Island, called there by Jacob himself, sitting on a beach, who seeks to prove his black garbed rival wrong regarding humanity. His rival says "they come, fight, destroy, corrupt... it always ends the same." Jacob responds with "it only ends once... whatever happens before that is just progress."

These two... deities, perhaps, to me, seem to be conducting an experiment - something like the Q did in Star Trek: The Next Generation - testing humanity of their worthiness. I loved the conversation between Jacob and his Rival - watched it about four times.

Every great show needs a great villain. For a long time, we thought the villain was either Ben or Charles Widmore. Nope. Turns out they're all just pawns on Mr. Evil's chessboard. And Locke, poor sap, he was the Queen's Sacrifice (note, don't click the link if you haven't read The Westing Game). Finally the show gets back to its good vs. evil, white vs. black themes with black suddenly standing out a lot more prominently all of a sudden. And that's a good, and very entertaining, thing.

Lastly, one of the big questions for Friday - Is Smokey = Jacob's Rival? There's evidence for and against here.

3) The Variables

So what did we learn from that aforementioned conversation between Jacob and his Rival?

1) Jacob and his Rival know how things are going to end
2) How it ends depends on the choices our Losties make
3) As Jacob repeatedly tells them, they do have a choice (i.e. Daniel was right)

Jacob tells Ben he has a choice. He also tells Hurley he has a choice. Even though he seems to influence an awful lot in our Losties lives, he never seems to force them to do anything, but he sets up circumstances that allow them to choose. Sayid didn't have to become Ben's hitman, he chose to do it, despite swearing earlier that it never, ever would happen.

But it also seems to me that Jacob's Rival wants to cheat. He seemed to exploit the time loop set up by Locke in order to get back onto the Island and manipulate Ben (HA!) into killing him. Speaking of which...

4) Ben's choice

Ben's speech to Jacob was tremendous. If it doesn't earn Michael Emerson an Emmy for this show, I don't know what will. But the dynamic between Ben, Zombie Locke and Jacob actually reminded me a lot of the Ray Kinsella, Terence Mann and Shoeless Joe dynamic from "Field of Dreams, " when Terence is invited into the corn, but Ray isn't.
Ray Kinsella: I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what's in it for me.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: What are you saying, Ray?
Ray Kinsella: I'm saying... what's in it for me?
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Is that why you did this? For you? I think you better stay here, Ray.
Terence goes on to explain there was a reason he was invited, just as there was a reason Ray was chosen to build the Field (and make a sacrifice).
Terence Mann: Ray, there was a reason they chose me, just as there was a reason they chose you and this field.
Ray Kinsella: Why?
Terence Mann: I gave an interview.
Ray Kinsella: What interview? What are you talking about?
Terence Mann: The one about Ebbets Field. The one that charged you up and sent you all the way out to Boston to find me.
Ray Kinsella: You lied to me.
Terence Mann: Well, you were kidnapping me at the time, you big jerk!
Ray Kinsella: Well, you lied to me!
Terence Mann: You said your finger was a gun!
Ray Kinsella: That's a good point.
Terence Mann: Ray. Ray. Listen to me, Ray. Listen to me. There is something out there, Ray, and if I have the courage to go through with this, what a story it'll make: "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa"

Yeah, it really does suck to work your whole life for something and never get any appreciation from someone you adore. Ben had daddy problems to begin with, after all; this must have been devastating, especially since he doesn't realize that John Locke isn't really John Locke. And talk about parallels, Ray Kinsella is eventually rewarded with seeing his dead father alive and well again (of a sort). Think Jacob had something eventually in mind for Ben and his mom? Think maybe Jack is being put through all of this to patch things up with his dad? So many wonderful things come to mind with that scene...

Was this Ben's destiny? To kill the man he's adored all his life, slaved for all his life, sacrificed for all his life? And not only that, but after having a life of being able to manipulate everyone around you to have your buttons pushed by someone who's embodying the one person you've hated the most. Man, if so, sucks to be him...

5) Juliet's pain

I hated most of the love triangle stuff (I'll get to that in a bit), but I loved every scene with Juliet. And as painful as the fade to white ending was, her scene with Sawyer at the end was tremendous. And it suggests she had a much larger role to play in all this than I previously thought. If she doesn't fall down the shaft and explode the bomb, does it ever explode? I'll muse on this a bit more tomorrow. But Elizabeth Mitchell should get an Emmy nod as well.

