It’s been so long friends, and I apologize for my long absence. But being on hiatus is a long honored part of television, so let’s just assume that this is the second season.
We’ll soon have more columns with the usual news and snottiness, but let’s start with one all about what is easily the best dramatic show on television today: Lost.
LAND OF THE LOST
Trapped on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, people must learn to live together and forge a new society from whatever they can find around them. Yes, that’s the premise of the new reality show version of Gilligan’s Island, but did you know that it’s also the premise of a relatively unknown new show on ABC called Lost?
We’re a bunch of weeks into the show and many of the mysteries remain: What is that thing inside the jungle that mangled the pilot? Who is the woman whose voice is on the strange 16 year old distress message? Are many international flights so full of hotties?
In lieu of a review (since nobody sends me review copies of the show and I have to watch it just like the rest of you civilians) here’s a rundown of some of my thoughts about the characters and my completely unfounded speculation about future plot points of the show (or is it unfounded? Or have I talked to JJ Abrams and been allowed to know information that can’t yet be officially divulged?) (It’s unfounded):
Jack: Matthew Fox, you’re the luckiest motherfucker in Hollywood. You had some success with Party of Five (and unlike costar Scott Fox never had creepy charges pressed against you), but your career wasn’t going so gangbusters. Then you got hired to play Jack, the heroic doctor on the show. But the thing is that your character was supposed to bite it in the pilot episode, to show the audience that anything could happen! Luckily, Fox execs liked you and the character enough that they demanded you come back for more, and I for one am glad.
Jack is one of the most interesting characters on television today. I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve seen his type of reluctant leader in a show, and there’s something ingrained in the American psyche that likes that kind of a leader (although boy is it too bad that the only kinds of leaders we get are the kind who will lie and steal and claw and kill to win elected office. America, whoever wins tomorrow you’re essentially fucked!). It’s exciting, dramatically, to watch the guy be torn between his own innate leadership skills – which every other survivor can see even if he can’t – and his incredible self-doubt.
What’s less interesting is his dance with “Kate,” the fugitive hottie. They feel the natural pull that two attractive leading people will feel for each other in any TV show or movie, but that’s what makes it so boring. What does make it more interesting is the way that Jack seems oddly oblivious to it all. In the latest episode, “House of the Rising Sun,” Jack is confronted a bit about the connection they share, but he smiles and blows it off. Later in the jungle “Kate” thinks he’s checking her out (and Jesus, I totally was), but he was actually really preoccupied with how to reinforce the caves they just found. That scene plays like “Jack’s a big serious goof who doesn’t understand signals,” but what if it’s something more interesting? Something more daring?
What if Jack’s gay? That’s great drama, and the foundation was laid last episode when we learned that Jack and his dad fought about something very serious that Jack did. What if that thing was coming out of the closet? And could anything else explain his haircut? At any rate, the dynamic of Kate loving Jack who is gay while the rest of the men on the island love her is one that pays off dramatically. What doesn’t pay off dramatically is the scenario where the two leads finally fuck during sweeps.
The other big Jack mystery is his dead dad – what happened to the corpse? Some people seem to think that the corpse got up and was really walking around last week, which ignores the heck out of what everyone on the show was telling us, namely that Jack was hallucinating. What he went through was essentially a spirit quest – he had a derangement of the senses that led him to what he needed to know. In this case it was a source of fresh water, and quite possibly more comfort with his leadership role.
So where’s the dad? As far as I can tell there are two options: he didn’t ever make it on the plane or someone else found him. If someone else found him it had to be either Locke (who may well have done something with him – I’m leaning towards Locke as religious figure, so more on that later) or the other people on the island. Who are the other people, you ask? Beats me, but they’re there. The corpses of Adam and Eve and the mysterious distress signal show that the island was previously inhabited, and if there’s no one there now it’s going to be hard to have cast members from Friends guest star in future episodes.
As for never making it on the plane – we never saw the outcome of Jack’s begging with the girl at the desk at the airline. You might recall that she wouldn’t let him bring his pop’s corpse on the plane without the proper papers. What if he bribed someone? And what if that bribed official just took the money and didn’t put dad on board? Moral of the show – never trust an Australian. Remind me to tell you about the one who thought not only was I gay, that I was a “bear.”
