Random Musings 06-18-2010

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    Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) lies dying with Vincent the dog at his side. Photo courtesy ABC.com

         Ah, spring. That time of warm weather. Girls in sun dresses. TV season finales.

     

         For the last six seasons, viewers of Lost have followed the stories of survivors of an airplane crash onto an island in the Pacific; people already living on that island; and people who subsequently come there.

         But it’s no ordinary island; and as it turns out a man named Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), the protector of the island- and by extension the whole world- orchestrated matters so that many of the crash survivors would end up there. These were candidates to replace him.

         In the May 18 penultimate episode, Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) became the new protector of the island. Jack’s assuming that role seemed too obvious, and I had a sneaking feeling the role would eventually pass on to Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Jorge Garcia). Especially after Hurley said he was glad he hadn’t gotten the job. Shouldn’t tempt fate like that, Hugo.

         In the May 23 finale, a mortally wounded Jack, having sacrificed himself to defeat the Smoke Monster/Man in Black (Titus Welliver in his original incarnation; Terry O’Quinn in his impersonating John Locke incarnation), passed on stewardship to Hugo. As to the Man in Black, we previously learned he was Jacob’s twin brother, but we never discovered his actual name.

         Maybe we should call him Clint. Being that he’s the man with no name.

         Hurley was the best choice to be the island’s protector- which involves a certain degree of power- because he never sought power. Plus his “taking things in stride” personality seems best suited for such a role.

         I liked that the first shot of the series was Jack’s eye opening, as he awakens in the jungle after the plane crash; while the last shot was Jack’s eye closing as he dies.

         In the former scene, he sees Vincent the dog running through the jungle. In the latter, Vincent comes up to him and lies down beside him.

         Hurley, for his part, appoints Ben Linus (Michael Emerson), a sometimes enemy of the crash survivors and a man seeking his own path to redemption, as his advisor. And, we’re told, will see to it that an injured Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick) gets home again.

         Meanwhile, Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey), James “Sawyer” Ford (Josh Holloway), Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly), Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonnel) and Miles Straume (Ken Leung) leave the island for the last time, while Rose and Bernard Nadler (L. Scott Caldwell and Sam Anderson) elect to remain.

         But what was Lost about? In many ways, it was about relationships, and the impact these people had on each others’ lives. We see that in the revelations regarding the so called “flash sideways” stories of the final season.

         Season five involved time travel, and Jack believed he could change things in 1977 that would prevent an electromagnetic incident from downing their plane in 2004. The “flash sideways” stories at first glance seemed to show us a timeline in which the plane never crashed. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t a changed history situation, since the characters’ lives in the “flash sideways” scenarios were very different- in ways that had nothing to do with a plane landing safely. Jack had a son; James Ford was a cop, not a con man; and so on. But were these just “what if their lives were different to begin with” situations? No. It turns out the “flash sideways universe” is a limbo created by these people after their deaths. Here (a place where there’s no “now”), the characters- some of whom died before Jack (such as Boone (Ian Somerhalder) and his sister, Shannon (Maggie Grace)), and others long after him- essentially get to live the lives they’d have wanted to live until they’re ready and able to move on to Heaven or wherever.

         No, the “flash sideways universe” isn’t Heaven. While these peoples’ “flash sideways” afterlives are somewhat better than their real lives, they’re not perfect.

         Many of these people gather in a church in the “flash sideways” afterlife (though symbols of various religions on display suggest the building wasn’t meant to represent one particular faith), and see each other as they’d known each other during the time spent on the island, regardless of their actual ages when they’d died.

         If the “flash sideways” afterlife represents the characters’ lives as they wish they’d been, you’d think that, for example, James Ford’s “better life” wouldn’t be one where he became a cop, but one in which his parents never died. You’ve got to figure he carried a lot of survivor’s guilt with him, and probably spent much of his youth wondering if he could have stopped the murder/suicide somehow.

         Why did everyone’s “better lives” include the plane flight? Because they all met as a result of the crash, and consider each other the most important people in their lives.

         It amuses me to read comments or articles from people who say they don’t understand whether events on the island actually happened or whether everyone died in the plane crash when it was very clearly stated by Christian Shephard (John Terry) that some people died before Jack and others long after he did. Did these people not pay attention?

         But yes, the island was real. Everything concerning the characters’ lives there happened. The “flash sideways” stuff represents how the characters wish their lives had been. Or perhaps one such wish.

         On the other hand, those people who haven’t watched Lost in several years and don’t understand why the plane wasn’t found get a pass. They wouldn’t have known that it was found. Or rather Charles Widmore (Alan Dale) went to a great deal of time and expense to dress up another plane as Oceanic 815, and put it so far down on the floor of the Pacific Ocean that no one could salvage it. Why? To put a halt to search efforts.

         That’s the mundane answer. The science fiction answer is that the island was always (or frequently) moving, so finding it was all but impossible.

         Lost can be considered a television novel. If it had been an actual novel, would it have been worth the $34.95 hardcover price? Or would it have been a “get the $7.99 paperback instead?” Or even a “borrow if from a friend” type of book?

         Despite some flaws over the years, I’d say it’d have been worth getting in hardcover.

     

         Supernatural finished its fifth season on May 13 with Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) having their final confrontation with Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino). Back during the April 22 episode, we finally saw other pantheons become involved in matters related to the apocalypse set in motion by Lucifer’s escape from Hell. Among other things, they stated their pantheons were around first and they’ll decide when the apocalypse takes place, thank you very much.

