Saturday, June 19, 2010

Infinity and Beyond: Toy Story 3 Review

The first Toy Story was more notable for the ways it changed animation than in the way the story or characters stuck with you, which made the emotional content of Toy Story 2 so surprising. In the decade since the sequel, Pixar has established that earned emotion as its house style, and built a commitment to story and character unparalleled not only in animation but in any area of pop culture. Their last two films especially, Wall-E and Up, have appealed more to adults than children. It would be hard (but not impossible) for a child to understand to solitary longing of Wall-E, or to emotionally connect to the devastating montage of Carl and Ellie's life together in Up.

The Pixar that brings us Toy Story 3 is, then, not the same Pixar that brought us the first sequel, and the film is all the better, wiser, and more resonant for it. Without the success, financial and critical, of the films that preceded this one, Pixar might not have dared to take the story in the sometimes very dark directions that it must to pack an emotional wallop at the end. But the film does get dark-even taking these adorable little characters into the depths of a literal hell. The climactic moment of that sequence is a breathtaking piece of animation, subtle and simple and pure (I won't go into great detail, not only for fear of spoiling, but because I'd like to get through writing this without tearing up). The “performance” on the face of Buzz Lightyear in that scene is the rival of any flesh and blood actor's performance in recent years. But one of the primary reasons that moments like this succeed is how fun the rest of the film is (a sequence in which Mr. Potato-Head finds his body replaced with a tortilla is a comic set piece that recalls Buster Keaton in its fluid brilliance). Toy Story 3 is so deftly plotted and kinetic in its direction that the emotion simply creeps up on you. The film is infused with wit and sadness, and the bittersweet accomplishment of growing up.

Toy Story 3 caps what is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the greatest of all film trilogies. Every other attempt before it has hit a weak patch: for Star Wars it was the Ewoks, for Lord of the Rings it was the dreadfully boring Aragorn/Arwen segments that weighed down The Two Towers, for the Godfather films it was Sofia Coppola, and for the Matrix movies it was...well, pretty much everything past the first one. But with Toy Story we finally have a trilogy that builds on the strength of each installment to a logical, emotionally satisfying conclusion. It is the greatest film yet from a studio whose artistic achievements dwarf all others.

Toy Story 3: A+

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"How are you here?": "The End" of LOST

Finales are practically never satisfying to everybody-and in the end that usually doesn’t matter. People who desperately wanted visual evidence that Tony Soprano died at the end of the series will never be satisfied by the cut to black. It’s too ambiguous, and not bloody enough. People (like me) who expected some kind of answer to what exactly Starbuck was after her return on Battlestar Galactica will never be satisfied by the “well, apparently she’s an angel” theory. All a finale ultimately has to do is wrap things up in a way that’s appropriate to the show itself. The Wire’s finale works because it shows the ways in which the cycle of violence and escape is perpetuated—which was the central thesis of the show. The cut to black works for The Sopranos because it is a visual representation of the absence of salvation, the ultimate end of Tony’s nihilistic worldview and self-serving behavior. Galactica’s robot montage may be goofy, but it certainly underscores the theme of the show, which is that man is trapped in a cycle of creation and destruction.

So then, in considering “The End” of Lost, we’ve got to first see if the ending was appropriate to all that had come before it. The answer is yes (and no). The show is about fate vs. free will and reason vs. faith. It may be unsatisfying for the more rational fans that the show came down so singularly on the side of “faith”, but that’s always been where it was heading. Lost is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It’s not Star Trek with its technical jargon and legitimate basis in physics and quantum theories—it’s Star Wars with its Force and its destiny (let’s make this clear-it’s original trilogy Star Wars, before fucking midichlorians. Seriously, fuck midichlorians). I suspect that this philosophical divide is behind some of the more vitriolic responses to the finale. There are plenty of reasons to love or to hate the finale (and in extension the series), but the war waged online right now is pretty ridiculous. The worst posts are by those that loved the finale and are smugly lording over people who hated it and therefore “didn’t get it” or “didn’t pay attention”. The finale does work, and does make sense unto itself-however, the developments in the finale muddy much of what came before it in the series, and in that way is legitimately unsatisfying.