“Kate”: The character who has most surprised me. I didn’t think I would like her, especially as she’s played by a model with little acting experience. But Evangeline Lilly has proven to be a very good actress, and “Kate” has shown to have unexpected depth.
I put her name in quotes because some of the original advertising material did, and I think it’s cute. Also, I’m not convinced it’s her name. We know she’s a fugitive from the law, so who knows what her true story is? Besides me, of course.
It seems obvious that "Kate" is some kind of an eco-terrorist. I don’t know if the clues are a there, but I have certainly read between enough lines to have figured this all out. First up, Kate was on the run from the feds, and they deemed her important enough to follow to Australia. If she was just involved in some dotcom scam or was running a website where people send in cameraphone pictures taken up women’s skirts when they aren’t looking she wouldn’t be important enough to bother with. At the most the feds would ask the Aussie authorities to deal with it.
But whatever her crime is, she needs to be sympathetic enough that the audience will accept her the week after it’s revealed. I’m a progressive guy and I wil accept a whole bunch of deviance from TV characters, but I don’t think I’m ABC’s target market (their loss, the fools). They have to worry about how the people in Peoria will take it, so whatever “Kate” did it can’t involve murder (unless it was murder in self defense, like of an abusive spouse, but I think that’s a little bit boring). Also, two episodes ago we saw Kate take to a tree like a monkey. These clues lead me to eco-terrorism of some sort. Maybe she blew up a parking lot full of SUVs. Maybe she blew up a lab that tested on animals. Whatever it is, I hope that’s her story, since a background where she has a willfull criminal background is far more interesting than a background where she was forced into crime.
Hurley: Who gives a shit? Seriously, this guy is the worst character on the show. It’s annoying enough that he’s the token unattractive guy (Locke doesn’t count – he has personality, so he has to look like Terry O’Quinn), but he’s so annoying to top it all off. He spends half his day with his nose shoved straight up Jack’s colon, so it’s obvious that in some future episode Jack will be out of commission and Hurley will have to stand on his own, and I hate that storyline.
It’s been said by the show’s creators that it’s possible that one of the characters wasn’t on the plane. I have never seen Hurley in one of the flashbacks, and I was looking. Also, he’s hard to miss. It’s worth noting that even if the creators are telling the truth (and this show feels like the kind of show where the behind the scenes people lie their asses off to keep the stories surprising, and huzzah to them for that), there’s no telling that character who wasn’t on the plane has even been introduced yet – maybe there will be someone involved with the distress signal still alive.
This, by the way, is a good time to address the signal. Who the heck is the French chick? There’s really no way to tell at this time, but we don’t know if she’s dead yet, even if the thing has been playing 16 years. Is her nationality important? Quite possibly – a bunch of years ago the French flexed their muscles on the international scene by doing nuke testing in the South Pacific. What if that wasn’t all they were doing? What if the island holds a research base of some kind, possibly secret? Maybe it’s nuclear powered, which could explain how the signal is still running (although solar cells seems more plausible and reasonable, even if they don’t offer exciting meltdown storyline possibilities). This base could also possibly have some kind of menagerie, which could explain the polar bear that was spotted (although again, in an interview with TV Guide one of the creators said that the connection between the polar bear and the comic book Walt was reading: Green Lantern/Flash: Fast Friends #1 was intentional and specific).
Anyway, back to Hurley. The worst thing about him is that he has that fucking Discman which occasionally subjects us to truly shitty montages at the ends of some episodes. I fear how many batteries he took in his carry on luggage.
Locke: What a dude. They set us up for one thing with Locke early on and pulled the old switcheroo, but I don’t think they’re done with pulling the rug out from under us on this guy just yet.
When we first met Locke we thought he was creepy, and his whole business with backgammon being older than Christ and there having been a miracle on the island led many to be wary of him. Then the show revealed that he was a sweet old cripple who called phone sex and wanted to do stuff even most walking people won’t do (and this may get me hate mail, but I have to call foul on the mountain climbing and marathon wheeling crippled people. I’m sorry, but you don’t have to prove anything, or make up for your disabilities. For God’s sake, I don’t carry around huge, long guns or drive sleek, sporty cars) and everybody loved him.
But his story isn’t over yet. Locke met the mysterious monster of Lost Island, and he likes it, which automatically has to make you question the dude. Not only did he like it, he said it was beautiful, and it seems to have given him a boar to take back to the camp. Here’s where we come back to Jack’s dad – is it possible that Locke gave Jack’s dad to the monster as a sacrifice?
