DRIZZLE DRAZZLE DRUZZLE DROME
….Lost becomes a different show!
(Note: This will be a combined review of both Because You Left and The Lie. The reason for this is that I am one of those lucky people that still has a job in this economy, and writing TWO of these things in one week is kinda sorta totally impossible.)
In many ways this was Old School Lost. It opened with the annual Oh Snap! revelation of a mysterious headless person’s identity.
The numbers said Hi.
We saw dead people.
We got a spritz of love triangle flavored angst.
Locke fell backwards from a high place.
Hurley was the sad clown.
There were quirky self referential inside jokes.
And just when it seemed the night might end without a new Jackface, we got one of those too!
It all felt kind of the same. And yet…and yet…it didn’t. Something felt different. It seems our old friend Lost has had a bit of a makeover during the hiatus. Where it used to be a show that dabbled in time travel, such as in The Constant where time travel added resonance to the theme of love lost and love’s constancy found, in Season Five the heads up was given that this show is not just using time travel any longer to tell a tale – It’s ABOUT time travel. It took them four seasons to cough up this revelation in its entirety, but here we have it. And with that Lost fell head first into the rabbithole of paradox and annoying unanswerable questions that are the nature of the time travel beast.
Does time travel go forward, backward, in a loop? Are past events fixed or can the future be reset? Does the time traveler age? What happens to his memories – the ones he already has and the new ones he creates? And what about paradox? What happens when a person travels into the past and sets off a chain of events that preclude any possibility that they could ever have existed to set off that chain of events? Might it really be possible for someone to be his own grandpa?
If Sawyer and Juliet had gone back to the beach while the hatch was still blown, while the beach camp and all its inhabitants were still there, would they have been able to warn themselves about what was to come? Would there have been two shirtless Sawyers on our screen at the same time? Or is that what they mean by the Casimir Effect, that must be avoided at all costs?
One problem with time travel is that a minority of viewers with an unreasonable amount of education tend to intimidate the rest of us with their foofaraw about string theory and exotic matter and closed timelike curves and just generally dazzle us with their stratospheric mathspeak into forgetting that none of this makes a lick of frakking sense.
I mean, if the explanation lies in the existence of a rotating Black Hole that fails to produce a singularity, thereby creating a White Hole fueled by negatively energized exotic matter that can bloop anything within it to infinity and beyond…then are we really doing anything different than pretending that a file cabinet at LesterCorp in the Mertin Flemmer Building can be hiding the entrance to John Malkovich’s head?
I think the whole thing is best explained thusly:
“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.”
– Dr. Who
We need to enjoy time travel for what it is – total and complete nonsense, no more coherent than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But just because it’s Wonderland, that doesn’t mean it’s an anarchy. It’s just that the laws, the rules, can be whatever the writers decide to make them. So the first order of business, as we set out on the journey of Season Five, is to establish just exactly what rules these fiendish minds have chosen for this brave new world they’ve brought us into. What’s the answer, Mr. Wizard?
Lost may have seemed like a whimsical world of pretty people undergoing existentialist crises while trapped in an absurdist tropical madhouse, but by tossing all its cookies into the time travel realm, our story has suddenly become constricted by a very stringent set of imaginary, but nonetheless absolute, Rulez and Lawz. If we’re going to stay on this ride, we need to live them, learn them, love them. So, I’d like to take a first crude stab at codifying them. With sincere apologies to all time travel purists who are offended by my flippant attitude towards this most sanctified realm of science fiction, I hereby present my version of
1. Time is like a street.
You can travel up the street and down the street but you can not make a new street. I don’t know why this is. If time can be a frakking street why can’t we make as many Time Streets as we want? Because the Time Fairy says so, that’s why. In Time Travel Island, there is only one Time Street. It’s like an old Western town with just one dusty road down the middle, with lots of crazy gin joints lined up on it. This is not Alternate Universe style time travel here.
2. Even though you can’t make a new Time Street, it seems you can sort of fold Time Street back onto itself.
Or maybe it’s like a four way intersection. As an example, The Ghost of Ethan Past shot Locke in the leg, which could possibly explain (in a murky kind of timey wimey way) why Locke fell inexplicably lame years later when he and Boone “first” encountered the Beechcraft in Season One.
