Wednesday, March 31, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.10 – The Package

It was great to see an episode firing on as many cylinders as this one. Almost every current plot thread and character arch was touched on as every principal cast member was featured for the first time since the season premiere.

The Altered Universe:
We’re back to business nearly as usual in the AU. Sun and Jin have a similar relationship to their pre-crash Original Timeline relationship with one distinct exception: They’re not yet married. Because of this, their love for one another has not be tied to and weighed down by Jin’s duties to Sun’s father. Yes, Jin still works for Paik, but their love exists unburdened by the job: it has remained free and mischievous. Unfortunately, this also means that Paik doesn’t approve, and so we were treated to a more-than-usually-tension-filled AU story as Jin and Sun fought to escape Paik’s wrath. Yes we had another shot of a character staring into a mirror, and another familiar face show up in the form of Season 3’s Mikhail Bakunin, but of most note were the differences between this Sun/Jin story and all the other AU stories thus far: While Kate, Locke, Jack, Sayid, Ben, and Sawyer were all fighting internal battles to try and overcome personal character flaws, Sun and Jin were battling—literally—only to stay together. This parallels their on-Island story nicely. But of perhaps more consequence, was that their AU tale had no resolution, ending on a cliffhanger. Even Sawyer’s story at least showed us he was willing to share his obsession with Miles, an important first step in overcoming it. Sun and Jin are left entirely in the lurch.

The Island:
Last week I was pretty confident that the evil/darkness/malevolence that Jacob told Richard about was, in fact, a analogous stand-in for the electromagnetic energy the Island has bottled away. After all, I don’t think Richard would have thought much in 1867 if Jacob had used the words “electromagnetic energy.” This week, I was happy to see the Island’s energy brought to the forefront again in two places. First, Widmore’s geo-physicist Zoe asks Jin to help them find pockets of electromagnetism on the Island using a gridmap that Jin himself signed during his brief stint with Dharma in the 1970s. Second, Widmore explains the consequences of the Man in Black escaping the island as more than any form of moral corruption that literal evil could wreak, but as actual annihilation. He tells Jin that everyone they know and love will cease to be. To me, this implies something more scientific (The release of the Island’s electromagnetic energy causing time to fold in on itself and implode?) rather than the spiritual language Jacob used to explain things to Richard in 6.09 (Ab Aeterno). Now let’s just hope they explain the difference between what would happen if the MIB left and what happened as a consequence of Desmond turning the failsafe key and “blowing the dam” in the Season 2 Finale, 2.23 (Live Together, Die Alone).

The Man In Black & His Agenda:
Whether or not the MIB actually wants to leave the Island (and it sure seems like he does, considering his last scene with Jacob in 6.09 [Ab Aeterno]), we now know that he does indeed intend to gather the Candidates first. As I suggested in my 6.08 (Recon) analysis, this is most likely a con of his to try and trick them into a mass exodus from the Island, since he currently remains unable to kill them outright, thanks to Jacob touching them. Either it’s part of The Rules that he physically cannot leave the Island unless both Jacob and his Candidates are no longer on it, or he’s simply unwilling to chance leaving a Candidate behind who might take Jacob’s place and undo his bid for freedom. And speaking of rules, we got a bit of a lesson in Smokey Physics 101 this week, as he reveals he can’t fly across water while Smoke form. This adds to Season 3 speculation that even though Smokey can float, he can’t just fly anywhere he wants, hence he was unable to go up and over the sonic fence that protected the barracks in 3.15 (Left Behind). One does wonder how far he might be able to reach over those pylons though…

The Sickness:
Both purportedly Sick characters were given moments this episode. Sayid tells the MIB that he feels nothing: no anger, no happiness, no pain. This, however, seems VERY different from what Claire is experiencing, who seemed to be a bipolar, emotional wreck in 6.08 (Recon) and continues the trend here. She’s still very concerned about Aaron, very jealous of Kate, and definitely insecure about her importance to the MIB. It’s possible the Sickness makes a person the worst version of themselves. And so Sayid – who has always fought to reconcile his cold-hearted ability to kill easily with his otherwise passionate, life-affirming disposition – finds himself the ultimate killer, sans emotion. And Claire – who always struggled to embrace motherhood – finds herself a child again. Or perhaps the Sickness just works in mysterious ways. I just hope we’re at least told how precisely it is contracted by the show’s end.

Widmore’s Mission:
Now that we know he’s clearly not on the MIB’s side, I say that whatever he’s up to, be the consequences good or bad, he’s out for himself. He’s always wanted ownership of the Island, and he’s still out to get it. But clearly, arrival and annihilation of his adversaries isn’t enough. With his sound barrier pylons, his subliminal Room 23, and his geo-physicist, he’s taken over the scientific reins from the Dharma Initiative, and is out to do SOMETHING with the Island’s Electromagnetic Pocket’s and his Electromagnetically-zapped time-hero son-in-law, Desmond. I’m uncertain what his goal is, but I’m guessing it’s to fix some of the consequences of that aforementioned failsafe key turn. If “blowing the dam” reset the Island to the same “leaking” status it was at when the Dharma Initiative’s Incident went down, then it stands to reason Widmore needs to make a few repairs to the Island he wants to claim. So, perhaps he is technically on the side of “good” (A phrase which here means “desiring to prevent the collapse of space-time as we know it”), but if he’s the same Widmore who sent a team of mercenaries to the Island to kidnap Ben and kill everyone on it (and he is) then chances are he’s doing all this to satiate his own lust for power. I guess someone ought to tell him there’s an Infected bad-ass treading water near his dock…

Jacob & His Agenda:
Meanwhile at the beach camp, Richard is back from his soul-searching, and has a plan. Jacob told Ilana that Richard would know what to do, and Richard knows that priority one is to keep the MIB from leaving the Island, so their mission is to destroy the Ajira 316 plane. Something tells me Richard isn't going to be happy to find out there's also a submarine, not to mention that his ol' firebrand Otherling Widmore is back. Jack is following Richard, but I'm not so certain he's with Richard. Jack has embraced the notion that he and his fellow survivors were brought to the Island for a reason, but judging from his recent breakdown in the Lighthouse, his willingness to blow himself up to test his theory on the Black Rock, and his promise to Sun that he'll get her and Jin off the Island, I'm not too sure Jack intends to FULFILL his Island purpose yet. He still seems to have a rebellious, anti-Jacob mindset. And Jacob? He's dead and apparently relegated to sit back and every now and then nudge Hurley in the right direction. And what does he want? Well at this point he seems wiling to stay as tight-lipped as he can and hope his Candidates make the right decisions when the time comes. That's almost all he can do, but that's his preferred method of operating anyway. Regardless of his own grey-shaded morality, this makes Jacob at least as "good" as Widmore. (The phrase once again meaning "desiring to prevent the collapse of space-time as we know it"). But, as pondered-over last week, I still think Jacob wants Jack and Co. to prove humanity deserves this preservation.

