Tuesday, March 28, 2017

LOST S1 E6: House Of The Rising Sun

"Is there a reason you didn't consult us when you decided to form your own civilization?"

The only reason a series like LOST has aged, like any show, is simply due to time and the endlessly moving bar for what is considered acceptable television by cultural standards. And, of course, those limitations become less and less. The rules for television may allow for greater violence, language and/or more risqué sexual situations, but, all in all, LOST has lost none of its thrilling pacing or dramatic narrative power to time.

LOST, Season One, Episode 6, House Of The Rising Sun offers yet another sterling example of the series incredibly dense storytelling and vast character development. No wonder LOST was such a game changer. It's a series that is the whole package in delivering story, character and dramatic thrills at every turn with each new entry. As noted earlier in my coverage, LOST Season One may arguably be about as perfect as a series gets in its first season.

Previously in our coverage of White Rabbit here, literary allusions were discussed regarding Watership Down and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Additionally LOST clearly echoes aspects of William Golding's Lord Of The Flies (1954).

Instead of a group of stranded British boys on an island we have a melting pot of adults. But like the aforementioned book, efforts to organize and govern can end in disaster, distrust, rivalries and even death. LOST captures the essence of that fine line between order and chaos captured in Golding's classic on human behavior.

With House Of The Rising Sun we see the groups forming the seeds of governance in two camps. One camp remains on the beachhead awaiting rescue. The second encampment ventures into the jungle to a set of caves for water and to essentially begin the very rudimentary establishment of domesticated order, the seeds of civilization as it were. The former group is spearheaded by Jack Shephard while the latter by Sayid, as noted in Sayid's remarks to Jack in the quote above.

The question remains will all of this devolve at some point? Will civility dissolve as it did for the youngsters from Lord Of The Flies. Will these survivors revert to baser instincts over above some semblance of a social contract a la Thomas Hobbes? Or even worse turn into animals? Interestingly, the title of the episode is taken from a song by the group The Animals (1964).

Thomas Hobbes believed men required order or chaos would ensue as men were inherently evil and without structure would become essentially savages. But how will a civilized breakdown impact each other?

Locke is already becoming a hunter and living off the land believing in the power of the individual. The loss of structure and order continues to have an effect on all of the survivors.

Highlights: Though the episode is focused on the Sun (with Jin) flashback, House Of The Rising Sun offers a number of interesting moments between Michael and Walt that work very well in building upon their dynamic in the run up to Episode 14, Special.

The affecting relationship between Sun and Jin is exceptionally written and the later ...In Translation (Episode 17) will serve as an excellent complement and capitalize on this episode. It will offer greater insight into Sun's love for Jin and finally Jin's love for Sun.

Though if I had to pick a single highlight here, the exchange between Locke and Charlie is just weird and quirky enough to merit that honor. Locke, allegedly a fan of Charlie's band Driveshaft, may carry this one.

This entry includes the big reveal to Michael that Sun actually understands and speaks English.

Not surprisingly, this writer comes to the realization that six episodes into the series and LOST is fairly light on science fiction thus far with only a few monster sound effects in the early going, a ghostly apparition of Jack's father and a few other minor suggestions to keep the attention of sci-fi fans. Of course the supernatural impact on the crash itself and the overarching mystery of this island place is a huge part of the allure and will keep you promptly glued to your chair. Those seeking hard science fiction may need to look elsewhere but when LOST crosses over into science fiction or horror to accent the drama the results are positively compelling.

LOST always focused on its characters and their journeys, but the strong writing, sci-fi teases combined with tropical location shooting and a perfect cast ensemble explains all of LOST's wondrous crossover potential in viewership. LOST drew a lot of fannies to TV screens and the culmination of these variables easily demonstrates why audiences were so culturally varied and vast.

Flashback: Sun.

Writer: Javier Grillo Marxuach.
Director: Michael Zinberg.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

LOST S1 E5: White Rabbit

"If we can't live together, we're gonna die alone."
-Jack Shephard-

"This place is different. It's special. ... We all know it. We all feel it. ... What if everything that happened here happened for a reason? ... I've looked into the eye of this island and what I saw... was beautiful."
-John Locke-

LOST, Season One, Episode 5, White Rabbit is aptly titled particularly with its literary allusions to Jack chasing visions of his father Christian into the jungle and down a proverbial rabbit hole a la Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1865). The allusion also speaks to entering a world of the surreal. The island like Alice's Wonderland is similarly a mysterious, mystery-laden, mythology woven world for the survivors.

Why Jack is haunted by the memory of his father will become clearer in Episode 11, All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues and in Episode 16, Outlaws within Sawyer's flashback sequence.

Further, Sawyer is reading a copy of the wonderful Richard Adams classic Watership Down (1972) surrounding a wayward warren of rabbits seeking to find a home much like our castaways. That book also delves into the concepts of good and evil and in many respects echoes many of the themes and events forthcoming in the LOST series.

