Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Everybody loves a panda!" - Lost


There’s a moment, about halfway through Ji Yeon, where Jin is at a toy shop and he demands to have a stuffed panda that has been placed on hold. He’s downright ruthless; he bribes the clerk, but judging Daniel Dae Kim’s smoldering expression and line delivery, we get the hint that he would have been willing to resort to violence, just to get this toy.

It’s a sudden reminder of how Jin was introduced as a character. Recently, he’s been portrayed as sweetly loyal to his wife and incredibly close to his fellow castaways, despite the language barrier between them. Think about great moments like his telling of the ghost story in Catch-22, or when he falls over laughing when Hurley tries to beat Sawyer up in Dave. Jin as we know him now is a teddy bear – a stuffed panda, if you will. However, in the series’ first couple episodes, before our entire outlook of Jin was flipped around in . . . In Translation, he was a downright brute. He did everything he could to keep himself and Sun isolated from the rest of the camp. We learned that Sun was onboard Oceanic Flight 815 to run away from Jin after she had grown fearful of what exactly Jin was doing under the employ of her father. There was even that subplot in season one where the animosity between Jin and Michael led to violence more than once.

So, it’s with this reminder of how far we have come to love Jin-Soo Kwon that the finale of Ji Yeon feels especially poignant. Through the series’ run, we’ve not only learned that, above all things, Jin loves Sun, but he also earned our respect as we discovered that he was more than the man we saw in those first episodes. As our understanding of Jin grew, our involvement in Jin and Sun’s marriage grew as well. Amidst the Sawyer/Kate/Jack/Juliet love squabble (with the briefest of detours with Ana-Lucia), Charlie and Claire’s spurting relationship and the forever star-crossed Desmond and Penny, Jin and Sun stood out as a relationship that, by and large, worked. Even when paired up against Rose and Bernard, Jin and Sun have the advantage because we’ve seen so much more of their nuances; I thought S.O.S. was one hell of an episode, but Jin and Sun have had so much more opportunity to grow as characters that their relationship feels more realistic and genuine. It was hit with some awkward moments like Sun’s extramarital affair, but even that was partially redeemed with the pay-off in D.O.C. and this episode.

At the start of the season, Todd and I discussed whom we thought would constitute the remainder of the Oceanic Six. He was sure that Jin and Sun would be included. When I brought up the idea that just one of them would, he suggested that it would make their relationship too much like Desmond and Penny’s. And he’s right – if Jin is, indeed, alive on the island, we don’t really need to retread this ground. But if he’s dead, we must face the tragedy of not only losing one of Lost’s best characters, but the loss of its best stable relationship.

Now, on to the rest of the episode.

We’ve finally come to the big reveal of the worst kept secret in Lost history. Michael is on the freighter! I don’t think anybody was really shocked by this development. Even if you missed ABC announcing that Harold Perrineau had signed on for season four back in the summer, even if you failed to notice Perrineau’s name rolling in the opening credits for the previous six episodes, from the moment that Ben mentioned he had a spy on the boat, I’m sure just about everybody assumed it would be Michael. Having said that, the moment played out fairly well. Sayid’s look of shock was priceless, as was him playing off like he didn’t recognize Michael. I’m not sure why Desmond looked surprised – did he ever really meet Michael? The only opportunity he would have had to do so was when his sailboat drifted back to the island during Ana-Lucia and Libby’s funeral – and I doubt either were in the mood for meet-and-greets.

Captain John Gault’s (wow, an Ayn Rand reference – they’re running out of philophers. It’s only a matter of time before we have a character named Socrates Confucius) introduction was something of a non-starter. The episode kept building up to something more, but Gault’s not a lot more than a typical hard-ass. And while it’s good that more of the characters have learned that Widmore is behind the freighter’s mission, it’s not big news to us.

This episode also features some fallout from The Other Woman. Kate acts like a supreme bitch (with good reason, but still) in regards to both Charlotte and Juliet, leading Sun not to trust either. I can’t help but wonder whether this is a start of a storyline involving Kate having larger dislike towards both the freighter folk and Juliet, but it was more likely just a way to get the plot a-rollin’. Plot device or not, it served as a nice parallel to Sun’s story. Juliet’s devious ways catch up to her when Sun decides that she can’t trust her and, in the process, puts her unborn child at risk. This forces Juliet to reveal Sun’s affair. So, we have two characters whose previous dishonesty comes back to bite them each in the ass when they want to do the right thing.

So, that’s all for this week. What did you think of this episode? Did you like the final twist, or did you think it was cheap manipulation? Do you think Jin is alive? Who’s the final member of the Oceanic Six? Were you the only person in your Lost viewing party who was surprised to find out who Kevin Johnson was? Comment away!

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