Lost has always functioned on two fundamental levels: as a character study, and as a mystery show. That yields two basic types of fans: those who want to see what happens to Jack, Sawyer, et all, and those that want to know what that damn Smoke Monster is after six seasons. But ultimately, both aspects of the show are central to its appeal, and to deny either side is to take away a great deal of what made Lost so much fun. In the weeks before the finale aired, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse tried as hard as they could to insist that it was the characters that mattered, and that the mysteries weren’t important—because, likely, they knew just how much they’d failed at providing resolutions to the mysteries they’d sprinkled throughout the show. Some things-where the Dharma supply drop came from, for example-are ultimately irrelevant to the storyline and need no explanation (they will, however, stand out upon rewatch and give the mystery fans even less reason to ever re-examine the series as a whole). But some things that are incredibly important to the understanding of the universe that the show has presented us have been left up to the viewer to determine.

Perhaps Lost functions better as mythology than mystery-where answers can be left open to interpretation, subjective rather than verifiable. But that’s certainly not the way the show was presented during the course of its run—we were promised answers, the show didn’t deliver. At that end, Lost conclusively fails.

But the only answer that the finale really had to provide was what the Sideways World was, and it did that-while still leaving much up to interpretation. The “Sideways Purgatory” offered a chance for some pretty important closure for many of our characters, but a question lingers: was Sideways World really necessary? Was the Lost creative team so used to having a twin-narrative structure that they forced an unnecessary split into the last season? Could the final season’s storyline just been told in a straightforward manner, focusing only on the island narrative and its conclusion? Maybe, but not really.

The Sideways World was an inelegant way to offer resolution to many character arcs and relationships—most specifically allowing Jack to come face to face with his father at the end. Christian’s absence during the series, and his emotional absence throughout Jack’s life, is right at the core of the show. It’s corny, sure, but that moment of atonement at the end of the series is key to who Jack is and what Jack died for, and also mythologically necessary. But, again, we are left without a definitive answer to an important question: Where exactly did they Sideways World come from anyway?

In the very first scene of the Season Six premiere, “LA X”, we are shown Juliet detonating Jughead, and then Jack sitting on alt-Oceanic 815. There is an implied causality there, especially since the next time that we are shown Juliet detonating Jughead we are shown Jack, Kate, and everyone transported to their correct time. So if the second flash sent them back, then the first flash created the Sideways World. This would seem to be supported by Christian Shephard when he says that this is a place that they all made together to find each other. The only point in the series where we could have witnessed that creation is the Incident. So what exactly happened when Jughead went off? A massive amount of atomic energy interacts directly with the exotic matter “Source” of the island, put there by the future guardian of the island, Jack Shephard. Jack’s intent with Jughead was to end his suffering (and arguably that of his friends). With that act, Jack does create a world in which that very thing can happen-a place where he and the people he cares about can process and finally let go of their doubts and fears. You can even look at the Sideways World as a gift from the Island to Jack and his friends for their role in protecting it. This is a key difference in Jack’s role as Island Guardian as opposed to Jacob or Hurley’s—the idea of salvation being not just achievable, but a physical location.
Jack Shephard is Lost’s Jesus figure (though Desmond has often filled that role as well). The finale dropped all pretenses, providing him with a savior’s death and Christ’s side wound, and a descent into hell to defeat the devil. Christ in the New Testament is a surprisingly rash figure, and his overturn of the moneychangers in the Temple is similar to the fury Jack displayed when he destroyed the mirrors in the Lighthouse.Then, to top it off, we have Jack providing a world for those he loves in which they can be with each other in the presence of the divine “father”.

Now consider that Jacob offers no such afterlife to his followers, but the one who followed him does.

Jacob is Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament-the one who unleashed the devil upon the world, yet refuses to be directly involved in his defeat. He is alternately caring and furious, screaming at Richard and ambivalent to Ben (“What about you?”). And in Jewish tradition, there is no afterlife.

