The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

LOST Rewatch: “Maternity Leave”, “The Whole Truth”, “Lockdown” & “Dave”

Posted by therebelprince on August 16, 2009

“When I need the guns, I’ll get the guns.”

– Jack Shephard

It’s an odd set of episodes this week. Among them, the worst episode to date: “Maternity Leave”, and some pretty good dynamics in “The Whole Truth” and “Lockdown”, which somewhat opens us up for the next chapter of Lost.

In “Maternity Leave”, Claire goes on a mission to find out just what happened to her during her mysterious absence last season. Apparently, this is ridiculous and insane – or at least that’s how Kate and the rest of the Losties react, for some reason. (The same reason Charlie blatantly refused to believe in the Others back in Man of Science, Man of Faith no doubt?) What she does discover – that Ethan drugged her and kept her in another hatch set up like a nursery, promising to adopt her baby after its birth – is interesting, and while I’m not a huge fan of Emilie de Ravin or her character, Claire gets some nice character snippets here. She’s finally come to love her baby and is beginning to accept her place on the island. Unfortunately, there’s no logical reason why everyone else acts the way they do, nor why the show seems to think it’s a surprise that Rousseau is one of the good guys. Meh, whatever. The only good thing to come out of it is we briefly see Alex Rousseau (Tania Raymonde). Oh, and we learn that Ethan was supposed to make his equivalent “list” first and that was his mission, which at least tidies things up nicely.

In the hatch, meanwhile, “Henry Gale” – or, as we’ll learn soon, an Other named Benjamin Linus – continues to cause conflict. Ben is a clever and droll character, expertly conveyed by Michael Emerson: he’s ten different types of crazy, yet you can never quite tell whether he’s being earnest or whether he’s playing you. Rather stupidly, Jack is suddenly on side regarding the treatment of “Henry”. Yes, he’s done a complete 180 this week for no reason other than poor writing. The problem with plot-based narratives like this (as opposed to character-based ones like Mad Men) is that they inevitably lead to forced conflicts between characters which are then conviently forgotten. Last week Jack showed signs of dementia as he fought to release, or at least stop interrogating, the man who showed up out of the blue. Here, he finally shows sense but it’s only because the writers wanted him to be off side last week and on it this time. Similarly, we’re supposed to believe that there’s a good reason for keeping Henry secret: there’s not, but it wouldn’t be fun if everyone was rational, I guess. Later, Jack lets Eko meet the prisoner just to apologise for killing some Others. It’s a nice scene, and well played byAdewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, but completely stupid: if they don’t want to risk contact, why let Eko in for THAT? I’m also a little surprised at how easily Locke is manipulated by Henry. Certainly, Locke is being given “pity permission” to be part of the Losties A-Team, even though Jack tends to make decisions: but the burst of anger it causes in Locke just isn’t consistent with the character that we’ve seen to date. Thankfully, this entire crapfest is the only episode written by the team of Dawn Lambertson Kelly and Matt Ragghianti, so I’ll asume the show learned from this mistake.

You know, while season 2 hasn’t been a waste, it in fact feels like an extension of season one. Except for our three new characters – four now with Ben – we’ve covered just three short weeks in the lives of the Losties, and it feels like it. Most of the drama has come either in flashbacks or in fake tension spent through dozens of jungle treks. I’d really consider this season the continuation of the show’s “first act”.

In “The Whole Truth”, Ben/Henry becomes a sounding board for various Losties as he is held in the Hatch. I appreciate Ana-Lucia’s underhanded interrogation and subsequent treatment of the information she learns. With Sayid and Charlie, she sets out to find – and does find – Henry Gale’s balloon. Unfortunately, nearby is the dead body of Henry Gale himself. Busted!

The weirdest moments in these episodes are how previous events are completely ignored. Charlie becomes the comic character again in the jungle trek, and Sawyer is his usual delightfully backward self. I understand that Charlie’s own problems are internal and not known by many, but it’s bewildering to see the show completely ignore them again as he becomes pre-Ethan Charlie all of a sudden. Again we see that the character’s overall arcs conflict with the season’s somewhat forced episodic nature, leading to a feeling of discontinuity. Clearly, the pressure (or desire) to make the show easily accessible to new viewers was going to clash sharply with the aims of being a series with epic mythology. (JJ Abrams has been quite blatant in stating that his new show, Fringe, will somehow have the best of both worlds – an epic mythology which won’t rely on viewers watching each week.) It’s a pity because while the ratings had certainly slipped, the show still remained a top 20 player the entire season. It could’ve used a bit more continuity between episodes, which strangely would come stronger and stronger even as the series dipped further and further in the ratings!

