I repeat, this post about Lost has spoilers. Continuing to read this may – if what I saw tonight has any truth to it, and showrunner Carlton Cuse would have you believe that at least one thing I’m going to say here does – take some surprise out of the show for you. I had the ending of the third season spoiled for me by reading a comment on AICN. It wasn’t intentional, but I must admit that if I was wandering into the comment section, there must have been some part of me that wanted to open my presents early. With that said, onto the less meta portions.
The end game of Lost. We’ve made it to the cusp. If you watch this show, and you’ve watched every hour of this show, some of them – possibly many of them – multiple times, you’ve made theories here and there about The End Game. You may not have used those exact terms, but if you did, it may be because you knew that when John Locke explained backgammon to a young Walt Lloyd, you felt disturbed in a way.
Terry O’Quinn does not in any way have the typical appearance of a figure who could anchor the most expensive show in the history of television (or at least the pilot episode thereof) but where we stand today, he did it. I saw two clips he was featured in tonight, the first was when Locke (Prime) first convinced Jack to push the EXECUTE button in the hatch. Looking back at this performance, I realized how much I took O’Quinn’s work for granted originally. The entire scene, especially the line “I need you to do this with me” [PAUSE], has a synthesis of all we had known about John Locke up until this point, in that he needed the help of someone else because of how much he had been betrayed in his past. Jack by this point had really become irksome, which I’d like to blame on the writing and not Matthew Fox’s acting ability even though I know my most rabid Lost fan friend will tell me otherwise, so this was a great scene to show, especially to show how much both Fox’s role and his talent have developed.
The second scene that showed Terry O’Quinn is from “The End” 620/621, wherein he portrays The Smoke Monster in the body of John Locke. Something that executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have noted in their The Official Lost Podcast is that even while The Smoke Monster has taken the form of John Locke, pieces of Locke’s personality tend to appear in his behavior. Notable occurrence: Locke (Monster) yelling at the Ghost Of Young Jacob, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Well in this scene, O’Quinn is completely playing the role that we’ve seen Titus Welliver portray, Jacob’s Brother, The Man In Black, known to those who know their bible, and once to ABC.com, as Esau, which is what I’ll call non-Flash-Sideways John Locke from now on.
The scene starts with Esau pulling rope up from the well he had knocked Desmond Hume into previously. As we know by now, Desmond isn’t there anymore and it’s likely former Esau ally Sayid’s doing that Desmond is walking around the island, in his enlightened state. Possibly new Esau ally Ben Linus appears behind Sawyer with the rifle he’s been had on him at least since he showed some brief glimpse of humanity when he sobbed to Illana that he would go with Esau because, “He’s the only person who would have me.” Ben brings Sawyer over to Esau, they argue about why Sawyer, a candidate would endanger himself by going to get Desmond back from the well. Sawyer reveals that he’s not a candidate anymore, that there are no more candidates, and while he doesn’t tell Esau who won the candidacy, it must be obvious to Esau that Jack took the new starring role on Who Wants To Be The Protector of The Light?
Sawyer then gives ol Linus a pretty damn strong elbow to the face, knocking the guy who had a gun pointed at him on his ass and drawing blood. Sawyer reveals to Esau that Jack’s side knows his plan to obliterate the island. Sawyer leaves, and then Ben tells Esau he thought the phrase “destroy the island” wasn’t literal! Ben sounds betrayed, and Esau asks him if the proposition to control the island wasn’t to be accompanied by the island being deep underwater. Ben continues his moment of being in shock, and this seems authentic. If it is authentic, then what was his also seemingly authentic scene with Illana? This week’s edition of tv critics Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg’s Firewall & Iceberg podcast made the argument that if Ben’s sobbing to Illana doesn’t turn out to be true, it reduces the character to plot-device level. Either he’s still conning Esau, and doing a far better con than Sawyer ran on the Black-clad-Man just a few episodes ago, or it’s not a good side. I don’t know what to think there.
