Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Review: Lost 3.20: The Man Behind The Curtain

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Ickle Ben meets Horace Goodspeed in 1972.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Twenty - The Man Behind The Curtain
Written 21/3/14

Benjamin Linus has, until this point in the series, been more or less portrayed as an all-knowing entity whose power of manipulation over the Islanders reaches near superhuman levels. Every time it's appeared that he was ignorant of something, it turns out that he's factored it into his plan. He lies, he bluffs - everything he does is part of his grand plan to maintain power and control over those around him; a common theme this season. This, Ben's first centric episode, shatters that illusion almost entirely. Not only do we see the origins of this disturbed little man as a young member of the DHARMA initiative (lots of Season Five cameos here :D), but we see John Locke so thoroughly tear him apart that he loses all sense of calm. It is a tour-de-force for Michael Emerson and one of this season's most powerful episodes.
      Locke returns to The Others' camp with his dad's body and demands to see Jacob, the man whom the Others revere as a leader. A returning Mikhail gives Ben time to make excuses, but Locke is not having any of his bullshit - he beats Mikhail to a pulp to make that very point. Ben takes Locke out into the jungle, and along the way Locke questions his knowledge about the Island - he thinks that he's a fraud. A visit to a mysterious cabin in the jungle sees Ben initially appear as a complete actor - but then there's a voice in the cabin that only Locke can hear. Ben briefly explains his DHARMA initiative origins as he takes Locke to the mass-grave of victims from The Others' purge of the DHARMA society and shoots him in the side, explaining that "Jacob" has never spoken to him. In the Survivors' camp, Jack reveals that he knows about Juliet's secret mission and that together they have orchestrated a plan to prevent them from taking the pregnant women.
       Through flashbacks, we see Ben's history, as well as the fact that Richard Alpert doesn't age. His mother died in childbirth in a small forest outside Portland, Oregon, and his father has blamed him for his mother's death ever since. A chance encounter with DHARMA high-up Horace Goodspeed on that fateful day brings Ben and his father Roger (whose body Hurley found in Tricia Tanaka Is Dead) to the Island. As a child, Ben is friends with a young girl named Annie, and after a particularly depressing birthday he runs out into the jungle and, following an apparition of his dead mother, he runs into Richard Alpert and asks to join The Others. Twenty years later in 1992, and an adult Ben orchestrates The Purge, poisoning the DHARMA initiative using toxic gas, with only those in The Swan left alive.
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Richard looks exactly the same in 1972 as in 2004.
From Wikia
     The deconstruction of Ben as a character begins in the flashbacks, certainly. Sterling Beaumon, who would come back to play Ben again in Season Five, presents a timid yet curious little boy driven to frustration by his father's abuse. His mother's death in childbirth provides a root for his drive to prevent the Island's pregnant women from dying. But the fact that they are dying exposes something crucial about Ben's character - he thinks he's the chosen one, and The Others did for a while, but he's wrong on all counts. The visions he sees are probably manipulations by The Monster, especially as once he becomes leader of The Others, nothing but misfortune befalls him. He's shot in the stomach, Annie has to leave, pregnant women start dying (his exact phobia), and despite the fact that the Island heals everyone of all its illnesses, Ben develops cancer.
      This development of Ben as an even more tragic dark counterpart to Locke and his journey is exposed a lot more given information in the fifth and sixth seasons. We find out that the being who occupies Jacob's Cabin is not the very real Jacob, but is in fact his nemesis, The Monster. (Aka The Man In Black.) In Season Five, Ben reveals something that confirms all of my suspicions during this episode - Ben's actions in the Cabin (talking to an empty chair and claiming it to be Jacob) are a complete act. The brilliance of Michael Emerson's performance in this episode is the way that he manages the performance in such a way that it can be interpreted in either way - in hindsight it's obvious that he's really desperate during that scene, but without that hindsight there is a fantastic level of ambiguity and that provides the scene's crucial tension.
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This'd be funny if it didn't remind me of this.
From Wikia
     Ben-centric episodes are typically fantastic, and this first outing is the most successful. Even though I wouldn't say that his character is the most developed of our characters, or even my particular favourite, Emerson's performance is one of such subtlety and grace that it's hard to ignore the presence he holds onscreen. And this episode plays into his hands in a number of ways, taking the Ben we know and more explicitly outlining the fact that contrary to previous appearances, he is vulnerable. He's not quite yet on the path to being the show's Dark Horse character, but he is a fantastic villain and more than worthy of this tremendous episode.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Charlie must decide whether to follow one of Desmond's prophecies as he contemplates his Greatest Hits.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review: Lost 3.19: The Brig

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Obscure character connections that make good sense.
From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Nineteen - The Brig
Written 20/3/13

