what they died for: just what i needed
For an episode entitled “What They Died For”, I sure had a rip-roaring good time watching it. While last week’s epic “Across the Sea” was a heavy-handed mythological download, WTDF was a LOSTian romp, filled with Miles quips, Ben flips and the ever-persistent machinations of Hit-and-Run Desmond.
WTDF was 43 minutes of everything LOST has ever been: tragedy (Jin and Sun had a baby, you know); medical drama (I’m going to sew you up now, Kate); romance (BEN AND ROUSSEAU OH EM GEE); comedy (everything Desmond did in this whole episode); schemes (Ben, again, FTW!); death (PEACE OUT ZOE); and an epic date with destiny (Jack’s accepting of the Jacob job). I would be exhausted just thinking about it, but I’ve just chugged a very large cup of coffee. Caffeine for the win!
WTDF was the antithesis to the whole first half of this much-maligned sixth season. For the first eight episodes we were stuck in the temple, twiddling our thumbs with Doo-gen and Stupidface McUseless (aka Lennon); there were two timelines whose connection was not discernable and we were not getting answers. Last night’s episode had more in it than those whole first eight (with a few exceptions, of course). We got a glimpse of most of the characters, and got a sense of where this epic tale might lead.
Also, can I say that I loved all the meta-references in this ep, from Flocke’s repeated mantra that “this is all almost over” and Jacob’s “we only have a certain amount of time left”? The latter example seemed like a Back to the Future reference; if only a disintegrating Jacob would break out into “Johnny Be Good” after telling the remaining candidates that one had to take the job: “Jack Be Good (And Become the Protector of the Island)”
Hey speaking of Back to the Future, check out this amazing shirt.
And while there were many excellent players in this ep (can I mention my love for Buddha Desmond again? “Hey old buddies! Let’s break out of this van and go to a concert! Did I mention that I run over people in wheelchairs in my spare time?”), the MVP of this episode has to go to Ben “I Always Have a Plan” Linus.
Ben’s sudden turnaround to the side of the good guys was one of this season’s most shocking – and, dare I say, moving – moments. Could the master of manipulation really turn towards the light? After some grave digging and Ilana-sploding we were meant to think, yes, this guy has gone through Liar Rehab and has emerged as a better citizen. And that’s when Benji got boring. He lost his mojo! How could he just sit around, quipping about Ilana exploding and following Richard towards some C4?
But in WTDF, he had his “aha moment,” where we saw that the island was not quite done with the long-term project known as Benjamin Linus. He was standing right over Alex’s grave. The death of the only person he ever really loved, which he had caused, was right under him. He couldn’t just sit around and let Guyliner do the talking.
Speaking of Richard, the thorn in my side with this episode: IS RICHARD DEAD? He wanted to take the diplomatic approach with MiBs, but his Smokeyness didn’t have time for talking, so he just clotheslined the ageless other into oblivion. Jigga what? Could it be that our beloved RA, whose death has been faked out or talked about several times this season, could just be smoked away in .5 seconds and never heard from again? COME ON! You can’t have a whole scene dealing with Richard trying to kill himself and then just toss him out into the distance. HE DESERVES BETTER. I hope there’s more to this, LOST, or we’re going to have to sit down and have a chat.
But back to MVP Linus. In pure Ben fashion, he decides that he’s had enough of just blindly following people around and helping with their on-the-fly plans – and thank God! Everyone else this season has been way too go-with-the-flow, from the Temple disaster to the Smokey submarine heist debacle. Praise heaven for the Master Schemer, whose encounter with Alex’s grave finally woke him up from his rehab reverie.
But… do I think Ben has turned his back on his conversion? Nope. While he shot Charles Widmore to show the MiB that he meant business, that was a necessary (and desired) casualty on the road to his ultimate shot at redemption: killing MiB and sacrificing himself for the good of the others and the island. Ben is a wily guy and all, but I don’t think he could turn his back on his desire to change so quickly. MiB should see through that, except he never saw the conversation Ben had with Ilana. According to the MiB, Ben is still the power-craving mastermind he always was. I think the winner of the ultimate con-test (get it? Like a long CON…test?) will be Ben. After all, he has a MAJOR bone to pick with MiB for conning him into killing Jacob. But Ben may have to pay for that victory with his life.
