The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

What Kind of Man is This?

with 5 comments

Hey Kathryn,

Yeah, ok – um, where to start?!  Two quick recaps?  In Alterna-world we’ve got Sayid’s lover/wife Nadia married to his brother, Omar, but still in love with Sayid.  Omar owes money to the guy who Widmore once sent to the island to kill Ben Linus (along with the data-collecting crew of Miles, Daniel and Charlotte).  Sayid kills that guy and his cronies and finds Jin, unable to speak English, locked in his freezer.  And throughout this narrative, Sayid wrestles with an old question for him in this show: what kind of a man is Sayid?  Is he reformed (i.e. he won’t kill the bad guys) or is he still corrupt (i.e. he will kill the bad guys)?  Of course, when he does end up killing the bad guys, we’re left wondering what that actually proved because he does it for love in the end.

Ok, on the island – holy crap!  Dogan sends Sayid to kill Flocke but it turns out to be a trick.  Flocke convinces Sayid over to his side and gets him to kill Dogan and Lenon, thus allowing Smokie to enter the temple grounds.  Everyone in the temple gets killed by Smokie (in a great spin on the Old Testament story of the Passover – you’ve got till sundown – title of the episode – to decide whether to obey and live or disobey and be killed).  Again, we’re facing the question attached to Sayid’s deeds – what kind of a man is he?  Dogan tells us that the scale has tipped in Sayid’s heart from good to evil and it seems that Sayid goes on to prove him right.  But again his actions have been for love (Flocke promises him he can have the one who died in his arms back – of course, we the audience are left wondering if he’s going to get Nadia or Shannon for his promised reward!).

In both cases, we can judge Sayid’s actions as either evil or good – murder vs. love – and the only way to tell the difference would really be to have a sense of the absolute truth of the situation…which we of course don’t have access to.  But on the island, it seems in the end it will come down to whether Smokie is truly the evil incarnate or not.  Sayid’s actions are feeding a larger narrative, the outcome of which we don’t yet know and, therefore, the outcome of which we cannot yet judge.

And what the what with Elena, Lapides, Sun and Ben bursting in last minute to attempt to save the day with a hidey-hole safe-spot in a wall and Miles casually telling Sun Jin is around somewhere!

The episode ends with Sayid, Claire (and tag-along Kate who better watch out for crazy Claire) bursting out of the temple (in which the brilliantly creepy music of Claire’s Catch a Falling Star song is hovering over the wreckage of bodies and, oh did you notice, a set of three burning crosses?!) to join Flocke and his posse of bearded badass looking men.  That shot felt a far cry from Locke as Moses leading his people across the desert, sorry – beach.  I wondered if all those beards were supposed to evoke common images of Christ and his disciples or if they were just supposed to look thuggish…any thoughts?

Some fun little connection moments – besides Jin and Widmore’s henchman, that is: Sayid and Jack pass each other in the hall at the hospital; and despite Dogan’s sad story about never getting to see his son again, we can remember that in Alterna-world the two are together (at Jack’s kid’s piano recital).

So I’ve defended the last few episodes that lots of folks have complained were just too boring and slow moving, but I gotta say, I wasn’t that keen on this one!  Too much, way too much happened!  It felt crammed and overwhelming to me and just way too filled up with moments of, “ha ha, we’ve stuck this guy here who you once knew and here’s another guy you know in a freezer and something to do with a baseball and try to figure all that out suckers!”  I’m used to Lost feeling intellectually stimulating with its twists and turns.  But this just felt like twists for the sake of turns.  And I was frankly disappointed.