The Fate Factor:
Jack may be convinced that they were brought to the Island for a reason, but now that he knows there was near-human intent in the matter, that might just pull the whole destiny/fate factor out of the scenario for him. (i.e. manipulation by a guy with supernatural powers ain't the same thing as destiny). But regardless of what Jack thinks, Sun isn't taking any of this "Save the World" nonsense. I thought it was great to see her take a stand again (as well as do ANYTHING again for that matter), and her and Jin being the pair of near-Candidates that don't want anything to do with the Island and it's purpose makes sense and is a logical progression of their story arch. Where Jack will always want to fix as many things as he can, Kate will do whatever it takes to help Claire reunite with Aaron, and Sawyer (as we all know) has a heart of gold buried under his every-man-for-himself attitude, Jin and Sun have frequently been closer to everyday people caught up in extraordinary events, avoiding A-team style missions into the jungle, and just trying to remain together -- particularly Sun who even explicitly prevented Jin from joining the fracas in 2.11 (The Hunting Party). This angle is also consistent with their AU story in which they're not overcoming character flaws so much as battling the elements to be a couple. Even in 5.16 (The Incident), when we saw Jacob visit each of the characters at various points in their lives and help augment one of their classic character traits (Kate's criminal tendencies, Sawyer's self-loathing, Jack's daddy/control issues, Hurley's self-doubt), for Jin and Sun, what Jacob affirmed was the importance of their love for each other. Something key coming down the pike is going to hinge on Sun and Jin's love -- and for whatever reason, that's what makes one or both of them Candidates.

And that's where we are!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - 2.16 - Cat and Mouse

Anakin uses a prototype stealth ship to rout a Separatist blockade above the planet Christophsis.

This was a tightly-packed and tense episode which gave us the best startship tactics on the show since 1.19 (Storm Over Ryloth). Nothing much occured to advance the overall narrative of the series, particularly considering this was evidently a flashback to events just prior to the Clone Wars theatrical premiere, but it was nice to give Admiral Yularen a bit more of the spotlight than usual, and cool to see him observing Anakin's special brand of bravado for the first time. It's worth noting that this isn't the first time we've flashed back to events just prior to the Clone Wars movie's Battle of Christophsis. This happened previously in 1.16 (The Hidden Enemy) just as inexplicably -- and in that episode there weren't even any character firsts (like Yularen and Anakin's interactions) to justify it being a prequel. I'm fine with the IDEA of revisiting past events and scenarios and adding to them, but if the writers are going to bother, it would be nice to have a little more apparent reason to do so.

In addition to Yularen, the character that shined the most thorugh the episode was newcomer Admiral Trench. I've never been a fan of the insert-animal-here-and-turn-it-into-a-humanoid brand of alien design, but the Trantula-inspired Admiral and his clicking noises were very entertaining to watch. It would be a shame if we were never to see him again - particularly considering that none of our characters got a chance to meet him up close and personal -- but considering that the episode began with Yularen and the Republic thinking he'd been killed in a previous altercation, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Trench found a way to survive this one. Maybe the uggly bug can cocoon himself to safety while floating in space or some such creepy thing. It'd be great if he then slammed into the windshield of some Republic cruiser ;)

The named Clone troopers of the episode didn't fare as well as Trench. Yes, they survived, but while their story had a beginning (Rookie trooper on first assignment) and an end (Rookie trooper gets a pat on the back), it didn't realy have a middle of any kind at all. The sparse moments these guys had dialogue only served to make me wonder why exactly they were bothered with. Their plot went nowhere and served no purpose. That said, it was also SO minimal that it didn't harm or hinder the otherwise intensely focused narrative of the episode.

The show continues to impress visually, and also continues to expand the kinds of stories Star Wars can tell. The classic submarine stealth movie overtones in this episode were overt to the level of sonar-style radar and pinging. It was a fun veneer on a meaty little mission and gave the episode a good deal of atmosphere. But even though this was a far better examle of the Clone Wars borrowing classic narrative trappings from other sources than last week's Agatha Christie-infused misfire, I do hope the creators of the show don't make too much of a habit of apeing other classic styles in lieu of inventing/solidifying their own. As much as I've enjoyed seeing what a Star Wars zombie plot is like, and a Star Wars submarine plot is like, and a Star Wars murder mystery plot is like, they need to make sure the show retains its own core identity admist these fun spins. Though if these fusings always work as well as "Cat and Mouse" did... perhaps my misgivings are unfounded. 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.09 – Ab Aeterno

After an episode as rich with both character and mythology as this week’s installment, it’s a bit tough to know where to begin. But my job on this blog has always been to condense and distill the show’s sprawling mysteries into as few talking points as possible in an attempt to show how the ultimate answers are only narrowly out of reach, so it’s a bit reassuring that while there were MANY issues of note in Ab Aeterno, most of them added either further clarification to things we thought we might already know or otherwise connected dots between things we had previously hoped were related and now can rest at ease that they are…

What I mean to say is: It’s all comin’ together!

The Island:
We’ve known the Island was special from day one. Through the years, we’ve learned it stores a crazy amount of electromagnetic energy that can crash planes, heal cancer, and bend time itself. We’ve discovered how hard it is to find the Island since the location of access to it on Earth moves from place to place, and even when you know approximately where it is, a proper compass bearing is required to access it successfully, otherwise your zapped through time in unexpected ways. We’ve seen the Island imbue characters with incredible powers: Desmond could see the future for a while and still remains a man free from the rules of time; Miles was born on the Island right around the time the Dharma Initiative began drilling into the electromagnetic stores, and as a result can read the minds of dead bodies; Hurley, at an unknown point, gained the ability to talk to the dead themselves. We’ve been told, and seen examples, that the Island can pull physical manifestations from its inhabitants minds out of a “magic box,” creating interactive group hallucinations such as Kate’s horse and most recently the bloody-handed Kid in 6.04 (The Substitute). And finally, we’ve encountered sporadically (and now more intimately), the two most powerful men on the Island – Jacob and the Man In Black – who seem to have access to the Island’s powers and the ability to channel them in various ways. But what IS the Island? What is its function?

Well, it’s a cork, silly.