Also, anyone else think Juliet was going to wake up at the bottom of that shaft and see Christian? I did.

6) Bernard, Rose and Vincent

How awesome was that scene? "Because we're retired." And not only was it so wonderful to see them again, it was wonderful to see them get a significant scene. They provided the perfect antithesis to Jack and Sawyer. Why do anything? Why not just live and enjoy your life and let the chips fall where they may? Is that so bad?

Of course, unlike most of the Losties, Bernard and Rose have a nice life with each other and are perfectly happy in it. They really don't have a reason to change things and make things "better," but you have to wonder about the question they pose: "Why do anything?" How many of the Losties would still be alive if they all simply made camp and went on with their life on the Island after the crash?

"We're together, that's all that matters in the end." This scene also seems to strengthen the idea that Bernard and Rose are really Adam and Eve. They're old, and they're on the Island long enough in the past to become the skeletons. Guess Vincent's body must get eaten by a polar bear. ;)

7) Sun Finding Charlie's Ring

I still hate 90% of Charlie's time on Lost, but "Greatest Hits" redeemed a lot of his character for me, and Sun finally finding Charlie's ring in the cradle (three years later, no less) was really touching. I got a bit verklempt.

8) Jacob's Loom

I loved the idea of the statue being hollow and Jacob's home. Brings to mind thoughts of the Sphinx. But what was the giant tapestry Jacob was weaving? A tapestry of life? Is Jacob one of the three fates? If so, that's kinda interesting. If so, he would almost certainly be Clotho (to be honest, I don’t think he is – I think him and his Rival are other Egyptian gods instead, but I’ll muse upon this tomorrow).

So what the heck does the tapestry mean anyway? Can you cut any of the strings? Can you re-weave it?

9) The Incident Itself

Overall, I thought it was really, really well done. Pierre was great and we saw him lose his arm. I got chills when the magnetism started kicking in. Sawyer's scene with Juliet was heartbreaking, despite being a bit too "Titanic" for my taste. Nice to see Sawyer spare Radzinsky and Phil's lives too (even if Phil did get spectacularly skewered afterwards).

And maybe I’m wrong about Radzinsky not being the real Radzinsky in the Swan. Since he was still alive pre-hydrogen bomb exploding, perhaps he did survive the Incident and end up in the Swan with Kelvin. He could have lost his memory in the explosion, I suppose, which would explain his questionable knowledge on the Blast Door Map.

Regardless, I still think Kelvin kills his annoying ass in the Swan, 108 minutes be damned. BTW, in case you haven’t seen, they have an app for that. :)

10) Details

The Black Rock. "Live together, die alone." Apollo candy bars. The dog painting in Jacob's cabin. The time capsule & toy airplane (which was cool to see Jacob have a hand in, even if that episode was lame). Sawyer’s letter. Locke’s fall. Nadia. Counting to five. There were so many awesome moments and details, Darlton deserve kudos for a greatly detailed finale.


Y'know, aside from the abrupt ending, the only thing I really disliked about the episode was the scene with Jack and Sawyer. Are we supposed to believe that Jack is going through all this because he's heartbroken over Kate? Yeesh. Let’s see what other alternative motivations could Jack have had?

1) He wants to save everyone – Yes! He wants to bring everyone who’s died on the Island back to life. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s done on the show from day one. That puts him squarely in the hero/destiny seat. So why not use it?

2) It’s his destiny – For most of this season, he’s been New Age Jack, the Man of Faith. He’s been going around telling everyone it’s his destiny to do this. Would have been a perfectly reasonable explanation to Sawyer:

“Look, I didn’t believe Locke the first time around. I made that phone call to the freighter when he told me not to and it ended up getting him and a lot of other people killed. I’m not going to screw this up a second time.”

Wouldn’t that have been a great scene?

3) He wants to do it for his dad – Expanding on the “Field of Dreams” do it for your estranged father idea, Jack could have said something along the lines of:

“Before he died, Locke told me he saw my father here on the Island, alive. Now I don’t know if he’s telling the truth or not, but I have seen my father walking around this Island. Saw him shortly after we first arrived here. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I get the feeling that this is what he wants me to do.”

Neat, eh?

