Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Thoughts on The Candidate...

BIGMOUTH: Elizabeth Kubler Ross famously hypothesized that people react to tragedy in a series of stages.  First there's denial, then anger, followed by bargaining, depression, and lastly acceptance.  Over the course of this season, and the past few weeks in particular, I've experienced these stages in response to the depressing realization that LOST generally, and the Mirror storyline specifically, probably won't end the way I'd hoped.  This process has been unpleasant and very public -- I apologize to you all everybody for the negativity.  But I've finally accepted that characters in the Crash reality will transcend death through memory transfer to their Mirror-reality counterparts. 

And I'm okay with that.  Really.

My acceptance reflects a dawning realization that such an ending flows naturally from the notion that the Island is a keystone for both Crash and Mirror realities.  As you all everybody know, my defining analogy for Season 6 has been The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  The Island is like the Tower, which anchors all realities in the King multiverse.  The Candidates are like the beams supporting the Tower -- the Island draws on them for its magic.  A great example was the ash around the Temple, which depended upon Dogen to repel Smokey.  Sayid's killing him was like shutting off the power to the sonic fence around the Barracks.  That's why the Man in Black needs the Candidates to die.

Still, one question has always nagged me: how can the Island be the foundation of the Mirror reality when it lies broken on the bottom of the sea?  Only recently did it occur to me that this is precisely the problem.  The whole reason why the Mirror reality seems so wrong is that the Island should exist but doesn't.  The key to making things right, therefore, is to raise the Island.  I don't mean literally in some kind of Raise the Titanic! scenario, though that would be cool if there were more time left on the show.  Instead, we're seeing them raise the Island metaphorically by having Mirror characters recover their Crash memories and identities, bringing a little Island magic with them in the process.

Before closing, let me say a few words about "The Candidate," which scored an 8 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology, 4 for character).  First, Jin and Sun's deaths still moved me despite my confidence they will be resurrected in the Mirror reality.  With due respect to Desmond and Penny, the Kwons have always been my favorite love story on LOST.  Part of what I like is that their their dialogue is usually in Korean, but therein lies one quibble with "The Candidate."  Did Jin and Sun's last words to each other have to be in English?  I'm sure it was setup for a scene in the Mirror reality where both miraculously speak English.  Still, compared to Sun's tearful speech in Korean at Jin's grave in "Ji Yeon," it felt kind of weak.

Speaking of death, I was pleased to see the Man in Black unmasked as pure evil.  I've frankly been surprised by fan resistance to this possibility.  Many seem determined to see his behavior as morally equivalent with Jacob's.  While the latter certainly has blood on his hands, he's never done anything remotely this malevolent.  Indeed, the Man in Black's fiendish plan to have the Candidates kill each other reminded me of the scene in The Dark Knight (2008) when the Joker traps two groups on separate ferries that are rigged to explode, claiming that both boats will detonate at midnight unless one group destroys the other first.  I'm sure the Man in Black has his reasons, but it's hard to sympathize very much.

Finally, I was briefly thrown by Locke's refusal of Jack's offer to perform spinal surgery.  But then I remembered a point raised by you all everybody during our recent debates about "happy endings" in the Mirror reality.  What happens when Mirror Locke begins to remember the awful things that Anthony Cooper did to him in the Crash reality?  I'll bet Locke gets over his guilt at the old man's vegetative state and decides to have that operation after all.  Over to you, Wayne.

* * *

WAYNE: I rate this 8 on the Sickness Scale, 3 for mythology and 5 for characterization.

That sound you heard was me whipping the towel back before I threw it against the wall. I'm still seeing this through to the end; every time I feel deflated, I start seeing connections, like with a spineless Locke in the Mirror reality, as opposed to the man who stood up to Jack before the O6 left the Island, as well as  some thoughts about Widmore's true presence on Hydra. On with the bullet points.

Secret societies and cults. After one of the early recaps, some discussion was made of the Island having such a society, and I argued that the Others themselves were more like a cult. I can see Jacob, the Man in Black and, hell, even the Island itself as a secret society. But, and even though it's a cop out on a grand scale, seeing the Others as blind followers to Jacob explains the deaths of S6.

The lead up to the mysterious Temple, the idea that Dogen could keep the Man in Black at bay unless he died, well, here we are yet again with Jacob talking the talk. This is how I accept the idiocies of S6. Ilana's lack of knowledge and sudden death, Richard not knowing just what the blue blazes Ilana was talking about. Whatever purpose Lennon had that he at least was given a name. The Temple massacre. If I accept that everyone simply answered to Jacob without question--think Ilana saying that she trained her entire life to protect the candidates --then I'm fine with it. I was conned just like the Others, like those with so-called jobs, Dogen, Ilana, Richard and Ben. And if we see Vincent stroll out of the jungle talking in Tom Cruise's voice, don't say I didn't tell you so.

