|Dave and Hurley in the Mental Hospital |
Fat shaming and negative portrayls of mental issues - this show has it all! Sorry to be cynical, but Jorge Garcia's performance as Hurley has been a walking fat joke from the moment the series began, and this episode's attempt to make drama out of Hurley's mental illness wanders between the tasteful and the offensive, and I struggle at times to tell which is which. Its internal messages are contradictory and its character development is all over the place regarding our central character, who is becoming less and less relatable by the episode. Meanwhile, Michael Emerson toils away in the background, still being brilliant.
After being fat-shamed by girlfriend Libby, Hurley leads her to his secret stash of food left over from The Swan, which they destroy together. Discovering an entirely new source of temptation in the food dropped last week, Hurley begins seeing a bald figure in a dressing gown - Dave, man who we discover through flashbacks is a figment of Hurley's imagination which encouraged his self-destructive behaviours after an accident which collapsed a stage and killed two people. Hurley is taken in by Dave's schtick and feels guilty about eating and wanting to eat, and is led by Dave to a cliffside where he is convinced that he can kill himself in order to "wake up." Libby comes along at the last second and talks him out of it.
Mental illness and the public perception of it is a very difficult issue, and one used far too often willy nilly in some armchair-psychologist fashion in order to extract easy drama from a situation. In this episode, we're told that Hurley's continued obesity derives from forced eating brought on by guilt at the deaths of two people in an accident that he believes he caused. This builds and builds to the point where Hurley seriously believes the idea that Libby's affection for him is a sign that the Island is a Life-on-Mars-style coma dream. Hurley never shows any signs of having continued mental illness elsewhere in the series; he returns to the mental hospital upon leaving the island, but that's because he's got magic powers and actually can see dead people. Here it just feels like deliberate manipulation of the issue for cheap conflict.
|Dave convinces Hurley to jump. From Wikia|
And that was just it. Dave offended my sensibilities, yeah, but beyond that the plot just felt lazy. If you ignore the heaps of subtext, then it's easy to see the various ways in which Dave's personality compliments and mirrors that of his progenitor, and the way that everything is shot to allow Dave's unreality to come as a genuine reveal at the episode's mid-point is fairly impressive. But I do not ignore heaps of subtext, and I can't ignore the fact that when you look at this episode from an external standpoint, it doesn't have many nice things to say about mentally ill people. And that's something that marks the episode down in my estimations, no matter how good it may be technically.