LOST, “This Place is Death” Review

So this was nominally a Sun/Jin episode, but as has been the case for most of this season, it would be easy to not even notice the writers’ attempt at a central character or emotional thruline because the plot has briefly exploded into a kaleidoscope of strands, and last night we followed most of them at once.  I’m going to take them one at a time, beware spoilers.

Everything Off-Island: As has become the pattern this season, all of the plot off-island just served to move pieces into positions that we the audience have been waiting patiently for them to occupy anyway.  I wasn’t bored, but there’s no mystery and suspense to this plotline compared to Season 4’s flash-forwards, and there’s no character development to speak of either. Desmond’s scenes in “Jughead” had by far the strongest character beats we’ve seen off-Island this year. The best part of last night’s mainland scenes was Ben’s frustrated spaz-out over being unappreciated in his own time, which was hilarious and perfectly in-character.  My money says that next week will provide the O6 a plan for getting back, and the episode at the end of February (a sweeps month) will see them return. Meanwhile, we have a new off-Island thread:

Locke, soon-to-be Jeremy Bentham: Now that Locke’s restored the time wheel to its axis, he’ll be on the mainland and adopting the Jeremy Bentham persona, which also means, at some point, a scene with Walt– remember the not-so-little scamp told Hurley in the S4 finale that Locke had visited him.

Meanwhile, on the Island, the “record needle” should be back in the groove now and the random time skips can be retired, which is all for the best as this conceit had a limited shelf life and the overly-convenient timing of the skips was feeling more contrived with each passing episode.  Last night, one of my friends made the point that while there is still character work being done these days, it’s all about the Island.  The time-jumping is like the Island getting a flashback episode(s) where we see the Others in the ’50s, we see the Temple, and we see Rousseau and her team arrive and go batshit.  Locke is the human character least shortchanged by this focus on the Island-as-character, because he has always believed so deeply in his connection to the place.  Last night’s most affecting beat was when Locke, broken and lying at the bottom of the well, asks “Jacob” if it’s true he will have to die and is told yes. Terry O’Quinn knocks the reaction shot out of the park and the reprise of Locke’s theme on the score gave me mental echoes to the end of “Walkabout.”

Faraday & Charlotte: Because of the writer’s strike we never got the Charlotte flashback episode the producers had planned, so instead we got a paragraph of dialogue synopsizing it right before she died. It’s certainly an efficient way to handle it. I really didn’t care about her passing, especially since we’ve all been waiting for it since her nose first bled this season. But credit to the actors, who both played the death scene well.

Jin & Sun: Credit to these actors too, who put in very solid performances even if we were given very little time or focus to appreciate them.

Sawyer, Juliet, and Miles: I mean, they didn’t do anything this week. Sawyer held that rope like a champ (the rope in the ground was a great visual), and his reunion with Jin was another one of the rewarding character beats that feel so rare this season.  Miles is funny. Juliet has been underwritten for the past year and a half.

The Island / What Happens Next: So remember in Season 3 when Kate and Sawyer were forced to help build a runway while being held captive by The Others?  Yeah, here’s the deal– Eloise Hawking knows when and where the Island appears to the outside world, and the Oceanic Six will take an Ajira airlines plane to one of these hot spots, and land on that runway. That runway is not on the main part of the Island, though, so they take the longboats we saw in last week’s episode to the abandoned camp, where one is stolen by Locke, Sawyer, et al, and the Oceanic Six give chase and shoot at them.  Other than this encounter, however, the O6 cannot find the friends they left behind, because when Locke fixed the time wheel, the time they settled in was the era of DHARMA and not ‘the present.’

Somehow the time traveling castaways fucking around with DHARMA causes “the Incident” that led to the building of the button in the hatch.  This also has something to do with Jughead, which is buried in concrete as per Faraday’s orders, at the site of the Swan station (Sayid points out a block of concrete to Jack in Season 2 and says the last time he saw concrete this thick was at Chernobyl).

All in all, this episode gets a B-, avoiding a C because most of the individual parts are so good that I don’t mind it doesn’t come together to an entirely satisfying whole.  And of course, the haiku review:

Locke made the plot move!

The smoke monster? Still badass.

Oh yeah, Charlotte died.

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