But instead we get sappy Season 3 Jack as his motivation. And the likely reason why Darlton wrote it this way is that we're going to get an ending to the show focused around their relationship (or lack thereof). Perhaps one where history is re-written and Jack and Kate land in L.A. and not know each other; they get a brief moment to speak in the airport before Kate is carted off to jail and Jack collects his father's corpse, the final scene echoing the end of “Through The Looking Glass” with the two of them together.

And I guess this kinda frustrates me because, even though Jack and Kate were set up from episode one was the “leads” of the show, there are so many better relationships. Penny and Desmond. Sun and Jin. Bernard and Rose. Sayid and Nadia. Daniel and Charlotte. Sawyer and Juliet would also be in the upper echelon if Kate wasn’t around to screw it up. And I kinda understand Darlton wanting to end the show with a relationship – Lost is first and foremost a character drama. The writers care as much about these characters as we do. I just wish that if the show had to end with a relationship, it was with a different pair (or, perhaps, that Jack and Kate’s relationship hadn’t gotten to be so melodramatic and annoying as the series progressed).

But really, overall I thought it was a tremendous episode, even if they did torture us at the end. You would have thought we'd at least get a brief glimpse of what happened post-incident. I was so waiting for one more scene after everything went white, something along the lines of when we first saw Penny’s Listening Station. But noooooooo… now we have a solid eight months or so to think about it.


So where does this finale rank among the Lost finales? I’d put it squarely in the middle of the pack – Below “Exodus” and “Through The Looking Glass,” but well above “Live Together, Die Alone” and “There’s No Place Like Home,” certainly closer to the top two than the bottom two (especially since it really had an Exodus feel to it with the ending)

Tomorrow I'll be back with some questions and theories. :)

Edit: You can read Part II of my review here. :)


Missie said...

Season 1's finale is still my favorite of the finales, but last night's and "Through The Looking Glass" are pretty close as a tie in second, maybe with TTLG just edging out The Incident. Even with the frustration factor, it was excellent.

All of the Sawyer and Juliet scenes were amazing. I really liked the Jack/Sawyer scene when Sawyer is talking about the childhood he didn't change. In fact I liked the whole scene until Kate was brougt up. LLLAAAAAAMMMMMEEEEEE. (That would be a Dr. Cox Man falling off a cliff lame).

I am leaning towards Man in Black being Smokey. Actually, after the scene on the beach, I told Ed he was Smokey and Lock was his loophole. I still didn't expect to see corpse Locke in a Box.

Was a little disappointed at the lack of Desmond in the finale, but I'm not really sure how he would've fit in. So I'm glad they didn't just squeeze him in for the sake of having Desmond in the finale.

Ultimately, I was pretty depressed. I'm not even a huge Locke fan, but what I took away from last night's episode was that here was a man who blieved he was given a chance to be something great, his destiny. And it turns out he was just a pawn, used his whole life and perhaps dying a pointless death. The last season, of course, could prove otherwise, but the way things ended last night just left me feeling so very sorry for Locke.

Can't wait to read your other thoughts on the finale!

During the hiatus, are you planning on reevaluating your Top 10?

Jay said...

Locke Box. Heh. Hadn't thought of that.

I think Locke's fate may end up being one of the most tragic aspects of the show. And the fact his life really did end pathetically when Ben strangled him in that run down motel room, makes me feel even worse.

I will be revamping the Top 10 list in the (very long) offseason. I'd also like to go back and re-watch (and review) a few of the earlier episodes I haven't reviewed at all.

Hannah said...

I don't know where to begin. This episode was so great. But I have so many ideas/theories/questions my hair hurts.

I am so sad about Locke and the whole idea that his death really was pointless. It breaks my heart. I hope there will be some kind of justice done for him next season (read: in NINE freaking months! That long of a hiatus is painful)

Here is a thought I had…

Remember when Ben and Locke first go to Jacobs’s cabin and Locke hears a voice say “help me”? What if that voice was not Jacob but Jacobs’s rival?

I think this because the cabin was lined with the sand/powder presumably to keep Smokey out. But what if Jacob had trapped his rival there and the sand/powder was put there to trap him from getting out and finding his loop hole?

Remember when Illana got there and said that someone else was staying there? Maybe she could tell it was not Jacob who had been there. AND the sand had been moved so maybe that was how his rival (maybe Smokey) got out taking Locke’s form.

