Lost Their Way? "The End" 2

Posted by Charles Reece, June 13, 2010 11:06pm | Post a Comment
Continuing ...

Is not the ultimate American paranoiac fantasy that of an individual living in a small idyllic Californian city, a consumerist paradise, who suddenly starts to suspect that the world he lives in is a fake, a spectacle staged to convince him that he lives in a real world, while all people around him are effectively actors and extras in a gigantic show? [...] Th[e] final shot of The Truman Show may seem to enact the liberating experience of breaking out from the ideological suture of the enclosed universe into its outside, invisible from the ideological inside. However, what if it is precisely this "happy" denouement of the film [...], with the hero breaking out and, as we are led to believe, soon to join his true love (so that we have again the formula of the production of the couple!), that is ideology at its purest? What if ideology resides in the very belief that, outside the closure of the finite universe, there is some "true reality" to be entered?
--  Slavoj Žižek, "The Matrix, or Two Sides of Perversion

lost christian light

The only interpretation I've come across so far of Lost's ending in that church with Christian opening the doors to white light (why never neon violet?) is that the whole sideways timeline (ST) is a purgatory where all the characters are reunited (having died at various times in the original timeline, OT). Passing through those doors, they'll go on to discover the meaning of it all, reality ground zero. Chief apologist Doc Jensen's reading goes something like that: "the castaways moved into the ''afterlife,'' which I have called 'heaven,' [... b]ut upon reflection, [... m]ost likely, the castaways returned to the Source, the hub of life, death, and rebirth, and their energy was recycled back into creation." Contrariwise, I suggest another possibility, that the island functions like Bugs Bunny sitting at the drawing board, constantly manipulating poor Daffy Duck's environment with a pencil and eraser (thus the white light is nothing more than blank paper). As it is with the cocksure rabbit, Jacob's ability to create arbitrary rules for reality ultimately rests on the unknowable fiat of some other creator, opening a potentially infinite regress of stinkers. What this entails is that Jack's sacrifice wasn't grounded -- wasn't guaranteed significance -- through transcendent means as the other interpretation would have it. Instead, if his martyrdom has meaning, it's because of the material effects on his reality, the OT, what's constituted by his relation to the other characters involved in the Gordian plot of the first five seasons.

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Lost Their Way? "The End"

Posted by Charles Reece, May 30, 2010 11:07pm | Post a Comment
If much in the world were mystery the limits of that world were not, for it was without measure or bound and there were contained within it creatures more horrible yet and men of other colors and beings which no man has looked upon and yet not alien none of it more than were their own hearts alien in them, whatever wilderness contained there and whatever beasts.
-- Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, p. 138

Lost Jack Dies

Let's start off with something positive. I'm hard-pressed to think of a better filmed death than Jack's. As someone who's experienced the passing of a loved one after a arduous, painful struggle, I found the serenity in his letting go pitch perfect. Undoubtedly, it's one of Lost's best scenes, sharing a similar timbre with my other favorite death scene, that of Twin Peaks' Leland. Going back to their comment on one of the early blu-ray extras, the showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse knew exactly how they wanted to end their story. According to actor Matthew Fox, they told him the fate of his character during the first season. Unfortunately, what wasn't so planned out was how Jack would get there. "The End" leaves us with five seasons of dangling plot threads that don't add up to much. Instead of having all of that leading to Jack's death, this sequence is constantly interrupted with a bunch of treacle involving almost all the main characters, both alive and dead, meeting up in a church in the alternative "sideways" world to head off into cliché, the afterlife's white light. Evidently, the finale needed an extra half hour just to include a bunch of flashbacks (previous seasons instead relied on audience intelligence) and all the hugging and smiling that goes on in the church. Thus, through parallel editing, the best and worst are presented simultaneously.

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The Lost Weekend: "The Candidate," "Across the Sea," & "What They Died For"

Posted by Charles Reece, May 23, 2010 04:31pm | Post a Comment
The scorecard. Note that Desmond wasn't included in this pic, either.