3. Traffic accidents are always an imminent threat on Time Street.
If a car traveling forward has a head on collision with a car traveling backward, it seems the byproduct of that collision will be the creation of a new memory where that memory didn’t exist before. Desmond didn’t remember the day Daniel knocked on his door to ask him to visit his Mum at Oxford U., until Daniel’s car backed up on Time Street and sideswiped Desmond’s car going forward. Of course, the Paradox Monster comes into play here, since if Desmond knew it was possible to exist outside the hatch without a space suit, he wouldn’t have been sitting there listening to Mama Cass when Locke first came to visit. But pay no attention to the Paradox Monster! That’s what our Magical Time Travel Wand is for. Be gone, Paradox! This is not that difficult, people.
4. The mind can travel through time without the body, but the body can not travel through time without the mind.
Also you get to keep the clothes on your back when you time travel, and your cool Zodiac boat, but you can’t bring any matches.
6. The characters are not driving their own cars on Time Street.
There is no time travel device, no Wayback Machine or Delorean, that can be calibrated to control the time travel. It’s all freestyle. The timeskippers are helpless passengers at the mercy of the Time God. This means they could end up literally anywhere at any time. The implications are fascinating. For instance, at one point Sawyer pulls a stick out of his bloody oozing foot.
This being the tropics, and Sawyer being one of those who seems immune to the healing properties of the island, that thing might well end up as a case of gangrene. Now that Sawyer and his foot are being held hostage on an Island careening madly down Time Street, could stepping on that broken arrow ultimately turn out to be the explanation for this?
5. When time trips out on Time Street, you might wake up and find that the Time God has hijacked your car and someone else is driving it.
The possibilities are pretty exciting actually. The Leftover Losties have already encountered a gang of barbaric soldiers with British accents, the kind of guys who will launch a flaming arrows massacre and then hunt you down and chop off your hands. So that’s going to be fun. This is where not being able to drive your own Time Car is going to be a huuuuge problem.
7. Only major characters can time skip. Anyone without a long term contract with ABC pretty much has to stay put in whatever intersection on Time Street they’ve been stranded on. This is an adjunct to the Rule of Redshirt, wherein only SAG day laborers die, even when withering medieval death rains from the sky.
The pretty people will live to see another harrowing adventure. The actors who didn’t keep up on those dental appointments will be flipping burgers back at Wendy’s on Monday.
8. The memories of the timeskippers travels with them, while those of the fixed characters seem to disappear. This explains why Richard was so disappointed that Baby Locke didn’t remember being given a compass in the “past”, and insisted on grabbing the knife instead.
Little Locke didn’t remember he had once owned the compass because Big Locke hadn’t been given it yet.
And Richard didn’t remember that the little boy with the Brylcream hair was the same person as the baldheaded mook with the crazy eyes, because Richard was not timeskipping at the time. Yet he does remember that he’s not going to remember, because….
…I don’t know. I think there might be a lot of drunk drivers on Time Street.
9. The source of the Time God is something that’s buried deep in the heart of the Island.
The episode began with a flurry of question answering. Marvin Candle used to have two arms. He was also kind of a dick to his workers. It turns out he came to the Island because he was fully aware of its magical time traveling properties. And even though he made all those misleading videotapes for the Dharma Initiative, he had no problem spilling the big secret to any hardhat who was working on the project. The Dharma Initiative did not put the eightspoked wheel of Time Bloop in the belly of the island. It was there before they came. And it is unclear whether anyone had ever decided to actually turn the thing before Benjamin Linus took it upon himself to finally do the deed.
10. Time travel makes your brain bleed out of your nose unless you have a constant.
Actually the concept of the Constant remains undefined. It may be that this theme was only useful for the one episode, as a metaphor for Desmond and Penny’s fidelity, or it may resurface later in some interesting permutation, such as the Oceanic Six (or perhaps just one of them) being the Constant that the Island needs to keep it from having a stroke. It was also unexplained why Charlotte was the only one of the timeskippers whose nose bled. Desmond’s nose bled when his 1996 traveled to the future, and Eloise’s brain bled out because of future travel as well. But the reasons for the nosebleeds suffered by Minkowski, Horace Goodspeed and the mineworker don’t lend to easy explanation. My guess is whatever the reason for Charlotte’s nosebleed, she’s been tagged as a goner. After all, how are they going to maintain the constant 3:1 ratio of Male:Female characters on this show if they don’t keep up the pace killing off the girls?