Hurley is Buddha—the middle road. All signs point to Hurley's time as guardian focusing more on providing his followers with gentle reminders of their humanity (such as his beautiful conversation with Sayid in the Sideways World) than with bogging them down with arcane, confusing rules (like Jacob did).

Ultimately, this is what Lost is about: humanity’s search for reason and purpose throughout the millennia. Witness the stained-glass window that appears in the Church behind Christian Shephard during his conversation with Jack—six panes, each filled with the symbol of one of man’s major religions-- and realize that the Sideways World is not only representative of Catholic purgatory, but of the Hindu / Buddhist notion of "Maya", that the world as we see it is an illusion, a construct of our minds that we use to process life before travelling on past fear and suffering and into the divine (“Buddha” even means “awakened one”).

But beyond both of those references, the Church, and the Sideways World, and The Source at the heart of the Island are entirely their own thing, and as decent a metaphor for the unknowable divine as any storyteller has ever given us. This is why the finale works, in spite of lingering questions we might have about plot points. Ultimately, Lost is about self-reflection (hence the importance of those long glances in the Sideways mirrors). Are we who we are meant to be, or who we choose to be? In Season One, Locke tells Shannon that everyone gets a chance at a new life on the island. Locke, pathetic and filled with rage, becomes the capable hunter he’d always wanted to be. Jack, hindered by his father’s greatness and disapproval, becomes a leader. And so on down the line.

But those are just my explanations, and everyone who’s watched the show will bring their own to it. When primitive man discovers a bright, glowing light, he assumes it’s a God. When modern man finds it, he calls it electromagnetism. We bring out own perspective to every aspect of our existence.

Beyond those explanations (and in spite of the need for explanation at all), the finale was remarkably exciting television. Among my favorite moments:

•The opening montage of our characters and their Sideways counterparts preparing for the end. Lost has done a lot of montages in its time, most of them pretty damn sappy, to be honest. But this one carried the proper mix of melancholy and impending doom.
•Bernard and Rose (and Vincent!) saving Desmond. I love that they broke their rule for Des, and I was genuinely afraid that Smokey was going to kill them. Terry O’Quinn’s face is harsh and filled with purpose in that scene. Really scary stuff.
•The overall pace and mood, especially of the first half of the episode, is fun and adventurous—a spirit often missing from the past two seasons.
•The moment where Desmond’s face goes “Oh. Fuck.” as the light turns red, and the bloody chaos that follows.
•The Jack vs. Locke showdown really delivered. First of all, I love that Jack hisses at Smokey that he’s “disrespecting” John Locke by wearing his face. Then their actual fight is one of the most intense moments in the history of the show (as it should be!). I also love Smokey’s guttural “you died for nothing!”.
•Sawyer and Juliet’s flash. By this point in the episode, the “wake-up” flashes were getting just a bit numbing, but the acting in this scene really, really sold it. I don’t know if Josh Holloway really has turned into a great actor, or being in scenes with Elizabeth Mitchell just makes him one, but when he hoarsely whispers “I’ve got you, baby”, I fucking lost my shit. Probably the most emotional moment in the history of the show.
•Ben and Hurley. These two haven’t ever gotten to share many scenes, but Garcia’s charm always mixes well with Emerson’s natural comic sensibility. Also, Ben’s decision to stay in the Sideways World to atone a bit more, and maybe spend some more time with Alex to help her wake up and finally let her know what she meant to him was nice.
•Ben and Locke. Just always great to have those two actors share a scene, and how appropriate to have Ben be the one to tell John that he can walk again.
•The fact that Jack and Kate do not cause each other’s flashes. I think that Jack and Kate do love each other, and I’ve never hated them as a couple, but to imply that their arc has had any of the emotional resonance of Jin and Sun’s, Sawyer and Juliet’s, or even Charlie and Claire’s would have been disingenuous. Instead, Kate flashes on Aaron who she raised, and Jack flashes on his father’s coffin—the start of his long journey and the beginning of his search for answers.
•The music, as always, the music.