Welp, "The End" is tonight. I've been less than enamored with Lost's final season, not because of unresolved mysteries (which is how I wanted it), but poor story construction. Rather than the forceful movement towards the finale that all the other seasons possessed, there's been too much dicking around, deflating the momentum. It wasn't until the third to last episode that the reason for all the castaways being on the island was revealed through the origin of Jacob and his nemesis, the man in black (MIB), aka his twin brother. 

lost mother claudia

"Across the Sea"  is one of the season's best episodes, as it takes the old prime mover argument for a god's existence (that everything has to have a beginning, so there must be an ultimate beginning) and narratively plays out the problem with that: the positing of a first cause runs counter to the reason for it's use, that everything has to have a cause. Thus, we find out how Jacob and MIB became who they are, but we don't know squat about the one they call Mother who condemned them to the island -- so goes the most quoted bit from the episode: answers only lead to more questions. Ontologically, that makes me happy. Likewise, I like the way Jacob doesn't have any real possession of the Truth, either. He just chooses to believe the ad hoc mumbo-jumbo of this woman who admittedly killed his real mother, because that's really all he's got. He's learned something over the subsequent 2,000 years about the island's mystical mechanics, but seemingly very little about the what for. That he has to protect the island and keep his brother's smoggy avatar imprisoned are matters of faith. At its core, the show demonstrates the blurry distinction between faith and its seemingly more rational counterpart, inference to the best explanation. Thus, Jacob is following the law of his Mother, a person who believed it necessary to not only kill his real mom, but murder the other people on the island, because they were trying to harness its central power source. Or, then again, derailing the MIB's attempt to get off the island by razing the village was just a ruse to get him pissed off enough to end her eternal drudgery as protector. She even thanks him for killing her. ( And, I could be mishearing, but it sure seems like she calls him José as she lies dying. Being a variant of Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, that would fit this Oedipalized passion play. Joseph's dying wish was to have his bones returned to Israel, the MIB wishes to return home as a disembodied spirit of sorts. The inspiration for the character's names never determine their arc, but just allude to some analogical similarities.) It's all perfectly ambiguous, but it does provide what's at stake for the remaining candidates should they find the faith to make the same decision as Jacob. 

lost jin sun dead

However, the placement of that backstory felt like a drag on the main storyline, coming right after "The Candidate," in which we witnessed the deaths of Sayid, Jin and Sun. (Lapidus is still alive, since his death wasn't shown and his piloting skill is the most logical way off the island for whoever survives.) Why wasn't Jacob's origin story placed somewhere at the beginning of the season, where it would've added some dramatic point to all the characters flailing around in both timelines? Instead, it's been more characters and mysteries introduced with viewers waiting to see what the point of it all is. The dramaturgy behind the sideways timeline has been little more than reminding the viewer what the characters were like at the beginning of the journey with inverted twists on their lot in life -- sometimes surprising, but who cares? Although I admit that the interactions between sideways Locke and Jack deepen their characters (so it definitely hasn't been all bad). Had "Across the Sea" come earlier, the creators could've restructured the narrative so that all the decisions being made had some relevance, were contingent upon, the primal act established therein. When said deaths occurred, it felt haphazard, like a gimmick just to convey that this UnLocke guy, whoever the hell he is, meant business -- whatever business that might be. Which brings me to the problem of rule-following in a fantasy.

It doesn't matter why vampires incinerate in sunlight, only that once it's established that they do, you don't see any tanning on a beach. Earlier in the season, Jack proved his hard-earned faith that he's on the island for a reason by lighting a stick of dynamite in front of Richard and watching it fizzle out. Similarly, in a previous season, Michael couldn't kill himself with a pistol. As the rule goes, the island wasn't done with them yet. Considering this rule, alongside all of the convenient coincidences, is what makes "The Candidate" one of the clumsiest and most poorly told episodes of the season, if not the entire series. 

lost unlocke claire submarine

First, let's take all the contingencies that UnLocke would've had to consider in advance (foreseen?) for his plan to kill the remaining candidates to work: (1) Jack had to change his mind about not leaving the island, an idea he was so committed to that he jumped off a boat in a previous episode, willing to let his friends leave without him. (2) Jack had to take off his backpack at the right moment, so that UnLocke could switch it out with one containing a C4 bomb hooked to a timer. (3) Because UnLocke can't directly kill the candidates (just as he couldn't kill Jacob), the timer going off without anyone's awareness would've have amounted to diddly. Thus, Kate had to be conveniently shot, so that Jack would need the medical supplies in his pack, thereby discovering the bomb. (4) Related to 3, UnLocke had to count on the group not finding any first aid kit in the sub. (5) Sawyer had to be counted on to not trust Jack's faith in not dying should the bomb go off, so that he'd mistakenly try to dismantle the bomb, making him the direct killer of the surviving candidates. Okay, maybe that last one wasn't so hard to predict given Sawyer's opinion of Jack, but it points to the problem of rule-following I mentioned.

