Saturday, March 8, 2008

WHAT'S PAST IS PROLOGUE


While every episode can't rise to the level of Art that was The Constant, there's almost always something fun about every episode of Lost.



We often forget that even a great genius like Shakespeare was writing for the hoi polloi of his day, the leek-eating lowbrows who clamored into dirt-floored outdoor theaters to get their fix of sex and violence, Elizabethan style. Indeed this episode of Lost was not all that far removed in structure from one of Shakespeare's frothy rom coms. It shares many elements:

A general air of confusion and mistaken identity.




Romantic complications.


A clown.


A funny bad guy.


A harrowing glimpse of chaos beneath the veneer of civilization.


A blurry boundary between the spirit and human worlds.


Tertiary characters to machinate the plot.


Dimly understood diabolical figures.


And of course a somewhat random but nonetheless blissful romantic ending.


One of the joys of Shakespeare is how flexibly it lends itself to all kinds of adventurous stagings. The plays have been staged and rewritten as everything from Japanese kabuki to vintage 1950's Science Fiction.


So why not a magical tropical island? In fact, there's no need to improvise. Shakespeare already wrote a play quite like this!

About a place where "the isle is full of noises, / Sounds and sweet airs,"


...or as we call them - whispers.

A place inhabited by "all spirits, and/ are melted into air, into thin air" who can disguise themselves as things like harpies


or in this case a spurned wife ("hostile, even for a therapist") named Harper.

In The Tempest, a Duke is unjustly stripped of power and banished to a deserted island with his daughter. He learns the dark arts of magic and uses them to create the storm that shipwrecks his enemy and brings him where he can mete out his own personal version of justice.


"O! I have suffer'd / With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel, / Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her, / Dash'd all to pieces"

It's impossible to know for sure how far Ben's powers reach. He shares many traits of Prospero, the Duke turned Magician in Tempest. He's got a "daughter", of sorts.


And he loves to read.


He may cry about injustices done to him, but he's not above imprisoning or even enslaving others.


He has taunted at least one of his captives with a freedom that he never plans to grant her.


And it has been implied, if by no one else than the editing department, that Ben crashed that damn plane.


But as odd as Ben is


he can never seem to escape the utter ordinariness that hangs around him like his baggy butt pants. He's capable of astonishing things, but Magic doesn't seem to be one of his powers. Great actors have argued for years over whether Prospero or Caliban is the showier role in Tempest. So given that Michael Emerson is a Wizard of an actor, maybe it was decided to create a hybrid of the two for him to play.

Because - like Caliban - Ben is something of a motherless monster. As well as, currently, a prisoner.


And - like Caliban - he's a guy with a lot of problems when it comes to the ladies.


Ben is not smooth.


He's not handsome.


He's not particularly masculine.


But nonetheless he has needs.


And this puts our dear Miranda in quite a spot. Juliet has spent years now fending off the advances of the world's most socially awkward alpha male.


You know the guy. He can't take "let's just be friends" for an answer.


Next thing you know you meet someone you really like - a cute (if slightly married) guy who knows how to work the system enough to find wine - in a bottle, not a Dharma box!


He's great company and he has a good (if somewhat hazardous) job - working in an electrical plant that generates holocaust-inducing gasses.


And what happens? The Creepy Guy goes and frakking kills him!


Juliet took a chance on love with Goodwin.


She probably felt it was the least she deserved after that bastard Ben lured her away from her family on false pretenses and then kept her indefinitely incarcerated on a madhouse island. But she never realized just how far Ben would go to keep her all to himself.


Like David, in his quest to illicitly possess Bathsheba, he sent her lover into battle and a sure death.


Leaving Juliet more alone than ever before


...and with the realization she's nothing more than the mail order bride to a murdering psychopath in geek's clothing.


But it may just be that it was Juliet's prayer that was answered by the plane crash..


...that brought her the shipwrecked traveler she has fallen in love with.