White Rabbit may even elude to the spiritual rabbit guide of the Watership Down book in El-ahrairah. The protagonist that is El-ahrairah was a kind of rabbit folk hero known for his smarts, cunning and sly ways, but who cared about the well being of other rabbits. Given Sawyer is holding the book, could the allusion be one intended to mirror the character of Sawyer to come? This, of course, along with the rich mythology of the book clearly echoes the mythology-building of the LOST series.

This writer remains a big fan Watership Down and especially of its accompanying film which was reviewed here. For those unaware, Watership Down was given a loving Criterion Collection restoration in 2015 and is perhaps one of my very personal favorites from the Criterion collection.

Highlights: In White Rabbit, Jack has a kind of awakening to leadership and guidance a la, albeit flawed, a leader like Hazel in Watership Down. In many respects the spirit or ghost of his father, a kind of El-ahrairah, leads him to a water source for the survivors and guided Jack to lead those around him. Jack's final speech is inspired and affecting. It is indeed a highlight in White Rabbit.

The basic ideas of survival are always important in the early going of any good survival series. Stargate Universe (2009-2011) handled such problems meticulously. LOST weaves them into the proceedings nicely but they are not the main focus above and beyond mystery or character.

There are two affecting soliloquies delivered here by two of LOST's key figures. The aforementioned piece by Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard the clear focus of White Rabbit.

The second is actually between John Locke and Jack. Both Jack and Locke are on very different paths on the island.

White Rabbit moves the thrilling story of LOST forward with a moving dialogue between Jack and Locke that is beautifully penned for the episode. There is a connection here between these two men, but they are indeed very different in their philosophical approaches to life and the island. That opposition is essentially established eloquently here in White Rabbit.

The many differences in unique characters and personalities here in LOST indeed echo the depth and variety of character writing established in Richard Adams' own ensemble literary work, the beautiful Watership Down.

White Rabbit is a densely packed Jack entry with loads of literary allusion for the survivors that will reverberate well into the future for LOST. But then most episodes do.

These episodes work on two levels as entertainment and as intelligent mythology. On first viewing this writer can assure you it was purely entertainment. Much can be missed in LOST if you aren't paying careful attention.

Flashback: Jack.

Writer: Christian Taylor (Six Feet Under).
Director: Kevin Hooks (Prison Break).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Battle Of The Planets Ep17: A Whale Joins G-Force

"Zark, whales don't attack refineries!"

Silly Zark, tricks are for kids.

Battle Of The Planets shifted its ecological focus to one of Earth's most treasured mammals, the whale, for Battle Of The Planets, Episode 17, A Whale Joins G-Force.

As far as the team dynamic, in a rare move, the focus here shifts its spotlight to Keyop. Kind of like a child's love of turtles and Gameras, so too goes their love of whales.

It's worth reminding that Keyop, with his blips and bleeps, is considered an artificial child in the stateside version of Tatsunoko's Science Ninja Team Gatchaman well known here as Battle Of The Planets. The character is actually alleged to be just a ten year old boy in the original version. Think about that for a minute if you have kids? He's a ten year old assassin. Keyop's Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Japanese counterpart was named Jinpei and was essentially a normal human child with a tendency to get into trouble, as he almost does here.

Keyop is fortunately also a dead shot with the bolas.

Bay City is attacked, you guessed it, by Spectra, Zoltar and a massive robot version of the whale.

Migrating whales are in trouble on their way north to their feeding ground.

Casey Kasem voices the ecological importance of whales to the kids here at home as they search for the "mad giant whale."

Zark tells us they aren't fish but mammals "capable of human feelings."

But the lesson ends when the robot whale kills all of the whales ultimately leaving a small, baby whale motherless. Tears well in Keyop's eyes. "G-Force help Nambu." Keyop always had a way with words as well as incomplete sentences, but what do you want from an artificial child.

Time to destroy the robot whale.

Still the baby whale is in jeopardy as a pack of killer whales approach en route to its location. This is a job for little Keyop with a big old heart.

The small whale is captured and named Nambu (a nice homage to the actual name of Chief Nambu not Chief Anderson in the Japanese original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman). Nambu is even fitted with a "beeper" in the hopes of leading G-Force to the secret Spectran base making the wee little whale asset an honorary sixth member of the team.

Personally, this writer has such fond memories of this episode. As a kid, I just loved that little whale and loved the relationship between it and Keyop. Sadly, the episode is much more meager than I remember it. Oh well, such are the joys of looking through the prisms of a child's eyes.

In the end, once again Spectra proves it is a severely twisted and warped bunch of characters interested in seizing the Earth's oceans. Yet, to do that, it must crush, kill and destroy every whale imaginable (except apparently Killer Whales). Oh you Spectra.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: Revenge! The Whale Operation.
Up Next: Mad New Ruler Of Spectra.