Jacob’s bottle metaphor might seem brand new and like the biggest revelation of the night, but it’s been a long time coming. What Jacob refers to as evil/darkness/malevolence trapped in the bottle is, in this viewer’s opinion, precisely the Island’s stores of electromagnetism we’ve learned so much about through the series. Referring to it as evil/darkness/malevolence might just be Jacob’s way of explaining it in terms the pious Richard will understand, but if this energy is the source of all supernatural occurrences in the world of the show, then there may be a tinge of moral corruption to it as well. The point is, this isn’t the first time the Island has been indicated to be a preventative force. It isn’t even the first time the Island’s function has been compared to a liquid-stopper. In Desmond’s flashbacks in 2.23 (Live Together, Die Alone), a drunken Kelvin Inman dangled the failsafe key over its slot in the Swan Hatch and asked Desmond if he was man enough to stop holding his finger in the dam and rather just blow the whole dam itself. By the end of that episode’s present-day plotline, Desmond did just that. By ceasing pushing the button he pulled his finger out of the dam and rather than letting the electromagnetic energy bottleneck to a point utter destruction, he turned the key, blew the dam (the Swan hatch), and let that energy free into the world. The immediate results were that both Penny and Charles Widmore were able to spot the Island and locate it for a brief time, the Others lost their ability to communicate off Island via technology, and Desmond (at the focal point of the blast) became the Hero of Time. The long term results? Could it be that the thing Jacob had devoted his life to preventing actually already occurred in the Season 2 finale? More on this in a future topic…

The Island’s Rules:
There’s pretty clearly some force governing the actions of both Jacob and the Man In Black, or else the MIB would just kill Jacob himself. Likewise, chances are the MIB would have killed Richard (after Richard had been touched by Jacob) had he been capable of doing so. But the same Rules that I’ve speculated keep the MIB from physically harming the Candidates in the show’s present seem to have been firmly in place even before Jacob developed his band of followers with Richard as his intermediary. These are likely the same kinds of Rules that Jacob and Richard pass down to the Others: don’t kill other Others; don’t leave the Island without permission; (perhaps) don’t help/harm the Candidates, etc. The difference seems to be that the Others ARE capable of breaking these rules (though are subsequently punished) while Jacob and the MIB are bound by whatever Island authority gave them their powers.

Jacob & His Agenda:
Jacob’s mission is to protect the Island. To protect the Island he must keep the energy/evil/darkness/malevolence properly corked. The easiest way to keep it corked would SEEM to be to keep people as far AWAY from the Island as possible. But since Jacob has made a habit of subtly manipulating all sorts of people to the Island, either there’s more to his mission than meets the eye, or Jacob is so bored with his job that he frivolously endangers the world to play his game with the MIB… OR (and most likely, in this viewer’s opinion) Jacob’s not so sure humanity deserves his protection, and wants us to prove it.

While we as modern television viewers want to automatically group things into categories of good and evil, LOST has gone out of its way again and again to thwart viewer expectations. Seasons 1 and 2 made a habit of turning our expectations for spiteful characters (Sawyer, Jin, Shannon, Anna Lucia, Eko) upside down. Characters whose actions we were initially repulsed by, were very soon drawing tears of sympathy from us. Likewise many of our stalwart heroes (Jack, Kate, Sun, Sayid, Charlie, Hurley, Boone) were revealed to have darker, muddier pasts with each successive flashback. And of course Ben is the coup de grace of the series: the ultimate villain, a man who condones genocide, breathes lies, thrives on the manipulation of others, ordered the death of Charlie, and VERY RECENTLY strangled Locke to the grave in cold blood… and each season we’re given an episode that makes us hope for the best in him. Just like Jacob hoped right before Ben stabbed him in the chest.

So on a show that’s practically written the book on shades of grey, it should come as no surprise that the man on the side of White (versus Black), the man who is Protector (versus the Destroyer), the man paced on the side of Good (versus Evil) is, in fact, a man like any other. He may have a noble job, and he may have high hopes for humanity, but that certainly don’t mean he’s going to keep on performing his job without proof we’re worth it. I posit that the only way Jacob’s willing to keep protecting the Island is if the people he “brings” there (as well as any others who find the Island themselves) can prove themselves capable of getting along, taking care of the Island, and choosing what is right. Through Richard, he formed a very narrow line of communication with his people, and they joined him in protecting the Island, but much like their leader, the Others hold a haughty regard to their Island duties, and thus the cycle continues. Exactly how the Others are instructed to treat new arrivals, and what lists Jacob passes down, and what purges he’s ordered remain question marks, but the purpose of the group has never been clearer, and I just might get clearer yet!

The Man In Black & His Agenda:
Well, the MIB definitely seems to want to leave that Island. He clearly thinks the whole thing’s a sham: Humanity’s a mess, and there’s nothing his freedom or the Island’s uncorked malevolence can do to mess humanity up any more than it already is. Last week I suspected that the MIB wanted the Island unprotected because he wanted something BAD to happen to the world, but now I suspect he wants it unprotected because he doesn’t think there’s anything BAD enough that could happen that won’t just happen anyway because mankind is (in his view) inherently corrupt. In other words: he doesn’t KNOW the precise effects of unleashing the Island’s power – he just doesn’t give a damn what they are.

The Others:
So they were formed as recently as 1867! Now with Richard as his intermediary, Jacob can began recruiting people to his Island-protection cause, making lists, and playing a larger role in the goings on of his little moral battlefield. Previously he seemed willing only to GET people to the Island so that they might play out their true natures in harsh circumstances, but now he’s knocking things up a notch. Since people on the Candidates list don’t appear to have begun their on-Island lives as recruits of the Others, it seems pretty clear that there’s a distinction between the Candidates and the Others. The Others help Jacob perform his tests on the Candidates morality. So actually being on Jacob’s initial lists (such as the one Anna and Eko found when their fellow tale section survivors were being kidnapped in 2.07 [The Other 48 Days], or the one Danny Pickett groused that “Shepard” wasn’t on in 3.06 [I Do]) seems to be a bit of an insult: it means you’re not Candidate material – your simply easily manipulated into helping Jacob find his replacement. And none of you even know what or who the Candidates are. I guess the joke’s on the Others! No wonder they all tend to be either douchebags or mindless followers!

The Shadow of the Statue Folks:
I wonder how long this little band of Candidate-knowledgeable Jacob-protectors has been around? We’ll get our answer when we’re granted more info on Illana, hopefully, but for now we know that they already existed around the time Flight 815 crashed (since Bram and Co. tried to dissuade Miles from joining Widmore’s freighter expedition in 4.02 [Confirmed Dead]). And we also know that at some point after there were only Six Candidates left, Jacob visited Illana to upgrade her mission.