And then, of course, there is the closing of the circle. Jack’s (and the show’s) final moments are beautiful and simple, and I suspect it will be more emotional to watch the pilot again afterward knowing that those are the first charging steps on Jack’s march toward the eternal. At the end of the pilot episode, Charlie asks “Guys, where are we?” The question lingers over the entire series and, really, we never get a full explanation. The closest we ever get is at the end of Season Four when John tells Jack that the island needs to be protected, Jack says it’s just an island, and John says “it’s a place where miracles happen”. In the finale, that question of where—a dodge all along—is replaced with the real thesis of the series, when Christian asks Jack “How are you here?” There’s a quote about the mystery of life that Kurt Vonnegut swipes from his son Mark that I’ve always loved: “We’re here to get through this thing, whatever it is”. The central mysteries of existence are unsolvable, whether through religious exploration or scientific experiment—and all we owe each other is the service of pulling each other out of the rubble every now and then.

The weight of lingering mysteries and loose ends definitely drags down the series as a whole, and Season Six in particular, but the finale makes perfect sense unto itself and illuminates the themes that have propelled the series all along. It’s filled with moments of high melodrama and cheap cornball, and also infused with flashes of rare, lyrical beauty. In other words, it’s everything that Lost ever was.

Lost series finale, “The End”:
Lost Season Six:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Order of the Phoenix:
Daniel Radcliffe puts his clothes back on for the best Harry Potter film yet

The Harry Potter film series, so far, has been the one thing that the Harry Potter book series has never been. That is, inconsistent. J.K. Rowling may not have the...most...compelling...prose (readers of the series will get that little joke), but she spins one hell of a yarn.
But film has a way of cementing a world in its viewer's mind, and it's nearly impossible to read the most recent Potter books without picturing Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson in their respective roles. The most fun thing about the film series so far, in fact, is watching the leads and their cohorts grow both as people and (in some cases anyway) as actors.
It's the direction that has led to bumps in the road throughout the film series, and with Order of the Phoenix's David Yates being the fourth director in five films, it's easy to see why. There seem to be two different ways for a director to approach Rowling's material: either as holy writ, not to be changed; or as solid marble to be chipped away at to reveal the masterpiece underneath.

The good news is that Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldenberg have managed to corral the long and twisting story points of the nearly 900 page book and distill it into merely two hours of film time, the shortest Potter to date, and certainly the most exciting. The look and feel of the film are spot on, dark but not dreary as the storm brewing around Harry and his friends grows ever nearer, but not so oppressive that lighter moments like the Weasley twin's great escape from Hogwarts play false. The film is alive, with brilliantly done effects that fill in the edges of Rowling's world and bring you further into the story, rather than detracting from it (for instance, when Harry and Cho Chang share their kiss, the picture of Cedric Diggory that had been slyly grinning at Cho before can be seen scowling).

Harry's world certainly is more disturbing this time around, most specifically because Lord Voldemort has returned. But for most of the film even Voldemort is overshadowed by the smirking pink menace of Dolores Umbridge, brought vividly to life by Imelda Staunton. Her performance is perfect, wheeling from sinister to saccharine on a dime. She leads Harry into her office, filled with pictures of real, adorably mewing kittens and then tortures him by making him write "I must not tell lies" into the back of his hand. Her presence is more frightening, in a sense, than even that of the noseless, serpentine He-Who-Must-Not -be-Named, played by Ralph Fiennes. In Goblet of Fire I had trouble believing Fiennes as Voldemort, Order of the Phoenix gives us a much more terrifying Dark Lord.

The best sections of the film follow Harry and his group of friends as they band together to form 'Dumbledore's Army', learning practical defenses against the dark arts behind Umbridge's back. In these moments we find Harry, not quite the prick he is in the book, stepping forward as a mature hero. Again, having seen all these kids grow up on-screen adds to the genuine feeling of camaraderie between them. And long time followers of the books can feel even more involved with the characters, knowing, for instance why we get that shot of Ginny Weasley watching Harry and Cho after the D.A. meeting (and, I suspect, getting a lump in your throat to see Snape and Dumbledore, knowing what lies ahead).