So I’m really curious to hear what you thought!  Did you enjoy this one?  Are you seeing connections that I’m just missing?  Help me out Kathryn (and our mothchase friends)…what am I not getting?

ox,
Natalie

——

Dear Natalie,

I am with you on the overwhelming amount that happened in this episode. I really liked it, however, but only because I am holding out hope that all these details will be sorted out somehow and in a way, the more we can cram into each episode the more hope we have of getting to the bottom of all the many mysteries. Though, you are totally right that we are also getting overloaded with new mysteries, and that is none too helpful! There are two big hinges for me that once revealed I hope will make sense of most of this madness: 1) what is the relationship between the island and the real world? We’ve learned that in their flashbacks our beloved islanders were being called to the island by Jacob, establishing one kind of literal connection. The big mystery now is what is the relationship between these two parallel worlds. Will they ever converge and how? 2) what are the forces that govern this island – or as you say more succinctly, is the MIB/Smokey/Flocke evil incarnate?

I don’t have a metaphysical answer to the first question – some explanation of the space/time continuum that makes these parallel worlds possible. But it does seem like this whole season has suggested one less metaphysical and more existential answer – the relation between the two worlds is the character of our characters. That is to say, in many of the episodes this season we’ve seen our characters struggling with the fundamental questions of who they are: does Jack have what it takes? Is Kate a runner? is Locke defined by his limitations and fears? and in last night’s episode – what kind of man is Sayid? Each of our characters has been plagued by fundamental questions of their integrity and central motivations and slowly but surely we have been working through each one, watching these struggles play out on parallel stages – the island and the alterna-world. And what we’ve seen time and again is that for better or for worse, our characters pretty much play it the same on both stages. That isn’t to say that nothing changes. We’ve seen things work out for the better in the alterna-world: Jack makes a breakthrough with his son, Kate gets to stand by Claire, Sayid is repenting for his torturous past, Locke embraces his limits and finds real love. But they are all still driven by the central character-defining question of their lives (do you have what it takes? what kind of man are you? “don’t tell me what I can’t do!”). I am intrigued by this and its relation to the whole free will/destiny debate. To what degree is character destiny for Lost? And if character is something that to some degree is chosen, in the midst of and against all the other pressures exerted on you by other people (especially, as we’ve noted, by parents on children), is it fair to say that our characters are choosing their fates even while experiencing that choice as something happening to them from outside forces?

Of course, a huge part of whatever the answer to that question might be has to do with the second big hinge question: who or what are the forces that are governing this island? And perhaps more importantly, do they really govern the island? Can our characters resist or not? We aren’t learning that much more about Jacob (expect that he kept MIB at bay and his death ushers in a new panic and chaos), so let’s stick with Flocke/MIB. I agree completely – we’ve got a definite passover/angel of death thing going on when Smokey rushes through the temple, killing everything in site. That allusion was driven home for me when Kate was hanging by her fingernails looking up into the eye of the smoke storm. Did you see those flashes of light? And the kind of amazed look on Kate’s face when the monster had passed and she turned to face Claire? Maybe I am making it up, but it seemed like there was more than just fear in her face, but something like awe or amazement – like she had just seen something sublime. I know this might sound crazy, but it made me think of Moses and God passing by him in a cloud of smoke because Moses couldn’t handle seeing God’s face. Though as you say, the Moses allusions of season 5 don’t seem to apply to Flocke anymore. If anything, he is now cast in the role of God/God’s angel of death. Or, of Satan. Remember how when Sayid died in the Temple pool and they carried him out of the water he was hanging in a cruciform shape? Did you catch the same christ overtones when he and Flocke were talking and Flocke offered him anything in the world he wanted? Did it remind you of Satan tempting Christ in the desert? Except unlike Christ, Sayid takes the bait. And then, as you already pointed out, that creepy rendition of “Catch a Falling Star” was playing as Flocke leads his people (and a wary Kate) out of the Temple. At first I thought having Claire sing snatches of that song was just to establish a parallel with Kate (that is the same song Kate sings to Aaron when they are off the island). But when it showed up again at such a crucial moment, it took on a whole different meaning to me. All I could think about was how Satan is described as a falling star in the book of Revelation. So that means we’ve got Flocke/Smokey/MIB increasingly being associated with evil/Satan/destructive forces – but also hints that call this characterization into question (like maybe he is God, not Satan, and just a God who is lest squeamish about killing off the disobedient than we often like to imagine).

