Saturday, May 22, 2010


All right, it might be premature to go ahead and drop all the full-series Best Of kind of posts, but I have a feeling that by the time I recover from the atom bomb that will be tomorrow and find myself in the middle of the week, that this kind of thing will be something that I've got nothing left for. So, without further ado, we present a series of wrap-up posts reflecting upon various aspects of the series, as a whole (always reserving the right to go back and fix something if the very last episode casts anything in a new light, which is certainly a possibility).

JOHN LOCKE - The character who is single-handedly responsible for more frustration and cursing the television than any other, at least on my part, John Locke still edges out such notables as Hurley and Juliet and Sun and Faraday pretty much based on his Season One work, alone. I mean, really, just cut all of those parables he dropped over the course of the season into a single twenty-minute reel and that footage stands up to just about any performance I can ever recall seeing. He draws you in, makes you wonder just what makes this character tick while enthralling you at the same time, making you want to follow him. Anticipating the long haul, back in 2005, when it seemed certain that we were eventually heading for a Jack VS Locke situation, it looked like we had another all-time classic villain on our hands, a Dr. Doom/Magneto/(and, it must be said)Lex Luthor-type who had the most important attribute of a great villain: belief that he was actually the hero of the story and total certainty that his actions were, in fact, in service of the greater good.

Of course, all that got tossed aside about the time his pupils dilated while watching Chang/Candle's orientation film. The great hunter-philosopher spent the better part of Season Two in thrall to the Swan's button before losing faith and causing one of the great cliffhangers in the show's history, then spent Season Three frustrating the hell out of Jack (and us, oh yes!) blowing up or throwing knives at every chance they had to get off the Island before eventually leaving himself, only to fail, fail, and fail again, not even able to kill himself after even tying the noose and everything. The John Locke whose journey ended in 5.07, the guy who got pushed out of a building by his daddy and ridiculed by the manager at his box company was nowhere near as cool as he seemed for the entire first season. It hurt to watch him fail at every turn, but that's because we were so captivated by him in the beginning.

KATE AUSTEN - No character better embodies a show that has so, so much running through the jungle than our very own Freckles. Hers is one of the more compelling character arcs of the series. When we meet her, she's literally been on the run for years, and that mindset serves her well on the Island, where being fleet on your feet is sometimes the only thing that makes a difference between getting banged to death against a tree or hitting that sweet music montage at the end of the episode. Of course, initially she's saddled with being the crucial XX vertex of the show's romantic triangle, but that all played out in a way that seemed as realistic as possible (given the fact that it's part of a story about time-traveling survivors on a mysterious island, etc; by "realistic," I guess I mean "true to life, messy, not resolved neatly"): she boned one of them, DIDN'T get pregnant off just that one time, even though that's what always happens in a situation like this (See: the unproduced four seasons of CARNIVALE, just no chance in hell that Hawkins didn't knock Sofie up that one time in the truck), then ran away to play House with the other guy until that house of cards came tumbling down and she decided that what she really was was a mother, even though the kid wasn't hers. Jacob delivering that line this week, "Because you became a mother," felt so true. She did and it changed her, those three years spent in one place with Aaron marked a huge turning point in her character and would have probably led to an actual happy ending, if Ben hadn't screwed it all up for them. She's the only one who boards Ajira 316 for totally selfless reasons, to bring back her little boy's actual mother, and, regardless of what's happened since or how it goes down tomorrow night, whether or not she makes it to the last shot, that's more than enough growth to make her one of the more interesting characters in a massive ensemble. Plus, she's so clean!

SAYID JARRAH - Ol' Sayid doesn't have to say a word, he can give it to you with just those eyes, the way his face trembles ever so minutely. A torturer who is himself forever wracked with the guilt of all the horrors that he has wrought upon others, there might not be a character who better embodies the show's theme of redemption. He certainly has enough to atone for. What makes him so compelling is how tender he comes across. And, I guess, how he just keeps soldiering on after the writers keep ripping his guts out. Start out with all the guilt over his past, let the Hulk id back out with Sawyer on the tree in 1.08, which makes him swear off the other folks forever (or for an episode), losing Shannon the day after they finally consummate the relationship, then losing the love of his life only nine months after being reunited with her. It is enough to turn you into Ben Linus's lapdog assassin. Still not quite sure what happened with him here in this last season, but the ride up until now has been more than enough to secure him a spot on this list.

BENJAMIN LINUS - Nothing less than a tour de force performance from Michael Emerson, who I hope has squirreled away enough money from this gig that he never HAS to work again. Because, on a show in which maybe two dozen actors seem to embody their characters even when off-set, this guy IS Ben Linus. Starting out stuck in Rousseau's trap and claiming to be Henry Gale, he sat in the armory reading Dostoevsky while playing Machiavelli until standing revealed as leader of the Others. And then things really got interesting, he turned out to be a loving foster father to Alex and eventually sacrificed his life on the Island to save it with the help of a frozen donkey wheel, even though that didn't take. Now, here in the final act, it looks like he IS a bad guy again, after all. Whereas the Monster in Black is portrayed sympathetically (hell, I'm just almost rooting for him), Ben's actions in the penultimate episode toss him over off to the dark side of the spectrum with about as little ambiguity as this show is capable of. Interestingly enough, his counterpart in the LA timeline seems to be the most disparate version from the guy we know and love to hate, by all indications on the verge of getting freaky with a non-deranged Rousseau and forming one of the most surprising combinations of nuclear families that this show could actually produce. Whichever version you like best, liar, leader, father, daughter-killer, scheming manipulator, or good ol Dr. Linus, there's no question that this character is one of the most memorable in a very crowded field.