As the play opens, Juliet is distressed by an encounter with an apparition from her past


who brings her an order from Ben to kill the intruders. She understands exactly where she is supposed to go, because one of the wonders of this Island is the way all these very large and distinctive hatches


keep popping up everywhere. Remember Season One - when Locke walked-about for days on end and all he found was a locked steel door in the ground? Ever since then, hatches have been popping up like bunnies on the Island. This week, we met the Tempest, which is even more elaborate than the last one we saw. It boggles the mind to think what else Locke may have missed. What will turn up next on this island?


In the Tempest Hatch, Daniel and Charlotte were feverishly working, they said, to avert the disastrous defense mechanism that had been built into the Island.


It seems a deadly gas can be released from this hatch, to kill "every living person", and these two wunderkinds were on a mission to render it inert. But why? In the ongoing chess tournament between Ben and the outside world, who won this match? With no toxic gas to worry about, the Island can now be safely invaded. Juliet gambled against Ben this round. Wittingly or not, she lent a helping hand to the boat that we were told is owned by this man.


Why does Widmore want to find the Island? Ben told Locke that perhaps Widmore seeks to put the Island inhabitants on display like freaks at the circus.

Or maybe it's something like David Copperfield's island


with its alleged Fountain of Youth. Is Widmore seeking to exploit the Island's magical healing powers? After all, even the richest man can't buy himself more Time. There is something very precious hidden in the Island's magical vault. Maybe that's what Widmore is after...but it's still entirely unclear. What's also unclear is how the freighter has so much detailed information about the island. It's a cinch that directions to the Tempest Hatch


didn't come from Magnus Hanso's diary. So is it possible that Widmore has a mole on the island?

Nothing is exactly at it seems.


As has worked for him so well in the past, Ben sought to worm his way into Locke's ever malleable mind and reestablish their inevitable alliance.


Big dummy Locke blindly accepted that there's only one safe behind only one picture.


All it took for Ben to buy his freedom was the sharing of one secret - that Ben's "friend" on the freighter has confirmed that Widmore is the one looking for the Island.

So Widmore funds the freighters. In fact, he could well be The Economist himself. Question still open: Who is funding Ben?


It will be a long time before we get that answer I am guessing. Ben is parsing out the answers very stingily. He's still bartering for towels and sheets.


Wait till he gets to the really big stuff.

Harpy enigmatically told Juliet at one point that she "looked just like her".


Like who? We'd been told before that Juliet looked just like Sarah.


And it's not a total stretch to say she looked a bit like Ben's dead mother.


And there's this unexplained painting on Ben's wall, which certainly resembles Juliet.


A grown up Annie, before whatever tragic event caused her untimely death?

It's really hard to say. A lot of people look like other people. For instance, I've often thought Locke looked kind of like


And in this episode there were a few points where Ben looked for all the world like


When Kate showed up with her new massive hair,


I actually thought for a minute it was


But seriously that stuff was out of control.


She was headed past Rousseau and fast on her way to Rosanadannaland.


Juliet's hair, on the other, hand was taking a different direction.


It seems the longer she stays on the island


the straighter it gets.


I guess Jack must be a Straight Hair kind of guy. Because he made his preferences boldly clear in this episode.

While he wasn't completely dismissive of Kate's head wound,


(I mean, he did stop and at least try to delouse that mat of hair)


he quickly left her in the dust when he realized his Juliet might be headed for danger.

And when they reunited, he told Li'l Sis to am-scray so he and Juliet could have time to themselves.


I have to give credit where credit is due, hard as it may be sometimes. This scene between Jack and Juliet was genuinely romantic and touching. Have we ever seen Jack be so tender?


Like Miranda who asks her Ferdinand "Do you love me?", Juliet laid her feelings on the line. And Jack was so touched he actually manned up and kissed her all by himself! We've never seen him do that before!


Afterwards, the two lovers shared a moment of intimacy and sweetness.


"I am a fool / To weep at what I am glad of."


It was as if they were clinging to each other and this fleeting moment of peace in the eye of the storm. They know as well as we do that it will not last long.

