TV Club

Season 6: How Desmond Is Like Smokey

So pleased to see you’re in brighter spirits, Jack. I, too, enjoyed this episode. It’s a testament to the show’s protean slipperiness that it can flip from pure fantasy two weeks ago (in telling Richard Alpert’s story) to pure sci-fi this week (in telling Desmond’s).

Richard’s tale was peopled with immortal beings waging a battle of light versus dark. The threatened danger was that a vaguely defined evil might shroud the world. True to fantasy form, it even featured horseback riding and period costumes.

This week the aesthetics shifted radically: more modern, more mathematical, more concrete. The key conflict involved a rich man’s scheme to harness electromagnetic energy for mysterious—possibly nefarious—ends. This is classic sci-fi territory.

(By the way, last week’s show just seems worse and worse in retrospect, no? Instead of advancing the grand narrative, it puttered around in a Jin-and-Sun-relationship cul-de-sac that I couldn’t care less about. It’s sort of amazing how little we understand about some of these characters’ personalities—their proclivities, their inner thoughts—even after five and a half seasons. What can you tell me about Sun’s essential nature now that you couldn’t have told me at the end of Season 1?)

I’m intrigued to see how Lost’s split personality will get fused together as we approach the finale. For now, the sci-fi storyline appears to have lower stakes—it’s mere mortals fighting over a powerful energy source. This isn’t in the same ballpark, implications-wise, as the fantasy storyline—a struggle between demigods with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance.

We’ve seen so many parallels between the two timelines. This week, at least in Desmond’s mind, the alternate universes blurred. Could it be that one storyline is reality and the other mythic allegory? Consider how the fight between Widmore and Desmond echoes the fight between Jacob and Smokey. Widmore, like Jacob, is fairer complected and in the alpha role, holding what seem to be the trump cards. Desmond, like Smokey, is darker haired and to a certain extent beholden to the whims of his combatant. When Widmore trapped Desmond in that electromagnetic room, it brought to mind Jacob’s imprisonment of Smokey on the island. What this means for the larger picture—who’s bad, who’s good, who’s right, who’s wrong—it’s too early to tell.

A few odds and ends:

  • Did you notice that Desmond asks Penny to go out for coffee? I wonder if this coffee-date stuff has some sort of meaning, since we heard Juliet suggest in her dying breath that she’d like to bond with Sawyer over a cup of joe.
  • Jack, that rabbit named Angstrom is actually a double joke. You noted the Updike connection. An angstrom is also a unit of measure that gauges the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. I sometimes grow weary of Lost’s fondness for facile literary shoutouts, but this is a cleverly constructed—if strained and effortful—pun. (It’s hard to see how the delicate suburban ennui of Rabbit, Run relates to the high-concept action of Lost. Also, there’s already been a Watership Down reference this season. Which leads to a broader question: What’s with all the bunnies?)
  • How thoughtful of Sayid to show up and snap a neck, for old times’ sake, just before the fadeout. Keep it real, Sayid. Never stop snapping necks.
  • Desmond and Penny’s is the only love story on Lost that has ever worked for me. Perhaps it’s that they’re better actors. Perhaps I’m just bewitched by their accents. Whatever it is, I hope this star-crossed romance (and not the boring, stilted one between Jack and Kate) will be the emotional focus of the show in these final weeks.

Chad, I’m not scared of your harpy claws like Shafer is. But I am in awe of your Lost-related erudition. I freely admit I can’t begin to understand the meanings and repercussions of everything that happened in this week’s episode, so I’m counting on you to lay some knowledge on us.

Commenters: Please post your own questions below—be they substantive queries for Chad or requests for a coffee date with Shafer. We’ll do our best to answer them this week or next.

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