JACK SHEPHARD - I really couldn't stand Jack for the first half of the series. He came off as way too Johnny America. The guy's domination by his much more interesting father made me dislike him, and I was definitely teeing up to side with Locke when the time inevitably came. But then came The Bridge and the advent of Bearded Jack. And all of a sudden he was the most interesting character of them all. It was a such a masterstroke, in one beat, revealing that, Yes, he made it off that island and turned into this guy, the most loveable maniac to ever pop pills and crank the Pixies while drinking vodka out of the bottle that lives in the kitchen sink that you ever saw. Going back and looking at those first seasons with greater empathy toward Jack, after Bearded Jack earns our love, he comes across as more complex and intriguing. Because, at the end of the day, he's Our Hero. Right? I mean, the pupil dilating and everything. And he does save people (though I believe we've settled on "fix" as the verb of choice, yes?). But, it's not from altruism. This guy was not raised by Kansas farmers. He grew up in LA, and the reason that he performs all these miraculous feats is not to help others, but to fill up the gaping hole inside of him carved out by his father (or by simply being his father's son, I can't decide). That's why the marriage fell apart. Because Jack's really as much of a junkie as Chahlie, when you get down to it, once the charge of fixing her wore off, he had to move on, leave her behind in search of new dural sacs to sew up. I guess he covers even more distance than Kate over the course of the series, spends the entire first three seasons trying to get off the Island before now, it looks like, voluntarily signing up to protect it for a very long time. I hope he gets the chance.

MR. EKO - After the most riveting season of television that I had ever witnessed, just when I thought I couldn't love it any more, our man from Nigeria strides up out of the woods and whacks the hell out of Sawyer, Jin & Michael while sporting the wildest eyes I think I've ever laid eyes on. Crazed, that is. No other character on the show better embodies its theme of duality, the dichotomy between this massive hulking form who can surely kill anyone on the Island with his bare hands and the gentle, soulful spirit whose faith holds even when Locke loses the courage to believe. It's really hard for me to even talk about, nail down and quantify with words what it is about this character that moves me so much. The eyes that bore right into you, the quiet way that he speaks, slowly enough that you know every word has been weighed and given full consideration before being uttered. Just the peace that he radiates. Those hands, the sight of those hands cleaning up Ana-Lucia and Libby's blood off the floor in the Swan. I can't really express what it is about these images that just cuts right into me, but all I can say is look for yourself and see if you don't feel the same way. I'm so so sorry that he never got to finish building his church.

SAWYER - Call him James, call him LaFleur, but he'll always be Sawyer. The self-serving rascal with the agenda of survival by any means necessary. Out of the gate, this guy was just the most fun to watch. For all the same reasons that everybody loves Han Solo. The scoundrels are just more riveting. The nicknames, the hoarding, his only redeeming characteristic seemed to be his weakness for one set of freckles in particular. But, over time, he grew into someone who was not always looking out for #1, ready to jump off a chopper or dive down a well without a second thought to save his friends. The linchpin of the character arrives, though, over the course of the lost three years (1974-77), during which time he builds an idyllic life with Juliet while playing house in DHARMAville. They certainly did it better than Jack & Kate back on the mainland thirty years later. Seeing the character reach that happy ending, even though of course it wasn't the end, but just appreciating how far he had come since lying about having Shannon's asthma medicine while tied to a tree so that Kate would kiss him, just filled me up with affection for the guy. I would love to sit with him in his living room with a couple of good books and some DHARMA beer and just let the time go by, that's some fine company to keep without ever saying a word.

DESMOND DAVID HUME - Oh, Brothah. What is it about this Scot that is so captivating and puts him at the top of this list? Maybe it's because he's the anti-filler. The show is never moving along with greater speed and fluidity than when he's on the screen. Consider: he first shows up as The Answer to the question that had been driving everyone insane for the better part of 2005: What's In The Hatch? Of course, in typical fashion, that answer led to another three questions, none of which were going to be answered soon, because after making us wait a week through 2.02 (the embodiment of filler), we got to see him for just a few scenes in a single episode before he took off for the duration of the season, only returning for the finale and his first -centric. The best part of that unfortunate 3.01-3.06 dip was the beginning of his precog arc. And from there on, he was well on his way to becoming the most pivotal character on the entire show, the only one who seemed to have even a glimpse of what this might all really be about. Maybe you didn't care for him as much if you don't like stories involving time travel, but those are my very favorite stories, so I could not have been more pumped when the character went in that direction from Season Three on.

And, of course, through all the bells and whistles and flashes, the guy had a simple hook. He was a coward, lost the girl of his dreams, and now wants to win her back. Executed with any degree of competency, that's going to do it for most folks. Of course, the fact that Seasons Four and Five ended with the pair being reunited certainly does not bode well for how things are going to at last resolve for him. But maybe my all-time favorite thing about this guy is the role that he plays in the LA timeline, the way that he's coalescing the ensemble at all costs, doing completely insane shit like running down Locke in the wheelchair or turning himself in to organize a jailbreak or just stopping off to beat the shit out of Ben one more time over here, just to make sure that happens at least once in this timeline. At this point, heading into the finale, the guy's got well over half of the narrative on the weight of his shoulders, the entire LA timeline's relevance and overall emotional impact is contingent upon his actions, and there's no telling what will go down with him and the Monster back in the X Island timeline. But, regardless of how it all turns out, he makes me want to run stairs and lift it up and hoist a few pints with my friends and get my honor back and make my own kind of music, and there's no one I'd rather have behind the wheel, steering us all, at long last, to the end.


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