Friday, February 10, 2006

TV REVIEW: Lost: "The Long Con"

Finally, a good episode of Lost!

"The Long Con" (a metaphor, I occasionally fear, for the overall direction of the series...) was written by Leonard Dick and Steve Maeda and directed by Roxann Dawson (where have I heard that name before? That's B'Elanna on Star Trek Voyager!)

The episode is a Sawyer-centric story, which is cool, because he's one of the most interesting characters on the series. In particular, the plot revolves around a surprise attack on Sun while she's minding her own business in a garden. The brutal attack is ostensibly conducted by "The Others," who just weeks ago promised a truce - provided the plane survivors don't cross a certain line in the sand.

This surprise attack, by the way, occurs at precisely the right moment to gin up support for Jack and Ana Lucia's proposed military action against the Others, Jack's Jihad. Kate suspects that Ana Lucia herself was behind the attack on Sun, but there's another agenda at work too. And then, Locke - fearing that Jack will use an armory full of guns to wage war - moves the weapons...only to have them intercepted by another party. At the end, all is revealed, and a new, uneasy alliance has been forged between two islanders who you wouldn't suspect of a team-up.

What I really enjoyed about this installment of Lost wasn't necessarily the focus on Sawyer, but rather the character fireworks occurring on the island. After all, previous flashbacks have revealed already that Sawyer is one B.M.F. (bad motherf@*#*...) so any further flashbacks on this subject are really just gilding the lilly. But overall, that's my problem with Lost.

A good series (and a good movie) is one where form reflects content. Where how the show is told is as important as what is told in the narrative. The flashbacks on the series, I believe, now serve no narrative function whatsoever since we are fully acquainted the characters. The only way the flashbacks could be valuable at this point is if the island is Purgatory, and thereby judging the "moral" history of all the characters, pre-final dispensation. If the island isn't Purgatory (and the writers says it is not...) then all the flashbacks are...what?

My opinion is that they are just a delaying tactic, preventing the writers from telling real, important stories involving the island's present. Like ones about the smoke monster; or the polar bear; or Walt talking backwards; or the exact details of the Dharma Initiative. Or what's up with Claire's baby. Or who Ethan was. Because to tell those stories, the writers would have to settle on one, coherent plot line, and they won't do that until they are forced to, when the ratings - inevitably - drop.

Anyhoo, the flashbacks were all right, if not earth-shattering. The cool part of the episode involved the beginnings of real division on the island. It looks like Jack and Locke are finally - and irrevocably - moving to different ends of the spectrum on how they deal with things. They don't trust each other, they don't like each other...and it's on! The teaser for next week's episode seems to indicate they're really going to have it out, with the computer countdown running out too. Wow!

But it wasn't just the growing divide between Locke and Jack that made "The Long Con," involving. Rather, I liked the set-up of the entire episode, how Sawyer located an ally in the weak and resentful Charlie. In fact, this episode is so good it retroactively makes last week's Charlie installment look better. Charlie is hurt, wounded, looking to embarrass Locke, and now he gets his chance. He's made an ally with the Devil.

Not that I think Sawyer is actually the devil. Quite frankly, Jack is too self-righteous and pretentious to be an adequate leader of the island. I wouldn't want his hands on the "red button" (or in this case, the guns) because he's a self-appointed crusader. He's likely to go all native and attempt to "liberate" the Others, if you get my drift. And Locke is just as bad. He's a zealot, a religious fanatic somehow held in thrall to the island. I wouldn't want him controlling the guns, either.

Sawyer - as selfish and irritating as he is - just might be the island's happy medium. He's not a true believer and he's not a do-gooder. But he is practical, and cunning, and so maybe having him as "the new sheriff" in town is the best deal imaginable.

"The Long Con" was a good episode, but I think Lost is living up to my prediction: about one in every four shows is worth watching. Let's see if next week's episode bucks the odds.

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