Visions: Magic Box, Man In Black, or The Actual Dead?
You could make a pretty good game show out of this mystery. Island visitors have seen a long string of crazy crap on its shores, and it would be the simplest explanation if it all came from the same source, but this is LOST, so of course there are MULTIPLE ways someone can experience the impossible.

------The Magic Box: Using the metaphor Ben did in 3.13 (The Man From Tallahassee) there’s a “Magic Box” on the Island and people can subconsciously pull things from their lives out of it (Kate’s Horse, Sawyer’s Boar, Ben’s Mother). These things can usually be interacted with (though they don’t say much), and frequently (though not always) multiple people can see them. This is what I also personally refer to as the Island’s interactive power separate and perhaps above Jacob and the MIB. Other than suspicions and “what feels right,” the only proof I’ve got that this power exists above them is that the MIB experienced The Kid in 6.04 (The Substitute) against his own will and after Jacob (who can now only influence things via conversation with Hurley) was killed.

Examples (In My Opinion): Jack’s Suited Dad (in 1.04 [White Rabbit] and 4.10 [Something Nice Back Home]), Sawyer’s Boar (in 1.16 [Outlaws]), Kate’s Horse (in 2.09 [What Kate Did]), Sayid’s Cat (In 3.11 [Enter 77]), Ben’s Mother (In 3.20 [The Man Behind The Curtain]), Possibly Harper (In 4.06 [The Other Woman]), Possibly Antony Cooper (In 3.13 [The Man From Tallahassee] and 3.19 [The Brig], though chances are the Others just kidnapped the poor bastard and dragged him to the Island.

------The Man In Black’s Dream/Visions: The MIB can give people visions. We saw pretty clear proof in this week’s episode when Richard lost consciousness, had a vision of Isabella returning to him on board the Black Rock and being swept away by Smokey, and then regained consciousness with the MIB in the room beside him. The MIB then proceeded to use this vision to manipulate Richard into attempting to kill Jacob. So if he can give visions to the people he’s scanned as Smokey, who else has been scanned by Smokey and then had Dream/Visions that influenced their behavior? We at least can give a “hell yeah” to Eko and Locke.

Examples (In My Opinion): Locke’s Dreams/VIsions (in 1.19 [Deus Ex Machina], 2.21 [?], 3.03 [Further Instructions], and 4.11 [Cabin Fever]), Eko’s Dreams/VIsions (3.05 [The Cost of Living]), Possibly Charlie’s Dreams/Visions (2.12 [Fire+Water]), Possibly Claire’s Dreams/Visions (unseen, but referred to in 4.10 [Something Nice Back Home])

------The Man In Black HIMSELF: Different than a vision, the MIB himself has the ability to actually appear physically in the form of a dead person whose body was left lying about the Island and was then taken by him. When he does this, everyone can see him and he usually makes requests and asks for things: He’s appeared as the non-suited version of Jack’s dad Christian, Eko’s brother Yemi, Locke, and possibly Alex. Of the first three in particular, a big deal was made of the availability of their corpses for his use. Christian’s and Eko’s bodies were dragged away somewhere. Locke’s was used while it was very insistently/purposefully stored in the Ajira 316 cargo hold.

Examples (In My Opinion): Jack’s Non-Suited Dad (in 1.04 [White Rabbit] and 4.10 [Something Nice Back Home]), Yemi (in 3.05 [The Cost of Living]), Locke (starting in 4.07 [The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham]), Alex (in 5.12 [Dead Is Dead])

------The Actual Dead: Hurley’s power to speak with the dead – both on and off Island – adds a whole new dimension to these visions. They’re easy to spot, though… since no one sees them but Hurley, and only Hurley speaks with them. Confirmation these aren’t MIB manipulations? Jacob himself is one of those speaking to Hurley; The MIB seemed pretty pissed at the result of Isabella’s intervention this week.

Examples (In My Opinion): Charlie (in 4.01 [The Beginning of the End]), Eko (in 4.13 [There’s No Place Like Home, Part II]), Anna Lucia (in 5.02 [The Lie]), Jacob (in 6.01 [LA X] and 6.05 [Lighthouse]), Isabella (in 6.09 [Ab Aeterno])

------Exceptions: And of course, there have to be oddball occurrences as well in order to avoid all this getting too simple. The most impactful of these are Desmond’s Flashes of future and past events, which I hold to be actual time travelling of his consciousness and not visions. Also of interest is Dave, Hurley’s imaginary friend from 2.18 (Dave), who could easily have been a “Magic Box” pull-out from Hurley’s subconscious, or even the ghost of Libby’s dead husband (if Hurley’s power was with him even back before the crash of Flight 815), but in all likelihood is just an honest-to-god genuine trauma-induced hallucination.

The Dharma Initiative, The Importance of the Incident,
& The Consequence of Blowing The Dam:
Let’s wrap this week up with a big one! I constantly bump into people online worrying if this or that from Seasons 1-5 will ultimately prove to have been an important storyline now that everything is being whittled down to Jacob vs. the Man In Black. One of the story lines is that of the Dharma Initiative – at one time thought to be behind EVERYTHING crazy that happened on the show. As I speculated earlier in my section on “The Island,” when Desmond turned the failsafe key, he may have uncorked the Island’s store of energy/evil/darkness/malevolence way back at the end of Season 2. If this is the case, then responsibility for uncorking the evil actually belongs to the Dharma Initiative itself, which means the Dharma storyline is nothing less than mankind’s final blunder onto the Island, undoing Jacob’s mission, and unleashing the very energy that had been pent up to protect it. Kind of important I’d say. And who led Locke to both the Swan and the Pearl, stations, resulting in the Swan’s destruction? Oh, yeah: the MIB through Dream/Visions!

So if the cork is already blown in the present time of the show, maybe the only thing that can be done to help humanity/the world is to keep the Man In Black on the Island as it slowly crumbles in on itself. What happens next we can only speculate.

At least, we COULD only speculate, if the show weren’t already (in theory) showing us a timeline in which the Dharma Initiative were unable to finish building the Swan Hatch! So if the Altered Universe is a world in which the Island has long since been uncorked, and at some point ended up on the ocean floor as a result, then maybe all the flash-sideways stories are building to something very cataclysmic. Something that proves once and for all the importance of keeping the Island safe and keeping the MIB on it. And why is such proof necessary beyond providing a cool what-if scenario for us viewers? Ask Jacob. After all, he created it by fetching back the Oceanic Six and sending many of our heroes back to 1977 to add an H-Bomb to the Incident. So, whatever the AU is, perhaps it’s Jacob’s loophole. Even as the MIB commandeered the Oceanic Six’s return to take Locke’s form and murder Jacob, the creation of the AU was already long-since successful, and will somehow prove to be Jacob’s ace-in-the-hole.