11. Whatever happened, happened.
This actually appears to be the penultimate Rule of All Rules in the Book of Lawz. This will not be a reset style time travel story. Cause will follow effect, in exactly the same determinist manner as they appear to do in our real world. Anything that seems as if it might be a rip in the fabric of time will be healed by ensuing events. This concept was previously described for us as Course Correction, which is more formally known as Novikov’s Self Consistency Principle. And we may have been seeing this all along, how past and future knit together to make sure, for example, Locke doesn’t climb up to the Beechcraft and fall and die.
Instead Boone gets to be the lucky one.
Because destiny, or…you know, the Island…demanded it. In a way this is bound to the idea that, since everything causes something else in a way that is fixed and immutable, the known result in effect causes itself to happen. Charlie died because he’d been told he had to die in order to create a future that in actuality never required him to die. The future causes the past just as surely as the past causes the future. The way this Book of Lawz has been written, there is no element of chance. Whatever is going to happen has already happened – sort of like whether Kate will choose Sawyer or Jack – and we just have to wait patiently to see how it is all going to play out.
12. Desmond is uniquely and miraculously Special.
For Desmond, and only for Desmond, none of these rules apply. Right after Daniel explained to Sawyer that he must not interact with the past because he could not interact with the past….Daniel immediately tried to interact with the past. And he succeeded. The only example Desmond gave of his Ultimate Rule was its exception. Not only did Daniel change the past by telling Desmond to visit his Mum in Oxford, he immediately altered the future that would have been, because that memory sprang into Desmond’s future consciousness, at just that very moment, and he dashed off to do what he had been told to do so many years in the past, that he had never remembered being told until that moment. Obviously this is how they are going to escape the Paradox Monster, by letting Desmond be a free agent in the timescape. Desmond is the wild card that will keep the story from spiralling into a void of pointless repetition.
So there we have it. The rules of order have been laid down and now we will see what kind of story can be spun from them. This is New Lost, which hopefully won’t suffer the same fate as New Coke, but which is definitely not the same as Old Lost. The premiere seems to have generated good buzz, but I wonder if I’m the only one who felt a little something was missing. A little…I don’t know…heart. Maybe it was just a casualty of time – the real kind of time – where because there was so much to stuff into one episode, there was only time to give us the bare bones of each character’s story. Interestingly, every character was represented, if only in flashback mode. And some characters definitely seemed to be taking on new importance.
Widmore scolded Sun for disrespecting him, but they continued to bond over their mutual agenda. It is starting to seem that, among Mr. Widmore’s many assets, he also wields a controlling interest of some kind in Oceanic Airlines itself.
Capo Kwon really put the screws to Kate, even though I’m pretty sure Kate didn’t get it. No way Sun forgives either Kate or Jack for what happened to Jin. And she seems awfully interested in Aaron having a play date with Ji Yeon, even though that seems like it would involve a rather inconvenient amount of transoceanic plane travel.
Little Aaron has grown up to the stage where he’s asking cute metaphysical questions about his morning cartoons. He’s really talking now! Unfortunately, his function in the plot at the moment seems to be that of sacrificial lamb. It still seems that he’s the one the Island is ultimately after.
Kate feels really, really bad about everything. She’s scared because it seems some genius has finally realized the Big O6 Lie was full of holes, and now her charade with Aaron is about to be exposed. But she didn’t call Jack! Good girl.
Jack, meanwhile, shaved off his addictions with a Gillette Mach 2. I wonder why more crackheads don’t just try this excellent method of detox. It seems to be so much more comfortable than the more conventional weeping and vomiting and convulsions method.
Sayid had a comic book Death by Dishwasher fight in the not safe house, but after that he mostly got a chance to catch up on his rest.
Ben as usual has his spoon in every cooking pot. Once he sends Jack toddling home to pack up his undies, he manages to get Locke put on ice with a creepy Mrs. Lovett kind of butcher lady. For such a socially awkward dweeb, Ben sure has friends everywhere! He screwed up with Hurley though and had to run off to say his prayers before getting a smackdown from the Grand High Mistress of Time Mystery herself, the ivory coiffed Mrs. Hawking.
Mrs. Hawking seems to have truly mastered the synergy between Faith and Science, planting her geotracking math lab in the bowels of an ancient Catholic church.
