Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Something Nice to Hold On To

Episode: "Tale of Two Cities"
Flashback Character: Jack
Original Airdate: October 4th, 2006

So, it’s back. It’s bad-ass. And it’s just as confounding as ever.

Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? This season started, like last season, with a moment that kept us out of sorts and off balance: just like last season’s Average Day in the Hatch moment we were treated to things from the Others perspective. They get up, they put in a CD, they cry about something (that “something” could be very huge, potentially) and they have a book club where some asshole (filling in for literary critic Harold Bloom) complains about the validity and quality of Stephen King. (The book in question was “Carrie,” although it was hard to spot because there were several versions/covers of the book in the scene. Walt had special psychic powers, just like Carrie. Remember him?)

The Book Club Harold Bloom complained about Ben not being there; a few moments later as we see them reacting to the crash of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, Ben is revealed to be Fake Henry Gale, The Big Bad from Season 2. In my notes I have the words ‘four toes’ written down (and double underlined), so someone from the book club must have had four toes, like the statue Sayid spotted in the season finale. Could the Others be another race altogether, highly developed and literarily snobby?

When the Others camp was revealed (in comparison to the ginormosity of the island) I immediately thought of “The Prisoner,” the short lived British television series. I’m sure many viewers did too. In a few minutes we’ve already been bombarding with allusions (not to mention that the episode is called “Tale of Two Cities”) that are supposed to inform us while also placing “Lost” in cultural context. It’s kind of magical, actually.

This new point of view showcases what I like to call The JJ Abrams Paradigm Shift. This is when he gets itchy with whatever he’s working on and decides to radically redesign things. The most obvious example of this is the post-Super Bowl episode of “Alias,” “Phase One,” wherein the whole year and a half of the series was rendered null and void and an entirely new (and exciting) path was chosen. Same thing here. My head’s still spinning.

OTHER THINGS (Not Necessarily About The Others):
Henry Gale’s rendezvous with Kate was pretty chilling stuff. He was nice to her as a warning for what’s going to happen to them. What do they want with these three anyway? And why did they see it fit to kidnap the most romantic triangle-y of all the castaways? Interesting choice, Others, very interesting indeed.

While Jack was in his holding cell he pushed the intercom button and I could have sworn it was his father’s voice that answered back. Now, this obviously fit into the theme of the episode (the first really fucking good Jack flashback in a while) but also harkened back to the Best Unexplored Plot Thread of Season One. The plot thread I speak of is the one in which Jack, who has finally found his father’s coffin, busts it open to reveal… nothing. We know that the island has magical healing properties (Locke, Rose, et cetera) so is it really hard to believe that Papa Shepard has come back from the grave, and could be working in collusion with the dark forces of Mystery Island? Probably. But it was such a nice, mysterious note that was never capitalized on properly (in my estimation). This could be due to the fact that (supposedly) ABC/Disney issued a mandate from on high to Damon Lindelof and JJ to tone down the sci-fi elements of the show. They’ve denied this, but the proof is in the pudding: last season was less mystical, more grounded in maddeningly complex conspiracy theories and halfcocked scientific explanations.

Speaking of halfcocked scientific explanations: Sawyer’s cage was the only thing I really didn’t like. One: because it was so obvious that it was some kind of psychological experiment (intended for man or animal, who knows?) and two: it was kind of boring. It’s nice to see Sawyer thinking instead of assigning nicknames to people (one of his chief duties last season and one he took very, very seriously) but other than that, the tension just wasn’t there. The nerdy kid who escaped and helped free Sawyer was kind of interesting, but gave us little to go on (besides him being brutalized, which reinforces the earlier sentiment that The Others are, in fact, VERY BAD). When Mr. Friendly said “Only took the bear two hours” it kind of disappointed me because I was always a firm believer in Walt conjuring the bear out of Hurley’s comic book. That seems to not be the case. Maybe it was already on the island and he teleported it like the nerdy Japanese guy on “Heroes?” Maybe not. Still…

Far more interesting: The Underwater Hatch, The Hydra. So far we’ve seen or heard about at least four other Dharma ‘stations’ – The Pearl, The Swan (the Hatch), The Arrow, The Caduceus and the Icey Hatch from the end of Season 2. If the Others have an undersea community (as I’m guessing The Hydra is part of a much larger structure) what’s to rule out them having an aerial station? Or one deep inside the island’s earth? The possibilities, as always, are endless.

As important as the opening scene was (FUCKING IMPORTANT) even more resonant was the final scene, with Jack talking to his captor (the sweetly menacing Juliet). Throughout the episode Jack had been trying to find out who is wife’s new lover was, without a definitive explanation. With Juliet playing This Is Your Life with our dashing surgeon, he could have found out (0ne suspects the identity of this suitor will largely impact the course of Season 3)… but he didn’t. His wife’s sentiment of “Now you have something to fix” resonated all around Mystery Island. It was such a powerful, simple statement that explained Jack’s frame of mind both pre- and post-crash. And Jack’s equally powerful question to his super-knowledgeable captor: “Is she happy?” made me well up. It’s that perfect balance that was largely missing from season 2: the mixture of the trippy, crazy, scary freak-out stuff and the emotional stuff that makes you want to curl into the fetal position and weep until the next episode airs. It had me.

And as I was pushing the tears back into my manly skull they go and throw us for another loop: Herny Gale saying “good work.” This was clearly some kind of con. We know that the Others are actors (insomuch as they appear to be ragged when are pretty advanced, have fake beards, et cetera) and so the validity of her Super-Folder-of-Truth is immediately called into question. And I thought they had it all; that that folder contained the interconnectivity of every castwaway and how they fit together both pre- and post-crash. After all, they did know Sawyer’s real name. But now I don’t know what to think. Are they good? Bad? Indifferent? I think everyone can be on agreement about one thing: Henry Gale is still creepy as fuck.



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