Lost Wednesdays: Smokey and the Torturer

March 3, 2010
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“Only thing that wd have made 2nites #Lost ep better–if Sayid had turned to camera & said “I’m on a horse.” Sayid Jarrah, Badass at Large.” – Maureen Ryan’s TVitter

Lost‘s final season seemed to take a sharp turn this week, putting an end to the temple waiting game in a conclusively badass fashion. Sayid kicking ass is one of the most visceral pleasures of the show – one of my all-time favorite moments was him snapping an Other’s neck with his legs in “Through the Looking Glass.” So when the episode gets going early with an all-out martial arts rumble with Dogen, and ends with Sayid killing five people in cold-blood – across two timelines! – you know it’s going to be a fun ride.

In retrospect, there wasn’t really too much temple dawdling in total – some in the 2-hour premiere and “What Kate Does,” with a little more in “Lighthouse.” But with a weekly airing, we think a lot about the waiting around while we’re waiting around for the next episode. Dogen and Lennon were underdeveloped characters, but in retrospect they were red herrings, designed to make us feel there was something more there to be discovered that would reveal deeper mysteries. When Sayid leaves them dead in the pool, I’m left satisfied that they served their purpose as casualties of faith.

Of course we still don’t know much more than we did before the Smokey/Sayid bloodbath. Supposedly Locke is leading the side of evil, and the creepy glares of Claire and Sayid seem to confirm the dark side. But at this point, I’m pulling for Smokey – he’s direct, follows through with his actions, and doesn’t play games. Jacob is the most passive aggressive demi-god I’ve ever seen, making vague promises to force people to carry his water with no explanations or rationale. I’m hoping it proves to be more complicated than good vs. evil, but as of now, I’m all about the evil.

The sideways story was less compelling in terms of character than the previous two weeks, but it did have some nice cameo moments. The notion that Sayid ultimately cannot change his killer ways is a frequent refrain for his character, and this iteration didn’t add much. It was disappointing that unlike the other characters we’ve focused on thus far, Sayid seems further from his goals in this reality – Nadia’s married to his un-badass brother, and Sayid is just as guilt-ridden as ever. But it was worth it to see Keamy and his eggs (as channeled by a Christopher Walken impression), and the tease of tied-up Jin.

I’m a bit disappointed that the meta-pattern of episode flashbacks that I discussed before has been broken without any playful acknowledgment. Based on the season 1 mirror pattern, this should have been a Sun/Jin episode – and the title “Sundown” would have worked well for that! But they didn’t even tease or allude to the pattern, derailing the game that they seem to have set in motion without any clear rationale. Lost encourages us to look for patterns where there might be none, so it’s a shame when they ignore a pattern that is clearly there. But of course it does clear the decks for a Ben episode next week, so all is forgiven.

And speaking of patterns, I believe this was the first flash sideways where the protagonist doesn’t have a protracted moment looking in the mirror. I think that Smokey’s promise to Sayid that he could be granted his wish might point to the function of the flash-sideways: the “reward” for setting free the Smoky genie from his island bottle. And as with all tales of granted wishes, there’s a catch. But I’m not sure how the mirrors and timelines would work… yet.

Random favorite fanboy moment: a close call between Sayid drowning Dogen in the pool and Keamy’s eggs. But I’ll go with the final shot of Locke smirking as he leads his recruits into… what?



14 Responses to “ Lost Wednesdays: Smokey and the Torturer ”

  1. Sean C. Duncan on March 3, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    I was really, really impressed with Kevin Durand in his brief reappearance as Keamy. This was a character that served a simple purpose in S4 and never got much (any?) backstory, so I’m a little sorry he was dispatched so early in last night’s episode. But, this strikes me as the obvious model for casting cameos from here on out — minor character that could have been any of a number of previous characters (Keamy, Eko, Kelvin, Goodwin) and I’m assuming was mainly cast because Durand was available. I’m expecting to see many other minor appearances like this from here on out (and it sounds like Maggie Grace’s return as Shannon might be something similar). I also hope we’ve seen the last of Nadia, as I’m really, really sick of Gabriel’s awful fake Iraqi accent.

    I’m a bit disappointed at how predictable some elements of the story have become. We know by now that anyone brought in at this late of a date will end up getting quickly dispatched, and I had Dogen, Lennon and Cindy all pegged as goners at the beginning of the episode (so I guess I was only 2/3 correct). One of the series’ major flaws, in my opinion, has been the repeated need to reset it back to the conflicts present in S1 — first by dispatching the tailies (other than Bernard), then slowly dispatching the Others (other than Ben), then slowly dispatching the freighties (other than Miles and Lapidus). I’m enjoying seeing this new configuration of “teams” so far, but wish the interim events had more of a significant impact.

    Note — this is the first episode to break the S1 flashback pattern. It should have been a Jin/Sun flashback, I believe, and I wonder if that’s significant in any way. Next week’s looks to be Ben-centric, and though the announcer claimed it would feature Ben’s “demise,” that’s patently ridiculous given how little this previously-central character has had to do in the past few weeks.

    • Sean C. Duncan on March 3, 2010 at 8:40 AM

      Also, I keep forgetting how they do credits on this series, but Henry Ian Cusick was listed in the opening credits but I didn’t catch any sight of Desmond in the episode. Did I miss it or is this just another case (like Harold Perrineau in S4) in which the actor is listed in credits long before they re-appear in the show?

      • Jason Mittell on March 3, 2010 at 9:20 AM

        The way that credits for TV series is done is tied up in actor contracts. My guess is that to get Cusick (or s4 Perrineau) back for the number of episodes they wanted, his agent required series regular listing (which also means more $), meaning appearing in every credit sequence regardless of actual appearance. Personally, I like it because it avoids the spoiler effect of seeing an actor appear as a guest star in the credits before s/he appears on the show. And it sets up the anticipation that Desmond might pop up at any moment!