O’Quinn downplays the importance of Sawyer’s news, believing he can still track down Desmond to go forward with the put the island on the ocean’s floor plan. Doesn’t seem to care about Ben’s feelings of betrayal either. Which is a mistake, of course. Doesn’t he remember how he played Ben’s emotions into Jacob’s death? I guess he doesn’t know Ben & Miles both carrying walkie talkies, which is crazy important, as Miles is the only person who hasn’t talked to Esau yet. My theory is that Miles kills Esau, and Ben sets it all up. But then again, even with this close reading of the events, I’m not that sure, as Lost is the kind of show that will not give you endings that it does in fact set up.
Michael Emerson’s ability to say contradictory lines and have each sound like he believes them completely has to be something I dwell on, because he was at the event. A surprise guest, coming out when Damon Lindelof joked that they tailor the Ben character to Emerson as he’s a murderous man. He was asked about his favorite actor to do scenes with, and he replied Hurley, and before Jorge Garcia had the chance to come on stage, Emerson said something that really stuck in my mind. It was to the effect of that Ben and Hurley had more left to do, together at that. If you’ve talked to me, you know that I have two favorite candidates for the endgame: Ben or Hurley. What Emerson said, and these were words that Garcia’s entrance walked on top of and were probably lost on the audience, makes me think, what if Hurley takes the candidacy from Jack and somehow Ben is knocked into the river of light and becomes the new Smoke Monster after Esau gets killed by Miles, something I predict may happen earlier in the finale than you expect. The transition of power to Jack went so smoothly that I have my doubts that it’s the end of the whole island protector story. Also, we’ve had a seed planted for a while that’s never blossomed, a seed called Jack Was Supposed To Die Early On!
I havn’t mentioned much of Cuse and Lindelof so far because I wanted to hide the big spoiler that Carlton Cuse dropped on the room to the surprise of many, but not to the surprise of some. That news? Carlton told the room, in response to a question about Walt’s “specialness”, that Malcolm David Kelley, aka WAAAAAALT!, will be back in the finale. Cuse tsk tsk’d Lindelof earlier for saying there’s a Star Wars reference in the first seven minutes of the premiere, and Damon was pretty surprised that this kind of news was kosher and his was not. The other thing I have to say about the show runners is that I would not be surprised if Lindelof runs for office one day, as he’s mastered the whole talking while saying nothing, and then being able to laugh about it when he’s caught and continue to talk without saying anything, with more than a little confidence.
Now, though, to be critical of the show, I have to talk about a Writer’s Room practice that is worrisome in how the show was formed. When asked if there were ever big fights over what to put in episodes, Cuse dodged, but suggested that they never actually have big arguments, but only games of oneupsmanship for what would make a scene better. This suggests a lack of a strong editing presence, something the blind even know plagues the show’s lesser ideas. The show runners not only claimed that the internet fans were responsible for Nikki and Paolo and helped them realize that the characters were a mistake? While this does show an admirable lack of stubbornness to what works, it also shows a pretty bad absence of convictions. One predictable meme in the Monday Morning post-Lost discussions will be was it right for the audience to play such a visible role in the show. Who knows how the ending will compare to David Chase’s famous cut to black, but Cuse and Lindelof claim that the ending shot has been something they’ve actually known since the first season. Which could mean that it’s something they truly believe in. Though, it’s been said, by them and a billion trite bastards that came before them, that it’s more in the journey than the ending. And by that metric, the journey has been compromised, I think.
That’s neither here nor there, as we’re at the ending, which the event left me oddly optimistic. There are two moments from the Times Talk event that left me in this moment, and they were adjacent. Cuse said that for the finale, more or less, that Community matters more than Religion/Faith. This alone might mean an amazingly strong finish that’s more grounded in the actors, and their characters than the answers that I’m starting to think we’ll never get, since nobody knows them. Unless it was knowledge that actually is passed down through the communion that Jacob performed on Jack, and now he’ll know everything and be able to tell us some of the everything. That’d be great too. Secondly, there’s something that Jorge Garcia said, when Lindelof asked him, “why didn’t you ask any follow up questions after having read the ending?” Jorge said, and I quote, "… Well, I think I got it.“
And if Hurley/Jorge are the fans’ surrogate, then I think we’ll be alright.