In the flashback story, there are good moments for Sun, Jin and Jae Lee (Tony Lee). I love the moments in their relationship when Jin begins to feel just like a toyboy, and I adore the character of Lee, who is written as so much more than a broken love interest for Sun. (I wonder if his American woman was ever intended to be someone we’ve met?) It’s not the most exciting of flashbacks, to be honest, but it’s well-acted and it gives us Sun’s pregnancy and the mysteries behind it.

In “Lockdown”, undoubtedly the best of the episodes, we get a genuinely interesting flashback when Locke’s father Anthony (Kevin Tighe) is apparently killed, and Locke and Helen (Katey Sagal) deal with the dramatic aftermath. It’s mighty interesting to see pre-Island Locke in a life-and-death situation, and his attempts to protect and hold on to both Helen and his father can only end in tragedy. I adore Helen and her sweet understanding of Locke, and their breakup is utterly devastating. I’m obviously not so concerned about the cold conman Anthony, but we’ll see him soon enough on the Island so I’ll save my thoughts till then.

More importantly, an unexpected lockdown hits the Swan and traps Locke and Ben together. When they fail to push the button, a bizarre map appears on the wall in front of Locke. Turns out, it’s all part of a food resupply delivery – evidently from someone who doesn’t know that things fell apart on the Island. As a result, the Losties have plenty of food and we’re reminded of the seemingly endless scope of the DHARMA Initiative. After it’s done, Ben delivers a game changing shock: he didn’t push the button. Sadly, the meaning behind everything on the Island won’t begin to be revealed for some time, as the writers were still hoping to continue running for as long as possible – but we’re getting closer to finding things out.

In the final episode for the week, “Dave”, we get a whole bunch of boring.  Hurley’s food hording – which has been so overly played in previous episodes – comes to a head and he seeks out the help of Libby. She’s really lovely, even if we’re never going to understand her meaning, although I couldn’t help wondering when she and Hurley destroyed the food that they could’ve just shared it! Still, Hurley feeling free afterward is a beautiful moment. Jorge Garcia has really grown on me, and it’s great to see him utilising his full talent after primarily being comic relief in season one.

In flashbacks, we get Hurley’s therapist (Bruce Davison) and his imaginary friend Dave (Evan Handler) who later appears on the Island to taunt him by attempting to convince Hurley that everything that happened is a dream. Apparently the original script for this episode was rejected by ABC because it too convincingly posited that idea, and the network didn’t want people worrying that this fantastic idea was the solution to all of Lost‘s mysteries. Either way, the entire sequence is a bit so what? While it’s affecting to see Hurley in the institution, it’s ultimately one of the most disconnected flashbacks we’ve had yet. The only insight we gain is a tiny – now never-to-be-understood – flashback that Libby was a fellow inmate. (In an interview after it was clear that Watros was not going to return after an unfortunate writers’ strike snafu during the fourth season, the producers revealed she went mad after her husband’s death and there was apparently nothing more to it).

Beyond this, the inclusion of Dave himself is quite confusing. It’s kinda like Adama’s visions of his wife in that episode of Battlestar Galactica: as a show which had actual characters (angels) appearing like visions, adding another vision from a different origin just became too confusing. Similarly, with all the people already appearing across the island, how are we to distinguish Dave from Walt or Christian Shephard? I do think that the idea of Hurley worrying that everything is a psychotic dream of his has merit, but I think it could have been presented in a way that fitted in better with the fabric of the show.

In conclusion, this time the flashbacks themselves feel relevant but the island stuff is moving at an utterly glacial pace. Aside from the Ben stuff, nothing else really happens on the Island this week. We’re 62 days into the new society, and thankfully next week Michael will return to kick-start things.

Again, there’s not much to learn here about the overall mythology. We get tiny mentions of Jacob, and hints of other hatches from the blast door map but really the biggest information is that Alex and Ethan exist(ed) as part of a project looking into fertility. Truthfully, the second season is like the first: most of the basic stuff has been answered and only the overarching questions remain. (It’s been ages since we’ve seen the monster…)

Next week: we’ll ponder the truth on the departing trio of Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Watros and Harold Perrineau. Elsewhere, we’ll discover the story of Rose and Bernard, and inch ever closer to the end of the season.  Namaste.

Diverse observations:

* Sawyer conveniently finds new glasses, even though I thought he tried them all last season to find just one pair. Whatever.

* Locke is becoming the new Desmond, particularly evident when he rides the Hatch’s exercise bike.

* Jack comments that he learned to play cards in Phuket. We won’t see him learn cards, but we will see him visit Thailand eventually.

* We get our first indication of Jacob, and Ben’s fear of doing wrong by him.

* And Daniel Dae Kim proved wonderful enough to merit special mention this week, particularly when amused by Hurley and Sawyer fighting in “Dave”. I really can’t wait till he gets to speak English.

Given that many of the “official” LOST Rewatchers seem to have given up, this week’s shoutouts go to three of my fellow “unofficial” ones:

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