        • Myles McNutt on March 3, 2010 at 12:21 PM

          Yeah – there were initial concerns when Desmond wasn’t in any of the pre-season promotional materials (he is absent from the cast photo, for example), but Lindelof and Cuse stated very clearly that his absence was more story-driven than salary-driven, assuring us he is still a season regular and still has a role to play.

  2. Erika on March 3, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    Sayid has long been one of, if not my favorite, Lostie. And as much as I enjoy watching him kick ass, I’ve been disappointed in his character arc probably since season 3 (it’s been awhile since I’ve seen seasons 2-4). He seemed to start the series with a similar theme to Kate, a good person who does bad things. But Sayid’s been reduced to a killing machine who lacks that initial depth I enjoyed so much.

    Best thing about last night’s episode – the almost complete lack of Jack.

    • Jason Mittell on March 3, 2010 at 9:57 AM

      I see the depth in Sayid’s angst about his “true nature” that distinguishes him from Kate. She seems to selfishly do bad things to survive & escape, and never really regrets her actions. He does bad things for what he sees as a greater purpose (perhaps a greater “good”, but that term is under attack on the show at the moment), and always bears the weight of regret. Sayid’s function on the show is as an amalgamation of various henchman roles – the muscle, the tech genius, the undercover agent – who keeps changing bosses. It’s never for money, but rather for something bigger like justice or saving loved ones, at the cost of his own soul.

      • Sean on March 3, 2010 at 3:57 PM

        Yeah, I’m with Jason on this interpretation — the key flashback for me was last season (?) when we got to see Sayid as the kid who would do the dirty jobs that his weaker older brother wouldn’t do. Sayid’s conflict is all about being the one who did what needed to be done (sideways-Sayid killing Keamy last night seems to be another manifestation of this), even when he knows it might make his life even harder.

        One thing I noticed last night — of the three main Oceanics that are part of Team Smokey now (Claire, Sayid, Sawyer), all of them still seem inordinately hung up on people they’d lost. Claire seems to have gone insane over the loss of Aaron, Sayid is still destroyed because of Nadia’s death, and even after he seemed to get some peace after killing Locke’s dad and getting over his parents’ death, Sawyer now seems hung up on Juliet’s death.

        So much of the show has been about choices and how the cast deals with death, and I don’t see this as a coincidence. Jack doesn’t seem terribly torn up about his father anymore, Kate’s never seemed particularly bothered by what she did, and Ben actually seems remorseful for his actions. I’m guessing this will become more important as the season progresses?

  3. Jason Mittell on March 3, 2010 at 9:03 PM

    A brief addendum: I wrote above that I thought the sideways might be the reward for people like Sayid helping Smokey off the island. Thinking more about it, here’s my latest take on it:

    Smokey has generally been quite truthful in his claims, except that Jacob is not protecting the island from something. The balance of black & white on the island allows it to exist – once Jacob & Smokey are not there to maintain that balance, it ceases to be. Over the next few episodes, Smokey will succeed in leaving, which will create a ripple effect that retroactively causes the island to sink as we witnessed in “LA X.” (Time being non-linear for Trafalmadorians like Jacob & Smokey, of course!)

    The timeline will reboot in a way that all of our island friends will have the semi-happy lives free of Jacob’s meddling that we’ve been seeing… except for some residual lingering traces of the past. I figure Desmond, who became special with the failsafe, somehow can straddle these realities and is able to put the band back together in 2004, where they go back to the underwater island to do something really important but cryptic for somebody (Widmore? Faraday? Jacob’s ghost?). And that’s where the show will end, with redemption, struggle, and a really big close-up of somebody’s eye.


    • Jonathan Gray on March 4, 2010 at 12:18 AM

      yes on the eye close-up, not sure about the rest 😉

      • Sean C. Duncan on March 5, 2010 at 6:49 AM

        Yeah, the eye close-up seems a no-brainer. Re: Desmond, I don’t know about the reality skipping, but I do suspect he’ll play a role not unlike Faraday did last season. Show up in the first few minutes of the episode and then become important in the closing episodes; the scene on the plane being a tiny teaser.

        Since we’re talking about theories, my favorite theory about Adam & Eve is that they’re Desmond and Penny — Charlie Hume grows up to become Charles Widmore, and his own grandfather. We have no idea who Penny’s mother is or if she’s even biologically Charles’s daughter, but I think there’d be a decent poetry to it. Like Hawking faced with raising Daniel, all the time knowing he’d die in 1977, Widmore would grow up on the island, all the time knowing he’d be responsible for bringing his parents together and forcing them to a place they didn’t want to be. I like the symmetry there, though there’s really nothing to indicate this is something they’re really leading toward.

    • Ben on March 4, 2010 at 2:32 AM

      I’m absolutely banking on two of these things happening: Desmond being able to skip back and forth between realities, and the final shot of the eye. I called the final eye shot in Season 2. I hope it happens.

    • Sean C. Duncan on March 6, 2010 at 9:13 AM

      The big problem I have with this is that it cheapens “the incident” to becoming just some other random event, and not a significant one that actually shaped the formation of the sideways timeline. The balance idea is an intriguing one, but I suspect the sideways timeline occurred because of the incident.

      • Jason Mittell on March 6, 2010 at 11:55 AM

        But look at it from Jacob’s point of view – to bring the candidates to the Island (and eventually save it), he needed to crash flight 815, which was triggered by the bomb causing the electromagnetic disruption/Swan Station, etc. There are multiple lines of fate that might be in play…

  4. Bärbel Göbel on March 4, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Oh god, please don’t be right … 🙂
    That’d be the end of my nerves and several friendships I’m afraid. 😉