One thing that is missing from the books are Ron's Quidditch matches, and the "Weasley is Our King" chants that go along with it. In fact, Ron and Hermione are placed on the sidelines for most of the film, and the scenes that they do have are primarily for comic relief or exposition. But the scenes are well handled, and Ron and Hermione's burgeoning romance believable.

As good as Emma Watson (of the eternally flared nostrils) and Rupert Grint are, this is the first Potter film that really feels like a star vehicle for Daniel Radcliffe. Never before have we had so many scenes that relied mostly on his performance to carry us through, and he, like his screen counterpart, steps up excellently. With his willingness to take risks (stripping down for a London performance of Eqqus) and not take himself too seriously (sending up his image on Extras), Radcliffe may have a life well past Harry Potter. Harry lying on the ground fighting with Voldemort inside of his head is not something you could have asked Radcliffe to pull off even two films back, but you believe Harry's struggle and pain. And, as ever, you cheer for him.

With a genuine actor on board, and a director who knows what he's doing signed for at least one more picture, the series is well poised to take on all the dark territory that Rowling has plotted ahead for it.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: A-

Matthew Guerrero

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Misspent Youth Faking Up a Rampage:
The Pumpkins (or two of them, anyway) return with Zeitgeist

Nearly ten years ago the Smashing Pumpkins split up in grand, messy fashion; with always dramatic frontman Billy Corgan proclaiming "We died for rock and roll. It will mean something twenty years from now." So while waiting for those twenty years to pass, Corgan fulfilled all the requirements for the fading rock star:

Decent album with second, awkwardly named band (2003's Mary Star of the Sea by Zwan)? Check.
Embarrassing book of ::ahem:: 'poetry'? Check.
Head scratching electronica-infused solo album? Check.
Whiny public appeal to former bandmates? Check and check.

So now Corgan returns to the Pumpkins name, with 'just glad to have a gig' Jimmy Chamberlain in tow on Zeitgeist. The problem is, there are a dozen other bands out there doing the old SP shtick, and some of them (My Chemical Romance with last year's Black Parade) are doing it just as well as the Pumpkins at their height. So Zeitgeist comes out into a musical world that's not asking for it, manufactured by a man who's not so much growing up as growing old.

The album that results is all sound and fury, signifying precious little. Oh, there are highlights ("Doomsday Clock" is good rockin' fun), and echoes of Corgan's guitar-god youth (the made-for-shredding "Tarantula"), but for every brilliant solo there is a weak lyric, messy vocal, and twelve songs that pretty much all sound the same.
Beginning with 2000's Machina and the internet only Machina II, Billy seemed lost in his head and unsure. And instead of using that insecurity to his advantage like on the soul-bearing Siamese Dream, he hid behind meaty power chords and Jimmy's brilliant drumming. Most of Zeitgeist's tracks follow the same pattern.

Not that any of the songs are terrible, it's just middle-of-the road, uninspired alt-rock. "Seven Shades of Black" and "Bleed the Orchid" would be more at home on something by Collective Soul or Seven Mary Three. And the album's vaguely political stance seems more like a piggy-backing nod to Green Day's career-rejuvenating American Idiot than any genuine patriotic rage.

Billy seems to need collaborators to push him, or at least to add a different dimension to his sound. He may have played most of the guitar and bass tracks on Siamese Dream, but James Iha got co-writing credit on that album's "Mayonaise" , maybe the finest moment of the Pumpkin's career. And in Zwan, surrounded by supremely talented musicians, Billy seemed freer and more at ease than ever before (or since).

So for the casual rock fan it may be good crashing fun, but to Pumpkinheads a warning: this is not what we've been waiting for. Take heart, though, at the example of another huge band that split up and reunited to ever-greater success; it took Aerosmith two lukewarm albums before it struck gold again with Pump.
There's always hope that someone as talented as Billy can take the guitars back down to ten and produce a truly mature classic. He's got ten more years to make good.

The Smashing Pumpkins; Zeitgeist: C+

Stop reading this blog and download this track immediately:

"Tarantula". For three minutes and fifty-one seconds, it's 1995 again. Ranks with the best songs in the SP canon.

