The biggest complaint about Season 6 thus far seems to be that it doesn't really feel like the final season of LOST. Among hardcore fans, the assumption going in was that the show would immediately switch to "answer mode," casting aside all of the elements that made the show so beloved for five previous years. That was an unrealistic expectation, sure, but in fairness to the fans, the promos and powers-that-be gave some false impressions in that regard.
Every week, ABC's crack (or is it on crack?) promo team delivers another commercial stuffed with hyperbole and exaggeration about what's in store next week, complete with melodramatic music and that irritating and confusing countdown to the end. So there's 8 episodes left... until the finale. Why not just say there's 9 episodes left? They've also taken to including footage from multiple future episodes, generating misguided complaints that scenes have been omitted, or just frustration that we're not getting what we expect from week to week.
This was the lamest one so far:
Here's a clue to those of you who are new to this game-- IGNORE THE ABC PROMOS. They have always been garbage. Any veterans remember the preview for the worst episode of LOST ever, "Stranger in a Strange Land?"
That's right, ABC's promo team considered Jack's tattoos one of LOST's biggest mysteries. I understand that the promo folks have a job to do-- entice viewers to watch next week's episode. But hardcore fans, whether spoiled or not, are too close to the show to be sucked in by the same over-the-top emotionality that may appeal to a casual viewer. Simply put, these previews aren't made for us. We are too scrutinizing and demanding, and ABC already knows that the truly faithful will be back next week with or without previews.
Unfortunately, the weekly promo debacles can make a decent episode like "Recon" seem mediocre or even disappointing. In any other season, "Recon" would be a perfectly satisfactory Sawyer-centric episode. But for many, we are so close to the end that words like "decent" and "satisfactory" shouldn't be applicable to the kinds of episodes we are seeing.
As with every new flash-sideways, the changes in James Ford's parallel world aren't nearly as important as what's the same. Sawyer's life as a cop instead of a criminal isn't really a twist for the character. As Jack Nicholson's character Frank Costello says in The Departed, "When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?"
Sure, it gives us a little "WTF" moment when his buddies, led by Miles Straume, bust in on him while conning a con by pretending to be a con who's pretending not to be a con. But in the end, he's still after the same thing as he was in the original timeline, circa 2004-- revenge against Anthony Cooper.
He even watches Little House on the Prairie, like his sideways counterpart once did.
I've heard the argument made this season that the Losties' lives would have been better if not for Jacob's interference, an idea that stems largely from the Man in Black's speech in "The Substitute" about how Jacob has manipulated all of them to end up on the Island. This episode effectively disproves that theory, because whether or not Jacob ever gave him a pen to finish that letter, it seems Sawyer would still be obsessed with revenge.
In some sense, our protagonists are all still just as LOST without a magical Island on which to sort out their problems.
All said, the flash-sideways this week was not that enthralling. I'm always glad for more Miles screen time, but they laid the cop stereotypes on pretty thick.
Seeing Charlie's brother Liam was very surprising, his having been such a minor character in the scope of the show. Gotta wonder if that's heading anywhere.
And of course, Kate pops up in the last scene of the flash, much like Jin did in Sayid's episode. Maybe they've found a way to make both Skaters and Jaters happy-- a different pairing in each reality!
Charlotte was completely wasted in what will probably be her only return appearance this season.
Frankly, it's almost insulting to bring her back just to be a bedroom gymnastics partner for the promiscuous Sawyer, when the character never got a fair shake to begin with. Although all of the Freighter Folk introduced in Season 4 had their screen time truncated by the writer's strike of 2007-2008, Charlotte fared the worst.
Eventually, Miles and Daniel got their deserved centric episodes.
Frank hasn't had one yet, but hey-- he's still alive. And he certainly gets some of the show's best lines.
But poor Charlotte became a device to show us the terrible consequences of time shifting. We never even really figured out why she was with the freighter team, except that she was an anthropologist who happened to have been on the Island as a little girl. Regardless of whether she was looking for the Island, why exactly did Widmore hire her? Did he know about her past? And what function was she expected to serve on the Island when she arrived?