One thing I did love about this episode was the baseball on Dogan’s desk. We all know how important objects are in Lost – there are no misplaced books, no accidental ornaments, certainly not when they are carefully focused on for more than one episode. In this case, we’ve seen Dogan fondling that baseball for several episodes and I’ve wondered if it had some kind of secret power. I really loved that the power it had was a connection to the life he left behind and the son he gave up everything to save. In that sense, the baseball was a holy object, but in a way deeply connected to the choices Dogan had made and the man he was trying to be. Which brings us all back to the character discussion and on that loop I will stop.

You are so right to point out the mysteries we still have to deal with: what is Jin doing in the freezer? Will Jin and Sun find each other on the island? Why did Kate get singled out to get stuck with Locke and a raving mad Claire? What in the world was up with Ilena, Ben, and Lapides? I guess I’m hoping we’ll get another packed episode next week that will actually advance these stories and keep adding pieces to the puzzle that is supposed to solve all the mysteries (or, at least some of them!).

And by the looks of it, we are getting back to Ben next week, which should make you very happy!
xoxo,

Kathryn

Read the entire Lost conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

March 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Lost

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5 Responses

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  1. i’m pretty disappointed, as well. too much happening–the killings of Dogan and the guy from Deadwood (not to mention the rest of the Temple Others) were a bit much. we were introduced to them as all important and powerful, just to have them…die? there really wasn’t a better way for the writers to make the point?

    it all feels cheap and disrespectful.

    we used to care about the characters on this show. now, we hardly know them, much less their Alterna-selves. i pretty much didn’t care when Sun, Lapidus + Ben broke through the door. i couldn’t recall where they were or how they got there. i also found myself asking, “where’s Sawyer?” or “where did Jack and Hugo go?” every 4 minutes, which means that whatever was taking place on screen wasn’t engaging me fully.

    the writing can possibly (hopefully?) clean this up over the remainder of the series, but currently, it’s a hot mess. Lost has always been confusing, yet it made sure the viewers cared about the characters enough to want to know what was going on. right now, they’re all over the place, the interplay and tensions between our favorites all but non-existent, their bonds downplayed, affiliations swapped out multiple times for what seem to be cheap plot devices. at this moment, i’m not emotionally invested in the remaining survivors from 815 (maybe Sawyer), the Oceanic 6 (maybe Hugo), the people from Ajira 316, or the Others (Temple or Other-wise) and i find the flash-sideways to have no relevance to the main plot. i’ll likely (hopefully) be proven wrong on that last remark, but at this point, i just want to know what’s going on because i’ve come this far. and that’s not something i would have said a few weeks ago.

    and why the hell show us an Alterna-Martin Keamy when they’ve been treating the entire Widmore storyline like…well, i actually can’t think of an analogy apropos of the way they’ve discarded that plotline of the guy they’d spent the entire series building up as Big Evil. they’re straying away from what made the show interested in the first place, tossing in random fistfights and murders to appease us and convoluting their mythology at a point when they should be streamlining. extremely disappointing.

    killiterati

    March 3, 2010 at 7:42 am

  2. Excellent observation about the falling star song and how it parallels to Locke as a fallen angel.

    I also agree that Kate’s face, when hanging by her fingers and staring at the smoke, was one of awe – like Moses looking at the burning bush or something.

    Interesting stuff!

    victoria winters

    March 3, 2010 at 9:24 am

  3. I don’t agree with the complaints about slowness because I really enjoy the return of the characters we care about this season. When Damon asks for patience, I’m happy to give it to him as long as the story told is GOOD, no matter the pace at which it unfolds. But I have to say, after this episode… I find it harder and harder to defend Lost to those fans who, unlike me, want ANSWERS!!! And it would be hypocritical of me to berate them for it when the show is as disjointed, incoherent and ridiculous as Sundown was.

