Lost – ‘?’

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Lost is a bona fide hit – but in speaking with some friends and acquaintances – I’ve found there is a large population that has never given the show a viewing. These same people are all in a lather over The Da Vinci Code – eagerly anticipating the cinematic version of a puzzle they long since solved. Lost scratches that same itch and I think those same Da Vinci addicts or Soduko slaves would really enjoy parsing through the labyrinthine network of cryptic clues that this season has dropped on the faithful viewers.

In fact – there is a great viral puzzle campaign going on right now – that weaves in a number of websites, a novel (Gary Troup’s Bad Twin), and actual television commercials apparently sponsored by The Hanso Foundation. While I haven’t dabbled in the fun, I find this out-of-the-box strategy to expand the brand and its mythology an enticing way to reward the core fanatics. Even if at the end of the game – all you are rewarded with is a dire directive from Dharma Initiative founder Alvar Hanso urging you to “Drink Your Ovaltine” – I’d like to think the fun is not found in the destination – but the journey.

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1. The title ‘?’ refers back to that blacklit map that Locke uncovered when pinned under the blast doors in ‘Lockdown.’ At the center of the map was a large ‘?’. It appears a series of hatches spin out of this symbol in spoke-like fashion. In this episode, Ecko is greeted by a vision from his dead brother who warns him that Locke has lost his way and needs help finding the ‘?’.

2. Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) was originally tapped to direct this episode. Aronofsky,  a self-processed Lost groupie, petitioned Damien Lindelof for the opportunity but had to bow out when his girlfriend, Rachel Weisz, announced she was pregnant and due in Spring 2006. With that said, I noticed a number of elements that played as homage to Aronofsky’s unique cinematic vision, most notably in Ecko’s dream sequences. A nice touch.

3. This episode really followed two plot strands. While Locke and Ecko were off searching for the answer to ‘?’ – the other Lost regulars were dealing with the issue in the hatch. I’ll cut to the chase – Ana Lucia is dead and Libby on her way out. She stays alive just long enough for Jack to shoot her up with Charlie’s Virgin Mary H and for Hurley to say his tearful goodbye. She does offer one final, fear-stricken utterance of “Michael” (trying to point Jack towards her murderer) but then she dies – leaving Jack to misinterpret her statement by assuring her that Michael made it safely. “He’s okay.”

4. The Locke/Ecko journey was very compelling and opened up a whole series of questions. First off – the sham-psychic that Ecko encountered in his flashback – where he was investigating a purported miracle – was the same psychic that demanded Claire raise her baby herself and gave her the tix to the doomed Oceanic Flight 815. In Ecko’s flashback, he admits to being a charlatan. Last week we had a triple connection with Sawyer, Christian Shepherd, and Ana-Lucia crossing paths. This episode provides a quartet. Ecko crosses paths with the psychic whose teenage daughter died and came back to life on the morgue slab (in mid-autopsy). The daughter tells Ecko that she saw his dead brother in the afterlife who wanted to pass along the message that he would see Ecko soon and that Ecko was a great priest. This same psychic was involved with Claire and then to take matters further, Locke has a dream in which he is approached by Ecko’s brother – only Ecko’s brother died years before Locke and Ecko came into each others life.
5. The new hatch – the Pearl – is found and it appears to be the omniscient point of the island. Locke and Ecko stumble across a room featuring a bank of television monitors – connected by CCTV – to the Swan hatch. On one screen, we see Jack going about his business. Locke and Ecko watch another orientation video that appears to be prepping the workers in this hatch to observe the workers in the Swan and report on their activities. It is inferred that the people in the Swan are part of a behavioral experiment – with the task of entering the numbers given more importance than might be warranted. Locke looks defeated – “mice in a maze with no cheese” – but Ecko feels the work that is going on in the hatch is more important than ever – at least according to his brother. Despite the apparent answers we get, a number of questions are raised:

6. Where’s that pneumatic tube device go?

7. What about Wickman? Dr. Marvin Candle – the host of the Swan video – announces himself as Dr. Bob Wickman on the Pearl video. Although it appears to be the same guy – the difference extends beyond the name. Candle has a fake arm while Wickman appears to have full control over both appendages.

8. Wickman also mentions that at the end of each monitoring team’s eight hour shift, they can take the Pala Ferry back to… and then it cuts off. Ferry??? A ferry implies a mainland. Shades of the Truman Show?