And if that’s true, do you think that maybe the same being used Christian as a form. He did befriend Locke and convinced him to leave. I dunno just an idea.

Too many theories and questions!

I am looking forward to your upcoming posts.

Jay said...

I definitely think it wasn't Jacob that Ben and Locke encountered in Jacob's cabin. The whole issue of the cabin itself kinda puzzles me - on one hand, as you mentioned, Ilana said Jacob wasn't there and that someone else had been using it. Since we know Jacob personally asked for Ilana's help, that suggests it really is Jacob's cabin and it was co-opted at some point, likely before Ben and Locke visited, by either Smokey or his Rival (who may not be one and the same).

On the other hand, from the very beginning, it seems Jacob has always lived inside the statue. Why use the cabin at all? Plus, in a dream sequence, didn't we see Horace building the cabin? I have to go back and check that. I also kinda wonder if Bernard and Rose's cabin and Jacob's might have been one and the same.

Missie said...

Yes- Locke comes across Horace building a cabin in 2004. Horace says he's dead. If it's not the same episode, it's awfully close to the one where Ben shoots Locke in the Dharma grave. And no, that's not a euphenism. :)

Hannah said...

I thought that it might be the same place Rose and Bernard used too. How many cabins can there be in that jungle?

grubstreethack said...

I agree with you 100% about Jack's STUPID, STUPID motivation. I was completely expecting him to say, "To save everyone." Like you said, that's what Jack has always been about. And then it's about KATE ARRGHHH SHUT UP JACK

And THEN, as if that wasn't enough, Sawyer also asks Juliet why she suddenly wants to change everything! And I expected Juliet to reply, "Because Sayid just died." But INSTEAD we get ANOTHER stupid childish high-school relationship bullshit answer.

I can't believe that with the lives of literally hundreds of people hanging in the balance, the characters are so self-centred as to be harping on about their personal relationships and emotions.

Anyway, it was still an awesome episode. I absolutely loved the white title screen and I am so so sad that there's only one more season of this amazing show left.

Carly said...

First of all the fact that you even know The Westing Game now puts you as my favorite Lost theorist/blogger EVER! I read that book in the 80’s in grade school and just thought it was the greatest book as a kid. What this episode has done is made me go back over everything now trying to figure out which things were “pushes” by Jacob and which seemed to have been by the Dark Rival. Loved the opening scene: everything has happened before and will happen again. A time loop where the Dark one has been looking for a loophole to stop it which is: killing Jacob (loved the whole Esau and Jacob twin thing btw). He played on Ben’s feelings of inadequacy and frustration of playing second fiddle to Locke and used him to get what he wanted. I read that Richard’s answer to Ilana, what lies in the shadow of the statue is: the one who will save us all. However, Jacob still preached choice. That even where some things seem to be “predestined” there is still free will. I loved that there were so many philosophical ideas mixed in here. This Rival though didn’t know where Jacob was on the island and that seemed weird to me. Remember He/Locke seemed surprised when they ended up at the foot of the statue, and he seemed surprised that Smokey had told Ben to do whatever Locke said. So is the Rival like not “in the know” when it comes to what goes on with Jacob? Another big question is do the Others, specifically Richard know about this Rival who apparently has been living on the island too? And if this Rival is in charge now, what does that mean for everyone, and can they be saved from him? Who will save them?
Although I agree that the whole Jack/Kate thing was lame, the episode was very typical Lost, raising more questions while answering some old ones and leaving you hanging! Sigh. The Agony!

The Rush Blog said...

And I guess this kinda frustrates me because, even though Jack and Kate were set up from episode one was the “leads” of the show, there are so many better relationships. Penny and Desmond. Sun and Jin. Bernard and Rose. Sayid and Nadia. Daniel and Charlotte.

It sounds as if you're frustrated that Jack and Kate's relationship was never ideal or troubled free. There's no such thing. I used to be like that, myself. I've now come to realize that Jack and Kate's relationship was a lot more realistic than many fans wanted it to be. It was chaotic, peaceful, ugly and beautiful. You just can't expect a couple to be in perfect tune with each other, 24/7. Maintaining a relationship is damn hard work. The Jack/Kate and Jin/Sun relationships were the only ones in which there were realistic signs of a lot of struggle.