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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lost Season 5 Episode Report Card

Remember Lost?

Yeah, I think I got to this post too late. Originally, I had planned, shortly after the season wrapped up, to do a brief episode-by-episode review and assign a grade to each episode, similar to what I did last year.

But I never really got energized to do it (which is why you're reading this at the beginning of July and not the end of May) and now that I think about, I don't have a lot of things to say about each episode, and even less desire to arbitrarily assign a grade to each one.

So instead I think I'll just post a few brief (well, brief by my standards...) comments for each episode and leave it at that.

Because You Left: The premiere looked in on the entire cast, but I appreciated that the focus was firmly on the time-jumping Losties on the island, answering early on what happened when Ben moved the island in the season four finale. I'm sure some viewers felt confused or alienated by the huge emphasis on time travel from the outset of the season, but I loved it.

The Lie: Not a bad episode, but not one I love as much as some fans. I will almost always be more interested in events on island than off, and this was very much an off-island episode (and a little too "Weekend at Bernie's" for my taste, though several parts of it were genuinely funny, especially Hurley summarizing the first four seasons to his mom and flinging his Hot Pocket at Ben).

Jughead: One of my favorites from this season, showcasing two of my favorite characters, Desmond and Daniel. And, in retrospect, this episode really laid the foundation for the entire season: time traveling, Jughead, Ellie, integration into the island's history by the main characters.

The Little Prince: My least favorite episode of the season. The on-island story easily outshines yet another lackluster Kate story off-island. The best part of the episode is finding out Jin's alive and hanging out in the past with Rousseau, but all of that is paid off in the next episode.

This Place Is Death: Another favorite that managed to effectively cram a lot of story into one episode, highlighted by Jin's adventures with young Rousseau and Charlotte's sad death scene.

316: The first Jack episode I've liked in a long time (other than the season three finale, and that became interesting only in retrospect), I also enjoyed the uniquely (for Lost) straightforward narrative structure, focusing solely on Jack during a 36 hour window of time. The final scenes on the plane, including Jack finally reading Locke's suicide note and the reveal of Frank as the pilot of Flight 316, were especially good.

The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham: I don't love this episode as much as everyone else, nor, really, as much I want to. I just can't get over some of the continuity glitches it causes enough to fully embrace it as one of the show's classics. The two biggest bones to pick, for me, are:
  1. The fact that NO ONE is told about Locke's Bentham identity on screen nor given a reason to use it in this episode, yet in the season four finale, everyone is using it and going out of their way to make sure it's used exclusively.
  2. It appears that Locke's suicide occurs shortly after he encounters Jack in the hospital, at a point in which Jack isn't obsessively trying to get back to the island and his beard is under control, which would suggest that Ben (or the authorities) sat on Locke's body for at least a month before crazed Beardo Jack read Bentham's obituary,which doesn't seem likely.
It's possible these inconsistencies (and more) might be addressed in a future episode, but with only sixteen left, it seems more and more likely that this episode is all the Bentham story we're going to get, and that leaves me troubled.

Of course, the real reason everyone was using the Bentham name so aggressively in the season four finale was because the producers were trying to keep the reveal of Locke in the coffin as shocking as possible, but Lost is usually better at covering for those kinds of for-the-sake-of-drama moments, and I expected as much in this episode. Which has led some Lost fans to coin the term "Bentham" to describe a reveal on the show that doesn't quite match the level of intensity of the question it's answering, especially in cases where said revelation makes it clear the mystery was played up simply for the sake of drama (other "Benthams", for example, include the revelation of what Sawyer told Kate on the helicopter before he dived out and why Kate told Jack to never mention Aaron again before schtupping him and boarding flight 316).

LaFleur: Probably my favorite episode of the season, I really enjoyed this traditionally structured episode that bounced back and forth between Sawyer and the Losties life in the 70s Dharma Initiative and how they got there.

Namaste: The first of three episodes that tend to blur together a bit, as the returning Oceanic 4 are integrated into Sawyer's Dharma con, leading to the unraveling of said con.

He's Our You: A standout for the ending alone, in which Sayid shoots Harry Potter Ben. Easily one of the most "Holy crap, did they really just do that?" endings of the entire series.