That’s less weird than it seems. Well, maybe not, but here’s the rationale: We’ve all been led to believe that Locke is just a wargames/great white hunter guy. But we’ve forgotten our Old Testament, where some of the greatest religious leaders were also warriors. Hello, King David, any of my Hebrew peeps out there? In fact, many people in the past (and I guess the fools who haven’t yet accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and thus damned themselves to hell) thought that the Messiah would be a man of God armed with a sword.
Locke, as we found out in his flashback, has been cured of his paralysis in the crash. Some have speculated that this is because of a peculiar aspect of the island, others have said that it was a result of the impact doing something to his back. Either way what’s important is that Locke thinks what happened is a flat out miracle, and to him the monster is the epitome of that miraculous force. It’s no coincidence that he was there for Jack in his spirit quest, and absolutely no coincidence that he wants to walk Charlie through his impending detox. He may even believe that Charlie’s guitar was miraculously spared from the crash – and is he really wrong? Many believers would argue that we overlook the miraculous in the every day, that we’re inured to God’s presence in our lives. I would argue that those people are bonkers and that life is an endless slog through shit and pain until we become maggot food, alleviated only by blowjobs, Grand Theft Auto and excellent columns like this one.
Anyway, Locke has been turning to the Force these past few weeks, and as it seems obvious that the survivors are splintering into factions, he will soon be a key player in all this. But for good or bad? That depends on what the monster is, I suppose. And if my sacrifice theory holds any water. But did you notice what was in that pouch around Adam or Eve’s neck? Black and white stones – just like on Locke’s backgammon board. Whoa, dude.
The Koreans: These are the third most irritating characters on the show. (Hurley is first. The second – also a duo! revealed later) I was doubly irritated by the reveal in the latest episode that not only can the woman (Sun, I think. I’m so racist but I can’t remember their names. Maybe I will go online later and look them up. Check this space to see how lazy I truly am) speak English after remaining silent for almost a week, show time, but she speaks it fucking FLUENTLY. She never hesitates once when talking to Michael.
What’s most irritating, though, is that whole Asian stereotype that is just hanging over these characters. Stubborn, insular, and male dominated, I find the couple dull and not yet sparking my interest. I’m just glad their flashback didn’t dominate the last episode, which I think means the creators agree with my assessment. I understand that all stereotypes become stereotypes because they are somewhat based in fact, but I find the submissive female Asian stereotype the most boring of all. I mean, they don’t have Michael smoking menthol cigarettes, right?
Anyway, what’s interesting here is the fact that Sun totally wants to fuck Michael. That’s a neat storyline, added force by the fact that she wanted to leave her husband. I thought that was why the husband was whaling on Michael in the latest episode, although his Do the Right Thing interpretation wasn’t so bad. The eventual reveal of the watch was weak, though. But I do think that there’s more to these people. Why did the husband serve everyone his sushi a couple of weeks back? After learning about his past that even makes less sense – why would he revert to a waiter when he was obviously a thug for a while. And if there had been an Italian guy on the plane would the creators have made him a Mafioso?
Michael and Walt and Vincent: I have been a fan of Harold Perrineau since he was in Oz. And I think Walt is a name not used enough. That said, these characters (and their little dog too!) have been criminally underused. I like the idea of a father and son getting to know each other in these fucked up circumstances, but I wonder what they have been doing all this time. In show time it’s been almost a week since the plane crashed, and these two haven’t seemingly spent much time together. Let’s get to know them! I hope a future episode – a very soon in the future episode – focuses on their story.
I have to say that I am less than pleased with Michael’s decision to stay on the beach last week. He says he has a responsibility to his boy, but he, like the rest of the beach people, seem to not be able to think. Why can’t the people move into the caves while taking turns tending the signal fire and keeping watch? Jesus, I thought of that right away and no one has even bothered to bring it up on the show. I understand that some people like the beach (I hate it – sand in the butt crack may be one of the levels of hell) but this is just too much.