And that’s where we are!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - 2.15 - Senate Murders

There are murders... in the senate! (These titles sure play it safe sometimes...)

As a one-off change of pace this was a fun experiment, though I'm not sure it was a good idea to return from a month-long hiatus with such an oddball entry. I enjoyed the send-up to classic parlor room murder mysteries, but it was all a bit too simplistic to leave a worthy impression, and a bit too far removed from the important goings-on of the galaxy to earn an important niche in the series' canon. It's always refreshing to see throwbacks to earlier plots, and it was nice to bring the Season 1 story-line of the Rodian senator Farr back into the spotlight (from 1.08 [Bombad Jedi]), but I can't see much of anything in this episode causing too much impact on future series events, and this might be the installment's greatest failing.

Character-wise, it was once again enjoyable to see Padme in a story that strengthens her character and plays her as a potent individual, separate from Anakin and their love story. She was her usual bundle of action and ideals here, and held the hero focus well. The guest cast didn't fair quite as well. Inspector Divo was diverting, but seemed to have been plucked out of some other television show and dropped into the wrong series. His by-the-numbers bumbling detective wasn't particularly original and didn't add much to the classic concept his character homaged -- especially considering that the Columbo-like Jedi Master Sinube from 2.11 (Lightsaber Lost) already tackled similar ground with more success. Bail Organa was a welcome addition of a known character to the Clone Wars, but served here only as a double for Padme's actions and opinions. His points of view and disagreements were very easily and quickly aligned with Padmes, making him a bit of a nonentity in the plot. And murderess Lolo was such a nonentity in the proceedings that the traditional last minute deflection of accusation from the obvious party to the surprise culprit would have worked far better with more possible suspects and motivations. There simply wasn't the depth of cast and character available in this episode to pull off an Agatha Christie style mystery.

The most interesting notion presented in the episode arrived with its most interesting new character. The concept that Kamino has only been granted a position on the senate (in the form of the Izma-like Senator Burtoni) because of their clone army production is an interesting source for dissent to arise from, and I'd like to see further exploration of this concept. The Kaminoans might easily be seen as war profiteers as a result, and I could see some hate spreading toward them from the other Republic members. But like most of the actual politics presented in Senate Murders, this was only a smokescreen for the more personal (and underdeveloped) motives of the actual killer.

I enjoyed the episode for its cool setting, brooding atmosphere, focus on Padme, and its attempt at adding a new genre of episode to The Clone Wars. But the mystery formula was only played out to its most basic of depths, and the intriguing politics presented ultimately lacked any over-arching developments or forward momentum. The visuals of the show continue to be strong, and it's noteworthy that even with a minimal amount of action the Clone Wars can still entertain, but if the writers want to continue expanding the kinds of stories they can tell on this show, they'd be better served weave them into the show's pre-existing fabric a little more carefully. Even as a stand-alone, this could have had some great drama and repercussions for the show as a whole, but instead remains one of the lighter weights in the series' rack. Far from a failure, but nothing to sing about. 3 stars.

Friday, March 19, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.08 – Recon

Apologies for the late entry. This is the busiest week of the year for the office where I work, and it’s been a series of long days, later hours, and exhausted nights. But LOST is a sanctuary, and here’s where we are:

Recon was an episode of intrigue and careful positioning of characters for future developments. Sawyer was quick to make promises of joint escape to fellow Survivors, and quicker to pledge his loyalty to any Island mass-murdering despot who needed placating. Kate got a hard, fast dose of crazy-town reality, in which her one-time allies revealed themselves to be mesmerized unresponsive apathetic shell of a man, a bipolar hand-holding throat-slitting mad-mom, and a walking corpse with mommy issues. Widmore's allegiance may still remain un-illuminated, but at least we're allowed one less group of people to keep tabs on as a very final punctuation mark was put on the short, sad story of the Ajira 316 survivors. And all the while, the battle for the Island continues to take shape…

The Altered Universe:
The AU provided us with more of the same this week, shedding further (though not particularly shocking) light on who Sawyer is by way of another "what-if" scenario that promises to ultimately be something more. As usual, the importance of the AU still lingers beyond viewer perception, but the clues continue to arrive via comparisons and character convergences. Sawyer's life is presented as very similar to his Original Timeline existence -- the one key difference being that when deciding what profession would best serve his vengeance-quest, Sawyer chose cop instead of criminal. He may very easily be the exact same self-loathing, charismatic SOB he was when Flight 815 crashed in the OT, but this time his profession has furnished him with a caring partner in Miles. While he still clearly has no particular love for the law (planning murder, letting Kate escape in 6.01 [LA X]), AU Sawyer has what OT Sawyer never did: someone to run his credit reports, arrange blind dates for him, and ultimately keep him in check. And character convergences? Sawyer meets up with not only one (Miles), not only two (Charlotte), not even just three (Charlie’s Brother, Liam), but four (Kate) other characters. The characters are rapidly converging into groups in the AU, leading me to wonder if circumstances will eventually fling them all together again as a group. To what end is the big question, but maybe that’s when Desmond will mysteriously show up again…

The Sickness:
Rather than rendering Claire specifically “evil” the way The Others would like to spin it, the sickness seems to have wiped away her rational thought: one minute she’s glaring at Kate, the next minute she’s holding Kate’s hand, the next she’s trying to slit Kate’s throat, and then she’s hugging Kate in a tearful embrace. I can’t agree with Dogen that everything she ever was has been wiped away, but I’ll certainly agree that she’s a raw, un-tethered, almost child-like version of her former self. Sayid, on the other hand, still seems somewhat shell-shocked at what’s befallen him. But neither of these people follow the Man in Black (MIB) completely mindlessly. They’ve got to be baited, appeased, and controlled. And for the time being, it seems the MIB is manipulating Kate into watching/controlling Claire for him.

