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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lost 4x09: The Shape of Things to Come

Lost is back, baby (again), and with a bang! This episode was an action packed adventure, filled with gunfights, hostage situations, Morse code and Ben acting like an evil Indiana Jones. I have to wonder if this episode is one that gained/suffered the most from the shortened season; it seems like in a normal season, all the action contained therein would have been spread out over another episode or two.

Appropriately enough for an episode entitled “The Shape of Things to Come,” there was an awful lot of foreshadowing going on. We get new status quos for both camps of Losties: New Otherton is blown up/shot up/smoked up, with several extras killed, Ben’s daughter shot by one of Widmore’s Hired Goons, and the people we really care about on the run and split, with Locke and Ben being led to Jacob for guidance by Hurley and Sawyer, Claire and Aaron heading to rejoin Jack and co, while at the beach, Jack finally gets it spelled out for him that the freighter has no interest in conducting any rescues. We also see Jack “writing a prescription for himself” (foreshadowing his pill-popping actions in the flashforwards) because of a stomach bug, which appears to be foreshadowing a more serious illness that comes into play next week.

In this week’s flash forward, we see Ben recruit Sayid after the suspicious death of his wife, Nadia, foreshadowing Sayid’s eventual role as Ben’s suave muscle. There’s also a verbal confrontation between Ben and Widmore, which illustrates how in the wake of Alex’s death the conflict they’ve been waging over the island becomes much more personal, foreshadowing a potential tragic ending for everybody’s favorite time-and-space-crossed lovers, Desmond and Penelope.

On the whole, I think the events of this episode-subtle manipulation exploding into violent physical conflict-foreshadows where the show is going from this point on: there’s a war going on, and the Lostaways have managed to immerse themselves in it. Ben’s flash forward travels in and around the Mid East in this episode help strengthen that notion, and thematically connect the conflict in that region to the conflict on Lost: two sides, each assured of their own moral superiority and the rightness of their cause, fighting over the same piece of land.

Ben whipping a sawed-off shotgun out of the piano bench

Also, Sawyer’s protectiveness of both Claire and Hurley; I like him much more as the reluctant hero, afraid to get close and ruin his tough guy image than the “No, really, I’m evil” direction they tried in the listless second season.

Did You Notice?
The title of the episode comes from a book by HG Wells. I haven’t read it.

Two character name literary references this week: Nadia’s apparent murderer was named Ishamel, the quasi-narrator of Moby Dick, and Ben’s Moriarty alias is, of course, the name of Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis.

Assuming we trust Ben’s efforts to spare Alex, we received confirmation that Ben did indeed steal infant Alex from Rousseau to use as a pawn; now the question is to what end (incidentally, when Ben made his counter offer to Keamy, I totally expected Ben to have just seen an island-healed Rousseau sneaking up on Keamy, ready to rescue Alex).

We got a specific flash forward date when Ben was in Tunisia: October 24, 2005

I totally missed this, but someone pointed it out online. It’s too awesome not to mention: two of the nameless extras that were killed in the hail of commando bullets were wearing red shirts.

Locke, Sawyer and Hurley were playing Risk (another game, like backgammon, with some thematic connections to the show). Hurley claimed Australia was the key to the game, something many players agree with, and perhaps a nod to the fact that Oceanic 15 left from Sydney.

The producers have said every time we see Smokey, we’ll learn something new about it. What did we learn this week? It’s really big (bigger, I think, than we’ve ever seen it) or at least, can become quite large. It also seems that contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, Ben has some ability to at least communicate with it, and at most, control/command it.

Why was Ben in Tunisia (other than to visit the locations where the Tattooine scenes of Star Wars were shot, of course)? After seeing Sayid on TV, he went to Iraq, but what led him to Tunisia in the first place? Also, his given name elicited a reaction from the desk clerk-why?

If Ben did indeed teleport to Tunisia in the beginning (as was implied), where (and we have to ask, when) was he teleporting from? He had a Dharma parka on: why would there be Dharma parkas-the island is fairly tropical. Parkas make me think of the Portuguese guys from the end of season two. Plus, a Dharma-collared polar bear ended up in the desert at some point too. Perhaps there is a wormhole on the island that takes you to Tunisia via the North Pole (hence the parka) or a wormhole that takes you to a location randomly selected from a select list of locations, so Ben needed the parka in case he ended up there?

What was the deal with the dead boat doctor? Obviously there’s some weird time thing going on (when “calling” the boat, they seem able to avoid the time delay, but maybe “telegraphing” the boat sends the signal through the distortion?), but what was the meaning of his death? Was it just to isolate Jack as truly the only doctor in the area for his illness next week?

Where did Ben go before Smokey showed up? The hidden room within a hidden room seemed more primal and religious, like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Did Ben summon Smokey, or just alert him to the fact that infidels were defiling the island and that the sonic fence was down, so he could “kill, pussycat, kill?”

Who killed Nadia, and why? Was it Ishmael (ostensibly on Widmore’s orders) as Ben insinuated, or did Ben kill her in order to get Sayid on his side, as his assassin, the same way the commandos didn’t kill Sawyer, hoping instead to enrage him to the point that he’d willingly push Ben out the door?

The whole conversation between Ben and Widmore at the end was packed full of questions and hints. Amongst them:

  • What nightmares are leading Widmore to keep Scotch at his bedside? Does this seeming villain have some kind of conscience? And I couldn’t tell, but was that a bottle of the infamous MacCutcheon whiskey on his nightstand?
  • What rules did Widmore change? Dr. Bitz thinks it has something to do with Ben’s insistence that “innocents” (obviously, his definition of innocence is much different than ours) aren’t to be killed, and Widmore broke that rule by killing Alex.
  • Why can’t Ben kill Widmore? Is it against the rules of the game, or does the island have some protection over Widmore in the same way that Michael can’t kill himself?
  • Why does Widmore think he has a claim to the island? Is he a relation of the Hansos, who seem to have a much more direct claim on the island through several time periods and through, of course, the Dharma Initiative? Is that why Widmore hates Ben, because he led the purge of the Initiative?
  • Widmore’s dismissive use of the term “boy” suggested a master/servant, upper class/lower class divide between the two: do they share any history that informs such a relationship? Or is Widmore just generally and similarly dismissive and arrogant towards everyone he considers beneath him (like Desmond)?
  • Where is Penelope? Ben’s retort to Widmore suggests that she is as hidden to Ben as the island is to Widmore. Does she know she’s hidden? Is that why the boat won’t take her calls, because Widmore already has her “in hiding” and is trying to keep her “off the board” of this game he’s playing with Ben?

1 comment:

  1. For me, the highlight was seeing smokey again.

    Also i have won many a game of Risk and i rarely have Australia.



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