Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Lost Untangled:' The Substitute

*Warning: Spoilers ahead from the recent episode of Lost*

Lots of Lost fans are busy around them there internets saying that they're pleased with the most recent Locke-centric episode, "The Substitute." I'm not one of them.

I know I'm supposed to be embracing this whole sideways flash novelty -- otherwise known as the parallel reality comparing the uncrashed Losties' lives against the post-crash/post-Jughead Losties' existence on the island. I completely embraced the flashbacks in the early days, the revolutionary flashforwards introduced in the season three finale to awesome effect. I was even willing to suspend the plaguing feeling I got when I worked really hard to follow along with the time travel business which occurred last season. I've loved wading through the literary, Biblical and pop culture allusions and the various clues. I've paused the show to examine what was on screen, like the map on the Hatch's blast door that had pinned down Locke in the season two episode "Lockdown."

But the sideways flashes conflict with everything we've come to learn about the backstories of the Losties.

While I watched "The Substitute" with my spouse, another Lost fan, and saw that Locke got fired for deceiving his boss about his Australian walkabout (pretended he went on a business trip paid for by the company), that Locke was with and getting married to Helen and that he was considering inviting his "father" to their wedding, we were thunderstruck. Did none of the previous episodes we'd watched over the years have any meaning? Were they all for naught?

I dug out DVDs of previous seasons to confirm how wildly divergent these sideways flashes were from the history of Locke we'd been presented. Previous episodes showed that Locke told his obnoxious boss that he'd saved up vacation days and was going on the walkabout, about which his pinheaded boss mercilessly harassed him. The love of his life, Helen, had left him, even when he was down on his knees offering up a lifetime of wedded bliss, because of his obsession with his con man of a father. His father pushed him out of a high-rise window rendering him paralyzed when John threatened to expose him as a con artist. Just before leaving for Australia, John had found a woman named "Helen" on one of those pay-per-chat phone lines (typically used for, well, you know), had been regularly speaking with her for eight months, and asked her to accompany him on the walkabout, only to have her tell him that she couldn't go out with a customer.

Events in people's lives would obviously have changed if Oceanic 815 hadn't crashed on the island and if the Dharma Initiative was halted in the 1970s following the detonation of Jughead. But, seriously, how would all of these other things have changed and how, in the short time that's left until the series finale, can writers possibly make all of this seem logical, logical in the world of Lost, that is?

The Numbers -- which we now know correlate with numbers Jacob assigned to possible "candidates" to replace him to be protectors of the island (very cool twist) -- were always bad luck for Hurley. He thought they were cursed. He thought he was cursed. People around him got hurt and he attributed that to the Numbers and his bad luck. Look at poor Tricia Tanaka. How is it possible that by preventing the Oceanic crash on the island and changing the island's history, that, somehow, Hurley would be a successful businessman? That he'd be a different person?

I was on board with the let's-see-how-this-alternate-reality-of-uncrashed-Losties plays out. Found it interesting, seeing if their lives would've been better (or worse) if their plane had safely landed in LA. But having fundamental bedrock stories about these characters' backstories become so radically transformed, I just can't wrap my head around it. After years of carefully constructing these characters, to toss out everything we've known about them as if the past never happened -- at least not as we've been told that events had occurred -- makes me wonder if the rest of the future episodes are going to tick me off in the way "The Substitute" did.

But it wasn't all bad. I DID like, totally bought and was thoroughly entertained by the scene with Ben Linus as a history teacher complaining that his colleagues had left an empty coffee pot and dirty coffee filter in the coffee maker in the teachers' lounge. It made sense because his father would've never gone to the island had Jughead gone off and therefore, Ben would've lived an entirely differently life, as opposed to the Hurley's suddenly lucky storyline.

Are the writers going to try to create some forced storyline about Locke's dad that, because the island blew up, he somehow never became a con man, therefore he never conned Sawyer's mom so Sawyer's dad never killed her and then himself, that he never conned Locke out of a kidney and later pushed him out of a window rendering him paralyzed? So Locke got paralyzed in some other way?

I'm with Jorge Garcia, who plays Hurley, who, when informed about these new sideways flashes, told USA Today, "I was like, 'What?' It's a lot to swallow.'" And feel similarly to a Boston Globe TV critic who said, "I'm enjoying this season, but only when I'm able to let go of that gnawing, and very human, hunger for logic and sense."

I really hope I'm wrong. I hope it's all going to work out in the end. Guess that depends on whether I'm a fan with faith or a fan who's become jaded because she fears she's being taken down a rabbit hole.

1 comment:

Vixen said...

I am always lost on LOST, it's one of the reasons I became so addicted to it. And I do understand their lives would be different if the plane hadn't crashed. But I too, did not understand the 'invite your dad' to the wedding thing. That fundamental part of the story doesn't seem to be in anyway affected by the use of jughead? My husband and I both looked at each other and said "WHAT?" too!

But I am addicted and I can't wait to see what they pull out of their hats next.