The Man in Black & His Agenda:
So, does he REALLY want to leave the Island? That’s the million dollar question of this mystery. He’s talked big about wanting to “go home,” and promised Sawyer and his new Other followers that they’ll all be leaving together, but all we’ve really seen him do is take steps to eliminate his enemies. He wiped the Temple Others out, and he may very well have destroyed the last of the Ajira 316 survivors. He told Richard in 5.15 (Follow the Leader) that he would “deal with them,” and chances are that he did. He admitted to Sawyer this week that the Others’ primary purpose has been to protect the Island FROM HIM – so either Jacob and the Others have been making a terrible mistake in the importance of their mission (dubious), or the MIB is still in the process of murdering and/or manipulating everyone off what he hopes will soon be HIS Island. So if he is indeed arranging a legitimate mass exodus from the Island, I think it’s all a sham to get the Candidates (that I suspect he can’t kill) to leave the Island of their own accord. At this point in the game, I’m guessing that he himself is going nowhere. Or, if he IS planning to leave, then I suspect he’s certainly not planning to leave the Island intact behind him…

Widmore's Return:
As in my analysis last week, I still suspect Widmore might be on the MIB’s side. Sawyer jumped to the conclusion that Widmore was anti-smokey from the new arrivals building of a makeshift sonic fence, but that could easily just be a precaution of Widmore’s to make sure his dark ally doesn’t turn on him quickly. Sawyer threw his bargain at Widmore before Widmore had barely said a thing, and the look on Widmore’s face when Sawyer offered to help him kill Smokey seemed to be one of amusement to me. Personally I think he was pleasantly surprised that Sawyer was jumping to conclusions. I mean if anyone other than Smokey has reason to be pissed at Jacob and the Others, it’s the man they banished from the Island for harboring an off-Island family. Widmore wants to possess the Island, and I’m pretty sure doing so is going to require a little help from his Smokey friend. Sure, Widmore could be his own faction in this, but with the story wrapping up, we need sides to form, not branch out unendingly!

And that's where we are!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.07 - Dr. Linus

The sense of finality is looming larger! While there still may be some important moves for Ben to make in the overall LOST story, this really felt like the completion of his character arch. He was presented with the ostensible opportunity for reclaiming and expanding his on-Island power -- he was given a time and place to be to achieve a goal he's quite literally killed for -- and he gave it all up in a few heartbeats after hearing Illana mutter three short words of acceptance. "I'll have you." She's said what neither Ben's father nor Jacob ever did.

The Altered Universe:
This was a particularly fun one - I quite enjoyed watching mundane high school politics presented with LOST's unique flair for dramatic tension. Given the show's track record I just kept waiting for someone to pull a gun out, but for once we were watching average people behaving somewhat averagely! Ultimately we were given an AU tale more directly parallel to the Original Timeline (OT) Island tale than any yet. Ben is faced with precisely the same decision in this week's AU story as he was in 4.09 (The Shape of Things to Come): His own power or Alex's life? While placing failure to get into Yale on the same level as getting shot in the head might be a touch dubious (There are other good universities out there, right?), the message was clear, and Ben's AU decision to choose Alex this time was made in complete conjunction with his OT decision to stop chasing power and embrace his own failures. Just like with last week when Sayid simultaneously gave into his darker nature in both the AU and the OT, one is left wondering if character's decisions in one timeline directly change the course of their existence in the other. Or are these similarities simply proof that we're watching the same characters in both stories, even if their circumstances have been altered and their connection to Jacob severed.

Also of note was Roger Linus referencing the fact that he and Ben left the Dharma Initiative and the Island. This was the first time any of the AU characters have mentioned having been on the Island (even though we've bumped into people like Ben and Ethan who would have been there in 1977 when the Incident occurred). Some fans have interpreted Ben's and Ethan's presences in the AU to be proof that things pre-1977, pre-Incident, are also different in the AU since we've seen the Island on the ocean floor. To me, Roger Linus mentioning his days on the Island is only further proof of what we were lead to believe by Faraday's plan for changing things and Juliet's other-worldly confirmation that "It worked" -- that the AU came into being (diverging from the OT) precisely when Juliet detonated the Jughead H-Bomb in 1977, and that nothing prior to that moment in the AU happened differently from what occurred in the OT. The whole concept of the AU is complicated and "out there" enough -- I don't see why the writers would differ from the bomb-splitting-the-timeline premise they set up. If the Island is on the ocean floor in the AU, and Roger and Ben left the Dharma Initiative sometime after Jughead detonated, then clearly the Island didn't instantly sink upon the detonation. Maybe the absence of the Swan site's electromagnetic energy pocket (which Jughead wiped out) slowly caused the destruction of the land mass beneath the Island. Maybe the lack of a functioning Island is causing unseen problems in the AU. Maybe the whole point of the AU is to show us what disastrous consequences are going to occur on a global scale if our characters don't sacrifice themselves to save the Island in the OT...

Jacob's Candidates:
Richard's crisis of faith in this episode's sub-plot was just as compelling as Ben's plea for understanding. Much like Jack, Locke, and Ben before him, Richard was finally driven off the "it's-all-been-meaningless" deep end by the combined impact of losing Jacob, losing everyone at the Temple, and realizing that he'll never know what his thousands (?) of years of service have been for. He reconfirms that his lack of aging is the result of Jacob's touch (which has never been too big a surprise since Jacob's healing powers have previously helped Locke, Juliet's sister Rachel, Dogen's son, and possibly Rose). But Richard goes on to add to his gift/curse his inability to kill himself. While we never saw Michael Dawson get touched by Jacob, "Dawson" WAS on both the Candidates Cave wall and the Lighthouse wheel, so chances are Michael WAS touched by Jacob at some point, and chances are that his inability to kill himself in 4.08 (Meet Kevin Johnson) was our first look at Richard's current plight. Jack wasn't able to kill himself either in the Flashforward of 3.22 (Through the Looking Glass), and now Jack takes destiny by the reigns once again, executing a science experiment to renew his faith in the powers of the island. He still might not be down with taking any orders from Jacob, but having watched that dynamite fuse fizzle out, he now knows Jacob is protecting him. The Others aren't able to boss around or kill still-valid Candidates, and these Candidates are unable to kill themselves. At least not until their duty or role in the Candidate-Search has been fulfilled, as Ghost-Christian Shepard indicated to Michael on the Freighter just before it exploded in 4.13 (There's No Place Like Home) with the words, "You can go now."

Jacob & His Agenda:
But while Jacob seems to be able to protect his Candidates to a certain extent, he certainly doesn't make anything easy for them. In fact, it's almost the exact opposite. One of my favorite revelations of the night was Miles telling Ben that Jacob didn't want to die and was in fact hoping that he was "wrong" about Ben. We all know that Jacob behaved like a mysterious, ungrateful jack-ass to Ben right before Ben knifed him, which leaves us with only one conclusion: Jacob will go to any length, including risking his own life, to force his Candidates to prove their character in the face of unwavering adversity. "Linus" may have been crossed off both the Lighthouse and the Cave wall long ago, but Jacob still wanted to see Ben change, and was willing to give him neither an apology or nor an explanation to ease that transition. Ben's faith had to be proven in the worst possible circumstances. It's reminiscent of God's behavior toward Job in the Old Testament's Book of Job. And if this is the way Jacob feels he needs to treat all his Candidates... perhaps it helps explain just a little bit why the Others haven't been allowed to tell the our heroes ANYTHING about ANYTHING ever. Perhaps if they did, the true test of our heroes' make and mettle would be tainted.

