["And I Love Her" was the original subtitle of this post, but I took the liberty of changing it to something more appropriate after it was deleted during the blog attack.]
Lost was awesome last week.
That just sounds so fannish, I know. Or is your objection that Lost is on again tonight, and a belated post on...
... is totally moot? [Never mind that this was one of three posts in a row that wouldn't stay up, and at this writing it's now yet another week later.]
This episode rocked, though. And a fact that continues to delight me is that, despite years of experiencing and writing about entertainment with a critical eye, I'm still able to be utterly transported by a solid story on the page or screen. Sure, I can overthink things, and my mind might try to "fix" a plot hole unbidden, but usually it's only the bad stuff that gets dissected at first blush; outside of trying to remember a choice line or panel/frame composition, the good stuff sucks me in and really only gets analyzed in retrospect. Whether it's a function of age or energy or options, I have much less patience for middling work than I used to, but reading or basking in the cinematic glow of quality material continues to feel, well, awesome.
Great movies or books that are complete experiences unto themselves are tremendously satisfying, but a piece of serialized fiction firing on all cylinders holds a special thrill, especially when (more likely in prose and television than comics) it's barreling towards an actual conclusion as with this final season of Lost. Episodes have not been equally impressive, true; moreover, despite the promises of producers and ABC's promotional spots, very few questions have been answered. The reason why it's no biggie to post belated thoughts on almost any episode to date is that very little of the discussion prompted each week is invalidated the week after, to say nothing of how the cumulative mystery of the "flashsideways" world has yet to be addressed at all.
My favorite line this episode turned out not to be quite as weird as my ears made it out to be. Hurley doesn't say "cheese carrots" when he's waking up, but "cheese curds". I was not alone in hearing the former, which conjured up one nauseating image, although some folks might find the latter — which I had to Yahooglepedia — just as odd.
Also very funny was Hurley asking Richard if he was a vampire or a cyborg — and getting a straight-faced no on both counts, when everyone I've spoken to about the episode admitted to wondering, in the split-second before he replied, if Richard would counter with "What's a cyborg?" Richard's been off the Island, off course, as we've seen him visiting young John Locke and recruiting Juliet, but it's still strange to think of him as up on popular culture, long-lived and generally isolated as he is.
References and transitions between the familiar universe and the alternate timeline seemed more blatant than usual. Ben talking about Napoleon's exile on Elba practically came with sirens and flashing lights, of course, but connections such as that tend to be fun little winks even when they veer into groaner territory. Direct visual cues and dialogue like Leslie Arzt calling Ben "a real killer" before jumping over to Ben digging his grave on the Island in penance for having shivved Jacob were what surprised me. Perhaps the most macabre in-joke came when we saw that Roger Linus was dependent on oxygen tanks; I laughed out loud when Ben changed a canister and it hit me that he gasses his father in both realities.
Other nifty stuff included discovering that Ben and Alex still have a connection in the alternate universe and that back in the original Jack is again showing some resolve, purpose, and conviction — although it's worth noting that things don't always work out well when he does so. That face-off between Jack and Richard with the lit dynamite looked to be way cool until I realized that we weren't going to get any answers from Richard after all. More satisfying, until it fizzled out like the dynamite fuse, was the subplot of Ben's craftiness coming to the fore in the alternate universe in a way that was still equal parts self-serving and for the greater good but — not to belittle either the principal's prickishness or school-administration politics in general — almost laughably microcosmic compared to his other self's involvement in Island intrigue.
The most impressive thing in the episode was Michael Emerson's portrayal of the many faces of Ben Linus. While there are those who believe Ben — or as it dawned on me to dub him the other day, a little to late to ride the zeitgeist, The Locke Hurter — utterly incapable of showing true emotion, if he has ever bared his soul to himself or anyone else then the scene in the woods with Ilana was likely such a rare occasion. Alex's sudden death remains one of the most shocking moments in the series, and it's possible that Ben has truly come to grips with his own part in it as well as determined that it not be in vain. I'm glad that flashsideways Ben got to mentor Alex in what was (to me, although not everyone) a refreshingly non-creepy way, and I hope that it isn't too late for him to raise a daughter of his own.