Thursday, April 19, 2007

"I'm sure something's going to go wrong soon enough": Lost

David here, filling in for Todd while he's away. Expect recaps of The Shield, Gilmore Girls and House to hit soonish, plus all the Thursday shows as well.

Anyway, "Catch-22" was a bit of a wheel-spinner, sadly. Maybe because it hasn't been that long since our last dose of Desmond (although it was actually like 9 episodes ago, but this whole no-repeats thing makes it all go so quickly), but I didn't really feel like what we learned here justified a whole episode. Let's run it down, strand-by-strand:

First off, in the flashbacks, apparently Desmond became a monk on a whim and then got fired a few days later, before meeting Penny. Pardon me for calling Lost on its realism--it's a complaint others make that bugs me, cause this is hardly a realistic show--but even I couldn't buy the whole monk thing. The point, I think, was to show the audience how easily led Desmond is, seeing as how he basically wanders into the DHARMA Initiative without a second thought. Still, not even Henry Ian Cusick could pull off that speech he gave to his ex-girlfriend of six years saying he had a religious calling after a few too many pints a week before their wedding. Weirder still was Desmond's friendly monk-boss having him do the whole vow of silence, but chucking him out just a couple days after Desmond is accepted into the fold. Just about the only thing the flashbacks got right this week was Desmond's encounter with lovely plummy Penny, cross-cut with the island scenes of Desmond rescuing the fallen paratrooper. Still, the sentiment was not altogether different from "Flashes Before Your Eyes", i.e. Desmond really, really misses Penny.

To the island, where I have another complaint to voice (I know, I'm so whiny compared to Todd!). I really appreciate Henry Ian Cusick's work on the show, but I wish the writers would give him a little more range on the island. He's really stuck in a rut with this whole despondent mystic act, when they could be having so much more fun with the character. It's bad enough that Charlie bores everyone to death these days, do both British characters have to be so gloomy? I realize it's a bit much to ask Desmond to cheer up, and recent episodes have actually done a good job giving us a bit of island comedy (almost always involving Hurley/Sawyer), but still, I'd like to see Mr. Hume get a little more settled among the other islanders. Anyway, Desmond's island arc saw him silently wrestling with whether he should once again save Charlie from foreseen death, or let him die, which would hopefully lead him to his beloved Penelope, who he thought had fell out of the sky. I was pretty much 100% sure Charlie wasn't going to bite the dust this week (his days might be numbered, but I'm sure he'll get a centric episode as a sendoff if he does buy the farm) but the fakeout at the beginning was pretty nifty nonetheless. Still, it bothered me a little bit that Desmond was so conflicted about letting Charlie die vs. not being able to rescue the paratrooper, when in fact they rescued the paratrooper AND saved Charlie's life. Basically everything in his flashes came true apart from Charlie being throat-skewered, so was Desmond really caught in a Catch-22 at all? That question will probably be answered within the next few episodes, but still, it bugged me.

I won't comment on the paratrooper (played, slightly worryingly, by Marsha Thompson of Las Vegas 'fame') aside from guessing that she's another of Penny's agents sent to find Desmond (like those Antarctic guys in the season 2 finale), and NOT a member of a secret subterranean race like some have been saying over the last few weeks. Always sounded like a foiler to me (watch it turn out to be true). So, aside from the drawn-out A-story and fairly useless flashbacks, the only other thing going on in this episode was the Kate/Sawyer/Jack/Juliet quadrangle, which is clearly going to be built on as the season draws to a close. It wasn't particularly exciting seeing as Kate is the only one who's antsy about anything (Jack seems pretty into Juliet right now, and Sawyer is just happy to get laid every once in a while). Won't be long before Jack is tempted back, I figure (after all, one of this week's highlights was the gratuitous underwear shot of Kate in the tent), but this week it seemed like a whole lotta nothin'. Boo!

The worst thing about this episode? Chief emperor of awesome, Brian K. Vaughan (aka writer of comics Y: The Last Man and Runaways, among others) got his first writing credit on the show here, but he just didn't totally knock it out of the park like I would have expected. A shame.


Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...

Bear with me, this actually is a response to a couple of your concerns with the episode. I know you hate it when I go on with my mumbo-jumbo, but the writers of this show really make no secret that they want to be interpreted on some kind of philosophical level. More than that, this episode explicitly references the Abraham story, so I think I’m justified. If the writers aren’t trying to make some profound philosophical statement, they at least took a couple of introductory classes and thought they were cool.

Quite a few months before Doc Jensen made the connection, I argued with you (or was it Learned?) about Lost referencing Kierkegaard (I also beat Jensen to the punch on Nietzsche, which you were dismissive of, but I’ll leave that argument for another day). I know it sounds like reaching, but it’s actually kinda obvious if you have any familiarity with Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard wrote the book due to his lifelong struggle with his own faith. It focuses on the story of Abraham, and is basically about the concept of revelation and man choosing himself by choosing his absolute (which is why it’s considered existentialist by some). Either your absolute is your own reason or values or sense of morality or whatever, or it’s your faith. It all comes down to how you respond to revelation—some direct, ‘I and Thou’, address from God in which nothing else but your faith comes into play, you’re simply called upon and you respond—if you’re a “Knight of Faith”. Also, Kierkegaard says that Knights of Faith are ‘silent’; that they cannot talk. He wrote the book under the pseudonym Johannes de Silentio (John of Silence). So then we have an episode where a mute-John tries to regain his faith by responding directly to an experience of revelation.

So again we have an episode where a character responds directly to a revelation (Desmond’s drunken vision) and tries to become a knight of faith in silence (his vow of silence in the monastery). I’d say that’s enough to link the two episodes together and to Kierkegaard, but this time they go one further and actually explicitly reference the story of Abraham and his act of faith in sacrificing Isaac.

Kierkegaard basically says that a person responding directly to some divine address will look utterly absurd and ridiculous to everyone around them (which is why they’re silent, because they have no hope of communicating the experience or their faith- which is the problem Desmond runs into with his ex). So while you’re quite right that Desmond’s explanation of his religious experience doesn’t seem quite convincing, I’m of the belief that it was intended to be that way. Whether that makes for good TV is open to debate.

As for whether or not he’s caught in a catch-22, like you said more remains to be seen, but I don’t think his scenario is quite as simple as you make it out to be. Since the episode itself makes the Abraham analogy, it’s worth getting into the catch-22 that Abraham himself was in. He was promised Isaac as a reward for his faith, but in order to keep that faith he had to sacrifice Isaac. So he went up to Mount Moriah fully intending to murder Isaac, somehow with the end goal in mind of keeping Isaac as well. As the story goes, through divine intervention he kept his faith and kept Isaac too. Desmond is stuck in a similar struggle, he’s depending on his visions yet trying to change his visions too. In tonight’s episode it’s certainly suggested that he fails the test of faith that Abraham passes, but I’m not sure yet. Maybe this was him passing by going along with everything and saving Charlie and the paratrooper too. Or maybe he failed the test and lost Penelope. Or maybe it’s a “fuck-you” to faith and the catch-22 of Abraham in general and a sign that Des is going to control his own fate. I hope it’s the latter. Or whatever.

Anyway, these are just muddled thoughts. Sorry if none of it makes sense.

Tosy And Cosh said...

Sawyer is into Kate for far more than a way to get laid, as the look on his face when she returned to camp last episode made abundantly clear.