Now, where’s my decoder ring?

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Comments now closed (6)

  • C’mon, that’s no action figure, it’s them things the geeks call “busts.” I guess that normally evokes an image of art and I guess you could argue that this is art as it looks pretty freakin real to me, so well done Toddy, but tell me why people need to buy this now? I mean, an action figure can be played with or set up in a basement-sized die-o-rama-lama-can, but the bust just sits there. It’s art for geeks I guess…

  • It’s being made because geeks are gonna’ buy them. They’re already all lathered up over at Ain’t It Cool News at the notion of the “Kate Crawling Through the Vents” playset.

    BTW Jason – You really should pick up this show on DVD. You have no idea how sci-fi this show really is. That was illustrated quite a bit in last night’s season finale. What’s interesting is it has to be the most popular sci-fi show that has ever aired in prime-time (in terms of weekly ratings). The show has a dense, cryptc mythology that keeps you going – yet parses out just enough answers with minimal X-Files-esque Monster of the Week downtime. I think people came to the show thinking it was a dramatic Survivor and found themselves digging on the mystery. Now they’re hooked. Grab that Season 1 set. By Episode III – Walkabout – I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Season I hinted at the mysteries of this island and Season II was off the charts. X-Files fans. Sci-fi fans. Adventure fans. Da Vinci Code fans. This show has elements to thrill all.

  • Oh, I have no doubt it’s good (though I do know some diehard fans of the first season who quit during the middle of the second, saying the writing had gone to pot). I just try to limit my television viewing in general and to read more books, given my chosen profession. But I’m sure Kare and I will get around to it at some point.

  • Tell those diehard fans to jump back in. They left just as things were getting interesting – with four strong eps in a row leading to some tantalyzing possibilities for next season.

    As for the writing – the staff now includes Drew Goddard (Buffy, Angel), Paul Dini (the Batman animated series) and Jeph Loeb (comics writer, Smallville) – and they are kicking the mythology big-time.

    All in all – this season has been more compelling to me than last season. The one knock I can hit it with is the frequent downtime (repeats) that broke some momentum, but that’s a fault of the suits not the producers. Next season remedies that with a 7 episode mini season followed by a late season 15 episode run. Plus – DVD cures it all together.

  • It’s funny–the DVD television revolution has actually changed the game for me somewhat. Now that I can get something like Lost or Buffy on DVD, there’s no impetus to make sure I watch it during the season (especially when you’re not working in an office and don’t have to worry about water cooler talk), watching a show becomes a scheduling issue just like everything else. What do I want to do, watch twenty episodes of a television series or read a few books to help inspire my writing? Usually I’ll go with the book or even graphic novel before TV, it seems.

    But I’m not knocking television–I admire ambitious scripted drama. It’s the time commitment that daunts me.

    Plus, to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of “teasing” shows–shows that have some big mystery that drags on and on, revealing little details here and there, often with a sense that everything is being made up ad hoc. It’s like Wolverine’s past in the comics–writers just kept making crap up and then other writers would come along and say that what the previous writers had written were “implants” and blah blah blah, with no cohesive vision.

    And I wonder about Lost…do the producers know exactly what’s going on? Have they worked everything out beforehand? Or will this become like the X-Files, where they keep adding new twists and material to the mythology, much of which ends up contradicting the previous stuff, until the whole thing becomes a mess? The problem with American television is that if a show has a successful first season, then it get a second season, even if the writers are unprepared for it, or if they more or less wrapped up the story in the first season.

    Thus, Jack Bauer has a number of very, very bad days–but all of which get wrapped up more or less in 24 hours. Kind of like John McClane (“Oh man, I can’t believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?”).

    But I’m willing to grant that maybe Abrams knows what he’s doing and actually has a storyline mapped out. I still don’t really like shows that continually tease you with a mystery. It drove me crazy on the X-Files until I figured out they were making it up as they went along, like one of those round-robin storytelling games I played when I was a kid.

    If you like Lost, though, I’m really surprised you haven’t given Battlestar Galactica a shot. People at my last job who loved Lost were even more rabid about BSG, and it does a lot of that teasing too–trying to figure out who’s a Cylon, what the Cylon’s overall plan is, and so forth. That said, I do think the BSG folks have a cohesive vision, and I applaud their relative realism in the day-to-day depiction of life in space (supply problems, limited number of personnel and vehicles, silence in space, and so forth).