Locke's third centric this season, the last Locke centric I have left to cover, is quite understated for a story which both takes his current plotline into new territory and settles a score as old as the show itself for him and Sawyer. In that way it was quite wonderfully dark, as Locke first considered whether he should exact revenge on his evil, evil father, and then seeing him embrace his "destiny" by manipulating someone else to do it for him, in a set of scenes which were eerily similar to those in the Sixth Season. There are also hints of the season's finale creeping up upon us, with secret hidden plans and a confrontation between the survivors and The Others which is gonna be spectacular.
     We discover through flashback the events since Locke met his dad in The Man From Tallahassee - they were moved to a old Island monument, where Ben told Locke that he had to kill his father to achieve a special status amongst The Others, whom Locke now considers his people. When Ben, knowing Locke's attachment, uses it to show Locke up in front of his people, Richard Alpert gives Locke the file of one James Ford and suggests that Locke take a look. In the present, and Locke guides Sawyer away from camp with the proviso that he's captured Ben and that he wants Sawyer to kill him. When they reach the hiding place, the brig of the Black Rock, Sawyer instead finds Anthony Cooper, who reveals while blabbering that he was the conman who led to his parents' deaths. After Cooper tears up his special letter, Sawyer kills him there and then. Back at camp, and word goes round about Naomi - except to Jack, who is informed at the end of the episode by Kate, and then proceeds to reveal that he and Juliet have something up their sleeve for the next few days anyway...
     Dropping the spoiler bombshell here for a second (skip to the next paragraph, you strange people who haven't seen Season Six), the way that Locke and Sawyer interact in this episode is very, very reminiscent of the interaction between Sawyer and The Man In Black, also played by Locke actor Terry O'Quinn. Locke here has adopted Ben's own strategy - anything he doesn't want to do himself, he manipulates into doing himself, While it's fairly cack-handed (Sawyer is not the hardest man to fool, at least at this point in the show), it still shows a devious ingenuity which certainly did not exist before Island-times. He still can't bring himself to kill his father - the man who so many years of his life were spent obsessing over - but that doesn't mean Locke doesn't want him dead.
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There are so many lines in this episode which become
brilliantly ironic in the last two seasons that I'm not sure
if it wasn't completely intentional. From Wikia
      While it was a Locke episode, the lack of an off-Island story meant that we got a lot of time to look at Sawyer too - this is sorta his episode as well, especially as him getting to face the man who killed his parents is something of a climactic step along his character development. And I gotta give the writers credit - it didn't feel as contrived as I thought it would that it just so happens that Locke's dad is the original Sawyer. Kevin Tighe's Anthony Cooper is a deliciously evil shit-eating villain, insults and indignities oozing out of his character like an oil slick. He's vastly, incredibly hateable as a villain, and yet all the same he is in no way cartoonish - people like Cooper really exist, and that's what makes him so brilliant.
      While not as mind-blowing as next week's Ben-centric episode, The Brig had a lot going on beneath the skin in terms of Locke's development - his capacity to manipulate others. I mentioned a few weeks ago how a lot of the character arcs in this season have been about attempting to take control of one's life and one's circumstances, and I think it's particularly funny that on Lost this means that Locke effectively becomes, as Sawyer has, the man he despises. The fact that Sawyer and Locke are more similar than previously thought it not only genius, but it's also a pointer towards the friendship they'd develop across Seasons Four and Five. And Anthony Cooper's dead. That's enough to make anyone happy.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We see how Ben became the man he is today. Richard Alpert hasn't aged since 1973? Who's Annie? And if not Jacob, who is the man living in his cabin? All these questions and more to be asked in The Man Behind The Curtain.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Review: Lost 3.18: D.O.C

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The first appearance of Ji Yeon Kwon. (Awww.)
From Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Eighteen - D.O.C
Written 19/3/14

I was musing to myself earlier about some obscure Lost trivia - this episode is the last one to feature flashes which are entirely in a language other than English. It was then I stumbled upon a rather big piece of trivia - this is the last normal off-Island flashback episode in Lost's entire run. No more looking into the pasts of our survivors, no more tracing their steps from mediocrity through calamity and onto the fateful flight which brought them to us. And it's funny to me that this last swansong for the format of the first three seasons comes as a Sun/Jin episode - their story was always a tad more interesting in flashback than it was in present, even if it followed a lot of clichés along the way.
     Trying to help an injured Naomi, Desmond's band ran into Mikhail, who survived his apparent death in Par Avion and is quick to offer his experience as a Soviet field medic to help heal Naomi's punctured lung. He helps them and gets away, but not before Jin stops him from stealing Naomi's satellite phone. Naomi, once sufficiently recovered, reveals to Hurley that as far as the outside world is concerned, Flight 815 has been found and all the passengers are dead. Meanwhile, Sun is ruffled by Jack's extra concern, and talking to Juliet reveals why. Juliet offers to help Sun, and in the dead of night she takes her to The Staff for an ultrasound. Despite her fears, the time of gestation points to Jin as the father and not Sun's pre-Island lover Jae Lee - but all the same, the baby's conception on the Island means that Sun has two months left to live unless she leaves its shores.
      Our flashback (our last segmented off-Island flashback ever) took us, as usual, to Seoul, where Jin and Sun are newlyweds moving into their first apartment. A woman comes up to Sun and blackmails her, saying that if she doesn't receive $100,000 by a set date, then she will reveal to the world that Jin's mother was a prostitute. She speaks to Jin's fisherman papa and he reveals that it's the truth, and this drives her to request the money from her rich Mafioso dad. He agrees for her sake, but on one condition - Jin has to work as one of his thugs. (As we saw in ...In Translation.)
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South Korean Army Training > USSR Army Training
From Wikia
      Yet again, this week gave some more time for Juliet to develop, but unlike in Left Behind, she didn't outshine Yunjin Kim's by now brilliantly nuanced performance as Sun. It's quite striking how much her character has come on - in the first season, I feel now as though there was a certain sense of stereotyping -  the quiet, submissive asian woman. Now Sun is far more three-dimensional - moral enough to stand against her father's corruption, not naiive enough to ignore the influence it gives her, and deeply loving towards a husband whom she, given in her place in society, wouldn't be expected to look at twice. This episode is an examination of how much Sun's character has changed - both on the way to her subservient state, and far, far away from it.
      As much as I'd love to stay and chat, this is still a Sun/Jin episode, and despite the fact that the Naomi storyline which is gonna be so crucial in about a month rattled along nicely, I don't have that much to say about the main meat of the episode that I haven't said before - Sun has developed well, Juliet is both morally gray and yet infinitely connectable, Kate was in this episode apparently at some point. I've no disrespect for D.O.C at all, I'm really loving the momentum this season has even during this downtime, but in the next few weeks we've got much bigger fish to fry, and it's gonna be amazing.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: So, er... what happened with Locke meeting his dad? That was five weeks ago and we got no resolution. Oh, we're having on-island flashbacks? Oh goodie. :D It's time we saw Locke head to The Brig.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Review: Lost 3.17: Catch-22