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Lost in Translation: "Sundown," "Ab Aeterno" & "The Package"

Posted by Charles Reece, April 4, 2010 10:13pm | Post a Comment

A subjectivist would say that evil, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. However, cross-cultural psychology tells us that beauty preferences for bodily proportions remain pretty consistent across cultures -- e.g., the alignment of eyes to the nose or the ratio of hips to waist to bust might differ in our preference for how big or small the body parts, but percentage-wise, the preferred numbers are statistically close. Is the subjectivist also similarly wrong about evil?

In "The Package," the latest episode of Lost, having been captured by Whitmore's team, Jin turns on a brainwashing video in the cell where he's held. Along with the psychedelic montage are two inscriptions: "we are the causes of our own suffering" and "everything changes." Both respectively comment on two of the show's main themes, the nature of evil and determinism. Given that the narrative relies so heavily on fate and time travel, where the present has been determined by the actions of characters shifted into the past, we viewers should read irony into the Heraclitean message that you can never step into the same river twice. As is taking shape in the alternative timeline, the river might look different in the particulars, but it's always leading to the same place. Likewise, a grain of salt should be applied to the other message suggesting a subjectivist determination of evil. 

If memory serves, the video is the same one that was forced on Alex's boyfriend, Karl, by the Others (then led by Ben). Thus, it was either created by them, or they appropriated a DHARMA Initiative's video for their own purpose (since the room was definitely created by DHARMA). Either way, there was a good reason for the Others to use the video on a wayward member, to repress any suspicion that much suffering has been wrought by Jacob's will (and, of course, Ben's wish to punish the boy for dating his adopted daughter). Jacob pays a lot of lip service to free will, such as when he meets Richard for the first time in a flashback sequence of "Ab Aeterno." Just before offering a Richard a job as his liaison, he explains his purpose in bringing all the people to the island is to prove to the Nemesis that they can freely choose to do the right thing. However, the right thing isn't freely chosen by Jacob's candidates, but by the dictates of the island and/or Jacob. Thus, however justified the suffering of those who find themselves on the island might or might not be, one thing is certain, the evil effect isn't subjectively determined. What remains for the characters, as with the audience, is to determine the true nature of evil.

Since the last time I blogged about the show, I've been happy to discover that it hasn't gone the route of a dualistic struggle between good and evil. Sure, it continues to play with the iconography of a Star Wars metaphysics (black and white, two teams, etc.), but I think the writers have shown enough of their hand that the audience can be assured the moral outcome isn't going to be so simplistic. Take, for example, the parallel that's been drawn between the bargains proffered by Jacob and the Nemesis. As the personally chosen representative of Jacob and protector of the Temple, in "Sundown" Dogen offers the resurrected Sayid a chance to redeem himself and prove his goodness by killing UnLocke (the Nemesis) with a sacred dagger (sacred because it continues to get passed between the two island deities through the ages).

Using Jacob's typical rhetorical technique, Dogen only tells Sayid enough to get him to do the task at hand. It is hardly indicative of someone who respects the will of another, but rather the work of a satanic trickster. No mention is made of the likelihood that the dagger will have no effect on UnLocke -- and it doesn't. Furthermore, Dogen insists that Sayid must strike before UnLocke says anything, effectively robbing the opponent of any chance to prove his humanity to the contrary of his being characterized as "evil incarnate" (possibly another of Dogen's deceptions, since the Nemesis has been robbed of his body). On the other side, the Nemesis (as the Man in Black) gets Richard to go after Jacob with the dagger by tricking him into thinking the latter is the devil ("Ab Aeterna"). Richard is convinced he's in hell for killing a doctor, and due to the Nemesis' machinations, the only way to free himself and his wife is to kill Satan. Once again, the blow is to be dealt before the opponent has a chance to speak. Thus, the Nemesis has no more regard for a man's right of self-determination than Jacob. These methods suggest that the only good that will come out of following either Jacob or UnLocke is a utilitarian ratio where the final good outweighs all the evil means.

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Watching Big Brother: Russia under Global Capitalism

Posted by Charles Reece, February 12, 2010 09:27pm | Post a Comment
Insight into another culture, or the Russian Big Brother is some crazy shit:

"[W]hen people stop being polite ... and start getting real":

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