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.
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?