Friday, March 31, 2017

LOST S1 E7: The Moth

"You see this little hole? This moth's just about to emerge. It's in there right now, struggling. It's digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now, I could help it, take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free. But it would be too weak to survive. The struggle is nature's way of strengthening it."
-John Locke-

All has been fairly intense for the crash survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and LOST, Season One, Episode 7, The Moth equally has its fair share of moments. The island based cave-in sequence feels more Gilligan's Island (1964-1967) than LOST, but it serves a purpose with regard to character exploration.

Fortunately LOST, in nearly each and every entry, is not without its moments of beauty too. The Moth is a great example of this and when LOST dives into the characters in this fashion the scenes can be striking or completely and utterly moving.

The Moth back story focuses on Charlie and his brother Liam (with echoes of Oasis' Liam Gallagher) and their rise to acclaim as rock band Driveshaft along with the ever classic single You All Everybody. Magnificently idiotic lyrics, but hilariously memorable writing!

Efforts to triangulate, locate and find the Frenchwoman continue.

Highlights: John Locke offers a beautiful analogy of the moth awakening from its cocoon stronger for fighting its way out of its leathery sack and likens the struggle to that of an addict-addled Charlie Pace who must succeed of his own volition and free will to break free of a heroin addiction. Locke explains to Charlie the moth cannot survive without struggling and growing stronger on its own in nature. Charlie, too, must grow stronger and make his own choices or he will not survive his addiction of his own free will. That exchange is truly the highlight here and is the thematic crux of the story highlighted by the title The Moth. Charlie is in effect the moth and is the episode's focus.

The broader Darwinian analogy is the survivors now on the island on the whole. Who will struggle, adapt, live or die?


The final moments in particular parallel the emerging moth with an emerging Charlie from his own withdrawal. Charlie needs to regain control of himself to be useful to himself if he intends to be useful to anyone else.

The Terry O'Quinn and Dominic Monaghan piece is exquisitely performed.

Additionally, like the analogy that leads Charlie to the right path so does another island moth that leads to Jack and Charlie's salvation from the collapsed cave. The moth represents freedom and liberation here as much as it means liberation and freedom from our own personal demons.

The Moth is a terrifically freeing and positive experience in television and possibly one of the most uplifting of the season. This is symbolized in the final minutes of a moth flying away right before Charlie and Locke. The metaphor may be taken just a step too far here, but all in all the narrative symbolism is rather beautiful.

Again, The Moth offers little in the way of science fiction and plenty in the form of character depth and growth. And let's face it, if you don't care about the characters the rest of what's to come will hardly matter at all. Fortunately the writers of LOST were adroit and weaving their tale with character aplenty.

Also notable is Sawyer still reading Watership Down (1972). This writer can thoroughly appreciate Sawyer's reading pace to be a bit like my own writing pace---more like a snail than a moth. Hell stick me on a beach on an uncharted island with Watership Down and a drink and I'd likely take my time there too and enjoy the heck out of it.

The serialization of LOST compounded with these wonderfully written anthology-styled back stories continues to make for a flawless season of television in which you can literally lose yourself in the lives of these entirely varied, disparate individuals.

Flashback: Charlie.

Writer: Jennifer Johnson (Alcatraz)/ Paul Dini.
Director: Jack Bender.

Update: A variation on this exact parable is employed in The Expanse, Season Two, Episode 11, Here There Be Dragons.

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.

The title of the episode, like Episode 4, Walkabout, is cleverly chosen working on a number of levels but mostly speaks to the focus on the Sun character and a rising liberation within her from Jin since the plane crash. Apart from her rising independence Sun also hailed from a powerful family house.

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).