I also give a tip of my hat to Michael Emerson and Terry O’Quinn for the excellent scene of Ben and Flocke on the porch, casually discussing murder and island domination. Get these guys their own show, STAT!
Oh, and Sideways Ben… ca-ching! Best. Surprise. Evar. Rousseau has really nice hair off the island! And she has the hots for Dr. Linus! Like… a lot. Those come hither eyes she gave him over the dishes were both creepy and amazing (creepmazing?). As a mother, wouldn’t you be concerned, not turned on, that your teenage daughter is so close to an older, single teacher? I guess Rousseau saw that PhD and those glasses (and that broken arm and busted face?) and had to lock that down. Many moons ago, I had suspected that Ben might be Alex’s actual father – somehow I feel like this theory has finally been vindicated. Right?!
As a whole with this episode, I commend the writers for abandoning the LOST trademark move of dragging out conversations and decisions. I thought the discussion over who would take over Jacob’s job would take forever, even though Jack was clearly the guy who would step up to the plate. I also appreciated that, FOR ONCE, the characters decided to take a break from traipsing around the jungle and making from-the-gut decisions to sit down and actually consider what’s going on. Since Season 1 I have been screaming at the TV, trying to implore the characters to actually sit down and discuss what was going on with them; they finally figured it out… in the penultimate episode of LOST ever. Sheesh.
I also felt that Jacob really did owe the candidates some explanation even if, as usual, it was cryptic and incomplete. And yet, after all the ish they’ve been through, I don’t think the metaphysics of it all was all that important to the castaways. If you’re former friend’s corpse’s likeness is being taken up by an evil smoke monster, I think you just have to go with the flow. I mean, I always do when that happens to me.
Going into the finale, I am glad to see that we’ve been set up with a mission: stop the MIB from destroying the island, and maybe save the world at the same time. A current LOST-related Heroes-inspired mantra going around the internets is “Save the Cheerful Scotsman, Save the World!” I like it. Now Charles Widmore (I would say he was gone too soon, but, really… what else could that conniving Brit have to say? Once you whisper in MiB’s ear, you’re pretty much done) is out of the picture. But thankfully he did let us know that Desi is the island’s failsafe before doing so. That’s what you get for shooting Alex in the head.
Another great meta moment: When Widmore was whispering into Flocke’s ear – how conniving of you, LOST, to do that to us so late in the game! – Ben expressed the audience’s frustrations with such coyness by popping several caps into his secretive nemesis. You want to drop some frustrating secrets on us, LOST? Well, then I am just going to have to shoot you. Several times.
This is the part of the post where we rejoice that Zoe is dead. DING DONG THAT BITCH IS DEAD! SMOKEY TOOK A KNIFE TO HER HEAD! DING DONG THAT POINTLESS BITCH IS DEAD! The Lockeness Monster said it best himself, “If she wasn’t going to be able to say anything, she was useless to me.” Truer words were never spoken, MiBs. Now you can happily go back to your stripper workout videos, Zoe-lady. There is no more room for your useless whining.
All in all I am fairly satisfied to this lead-in to the most epic finale of all time. I look forward to watching it again, if not only to watch Kate and Sayid’s reactions to Crazy Des in the back of the armored car (also: bribe-taking Ana Lucia! After all this time, I kind of wish you had stuck around, even though I hated you when you were on the show. My bad!).
LOST week continues with Darlton on David Letterman’s Top Ten tonight; the Times Talk LOST broadcast tomorrow night (I’ll be in my local movie theater); Darlton’s last live appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Fri night; the Paley Center on Sat (and possible visit to the NYC LOST-a-thon; donate here!); and, of course, the five-hour-long finale fest that will be taking place on Sunday (two hour retrospective beforehand, 2.5 hour episode, followed by Jimmy Kimmel special). It is the end, my friends. And, my, hasn’t it been a great ride?
Namaste. Check out my twitter over the week for thoughts, event updates etc.