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Este episódio foi cheio de de viagem
no tempo
momentos de diversão.

De Wikia
Lost - Season Three, Episode Seventeen - Catch-22
Written between 16th and 18th March 2014

Lost is a big fan of writing entire episodes around literary allusions, and this week's eponymous plot-grab comes from a book by Joseph Heller in which there arises a no-win situation in which there are two given choices, both of which will lead to unpleasant consequences. As well as making English Majors wet themselves, this episode followed the trend of Desmond-centrics, providing us with some exciting sci-fi conundrums to do with time-travel, predestination and, funnily enough, whether Superman could beat The Flash in a foot-race. (He can't, by the way.)
      Desmond receives a new flash - He, Charlie, Hurley and Jin are walking through the jungle, looking for a parachuter who has bailed out of a helicopter. Charlie accidentally steps on one of Rousseau's traps, and is killed. Hoping that the parachuter in his vision is his long-lost lover Penny Widmore, Desmond gathers the four of them together in order to follow the events of his vision exactly, afraid that if he doesn't follow it (and if he doesn't let Charlie die) that he will never see Penny again. When it comes down to it, he saves Charlie, who isn't too happy to hear about the real contents of the flash. The parachuter comes down, and has a satellite phone to hand, but it isn't Penny - it's a Manc woman named Naomi. Elsewhere, and there is some minor Love Rectangle shenanigans. In Desmond's flashback, we see him as a Monk, having left his previous girlfriend in a sudden moment of fear. He is forced to leave the Monastry after a night of drunkenness, yet on the way out he meets a beautiful English girl named Penny.
     The appearance of Naomi means that we're getting frighteningly close to the endgame of these reviews, as she was someone I mentioned quite a bit (but didn't see very much of) in Season Four. Her appearance does however faciliate the episode's interesting main-island subplot, which is more about the morality of acting of pre-destination than anything else. This is the first flash where Desmond had to explicitly cause what he was seeing to happen, and that leads to the inevitable question - given that we can assume that Charlie is gonna die anyway through Flashes Before Your Eyes' course-correction, is it wrong to let him die if it leads to the rescue of everyone else? This question will get examined in greater detail in a few episodes' time, but it raises a little nitpick about this entire plotline - the idea that Desmond's flashes only pertain to Charlie's death. It all seems a little too specific to fit into the mythos. A bit convenient.
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I'd try to insert another falling pun, but I've used them twice
already this season so I'll leave it. From Wikia
     The love rectangle segments, in which Kate angrily sleeps with Sawyer as a means of getting back at Jack for hanging around with new belle Juliet, were mildly entertaining but rather distractingly tangential to the main plot. I don't need to really elaborate on my feelings about the Love Rectangle - especially as we're six episodes from the end of these reviews and there are much more fun things to talk about. If anything it damaged Kate's character - the pettiness with which she sorta jumped on Sawyer as a direct act of jealousy against Jack, when really by this stage they've both betrayed each other enough times to not warrant this level of emotional control. Maybe I just don't understand relationships or something, I don't know.
      Catch-22 was an interesting use of Desmond's time-travel, which worked in a significant move forward for his storyline while simultaneously introducing us to a development in the main plot which, as they're currently bogged down in the laziest kind of romantic writing, our "main" characters aren't able to provide. It wasn't the perfectly orchestrated Lost gold that typifies this half of the season, but all the same it was an adequate distraction. Next week we get to see The Staff again and Juliet's cover gets blown. So that's fun.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We find out who Sun's babypapa is and Juliet helps out in D.O.C.