Of course this sweet romantic interlude was just a ripple in the tempest of the madly thrashing story. We know that "not Penny's boat"does belong to Penny's father. (At least I think we know that.) And we know that Widmore's minions know enough about the Island to understand how to disable its defenses. The coast is clear now for the next wave of their invasion.

And most importantly


Ben is free again.


That can't be good.

11 comments:

Surly said...

Big dummy Locke indeed. Was he always this stupid, or it just a convenient writer's device? I suppose the kind of savvy needed to remember the entire Amok catalogue (how to throw a knife; how to hunt boar; how to carve a dog whistle from bamboo; how to pilot a submarine (maybe)) is not the same sort of intelligence employed when discerning when and when not to TRUST THE DEVIL! Seriously. I understand that "Lost" is a metaphor for the "lost" state of the characters in their lives, and that the state of man is that he is doomed to make the same mistakes again and again, but in real life, as in literature people DO occasionally "evolve" (see Al Swearengen's character in Deadwood for an example of good, subtle character transformation that only took three seasons to achieve!) and my goodness, this IS getting frustrating!

OK. Sad Locke fangirl screed over. Thanks, as always, Fish, for an enlightening and humourous recap.

Anonymous said...

Great recap Fish, as usual! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks Kate is going wookie with that hair! Give the woman a goddamn hairbrush! :D

And thank you for pointing out the hatch problem. I mean at least in S1 they tried to make them look as if they were hidden, now all they're missing is a big ol' sign that's says "Caution super sekrit hatch ahead" Sheesh!

- Caprica

Anonymous said...

I love Kate's hair! It's all wild and free...like Kate. Great job Fish like always. I can't ever like Jack, so I don't ship Jacket...but at least Juliette makes him a tad more tolerable.

getlost

susan14509 said...

Mysterious hatches popping up, hair comparisons, and Locke as Popeye is perfect! I love your visual recaps, Fish!

Anonymous said...

As much as I love Locke, I have to admit, this gullible act is getting very tiresome. What happened to the boar hunting, island mystic we came to love? This bumbling idiot act simply doesn't set well on Mr. O'Quinn. Locke and Benry's exchanges are far more intriguing when they're squaring off toe to toe equally instead of Locke getting pawned each and every time. Ugh! /Rant over. Anways, great comparison to Shakespeare's work. The writers have done a great job of keeping the element of surprising attraction, maturity, respect and growing trust between Juliet and Jack. Very enjoyable to watch even with the knowledge it will be a short lived experience. Kate has big hair. Hee! Yeah, it's pretty wild, but I like it. Great review as always, Fish. Thanks!


Darbi,

Bsti said...

You're married, aren't you Fishie? Otherwise I would soooo Woo You. Smart, clever, witty, pretty, the perfect Lostaholic to spend life with.

freckles said...

Love your reviews; intelligent, with the comparisons to the Tempest and funny, with pointing out the hatches and Kate's hair. Appreciate your effort and celebrating each episode of Lost for what it is.

Anonymous said...

Excellent recap! The parallels with Shakespeare's The Tempest are all kinds of brilliant. It was sheer 15 minutes of entertainment to read.
And thank god, thank god I'm not the only one who thinks they went a little too far with the additional hair tresses to Evi's 'do.

Sassynails

Surly said...

If you like to listen to the official podcast, one was posted today, and in it Cuse and Lindeloff respond to a fan question in a way that is touchingly reassuring about Locke's trajectory. They even joke that the fan question could have been written by TOQ himself, who has been pretty vocal about his frustrations, which run right alongside his fans'. They actually compare Locke's story to that of a Biblical "priest." So that's interesting. And it will keep me from throwing things at my tv for a week or two.

Anonymous said...

I love Kate's big hair too. Everybody's freaking out because it's different, but I think it's fantastic. A nice wild Island contrast to her straightened Stepford hair back home.

bluefish said...

I knew there was something different with Kate's hair. But she's more beautiful on the island than off it IMO. Natural looks good on her. Loved your recap.