The brother and sister: Maybe I’m not THAT racist, because I can’t remember these people’s names either. Part of that, though, is because they fucking SUCK. These are the second most irritating people on the show. The brother, who some exceptionally nerdy people on the net are calling Fake Batman because he appeared on Smallville as a character who some thought would be Bruce Wayne (I don’t know, I respect myself too much to watch it) is a shrill, whining douche. “I can be important too, Jack, so I’ll steal the water!” They should have lynched the useless fucker, especially since he – a life guard – couldn’t save the drowning redshirt two weeks back. Bad show, dick.
And his sister… If I wanted to watch self absorbed assholes I would look in the mirror for an hour. The way that she used Charlie to catch fish for her – I wanted to strangle her. She’s just awful.
Amazingly, they get worse when together. They bicker and fight like some sociopath’s idea of a married old couple. They seem to hate each other as much as we, the audience, do. Plus they’re so attractive as to make them almost generic. They have “TV show actor” looks. I bet they have huge heads in real life. I suspect that the function of these two will be to become monster food.
Claire: Being pregnant on a deserted island is most likely a complete bitch. Even if you’re a completely hot Australian (as mentioned earlier, they aren’t trustworthy). I don’t know how long the show can hold off having her pop out her baby, but you can bet that when it happens she’ll be having flashbacks that explain how she got knocked up (and I don’t mean a very special episode telling us the birds and the bees).
Two items of interest about her: One, her baby may have died in the crash. She goes out of her way to tell us that she hasn’t felt the baby kick since the disaster, but once the Korean dude gives her some fish caught in the island waters – as soon as, in fact – she feels kicking. This is meant to make us believe the island has regenerative powers, something reinforced by Locke’s episode. I call foul! I think that when the show makes something that obvious, it probably isn’t as it appears. We’re meant to think that the island is magic, but I truly doubt that.
The other interesting thing is that a few episodes back, when the survivors burned the corpses in the fuselage, Jack wouldn’t say some words but she would. Is she being set up as a religious or spiritual figure as well? It’s important to note that some ancient societies worshipped fertility figures, big curvy women, and that applies here. Plus, she would represent a spirituality based on life while Locke, the hunter and disciple of the monster, would be a religion based on something darker and more destructive. He’s a guy, she’s a girl, yin and yang, college sophomore English Lit, etc etc etc. I love that idea, by the way. I do want to know what camp she chose last week, though – I didn’t see her in either crowd.
By the way, has it occurred to anyone else that they will all end up in the caves, since that’s a set and it’s easier to shoot there than on the Hawaiian beach? Something to think about, kids.
Sayid: What a great character! It’s awesome that he’s Iraqi, and that he fought in the Republican Guard (which, if you’ve listened to Bill Hicks, means he’s a pussy but whatever) since that’s just so outside of what you would usually see on TV today. But beyond that he’s a great foil for Jack for a couple of reasons.
One is that he’s also a natural leader, but a different type. He’s a guy who has LEARNED how to lead, who understands tactics and morale and stuff like that. Jack’s a wishy washy guy who wants to do the right thing – Sayid is the kind of guy who will do what is needed to get to the right outcome.
Even better, though, is that he’s a good guy. It would be too easy to set up Jack’s foil as a dick or a militaristic asshole (some people thought that would be Locke’s role). But Sayid is a good guy, with real differences with Jack and maybe a touch of stubbornness. That stubbornness could, of course, be his tragic flaw in the end. It almost seems like he thinks that Jack is right about the caves but is unwilling to change his opinion. I certainly hope he isn’t dumb enough to not get that they could just set up a watch on the beach and not have to live there.
There’s also the case with “Kate.” Sayid and “Kate” get on famously, and I love the fact that the Iraqi soldier and the criminal are the law and order people on the island. Sayid has a girl at home (and this is where I admit that women living under strict religious laws, like Orthodox Jews, the Amish and Muslim women, drive me nuts. I think I have a streak of the defiler in me. Shame.), but is it possible that he is sticking with the beach because of her? He doesn’t want to give up hope of getting to her – and giving up hope might lead him to pursue “Kate”. Good drama!
Sawyer – Today’s Tom Sawyer is a creepy, creepy guy. C’mon, you think it’s an accident that the shifty Southern dude is named Sawyer? Let’s think back about what is the most famous moment in Tom Sawyer’s history, at least before he got royally raped in the LXG movie – he convinces everyone else to do his whitewashing for him. Also, he is chased by Indians in caves. Let’s see if that comes up later.
