Saturday, March 08, 2008

"See you guys at dinner!" - Lost

The Constant just might have been the best episode Lost has ever done. At the very least, it’s pretty damn close. So, there was no real way that, this week’s episode, The Other Woman, could have avoided being a little disappointing.

It doesn’t help that, after a season that’s felt so new and refreshing, this episode was very much a detour back to its old formula. Most obviously, it is the only episode this season to follow the typical “one character has a flashback” format. We’ve had flash-forwards, group flashbacks and however the hell you want to classify Desmond’s Slaughterhouse-Five-style time traveling in The Constant. This is. . . a Juliet episode, plain and simple. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I like Juliet. But aside from a cute tease at the beginning that the episode might actually be a flash-forward, it’s pretty typical pre-Through the Looking Glass Lost.

Indeed, we find the characters going back to their old tricks of hiding information from each other even when it might be useful to let each other know. Charlotte lies to Kate about why she and Faraday are away from camp, then knocks her unconscious when Kate realizes she’s full of shit. Only on Lost would it be simply too much to say “We’re on our way from taking preemptive measures to keep Ben from unleashing poisonous gas that will kill us all.” On top of that, we get not one, but two scenes where Jack walks with somebody through the jungle asking questions as the other is vague and evasive.

Ben, it seems, is the only one willing to give out information, letting Locke know about Charles Widmore’s search for the island and the identity of the freighter mole in exchange for freedom. Now, a lot of Ben and Locke’s interactions have consisted of Ben slowly working away Locke’s confidence. Thus, it’s strange to see Ben seemingly acting so open and even stranger to see Locke act so pliant. After about a season-and-a-half of Ben goading Locke into making a mistake, they finally approach something resembling fair discourse. And yet, it emphasizes just how much of the action is driven by the characters acting needlessly mysterious. Ben acknowledges that Widmore and the mole (can we just come out and say it’s Michael yet?) were his last bargaining chips, but he never really explains why he didn’t see the need to play them earlier.

However, the most egregious case of Lost’s bad habits showing up occurred in Juliet’s storyline. As Todd pointed out two weeks ago, the show has had a problem writing its female characters. However, Juliet had proven to be the exception. In a show that’s all about mystery and characters keeping their motives close to their chests, Juliet managed to be especially intriguing. The writers are great at writings scenes that pay off with Elizabeth Mitchell’s lopsided smirk. So, imagine my frustrations when this episode essentially defines Juliet, the most interesting female character on the show, by her relationships with two of the male characters!

Now, I know Stranger in a Strange Land is possibly the single most reviled episode in Lost history. But I liked it, and a large part of that pleasure came from watching Juliet spin her femme fatale role, only for Jack to come around when he realizes that she has literally killed for him. As Tom (Who makes a cameo in this episode! Yeay!) once pointed out, she and Ben have a history. We finally get to see what that history is, beyond, you know, him essentially keeping her prisoner on the island until she solves the baby problem. And we find out that he was even willing to lead Goodwin to his death, just to prove that he has her under his thumb. By the way, anybody remember when Ben went nuts and attacked Ana-Lucia because she had killed Goodwin? Apparently, neither do the writers. We have always known that the impetus of Juliet’s story has come between her being caught in a dilemma between her own good nature and Ben’s power, but it’s cheapened by it being boiled down to Ben having a crush on her.

Meanwhile, another twist is added to the Sawyer/Kate/Jack/Juliet love quadrangle. Juliet explains that she’s afraid of what Ben will do to Jack because of how he feels for him and Jack kisses her. I have to admit, I was loving that scene until I realized that Kate had indeed followed Charlotte into the station and wasn’t outside watching the public display of affection occur (stupid sloppy editing). Ostensibly, this would solidify things some; Jack would choose Juliet and Kate would go back to Sawyer. Unfortunately, the flash-forwards have revealed that the quadrangle will not be resolved, so we’re stuck with this storyline – and I’m somebody who doesn’t mind it so much!

On the upside, the freighters have essentially revealed themselves as (mostly) good guys. We’ve also heard our first word this season from the rest of the Others. I had largely been distracted by larger questions like who the Oceanic Six are and what’s up with Faraday’s crazy experiments, but part of me had been curious why the Others hadn’t done anything since half of them wandered off to “the Temple” and the other half got exploded on the beach. So, while the Others storyline has essentially played out, it’s good to know that the writers hadn’t completely forgotten about them. And, perhaps most importantly, we’ll get to see the aftermath of Ben and Locke’s agreement. So, while this episode was a weak one by Season Four standards, it should at least serve as a stepping stone for future episodes which should (hopefully) keep the steam that episodes like The Constant and Confirmed Dead got going.

1 comment:

Moses McClueless said...

Elizabeth Mitchell in a Femme Fatale role? That's a pretty generious description for that pig-faced uggo.