Hurley was heavily featured in these premiere episodes. It turns out that only Hurley saw the flaws inherent in the stupid, self serving Lie that was concocted on The Searcher. His basic sincerity and goodheartedness has been in constant conflict with The Lie since the day he returned. Nonetheless he is bound and determined to never go back – at least, not if it means he has to go back with Ben. It was good to see Hurley again. Even if we can’t understand what the hell is going on in the plot, Hurley grounds us. No matter how complex Lost gets, they never forget to remind us that Hurley…
… is fat.
Juliet continued to be the most heroic of characters. She was brave, selfless and good. Clearly, she’ll meet a tragic end.
Miles also talks to dead animals. They say “Eat me.”
Charlotte seemed to be embarking on one of those fakey EQ-deficient romances with Daniel, the kind of romance that Lost likes to put its female characters in right before they get killed off.
Daniel’s role in the story increased exponentially in size. He is the skinny tied Tooter Turtle of our story,
the keeper of the Book of Lawz, and as such, has been designated as the character who will keep up the facade that this new time travel fantasy is based in something resembling science. What’s more, Professor Faraday has clearly been a busy boy. My guess is that the scene of him appearing down in the mineshaft, in the opening minutes, takes place in a part of the past that Daniel has not yet visited.
I think his journey to the center of the earth is going to be one of the ongoing story threads of the coming season, because Daniel knows a lot, but he’s still in search of the ultimate answer, the uncaused cause of all this chaos.
Desmond is “uniquely and miraculously special.” He is the living embodiment of Godel’s Incompleteness Theory. The one aberration in the Book of Lawz. This will certainly be spelled out in greater detail as the story unfolds. In New Lost, Desmond has morphed from Odysseus back to the guy who makes his own kind of music.
The shapeshifting of some characters felt like as much of a set up as the laying down of the new time travel lexicon. But as much as I enjoyed watching them set up the board for the new game, I have to admit there was something missing for me. I didn’t really feel anything from any of these characters – except one.
Sawyer seems to be the one character who has survived all this time trippage with his heart and soul intact. When he broke down at the hatch that Daniel wouldn’t let him enter, when he growled “I know what I can’t change”, the despair and the grief that was ravaging him came through like heartbreak. For me, that was the only genuine moment of real emotion in the whole two hours. Sawyer has become more than just the Han Solo of Lost.
He’s becoming the Everyman, the entry point for the audience. He asks normal questions. He worries about normal things, like getting food. He feels real pain and real loss that the sacrifice he made for Kate ended up sending her (he thinks) to her death. Who would ever have guessed in Season One that the emotional heart of this story would ever turn out to be Sawyer?
Of course, Lost being Lost, it’s not as if we weren’t left with dozens of new questions in this episode:
How exactly did the Island’s movement in Time make it impossible to see its location in Space?
WHY does Locke have to die to get the O-Suckers back?
Why will the whole plot fail if Locke isn’t brought with them? Does Locke have some kind of metareligous resurrection waiting for him?
How did people like Richard, Ethan and Tom travel back and forth to the Island so cavalierly in earlier seasons, if the whole thing has suddenly become so confoundedly difficult?
Was it significant that, when Desmond cranked up the anchor on his boat, the chain kept running down?
Is it worth noting that Dr. Chang was wearing a lab coat from The Arrow Station, designated for the development of defensive strategies against the Hostiles, when we have now learned that the weapon of choice for some earlier hostiles was indeed holocaust by flaming arrow?
Was it a coincidence that whenever the Time God did his oogedy boogedy, it looked so much like Smoky?
But most importantly, I’m wondering this: If everything course corrects, if everything happens as it happened and there’s no possibility of interference, why is Mrs. Hawking having such a cow over the possibility that the O6 won’t all go back? Unless that Rule is not true, it doesn’t seem like human intervention is required here.
So, is it true? If nothing can be changed, if everything happens as it must, then wasn’t the escape of the O6 just all part of the grand inalterable scheme? And if they have to go back to make things work out right, then haven’t they, on some other coordinate of the timespace grid, already gone back? What is everyone stressing about? Seems like all they need to do is chill out and let the universe work its will, right? So why is Ben lighting holy candles and saying his prayers?
Obviously the Book of Lawz has a few more chapters left to be studied.