Further Instructions. This is the episode in Season 3 where Locke is temporarily mute, after the implosion of the Hatch. He builds the sweat lodge, gets stoned, and has that dream that is both trippy as well as exceedingly scary, with Boone explaining things to him. We see a paralyzed Locke, crawling up an escalator at the Sydney airport, struggling to lift himself up. Here's the thing: Boone is telling Locke all about Season 6.

He explains, of the passengers waiting to board Oceanic 815, that Charlie and Claire would be just fine, but only for a while. Hurley is the confident ticket agent. In Season 6, he's been the real leader, giving instructions to Richard and Jack, eventually accepting Locke's knife offered as an act of false truce. Desmond is on another escalator, descending and accompanied by three stewardesses. "Forget it." Boone says. "He's helping himself." 

Then the most telling of scenes: Jin and Sun are arguing, Sayid shows up, and Boone tells Locke "I think Sayid's got it." All three died together, and the two Kwons did argue over Jin insisting to be with Sun in death instead of saving himself. And the last image of Ben waving a security wand as Jack, Kate, and Sawyer await boarding. Boone's prophetic words: "There's nothing you can do for them. Not yet. First you have to clean up your own mess." In the Mirror reality, Locke had turned his father, Anthony Cooper, into a vegetable. Perhaps in the Mirror he refuses Jacks offer for the spinal surgery because he cannot clean up the mess he made of his father's body and brain.

The way we are. Early on in Season 1, we saw a reflection of the social structure that governs our everyday lives. We saw the tribalism that Locke embraced, with Jack now seeming to do the same, and we also saw socialism and capitalism. Jack wanted to share, Sawyer wanted to stash. The survivors kept secrets, many times to benefit themselves. After Juliet's death, Sawyer reverted to his old ways, telling Jack to "get off my boat." In this last episode, he made the decisions, against what Jack wanted, and the end result was that the timer on the bomb accelerated. 

Even though Sayid ran off with the ticking bomb, it was Sawyer who effectively killed him, for a Candidate cannot kill him or herself. Sayid was not on a suicide run, although one might say that he found redemption in those last moments. And my guess is that Sun was the candidate Kwon, otherwise Jin would still be alive. I cannot see the same argument that Jin was killed as a result of Sawyer's actions -- Jin chose to stay with Sun. I'm glad that neither mentioned Ji-Yeon at the very end; I'm not heartless, but at the same time I didn't want to see a Very Special Episode of LOST. Save that crap for Grey's Anatomy. But wouldn't it have been funny if, instead of his wedding ring, Sun gave Jin the DriveShaft ring that belonged to Charlie?

The E6 get deep-sixed. For those wondering how the Man in Black had the knowledge to rig the C4, go back to "Exit 77," when Locke blew up both the Flame and the Galaga submarine with C4. We also know that the smoke monster can be stopped with dynamite, which might be why the entire "hidden" basement of that DHARMA station was lined with C4. We know the Man in Black has Locke's memories, and I am starting to believe that he also retains Mirror Locke's, as well. This would explain his extreme cockiness since "The Incident," he knows that, whatever happens will happen with his Mirror self in a wheelchair. Spineless. A sucker. 

The Sixth Candidate. Ilana had a list, and she knew the names of the Candidates. With Locke dead, Ilana told Sun there were six Candidates. So there is still one unaccounted for. Let me throw this out first, something I've been wanting to say about the Man in Black for awhile. He is a container for the smoke monster, and I go back to the massacre inside the statue, when it looks as if the Man in Black was moving into a prone position. There's a comic character from the 1960s, Negative Man, a member of the way-cool sounding Doom Patrol. Through a freak accident, a test pilot named Larry Trainor had to be wrapped in bandages, though he was able to release a form of negative energy for sixty seconds. If the radioactive form did not return in that time limit, Trainor would die.

I see it like this, the main reason the Man in Black sailed the Elizabeth to Hydra was because he needed to be close by when the smoke monster killed the Ajira passengers. And this is why he rebuffs Sawyer--paraphrasing here-- when asked why he doesn't just turn into smoke and fly [over there]. The time limit prohibits this. I'm certain we can find instances throughout the series where we see similar moments involving Christian and Yemi.

Which brings us back to Hydra. And the fact that the smoke monster kills Seamus and his group around the cages, and later kills the others on Widmore's team as the Man in Black, but leaves Widmore alone. In that famous scene in S4 when Keamy kills Alex and Ben says "You broke the rules," he was talking about Widmore. The surname Rousseau is on the Lighthouse compass rose, and I believe it belonged to Alex, not Danielle. Widmore likely killed other candidates, as well. We saw Mattingly and Jones crossed out -- they were part of the Army expedition in 1954.

The Man in Black allowed the game on Hydra to play out, to let the episode on the submarine run it's course. There is a reason the Smoke Monster did not kill Widmore, just as the ghost child told him that he could not kill Sawyer. I believe that Widmore intends to get the Man in Black to turn into the Smoke Monster, then imprison the prone body of Locke within the padlocked room in the main building. Widmore is the sixth candidate, and he will have the power of Jacob with no interference from anyone else. Until Jack and Desmond start figuring things out, that is.
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