TV Club

Season 6: Kung Fu in the Temple!

Seth and Chad:

Another decent episode, made all the more decent by the writers’ decision to put the mystic jabber on hold for a while and advance the story with a little close-range combat. Sayid’s three action sequences demonstrate with real finality all we need to know about the man. He’s a natural born killer whether his time line unfolds on the island or Los Angeles, whether he’s alive or resurrected. Like the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry, Sayid drowns Dogen and slits Lennon’s throat because he likes it. Perhaps the only decent thing he’s done in his life is to convince his beloved to marry his brother.

This episode, “Sundown,” felt crowded with movie allusions. The martial arts battle between Dogen and the resurrected Sayid in the temple played like an homage to 1970s chop-socky. When Smokey came blasting into the temple to slay its inhabitants, it was like watching a speed-metal version of the scene in DeMille’s The Ten Commandmentswhere Moses dispatches a smokey plague to kill the Egyptians’ first-born sons. I don’t know whether the filmmakers were quoting anybody when Sayid slaughtered the three loan sharks, but I was happy to see the show reprise its death-by-gunshot-to-the-torso riff.

Did either of you detect hints of The Wizard of Oz—perhaps the most-frequently looted film in all moviemaking—at the collapse of the temple’s defenses? Smokey reminds me of the ferocious Oz tornado and all the palaver about good and evil and black and white rings of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. Maybe I’m imagining things. But I’m certain that episode’s last scene, where Smokey Locke leads his followers into the jungle, was a direct reference to Apocalypse Now. Smokey Locke even looks like Marlon Brando’s very bald and very bad Col. Kurtz; the Lost temple resembles Kurtz’s jungle power-base, and Smokey Locke’s rag-tag group of followers could pass for Kurtz’s satanic militia. Both Kurtz and Smokey are determined to exterminate all the brutes. But while Kurtz imagines himself a god, Smokey is one.

At the risk of riling all the Lost truthers who have been savaging me in the Slate comments, let me ask if either of you found it hokey that Ilana, upon arriving at the temple, knew exactly where to locate the panic room (or Oz-like cellar) to keep her fellow travelers safe? Recall that the inhabitants of the temple had no idea of its coordinates.

And as long as I’m asking the questions, here’s another: Has any episodic series ever treated its audience to more scenes of people knocking or ringing at doors? If I wasn’t filing this dispatch immediately after the broadcast, I’ll bet I could find a dozen examples. Sayid knocks on Omar and Nadia’s door in “Sundown.” Jack did the same to his ex-wife’s door in last week’s episode, “Substitute,” when he went looking for his son. My memory seems to recall half a dozen motel doors getting knocked over the course of six seasons. A symbol? A cheap dramatic gimmick to goose tension? Nothing more than mounting evidence of my Lost fatigue?

Fill me in.

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