Saturday, September 4, 2010

LOST: The New Man in Charge reflections

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the final installment in this first round of reflections on Lost. This post covers the special 12-minute epilogue included on the DVD. If you have not seen it and do not want to be spoiled, then do not read! If you have not seen it and do want to be spoiled, then by all means keep reading.

This little epilogue to the series involves some of the things that Hurley and Ben were doing as the new leaders of the island. It ends up that it answers more questions in 12 minutes than the entire finale did in 2 and a half hours.

It opens with two Dharma guys in a packing facility in Guam. They are preparing another food drop. We learn that the food drops were still going on because the system was automated. The guys in Guam would receive a message over the teletype and they would fulfill it. The messages were being coordinated and sent from the Lamp Post station. This makes sense since it was there that the islands new coordinates were being discovered.

Ben comes in saying that he was sent from management, and tells the guys their services are no longer required. He gives them generous severance packages (read, envelopes full of cash) from "the new man in charge". He says that he was sent because the new man in charge is tying up a few loose ends. He then tells them that there hasn't been a Dharma Initiative in 20 years. The guys are stunned, so he allows them each one question. One guy asks where the food has been going, and Ben says to an island. The location is different each time because the island moves. The second guy notices that they have sent polar bear fish biscuits and wants to know what polar bears are doing on a tropical island. Ben answers this by showing them a DVD. This scene seemed tailor-made for fans. The two guys are meant to represent the audience. Ben's dialogue is said with a wink and a nod to us: "It's all over now, but I'll answer a couple questions for you." It's also fun that Ben provides answers on DVD for the guys, just like this piece has been provided for us on DVD.

The DVD contains the orientation video for the Hydra Station (it was put on DVD from an old Betamax tape). Dr. Change introduces himself as Dr. Chang. He says that "for security reasons" they shouldn't spread this fact around or he'll have to start using an alias. That's about all the answer we get, but it at least finally references the fact that he's been using aliases. We still do not know if the security is to protect him from the Hostiles, from other Dharma members, or from someone else.

We learn that the "Hurley bird" was a genetic experiment in mutating bird species. The birds were bred on Hydra Island and then released.

Chang explains about the polar bears being brought and kept in the cages, and also about the fish biscuit mechanism. He says that when a bear is found to be sufficiently trained (the fish biscuit thing was a sort of test), a bear was to be sent to the main island and to the Orchid Station for further experimentation. These bears were marked with Hydra Station collars. This explains the bear that Charlotte found in Tunisia.

Chang also says to be sure not to send female bears who might be pregnant, as the electromagnetic radiation at the Orchid station is known to disrupt the gestation period. Finally we learn why the Others can't have babies! It's all the fault of the electromagnetism! One wonders if this problem came only after the Dharma Initiative, or at least after the Man in Black dug the wells, or if it was always that way. If it wasn't, why was the Tawaret statue built? We still don't know. I was glad that this fact was at least finally addressed though, since it was a MAJOR plot point of season 3, and then completely ignored.

Chang explains the reasons for Room 23; it was an interrogation room for captured Hostiles. He says that they were using it to learn more about the Hostiles' mysterious "worship of a deity known as Jacob". That explains the "God loves you as he loved Jacob" thing on the screen. The Dharma guys didn't know much about Jacob, they were just trying to mess with the Hostiles' heads. He also says that it triggers a kind of amnesia effect so that they would have no memory of being in the room. That's a problem, since Walt clearly remembered being in the room. Maybe that's just because Walt's special?

Anyway, after this Ben leaves the two guys (one of them says "We need to see that again!"). Ben then goes to Santa Rosa where he wishes to visit "Keith Johnson". As you'd suspect, this person turns out to be Walt. There are a number of questions this raises. Why is Walt in Los Angeles, and why is he in Santa Rosa? Does he think he's crazy? Did he do something "special" again that put him there? He also knows that Michael is dead. How did he find out? Who told him? Or could he just sense it with his magic Walt powers?

Ben tell Walt that "a friend" sent him, and that he should come with Ben back to the island so he can help his father. When Walt protests that his father is dead, Ben says "that doesn't mean you can't help him." This is nice because not only do we actually get a bit of closure for Walt, but we are also given hope for Michael. The way the series ended, he was just a miserable ghost, which was a bummer. Here, we are led to believe that he and Walt will finally reunite, and maybe things will get better. Maybe a trip to the magical light in the other-worldly church is not far off for them.

Ben takes Walt outside and Hurley is waiting for them in the car. Ben apologizes to Walt for kidnapping him all those years ago and what not. Hurley says they will take Walt back to the island. "It's where you belong, dude." and then they all go home to the island.

At first blush, I'm grateful for this piece and wish there had been a way to fit this stuff into the finale. Maybe then we wouldn't have felt as cheated. I'm grateful for some of the answers, even if they were a little glibly given. Fact is, it proves that it's NOT hard to give answers on the show if you have the will to do it. "Why can't the Others have babies??" "The island's radiation kills them." ...oh. Okay, cool. I mean, how hard was that to say? I was really glad to see Walt again. Ben brings up about how Walt is "special". Again, this is never really defined, but at least he's going back to the island where that seems to be useful. Hurley even says that Walt "has a job" there, implying perhaps that Walt will take over protecting the island when Hurley is done. I like too that Walt gets to go back, not just because he has no one back home, but because way back in season one he burned the raft because he didn't want to leave. I'm glad Ben regrets the kidnapping, even though we still don't find out what the purpose for it was.

I started wondering too about Ben being second in command and all. In the finale, he blamed Jacob for the fact people couldn't leave the island and whatnot. But he was just as responsible! Maybe not for the magical bubble that kept you from leaving, but he didn't let Juliet leave for example. It's funny now he's sort of in exactly the same position he was before, but now he's a different sort of guy. Maybe it's different for him to be able to see his superior and know that he is not in charge. While we know Hurley and Ben can leave the island, and Ben goes back to the island, and the "loose ends" are being tied up. Maybe they were limited for time, but I was really hoping to get a little more of a sense of what Ben and Hurley were doing ON island. I suppose they were watching after the remaining Others. And I was very bummed not to learn about the fate of Zach and Emma. This seemed the perfect opportunity to put a little bow on that story. Like, they could have dropped them off with their mom on the way to see Walt. I still hope that Hurley brought them home and they aren't just stuck on the island forever. As much as I really wanted that to be answered, I'm grateful for the answers we did get. I'm so glad that at LEAST Walt's story was given a little conclusion, even if we don't learn much more of the whys. At this point, just to know he wasn't totally neglected is something.

After Battlestar Galactica ended, a movie came out called "The Plan" purporting to give answers to questions from the show. I found it disjointed and most of the "answers" were either nonsense or things I'd already figured out. "The New Man in Charge" serves a similar function. It is far shorter, which in some ways is a shame, but it gives far more useful answers. It does make me feel better about the end of the series than before. While I would have liked a few answers to the things still hanging out there (who broadcast the numbers??), this bit was a welcome addition to Lost canon. Not quite an episode, but far more than one of the webisodes, it's a cryptic but concrete expression of what Lost was and could be, boiled down to a few minutes for the fans. I appreciated it.

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