Matthew Guerrero

Sunday, July 8, 2007

We Have to Go Back, Kate:
LOST Season Three in review

The first episode of the Third Season of LOST was A Tale of Two Cities and, for LOST fans, it was definitely the best of times and the worst of times.
There's no way around it, LOST lost steam this season, the wacky scheduling didn't help (a six episode 'mini-series' and then three months off the air before 16 straight episodes), but the larger problem lie in the heart of the show itself, characters that we knew and loved took a back seat to new people and locales. The same thing happened with the Tail-Section survivors last season, but by the ninth episode, things were back to status quo. It took sixteen episodes this year for Jack to make it back to camp. The show suffered as a result, and once all our regulars were reunited you realized that the chemistry of the cast cannot be taken for granted. As soon as Jack got back, it was our show again.
This is not to say that this season was horrible, as some have claimed. On an individual episode basis, the show still delivered (with a few glaring exceptions), but the show seemed to lack a steady overall direction, and the flashback sections of each episode seemed less and less important to the development of the characters.

And then, Jack showed up with a strange new beard.

From the beginning of Through the Looking Glass, you realize something's amiss: this hyper-depressed Jack doesn't seem to fit in with his timeline as we know it. By the end of the episode, you know it's Kate coming out of that car by the runway. But that doesn't make you any less giddy at the prospect: the show is now flashing forward.
This is not only brilliant from a story-telling standpoint, it essentially saved the show. My only hope with the flash forwards, and the continuing island story is that by Season Five or Six, they come looping into one another, Memento style.

But it's not just the last episode that was brilliant, LOST's writers, directors, and actors proved their worth to their fans, their detractors, and (most importantly) ABC with a May sweeps run of episodes that rank among the show's finest. In The Brig, Sawyer finally confronts, in brutal fashion, the man the he's been chasing all his life. The scene where he wraps the chain around Cooper's neck and screams "You wanna see hell?!" may be LOST's most intense moment ever. But the next week, we had the show's best cliffhanger yet when Ben shoots Locke and leaves him to die in the mass grave that holds the remnants of the Dharma Initiative. The following episode was a long goodbye to one of the show's most loved characters, as Charlie considered his mortality, counting down his 'greatest hits', a genuinely moving episode, not a mere set-up for the finale.
And what a finale. The best episode of LOST ever; from Jack's head-spinning flash forward, to Charlie's death, to Hurley's rescue of the folks at the beach, to Jack's pummeling of Ben, every minute is gripping.

So here's a look at where we are, three seasons into a show that can still be called the best on network television.

We lost track of Jack for a large part of the middle of the season, and that was part of the reason that the season drug. Because as often boring and prickish Jack can be, he's our guy. And his role as a leader on the island came under fire after his stay with the Others and his trust in Juliet. Not much was fleshed out about Jack's past in the flashbacks, so little in fact that the necessity of flashbacks at all was called into question.
After the finale, we know why we've seen no great tragedy or secret in Jack's past; we've been watching the great tragedy in Jack's life. His role as leader to the survivors and whatever mistake it was he made in getting them off the island. Credit to Matthew Fox for scaling back the 'crazy Jack face' he relied on so often in Season Two. Season Three Jack is, like Season One Jack, someone you'd want believe in, even if he struggles to believe in himself.
And I loved future Jack with his chia-beard. Especially in his SUV blaring Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice" on the way to the funeral of...somebody (apprentice? another Locke in the casket clue?). Future Jack and the way he bounces off his fellow 815 survivors has suddenly made LOST fun again.

Welcome back the wild-card, welcome back the hunter, welcome back the potential psychopath. We believe more in this John, but what (still!) is his connection to the island? And why did he have to ace poor, beautiful Naomi like that?
Locke in the coffin makes the most sense, because no survivor would want to attend his funeral after witnessing him attempt to keep them on the island, and especially Kate who was admonished by Locke for being a bad person the last time she saw him before he joined with the natives. And who would attend John's funeral? He has nobody.
Although, it seems unlikely that John will ever leave the island. And even if everyone else gets off, it will be through John's eyes that we learn the island's remaining secrets, like the nature of the bad ass Smoke Monster.

