Lost, Season 6, Episode 9: The Package

By April 1st, 2010

Sorry for the lateness on this. If it makes you feel better I feel like this one came out better than the others.

On the island Sun is approached by The Man in Black who says he can take her to Jin. She runs from him and hits her head and looses the ability to speak English, though she can still understand English, and write it. Richard returns and tells them they have to destroy the plane, but Sun is not on board, because she just came to get Jin and get home, and destroying the plane is not going to get them home. When The Man in Black gets back to camp he finds Widmore’s team has taken Jin, and takes Sayid to Hydra Island to confront Widmore. Widmore gives Jin pics of the three year old he has never seen and lets him know what the stakes are, and his assistant, Tina Fey, turns out to be a Geophysicist who wants Jin’s help with the pockets of energy the island contains. Sayid, sent by The Man in Black to investigate, discovers “the package” in the room Widmore kept locked was Desmond. In the Alt U, Jin and Sun are not married, but her father knows they are involved, and emptied her escape bank account while sending Jin to unknowingly pay Keamey for his own execution. Sun gets shot in the free for all involving Mikhail, who dies shot in the eye, and tells Jin she is pregnant.

There were things I liked in tonight’s episode: The Man in Black explaining that he sent Sayid to find out what was in that room because he does not like secrets, the scene where Jin sees pictures of his kid was very well acted, the meeting between The Man in Black and Widmore (who says he only knows The Man in Black from ghost stories or something to that effect), Keamey is always awesomely terrifying in the most unsettling way. And I was very glad to see the Geophysicist. One thing I want from the end of LOST is that neither fantasy nor science fiction should reign supreme and I am very glad to see some weird science back in the picture for the first time in season 6.

And a lot of the complaints I have are maybe stupid at this point. I have been watching Lost for years. What this show does is tell small stories about people — like Richard’s story from last time, or Sun and Jin here — while dangling mysteries which barely advance from episode to episode. Obviously it is the individual stories rather than what the island IS that is the point of this show; I know it is not exactly the same thing but Lost at times feels very much like the Canterbury Tales to me in this regard, a collection of stories with an overarching point (the trip to Canterbury) that is obviously not THE POINT.

The AV Club review of Lost from a while back pointed folks to this David Mamet memo to the Unit writers (http://bit.ly/9NYxxS) and it is a good link. I love David Mamet and I think he is right. It should be about characters and conflict; if it is about information — like what the island is — this is bad, because this can be summarized in a pamphlet. In theory one thing I liked about the end of Battlestar Galactica (and my hatred for the final eight episodes of that show is serious) was the info dump a few episodes from the end — a clear sign that the mythology was not the point, the characters were. So I recognize that the writers of Lost are in a bind here. I am not going to excoriate them for the stall stall stall structure, because however much I am aggravated by this, I could have bailed way back when it took so long to get into that damn hatch. I am compromised on this point.

For me the problem with the last episode was not that Richard did not have lots of mythology to show us, but that a lot of the story was uneconomical, and so slack on conflict — we knew so much of it already, and it was more powerful hinted at, and much covered ground we had already seen such as the attempt by the Man in Black on Jacob using a surrogate, or the theory that the island is Hell. My problem here is similar. I appreciate that the final season is the time to bring everything back, to appreciate the return of people and places. But so many Lost episodes this season have relied on that final punch of BAM — Widmore’s Back! Claire’s Back! Jin’s Back in the Alt U! plus all the little “everyone is someone” gags — that when Desmond is back! some of the necessary force is lost. Same with the way everyone in the ALt U is ending up at the hospital with Jack. The surprises need variety — the 5th time the magician does the same card trick I stop being so interested.

People get mad at Lost for giving too little “information” about the island, but one of my big problems with this episode is that it is too much “information.” How much time is being spent catching everyone up? We used to complain no one tells anyone anything on this island, but I am staring to see why — it is boring to have to tell everyone individually about the cave, and the lighthouse wheel, and what the Man in Black wants and why it is bad if he gets it, as Jin and Sun learned separately here. And it is much much worse if people in these conversations do not speak English as part of a plot point introduced in this same episode.

So the amnesia. After the first episode of season 6, my friend Lucas said “What kind of self-respecting screenwriter can type -SAWYER, I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU. -WHAT IS IT? [JULIET DIES]. I felt like an idiot typing “She runs from him and hits her head and looses the ability to speak English, though she can still understand English, and write it.” I can’t imagine how someone wrote that into a script for millions. I could feel my friend Katie, whose primary complaint is that a complex show with strong female characters (remember back in Season 4 when Sun was on a revenge mission and confronted Widmore with the power of her father’s empire now at her command) — a complex show with strong female characters has become a show about boys in a battle between good and evil and the search for the savior. All this may turn out to be more interesting (and it better not turn out Jacob is simply good and the Man in Black simply evil), but in an episode by episode guide I have to take each episode on its own. I could hear Katie screaming about Sun from here. Even if it turns out it is some kind of bleed through from the Alt U, that is not going to save this plot point for me, which should be relegated to the Flintstones.

The last thing I have to say does not have anything to do with what I wrote above, but it needs pointing to. Someone in the comments here or on my blog made a great point — this show needs to end with the castaways telling Jacob and the Man in Black to screw off (I am not super clear if Smartpop want me cursing on this blog, so as an invited guest I am going to be polite). That is what a good ending is going to look like — not because of the mythology, but because of the emotional satisfaction, which is the only kind of satisfaction that is likely to be possible here, and the only one that should be desirable, probably.

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