Unfortunately, those questions will end up as crumbs at the bottom of the toaster long after LOST is a fully cooked slice of pumpernickel. Like the majority of LOST's women, she unfortunately existed more to be a foil to a male character's arc than an independent entity.
The Island story in "Recon" offered a lot more substance. We got to see some characters who've been off-screen for a while, and Sawyer did what he does best in some truly creepy scenes. After an episode focusing exclusively on Team Jacob, the wayward members of Team MiB took the spotlight.
How much of a "team" they really are is debatable. I use the term loosely, because there is really no unity at all amongst these characters who are either infected with or surrounded by the Man in Black's darkness. Distrust, rage, ambivalence and confusion of purpose characterize their interactions, as befits a group that has been swallowed by evil.
That's not to say that the individuals in the team, most of whom we've come to know and love in five previous seasons, are all at fault for their circumstances. Claire has been "claimed" by the Man in Black, and in this episode I think he deliberately manipulated her confrontation with Kate in order to make a play for Kate's loyalty. Claire's mind has been so distorted by years of lies and malicious influence that it's no wonder she almost seems to show a split personality, holding Kate's hand one moment, then plunging a knife toward her throat the next.
I believe and hope that the Claire we saw at the end of the episode was the real article, and that through Kate's compassion, she can be brought back from the darkness.
I'm also betting that the Drive Shaft ring Sun picked up last season will come into play and help Claire snap out of it.
Sayid may be even more lost. He is practically catatonic when Kate begs for his help.
Having just perpetrated the brutal murders of Dogen and Lennon and enabled the Man in Black to smokify and kill anyone else in the Temple who wouldn't obey him, Sayid must be paralyzed with the weight of the evil that has taken hold in his heart. But I refuse to believe he is beyond saving, even if his only recourse to atone for his actions is to die for the greater good.
Kate is along for the ride because of Claire, which is why the Man in Black orchestrates an opportunity to "save" her from the Island mama's temporary insanity, then takes her aside for an interesting conversation. He says he lied to Claire about who had Aaron because she needed something to hate in order to keep her going. The notion may be insidious, but it has some unfortunate truth.
In George Orwell's 1984, the citizens participated in a daily "Two Minutes Hate," wherein they shouted curses at footage of their nation's sworn enemy. The Two Minutes Hate was meant to unify them as a people under the control of their government. The character O'Brien later remarks to Winston, the protagonist, that it's very important for people to have an enemy in order to unify them and distract from the weaknesses in their own society.
Real world history has shown this to be true on countless occasions. The Man in Black now preys on this dark part of human nature for his own ends.
Thankfully, neither Sawyer or Kate seem taken in by his manipulations. Sawyer accepts MiB's "recon" job, under the impression that they're going to use the Ajira plane to leave the Island.
He finds a horrific pile of human carcasses on Hydra Island, the remains of the nameless Ajira 316 passengers.
When he meets Widmore, whose sub is docked nearby, Widmore claims no involvement in the deaths.
We faced this same conundrum in seasons 4 and 5, when both Widmore and Ben were blaming each other for creating the faked wreckage of Oceanic 815 at the bottom of the ocean. In the end, it was Widmore who in fact staged the wreckage, so I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls the same stunt again here.
On the other hand, it may in fact be the Man in Black who perpetrated the murders. He's obviously not shy of amassing a body count, and last season he specifically told Richard that after he met Jacob, they would have to "deal with" the Ajira crash survivors. He even told Ben last episode to meet him on Hydra Island.
Widmore has come equipped to take on the Man in Black. As his people erect sonic barriers similar to the pylons outside the barracks, which we know to be Smokey-deterrent, he strikes a deal with Sawyer to lead MiB into a trap. Sawyer agrees, but then promptly does an about face and reveals the whole plan to the Man in Black when he returns. So whose side is he really on?
His own, of course. Well, that and Kate's, and whoever else he can get to leave the Island with him. Widmore, too, seems uninterested in the conflict between Jacob and the Man in Black. He just wants the Island back for himself. With so many selfish interests in play, it's impossible to say who will come out on top and who will change loyalties. Backstabbing is the order of the day at Camp MiB, even for those who seem to just be stuck with him.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?