Whatever Happened, Happened: This was surprisingly good for a Kate episode. While most of the revelations in this episode were more Benthams (specifically, what Sawyer asked her to do before leaving the helicopter (why, exactly, did she have to keep that from Jack except that the plot demanded it?) and why she was so weird the night before leaving on flight 316 (I get that she was devastated by leaving Aaron, but her dialogue with Jack in "316" suggested something more mysterious/sinister happened than "I gave him for his own good")) the scene in which Kate tearfully says goodbye to Aaron was one of Evangeline Lily's greatest performance on the show, and terribly moving.

Dead Is Dead: Good, evil, or both, Ben is ridiculously fun to watch, so his episodes always shine, and this was no exception. Between the Ben/Locke interaction, flashbacks that filled in and revealed crucial bits of island history, the culmination of Ben's vendetta against Widmore via Penny, and more Smokey, this episode is another highlight of the season (even if the finale's revelation that it wasn't really Locke screwing with Ben's head in this episode takes a little something away from it).

Some Like It Hoth: Somewhat more that a token "funny" episode, with the long-delayed look at Miles' past, yet still not as character driven or mythologically-heavy as other episodes this season. An entertaining romp sprinkled with some deep dramatic moments, particularly Hurley watching his numbers getting stamped into the hatch door and Miles watching his dad interact with his younger self at the end.

The Variable: Billed as a counterpoint to season four's seminal "The Constant", it fails to hit the emotional highs of that episode. Still, the ultimately tragic examination of Faraday's past helps it stand out. Much of this episode's impact on the series as whole will depend on the outcome of the finale's cliffhanger: whether whatever happened, happened, or if Faraday was right in this episode about the variables being able to change things (or, if Faraday was conning Jack all along with his talk of variables).

Follow The Leader: A standard penultimate episode that ramps up the action and moves everyone into place for the big finale.

The Incident: Easily one of the most maddening cliffhangers in Lost history ("how the hell will they survive an atomic blast!?! Did history change!?! Jacob's dead!?! What's the deal with NotLocke!?!"), the season five finale had much in common with the similarly-maddening season one finale: both took place entirely on or around the island and both resolved their central plot (blow open the hatch, blow up Jughead) without revealing the consequences of those actions (What's in the hatch? Was time altered?).


  1. This was a very mediocre season for me. The only episodes I really enjoyed were "Jughead", "LaFleur" and anything that dealt with the time jumping castaways left on the island.

    The whole Kate/Aaron storyline was a botch job from the beginning. Nothing really came from it. Nor did anything come from Sayid's shooting of Young Ben. Instead, Richard Alpert magically heals the kid and tells Kate and Sawyer that his innocence has disappeared for good. Talk about bad writing! "316" bored me. Kate's so-called episode "Whatever Happened, Happened", was an exercise in emotional manipulation to get the character popular again. Sun and Jin's storyline came to nothing. Even worse, it looks as if Juliet Burke, one of the show's best female characters, was killed off.

    As for the Oceanic Six storyline . . . I can't even say anything. I found it so disappointing.

    Season Four was better than Season Five, as far as I'm concerned. Yet, because of the explosion at the end of latter's finale, Season Five will end up collecting award nominations that it does not deserve.

  2. I definitely think this was a season with fewer highs, though I think the average was a bit higher than some past seasons (though four was also, in terms of its average episodes, very good), and it had fewer out-and-out clunkers (ie Kate-centric episodes).

    I also much preferred anything dealing with the time jumpers on the island than anything dealing with the Oceanic Six, as a general rule.

    I'm a fervent believer in the "whatever happened, happened" school of time travel on Lost (so Juliet's detonation of Jughead was the Incident, not a variable that changed history) so I enjoyed the Sayid-shooting-Ben plot simply for the fact that by trying to stop Ben as Sayid knew him, Sayid created him (of course, should Jack's shenanigans in the finale truly alter history, than that becomes a moot point. But we'll have bigger problems then).

    I also feel bad that Sun's been given pretty much nothing to do this year. She is by no means a favorite character of mine, but I was really hoping her alliance with Widmore would have paid off more. Hopefully she and Jin will get a bit of the spotlight next season.

    And I'm still not convinced that Juliet is dead. I know for a fact that the actress will be on the show next season, in a limited capacity. It just remains to be seen whether she'll be alive and normal, or dead and weird (or only appearing in flashbacks). Either way, she'll be around in some way, which is good, because yeah, Lost has been severely lacking in good female characters for some time.


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