The Man In Black & His Agenda:
The MIB only made a brief appearance to Ben this week, but it spoke volumes. First, he directly contradicted what he said to Sawyer about the Island being a joke that doesn't need protection by telling Ben that he wanted Ben to assume the role of Island leader. Maybe he just needs a sap to take his place as the local "security system," but more obviously: he just tells people whatever they want to hear. If Sawyer wants to hear the Island is a joke and he can leave, that's what Sawyer is told. If Ben wants to hear the Island needs a leader and he can lead, then that's what Ben is told. Claire is told she can have Aaron back. Sayid is told he can have Nadia back. It's just an absolute PARTY at the Man In Black's house tonight! But ultimately, despite their recent crises of faith, Ben and Richard can now form a "We Resisted Temptation" club on the beach. The MIB offered Ben power and Richard answers (much like an ABC promo), but both have walked away from his offers. While the MIB's team grows based on promises, Jacob's team continues to grow based on character...

Widmore's Return:
This plot twist may have been rather clumsily and tangentially tacked on the end of the episode (usually such twists are a bit more carefully segued into), but there's no arguing how good it is for wrapping up this show's mysteries that Widmore has finally made his return to the Island. Questions surround the man like a swarm of gnats, but connecting him into his proper place in the current battle that is being waged will fill in a LOT of blanks from the past seasons. My current hunch is that he's somehow aligned with the MIB, (perhaps having made a pact with Smokey prior to his Ben-influenced banishment from the Island). I say this primarily because he told Locke there was a "war" coming on the Island in 5.07 (The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham), and if he WAS referring to the current coup of the MIB, how would he have known about it back then if he hadn't been in cahoots with Smokey? After all, Richard and the rest of the Other seem to have been caught completely off guard by this "war." Of course there's still a chance he knows nothing of Jacob and the MIB's current conflict and just wants to get revenge on Ben and reclaim The Others as his own... but I doubt it. All points are currently converging. But the biggest question raised by Widmore's reappearance is how did he find the Island? Eloise probably didn't help him, as what with her being the keeper of unsanctioned Island travels she could have easily helped him return at any point over the last 20 years. So either she's had a change of heart on helping Widmore find the place, or maybe he was able to somehow track Ajira 316's trajectory. Now that Widmore's back in the picture, I certainly hope that both Desmond and Eloise will return to action as well. There's much we need to know about their mysterious places in this epic tale.

And that's where we are!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.06 - Sundown

Poor Sayid. He has one of the most consistent -- and consistently tragic -- storylines of any LOST character. Here's a glimpse at his inner monologue over the course of the series:

I'm a good kid. Oh, wait, I've killed a chicken to help my brother. I'm a good soldier. Oh, wait, I've been manipulated into being a torturer. I'm a good veteran. Oh, wait, I've crashed on a wacko-crazy magic Island and ended up torturing a redneck con-man. But, I'll atone for my sins. I'm a good lover. Oh, wait, Shannon's been killed and I beat the crap out of Ben Linus and killed a bunch of mercenaries. At least I can get off-Island and start anew with Nadia. I'm a good husband. Oh, wait, Nadia's been killed and I've been manipulated into being a serial killer for Ben Linus. Screw this, I need to join a charity organization to right my wrongs. I'm a good Samaritan. Oh, wait, I've been dragged back to the Island through time and have shot the child Ben Linus. For shame! At least I'll get what I deserve in death. I'm a good corpse. Oh, wait, I've been brought back to life by the Sickness, and am now a darkness-filled disciple of a mass murderer. THERE IS NO WINNING ON THIS SHOW!

Can Sayid ever find redemption, or is he Evil with a capital E now? It's all in the details...

The Altered Universe:
Still as big a mystery as ever, the Altered Universe was treated a bit differently this time around. For starters, Sayid seemed worse off to begin with than when we first met him in the Original Timeline. When OT Sayid first boarded Oceanic 815, he certainly hadn't had it easy, but at least he was on his way to L.A. to seek out Nadia and presumably try to start a life with her. AU Sayid had already written off the possibility of a real relationship with Nadia by the time Flight 815 passed over the sunken Island. Plagued with guilt for sins past, he'd long since come to the conclusion that he didn't deserve her and had encouraged her to marry his brother -- a very different outlook from that of OT Sayid. But, like the Sayid we know and pity, AU Sayid just can't seem to escape his ability and inclination to kill as a means of helping those around. Where Kate, Locke, and Jack were able to find at least temporary freedom from their characteristic shackles in the Altered Universe, AU Sayid both begins and ends a prisoner of his guilt and dark nature. Maybe this isn't the Universe of Happy Endings after all...

The Island & It's "Magic Box" Ability:
When the Man in Black (MIB) offered Sayid anything he wants -- anything in the entire world -- my mind was instantly transported back to episode 3.13 (The Man From Tallahassee) when Ben told Locke about the Island's metaphorical Magic Box. Ben, attempting to tantalize Locke with the nature of the Island, said: "Let me put it so you'll understand. Picture a box. You know something about boxes, don't you, John? What if I told you that somewhere on this island, there's a very large box... and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it, when you opened that box, there it would be." As always with our big bads, there's a chance both Ben and the MIB were merely telling their victims what they wanted to hear, but I'm inclined to believe the Island really does have a "Magic Box" ability. Yes, Richard and Ben may have just kidnapped Locke's father Anthony Cooper after his car accident in Tallahassee and dragged him to the Island as a test for Locke, but between Kate's Horse, Sawyer's Boar, and Sayid's Cat - we know this Island can manifest things from our heroes' lives. If the MIB is telling the truth and he really can give Sayid a living, breathing Nadia, I'm guessing she'll come out of the same "Magic Box" from which Richard and Ben pulled Locke's father, and from which our various heroes' pulled their respective animals. Jacob and the MIB simply might be the masters at controlling this Island ability.