    When the story is very good and captivating and enhanced by great acting and cinematography like last week, I can posture to them about lack of patience and how they should be enjoying this great STORY they’re given. Sundown? Was not a great story. And Emilie de Ravin is so bad at ANY Claire, she just added to the already cartoonish feel of the Temple. It’s like a Disney ride that not even your 5 yr. oldl would find cool enough to get on.

    I’m glad I don’t really care about answers and have forgotten a lot of questions in all these YEARS, but when they inevitably come up with the excuse of not having time to answer the trillion questions raised, the fans who are the most rabid (and rude in the process) in their defense of the greatest show EVER and who are most bamboozled by this episode will be the ones who turn on the writers the hardest. We’ve seen the Others being inhuman, violent for no good reason, secretive assholes for YEARS, yet the “answers” in this episode are about a character we met three weeks ago and saw for five minutes before he was killed. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will hit them full force when the writers say: “Sorry, we didn’t have time to answer this, that and the other…” and then they’ll realize they had time to show Sayid throwing pots at a jackass drunk driver REPEATEDLY, they had time to waste on Keamy talking about eggs for three minutes (the actor is so so BAD) and they had time for the characters to aimlessly bump into each other going back and forth from and to the Temple. Oh, hey, Kate! What’s up. See ya! Lennon, where’s Claire! Nevermind, Claire! Where are Reyes and Shephard? Where’s Claire??? Come with me!!! etc.

    I found it cheesy, melodramatic, disjointed and boring.

    I really like the sidways universe so I hope at least this episode will have given us a big clue about the sideways being the epilogue of the show. It makes sense that not all characters will have a happy ending because some are able to redeem themselves (like Jack by being open with his son and raising above his father) and some won’t (like Sayid… so far)… I want that to happen and I want to be able to keep defending the sideways and the season. Sundown just didn’t help. I think it was a hiccup though and the show will get back on track next week.

    Not an Other Lover

    March 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

  4. Wow, I’m really surprised by the general disappointment in this episode as I thought it was great. They’ve been teasing the assault on the temple for a while and I was more than satisfied with the payoff. It just felt like the stakes on Lost were raised to a new high.

    I also thought this episode answered a question we’ve had since s1, “Who is Sayid?” Sorry Kathryn, I don’t see the ambiguity here. Sayid is evil, case closed. He’s always had some apparently good reasons for the torture and murder he’s doled out over the years, but the justification seems pretty hollow here. “Help me kill dozens of people and I’ll give you back Nadia.” Does this is any way justify his actions? It’s a more naked example of what he’s always done, which is why I felt the flash sideways worked particularly well. Sayid’s reasons are a lot easier to swallow there, but the “ends justify the means” logic is the same. This is the kind of thinking that has left Sayid wracked with guilt, which might suggest that he’s good inside except that he keeps repeating it over and over again.

    Anyone else notice that chemical weapons seem to be a running theme? Ben gasses the others, Widmore’s efforts to gas the island, a cloud of smoke killing everyone in the temple.

    jrcwoodward

    March 4, 2010 at 11:47 am

    • Thanks for the comment, JRC – I actually went back and rewatched it last night and enjoyed it much more the second time around. I also noticed this time that when Dogan explains the testing to Sayid, he doesn’t say that the scale has tipped to ‘evil’, but just that it has tipped the wrong way. Sayid assumes that’s evil, but it could be that the scale had tipped to good, making Sayid unhelpful to Dogan, and which could indicate something interesting about whoever or whatever it is that resurrected Sayid.

      Either way, I think we’ve got to say that there’s still a lot of mystery here and we just can’t say definitively yet who/what is good and who/what is evil in this show!

      - Natalie

      themothchase

      March 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm


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