But the whitewashing is so important. See, Tom Sawyer was an entrepreneur. He was a capitalist. He found a way to sell things to people that they didn’t need or want, and he profited on it. Sort of like how Listerine invented halitosis or Bush made up Iraqi WMD. Anyway, that’s his deal – the snake oil seller. Sawyer on Lost is just essentially that character grown up (ignoring the Tom Sawyer detective story Twain wrote, of course).
What’s cool is that Sawyer is a blistering indictment of the capitalist system. He’s all about profit, even at the expense of others. He hoards and sells, and doesn’t seem willing to work with the others. When Jack is searching the corpsey fuselage for meds he finds Sawyer looking for loot. Right there we see the dichotomy.
What’s important is that Sawyer’s a scumbag but not a bad guy. He can’t kill the Marshall correctly, for one (perhaps an indictment of US health care? Probably not). The show seems to be saying that, sure, capitalists are awful, greedy pigs, but they’re not evil. And maybe they’re a little sexy.
It can’t be denied that “Kate” likes him, in a primal way. Jack is who she wants – he’s the hero – but Sawyer is who she digs. He’s the bad boy. And maybe in every eco-terrorist there’s the yearning for a Starbucks frappachino
Still, I can’t help but think that Sawyer’s profiteering will be eventually relegated to “character quirk” (ie, something that helps the writers kick off an episode), and that his basic cynicism will make him an opponent of both religious leaders.
Charlie: I have to say that this is honestly my favorite character on the show, and I think it has little or nothing to do with The Shire. Charlie is the most open character on the show – we know everything that drives him. A recent TV Guide interview revealed that there will be a Charlie flashback complete with a Driveshaft song, but do we really need that? Charlie’s the kind of guy who is fairly simple and therein lies his complexity.
Outside of Paul McCartney most bass players are the least glamorous guy in the band, so it’s telling that Charlie keeps telling us that he plays guitar too. He wants to please, and not just the ladies, although mostly them. Like any good rocker and CHUD writer, Charlie wants pussy.
But more important he wants to be liked. He seeks recognition on the island, and that’s how Locke gets through to him. But to what end? Charlie certainly wouldn’t be the first rock star to get involved with some weird religious cult.
What I think I like best about Charlie, though, is the way he has insinuated himself into everything important. One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the way that the main characters take it upon themselves to keep the majority of the day players/red shirts in the dark about some of the things they know about the island. Sayid, Jack and “Kate” have made decisions about what is best to know or not be known among the other survivors (and who voted them the NSA anyway?) – yet Charlie again and again finds himself in the center of whatever discovery they make.
Also, as someone who has been addicted to almost every chemical substance known to man I can really feel where he’s coming from. I also painted my nails black for a time, but only as a teen, and only until someone threatened to beat the shit out of me.
And so there we have the main characters and some of my predictions about Lost. One of the big items I haven’t addressed fully is the monster, and that’s mostly because I honestly have no clue what it is. It sounds mechanical for sure, but it acts sentient. Locke encountered it and had no problem with it, and to be fair we have never seen it attack a character who wasn’t obviously expendable.
What I worry about with the show is that it might fall into X-Files territory. That program was unwilling to answer any of the questions it posed, and when it had to answer one it made sure to ask three more. What that left us with was an incoherent show without a point, a story that made no sense over time because it was made up as they went along. Mysteries don’t work well on American TV because the shows are designed to be open ended and anybody with a brain can tell you that a mystery needs closure to be enjoyable.
Lost is, right now, a mystery show. It’s also a show that just got picked up for the rest of the season, so I have some hope that the program was built for a 13 episode mystery arc followed by some sort of closure. I think it would be cool and brave for the show to take a new direction after some of the initial questions are answered. Otherwise the show could be Twin Peaks, which just spiraled into its own nonsense over time.
Let’s hope that it’s otherwise – TV should be full of shows that draw us together week after week to pick over clues and share ideas. This is the kind of stuff that makes a show an event, and with the huge diversity in entertainment available in our living rooms right now, this feeling of communal speculation and discovery is the only thing dramatic TV has over DVDs, video games and reasonably priced escort services.
As for the predictions I make in this column about characters and potential plot points – let this serve as my challenge to the creators of this show. If any of my guesses are wrong, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. If I do not hear from you and my guesses are not true, we will all assume that I was right and you changed the story to prove me wrong.