The Sickness:
Well, I got answers to my query last week regarding just how crazy the Sickness makes people. Clearly, being infected allows the MIB to get his hooks completely into a person. While it might not be as pedestrian as mind control (for Sayid and Claire still DO appear to have much of their own, natural inclinations), it clearly overrides a person's moral compass and aligns their wills and needs with those of the MIB. Sayid and Claire still require motivation from the MIB -- Claire is told she'll be reunited with Aaron, Sayid with Nadia -- but they act against the best interests of the majority, and against any conception of what is "right," giving into a degree of selfishness and inhumanity that neither would have previously been capable of. Sure Sayid’s murder of Dogen and Lennon might have been palatable (and given how many times they tried to kill him, perhaps even commendable) with or without any Sickness, but knowingly welcoming the Smoke monster into the temple to commit mass homicide… that’s not quite the Sayid we all remember.

The big questions that remain regarding the Sickness are how one initially contracts it, and whether or not can one be cured. If a person has to die to contract the Sickness, does that mean Claire was killed when Widmore's mercenaries blew up her Dharmaville house in 4.09 (The Shape of Things to Come)? Even so, what were the common circumstances that she and Sayid experienced that lead to their infections? Regarding a cure, I've always been inclined to believe that Claire is one of the characters that can and will be saved on this show. Many of our leads are likely candidates for tragic heroes (Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Sayid), but Claire has always been one of the "ordinaries" to me – one of the characters that the tragic heroes need to make sacrifices for in order to save. Much of Kate’s, Jack’s, and Charlie's redemption arcs revolve around Claire being reunited with Aaron, and if this is ever to come to fruition, then there must be a cure of some degree for the Sickness. For me, the central question is whether Sayid will have the opportunity to snap out of it in time to end his story as a tragic hero rather than a tragic villain.

The Others and Their Obsession with Good and Evil:
Dogen referred to the Man in Black as “Evil Incarnate” in this episode. I’ll admit the MIB is clearly one bad dude -- but the “Evil Incarnate” moniker doesn’t hold much weight coming from a key member of a tribe of self-proclaimed “Good Guys” who kidnap, kill, lie, threaten, and torture to get what they want. In fact, if we hadn’t already witnessed the MIB’s own murderous deeds, I’d consider Dogen’s slur a mark in the MIB’s favor.

And Dogen’s accusations of “Evility” don’t stop at the MIB. Apparently the torturing device used in 6.03 (What Kate Does) actually assesses where a person falls on the Good-to-Evil scale. But, again, how can you trust a machine built and maintained by folks so utterly obsessed with letting people know they’re the Good Guys? Ethan later insisted to Claire that he and the Others are “good people” in 2.15 (Maternity Leave). Ben then declared “We’re the good guys” to Michael in 2. 23 (Live Together, Die Alone). They might have some good motivations for their behaviors – after all, Dogen was absolutely right that it was in the best interest of a LOT of now-dead people that Sayid be poisoned – but if that’s they’re definition of being “The Good Guys,” then I imagine their classification of the MIB and Sayid as Evil is just as shaded in gray.

Remember also that the Others have been rendering their good/bad judgments upon everyone who’s arrived on-Island throughout the course of the series. It all began with Goodwin telling Ana Lucia that he killed her fellow tail-section-survivor Nathan because Nathan “was not a good person” in 2.07 (The Other 48 Days). Ben (as “Henry Gale”) told Locke he’d come to fetch him because Locke was “one of the good ones” in 2.20 (Two For The Road). Locke told Kate he tried to convince the Others she was a “good person” in 3.15 (Left Behind). The Others’ definition of “Good” is clearly just “people we like” and/or “people likely to follow and/or be susceptible to our cause. According to Ben in 4.06 (The Other Woman), Goodwin tried to make a case for Anna Lucia’s entry into Otherdom but she wasn’t deemed worthy. More likely it was determined that she’d never buy the steaming pile of bull crap the Others have fed their ever-dwindling myriad of followers.

If this notion of “Good” equaling susceptibility to the Others’ cause reminds of you of “The Sickness” equaling susceptibility to the MIB’s desires… well I’m betting that’s not a coincidence. Whatever the Others did to young Ben in that Temple Spring to make him lose his innocence (Richard’s words in 5.11 [Whatever Happened, Happened]), I’m betting it’s the “pro-Jacob” version of what has now happened to Sayid. Has every one of the Others been dipped in that Spring and revived as a follower of Jacob? If so, I’m betting folks who come to this Island are apparently generally either susceptible to either Jacob’s side or the MIB’s side, and the Others are perhaps in a race to collect the “good” and weed out the “evil” to keep their ranks flowing. And what of those balanced in between? I’m guessing they’re the ones who are still Candidates.

Jacob & His Agenda:
Adding more gray to Jacob’s agenda – even as the MIB is declared Evil Incarnate – is Dogen’s back-story. Would the man who supposedly leads the side of “Good” really for all intents and purposes blackmail his key followers into providing their services? Dogen having to remain on-island to save his off-island son is VERY reminiscent of Juliet having to remain on-island to save her off-island sister in 3.16 (One of Us). It was a slimy situation when Ben laid it out for Juliet, and it’s just as slimy a situation now. Jacob seems easy-going enough in his conversations with Hurley, but if he only offers his and the Island’s healing services when it’s to his direct advantage, then he’s not much better than the MIB. And if it was really on his orders that the entire Dharma Initiative was purged… well then he’s just about the same as the MIB, isn’t he? The terms Good and Evil are the Others’ red herrings. What we have here is a feud between two very human entities who have somehow become the protectors of the Island and gained the ability to tap into its powers -- one free (Jacob), one trapped (MIB). Perhaps the goal of protecting the Island IS indeed noble, but Jacob is only as much a “Good Guy” as his followers.

Jacob’s Candidates:
Again we get more evidence that the Others aren’t allowed to harm Jacob’s candidates. Dogen wanted Sayid dead VERY badly, but stayed his hand at the drop of the baseball – perhaps a reminder of his deal with Jacob. Even now that Sayid has been claimed by the MIB, Jacob’s no longer around to cross his name out and make him fair game for Dogen’s knife. Similarly, I think the MIB isn’t allowed or perhaps even able to harm the Candidates by the Island’s own Rules. Creepy vision of The Kid in 6.04 (The Substitute) told the MIB “You can’t kill him,” and I’m still holding to the theory that The Kid was referring to Sawyer. Now, at the end of this episode, the MIB looked very disgruntled to see Kate tagging along with his party, and I don’t think there’s anything he can personally do about her presence there. Here’s betting he tries to egg Claire into fulfilling her threat to kill Kate.

The Man In Black & His Agenda:
So if the Man in Black simply wants to leave the Island, how come he needs so many followers? He’s clearly very ready and willing to massacre everyone else, but was this simply revenge for their denying him in the past, or was it all a necessary part of his plan? I don’t think we quite know the extent of his agenda yet. There’s more at work here than simply escape.

And that's where we are!