Instead of great relief at finally accomplishing his life's mission, after James Ford killed the man whose name (and life) became his own he became even darker and more withdrawn, killing Tom in cold blood and snapping at Kate's notion of a pregnancy.
But did he really kill the right man? He has a history of that kind of mistake, after all. And the island can conjure up pretty much anyone it wants. The island gives you want you want: so of course Locke's dad shows up, and when faced with Sawyer he tells him what he wants to hear. Was the real Anthony Cooper the 'real Sawyer'? We may never know.
And all this after Sawyer was coming to a kind of peace with his role in the camp. In the last few episodes, Josh Holloway brought a depth to the character that he never had before.

All the big question marks for Kate's character lie ahead. Is she with Sawyer? Someone else? And why didn't she end up with Jack? Perhaps because thanks to the island's super-sperm count, Sawyer did indeed knock her up?
Kate served mostly as a grounding presence for the show this season, a familiar face to bounce off of the Others, and go running through the jungle tied to Juliet.
Oh, and why is Future Kate free? She did kill a man, you know.

I was perfectly happy with Desmond saying 'Brotha' all the time because he was, you know, Scottish. But not so, according to the Catch-22 flashback. He was going to be a monk, you see. Or, a 'brother', if you will.
I am so glad, silly flashback aside, that Michael Ian Cusick made the regular roster and survived last season's hatch explosion because I think he's one of the better actors on the show. And I like Des, and I like Penny, and I like that love story so much, cheesy as all hell though it may be.
Desmond seeing the future is an interesting twist, and I liked how he played off of Charlie, maybe it's just the 'fun with accents' thing, but I thought Michael and Dom Monaghan worked great together.
But what happens with Desmond after he gets off the island and reunites with Penny? Will he be willing to go back with Jack, or will comfortable, cowardly Des take over?

Sayid's flashback in Enter 77 was a great part of a bad episode, probably the highlight of the middle of the season, especially Naveen Andrew's performance.
Sayid stepped up a bit in importance during Jack's absence and had one of the season's great, camera winking lines: ("How do you know to go North?" "By the way the light hit Eko's stick at his funeral.")
Also: during the finale, when Jack thinks Ben is about to kill Sayid, Jin, and Bernard, you heard the Iraqi Sayid Jarrah saying over Ben's walkie "We do not negotiate with terrorists." Ha!

Sun and Jin's arc over the season, while a minor note, was well played. From Sun unwittingly setting holy hell on Sawyer by killing Danny's woman, Colleen; to Jin's confrontation with a man that he doesn't know slept with his wife; to Sun's weeping acceptance of her fate as she finds out that the baby is Jin's.
Just another example of the show's ability to keep characters in the background most of the time, and then pack a wallop with them when the spotlight's on.

An excellent addition to the cast, and really the first new character since the pilot episode with real depth and motivation (well, there was Mr, Eko, but, well...). Her back story was well fleshed out, and she may be the largest piece of the 'why is future Jack a mess?' puzzle.

Oh, maybe he didn't do much this season but we like Hurley. And we learned that Cheech Marin was his dad! No wonder he's so screwed up and ran to the comfort of Apollo bars and ranch dressing. But Hurley's episode was great fun, and his VW bus rampage through the camp in the finale was pure, crowd-pleasing bliss.
I wonder: what happens to sweet old Jabba after he gets off the island and back to his millions of dollars?

She's Jack's sister. She has a baby. Charlie loves her.
That's pretty much all we know or need to know about Claire, but every once in awhile you get hints at greatness from her character. I think Emilie De Ravin is capable of more, maybe her flash forwards will give her more purpose, especially as Aaron grows up.

Oh, thank you.
Michael Emerson is the sickest fuck that you ever had a blast watching be the heavy. Evil is so much fun, especially in his theater-ready delivery. And Ben's flashback was fascinating, even if we still don't know who or what Jacob is.
And how evil is Ben Linus? Does he, in his own twisted way, really have the best interests of the survivors and his own people at heart? Future Jack certainly seems to think he's made a mistake getting off the island, just like Ben said he would.
And, after all, he gave he order to pretend to kill Sayid, Jin, and Bernard.
Who is he really, at his core? I'm more interested in that mystery than the four-toed statue.