         Given that Supernatural had previously involved beings from other mythologies, I thought such beings should play a significant role this year. It’s a bit disappointing that they made one appearance late in the season.

         A short story I wrote several years ago concerned a civil war in Hell, with some degree of involvement (or refusal to get involved) by members of other pantheons. And in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman storyline “Season of Mists”, when Lucifer gives Morpheus the key to Hell and quits, representatives from various pantheons (as well as two angels) show up to bargain with, cajole or threaten Morpheus regarding control of Hell. For other pantheons not to have been more actively involved in matters of the apocalypse in Supernatural (even if only in throwaway bits of dialogue or via subplots) is one of the season’s shortcomings.

         Anyway, the Winchester brothers opt to take matters into their own hands, rather than play the parts they’re told destiny assigned them. They’re told that Dean, the dutiful son of John Winchester, who raised his boys in a life of hunters of supernatural creatures is destined to be the vessel of the obedient Archangel Michael. Sam, the son who’d rebelled by going to college and trying to lead a normal life, is the intended vessel of the rebellious Lucifer. Michael will battle and kill Lucifer, and though millions will die, a golden age of sorts will follow.

         “Like hell,” Sam and Dean replied. They’re no one’s pawns, and they don’t accept the angels’ callous “omelets and eggs” philosophy about the fate of most of humanity vis-à-vis ushering in a new golden age. They’d inadvertently freed Lucifer last season, and they’d find some way to shove him back into his cage and prevent the apocalypse.

         In the end they opt on a risky strategy. Sam and Dean travel to Detroit (where they’d been told Sam would say “yes”) for a final confrontation. And Sam does indeed say yes to Lucifer, whose placeholder vessel (Pellegrino) is now wearing a bit thin.

         The plan is simple but dangerous. Sam- who has some preternatural abilities- will fight to retain control of his body while Dean opens the mystical door to Lucifer’s cage using rings they’d obtained from the four horsemen. Then Sam will jump in. It’s a one-way trip for Sam, but they don’t see any other choice.

         Except Lucifer knows all about their plan, and that Sam’s lying about his stated reasons for acquiescing. But he’s not mad. He’s open to a one-on-one battle of wills.

         “You win, you jump in the hole. I win…well, then I win.”

         Sam agrees. And then-

         The DVD set will be out later this year.

         I won’t tell you what happens, save that the theme of the episode centers around family; that it was an excellent episode; and that the show will be back next year.

         Oh, yes. God showed up, too. But not in a way you might expect. It was a small part, and no, God (whom Sam and Dean had been told was sitting out the apocalypse; and whom they’d previously met without realizing it) didn’t change his mind and take any direct action.

         God’s refusal to directly intervene reminds me of a storyline in Fallen Angel by Peter David. In issue 5 of the IDW run of that series, the titular character, Liandra, a former angel, tells her son Jude, a priest, that God, having created his crowning achievement, wants to end his existence. But he can’t, because humanity won’t let him go. They keeps praying to him and asking for things, “like adult children hitting Dad up for money.”

     

         On May 14, the ninth season finale of Smallville aired as Clark Kent (Tom Welling) faced off against Zod (Callum Blue). Overall, I liked the season, but as I’ve said before, the producers keep putting off introducing necessary elements of the Superman mythos each time the show’s renewed for another year.

         But season 10 will be the last. So maybe we’ll finally see some major steps forward, like Clark putting on the glasses full time (which he really should have done years ago; and it still remains to be seen how people won’t recognize him as Superman, given that he’s been glasses-less all this time).

         And, of course, there’s the outfit. I understand from articles I’ve read that Tom Welling is either not as reluctant to wear it as we’d been led to believe, or he’s changed his mind; so maybe we’ll see him in full Superman regalia. If not, then the best final shot of the series would be of Clark opening his shirt to reveal the familiar red and yellow S shield.

         Among the things I liked about the season 9 finale included a pre-credits “flash forward” to 2013 and a newspaper article (with photo of former cast member Michael Rosenbaum) confirming what Dr. Fate had told Clark earlier in the season, Lex Luthor is still alive.

         Of course we know that. Whatever other changes to the Superman mythos Smallville has made, Lex Luthor is Superman’s most implacable enemy. There’s no way he would actually be dead in the Smallville “universe.”

         But would Rosenbaum, who left at the end of season 7, return? From what I’ve heard it seems unlikely. Whether it’s from a lack of interest or because he’s too busy, I don’t know. Given that he shaved his head to play Lex, returning in a guest appearance might be problematical if he’s playing, say, a 60s hippie in some project filming at the same time.

         Maybe he’d agree to make an audio “appearance.” Clark gets home from work and hits the “play” button on his answering machine:

         “Hey Clark, it’s Lex. I’m still alive. Surprise! I still hate you and I’m going to kill you. Have a nice day. Give Lois a hug for me.”

         The inclusion of Rosenbaum’s photo reminded me of a scene in a Mad or Cracked Magazine parody of Star Trek III, where Kirk finds someone in the late Spock’s quarters, and speaking in Spock’s voice. It’s McCoy, whom Kirk will later learn is in possession of Spock’s “Katra” (soul). Kirk says (paraphrased from memory) “what a great way to have Spock in the movie without paying him.”

     

    Copyright 2010 Patrick Keating.

     

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