He was expendable, sure. And had they chickened out of killing Charlie after half a season of build up, fans probably would have given up on the show for good.
But what a way to go.
There is a moment right before Charlie dies, when he's already completely underwater, after he's given the message 'NOT PENNY'S BOAT' to Desmond. He nods, and Des nods, and Charlie realizes (maybe for the first time) that he's really going to die. It's amazing acting from Dom Monaghan, particularly while submerged. And then he floats back, crosses himself, and Charlie Pace dies.
It hits harder than you ever would have expected. We'll miss you, mate.

Maybe he was a prick on set, but surely he could have stuck around a little longer? Eko was a great character, he played off of Locke brilliantly. I thought he was important to the future of the show, but I guess he did prove again that the monster is not to be underestimated.

So hands up, who thought the producers were lying, or at least vamping, when they said they had Walt's growth 'accounted for' in the overall arc of the show?
I certainly did, but with the flash forwards it all makes sense now. Oh, but what becomes of Michael after the survivors get off the island, and reveal his dirty little secret? Or are they not able to? Jack said he was 'sick of lying'. Lying about what?
And apparently many people think that's Walt in the casket, but why would Kate be so adamant about not attending poor little Walt's funeral?
Seeing how these guys play into the future storylines of the show is something I'll be anxiously awaiting in Season Four.


A Tale of Two Cities
We meet Juliet and see the Other's camp for the first time; meanwhile Jack keeps crying and makes a witless escape attempt. Good job, buddy.

The Glass Ballerina
We officially learn that Sun is in fact a slut and that 'Henry Gale' is actually Benjamin Linus. To celebrate the revelation, Ben takes Jack to a baseball game.

Further Instructions
Placeholder Locke flashback; Boone with inexplicably long hair; bad CG polar bears.

Every Man for Himself
Ben tortures a bunny. A bunny! Fucker.

The Cost of Living
Wherein we learn absolutely nothing new about Mr. Eko, and then he dies. Boo.

I Do
Mid-Season cliffhanger, whatever that means. Not a bad one, though: "Kate, dammit, run!"

Not in Portland
Trippy Clockwork Orange videos and people shooting other people (Juliet icing Danny) with no apparent motivation? LOST is back!

Flashes Before Your Eyes
Better than you thought it was, but yes, confusing. You're not the only one checking your watch.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Give me a tattoo, damn you! Worst. Episode. Ever.

Tricia Tanaka is Dead
Advances the story in zero ways, but so damn fun nobody notices.

Enter 77
First episode in a long time where the flashback (Sayid's) was much better than the on-island stuff. And what's up with Locke?

Par Avion
Can be summed up in one of two sentences, depending on what kind of person you are: 'Yes, Claire is Jack's sister.' or 'Goth Claire is yummy.'

The Man from Tallahassee
Locke's dad pushes him out of a window. Ok, he's a dick, we get it. Amazing acting by Terry O'Quinn, just amazing.

Poochie's dead!
Unloved newbies Nikki and Paolo kill each other, which ironically breathes new life into the show.

Left Behind
What's this? Kate episodes can be entertaining? Go on.

One of Us
Juliet's evil. No, she's not. Wait-yes she is. Oh,

Desmond and Charlie do a little male bonding in the woods.

Sun's baby really is Jin's, which means she's going to die, but that she's happy. So now I feel bad for calling her a slut before.

The Brig
So this is what sweeps are all about! Sawyer meets the man of his dreams. "You wanna see hell??!!"

The Man Behind the Curtain
Ben goes from sadistic little weasel to Adolf Hitler. Great, great cliffhanger with Locke in the mass grave.

Greatest Hits
Dom Monaghan makes us care about Charlie for the first time since he kicked smack.

Through the Looking Glass
More exciting, intelligent, mysterious, and inventive than any blockbuster film in years. This is what television can be.

LOST; Season Three: B+

Matthew Guerrero