Friday, April 25, 2008

They changed the rules on us

LOST returned from hiatus last night with an all-killer/no-filler, story-based episode titled “The Shape of Things to Come”. If this type of intensity is the shape of things to, I might need some adult diapers. Ben showed us some of his ninja moves, Charles Widmore upped the ante, the Black Smoke Monster took the bullet train to Othersville, we say goodbye to an innocent pawn, we learned Claire is made of Teflon, Bernard gets to practice the Morse Code skills he learned in dental school, and Ben took in the sights in some beautiful parts of the world.

LOST 4x09: The Shape of Things to Come

“The Shape of Things to Come” will likely be seen as one of those “game changer” episodes. They’ve changed the rules of how they will tell the story of these characters and this island moving forward. Sure, the episode relied heavily on a flash forward – Ben’s. But the storytelling was so intense that the mythology of the island almost played second fiddle to the plot.

On the island:

Alex hits the panic button when her captors – the motley crew from the freighter led by Keamy – try to get to Ben. Locke answers the phone and hears the emergency message, “Code 14 J.” Ben tries to barricade himself in the house, but Keamy bargains with Alex’s life to get Ben to surrender. Ben, in both a selfless and callous move, says that he doesn’t care about her, figuring they’ll let her go. Keamy proves himself the ruthless mercenary that he is and actually carries out the execution.

Ben was stunned, as were we all. As if Alex’s short life wasn’t sad enough, she died thinking Ben didn’t love her. This is the most sympathetic moment we have for Ben since being introduced to him, trapped in that net a couple of seasons ago. Ben announces “he changed the rules” and goes into action mode.

He exposes his hidden office and shuts a security door behind him. But not before we get a glimpse of what’s behind a wall of suits in there – some sort of cave or tunnel door. It’s covered with hieroglyphs and other symbols. Want to take a shot at deciphering them? Feel free. Seems to me this is something left behind by the original island inhabitants – the ones who built that four-toed statue we have yet to get the scoop on.
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Right before they were attacked, Hurley put Aaron on a pillow in a laundry basket. Is this an allusion to Moses in the basket being sent down the river? Will Aaron be the key to the Oceanic 6’s freedom or safety? Or perhaps Future Aaron will play a key role in leading the Losties back home.
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The crew blows up Claire’s house with her in it. But somehow, she emerges with just a scratch on her face. Good luck explaining that one.

Back on the beach, the freighter’s doctor washes onto the shore with a slit throat and a stitching job across his cheek that looked like shoelaces. I guess the poor guy probably had to stitch himself up, though. Bernard suggests Faraday try to fix the radio to send Morse Code since the microphone is broken. They manage to make it work and Daniel sends a message asking about Sayid, Desmond and the doctor. Faraday says the reply is “friends are fine – helicopters coming in the morning.” But Bernard utilizes that dental school training in Morse Code (huh?) to translate the real message, “What are you talking about? The doctor is fine.” Yet another time glitch perhaps – the island time is actually ahead of the freighter and the real world by some amount of time.

Ben emerges from the room and tells them they need to run for the treeline. The house begins to shake and the Black Smoke Monster comes racing at the freighter crew like a bullet train. Ben clearly called in the island’s backup defense system, and it does a number on them.

Sawyer’s takes Claire and Aaron back to the beach. Hurley, however, has work to do with Locke and Ben, and they set off to find Jacob’s cabin for further instructions.

Off the island:

Ben appears out of breath in the Sahara Desert wearing a parka with the name Halliwax on it. Why he’s wearing a parka, we’re not sure. Perhaps there are no non-stop routes from the island, and he had a stopover in Antartica. He also had a gash in his arm. Maybe he encountered one of the polar bears on his trip. Two men on horses question him and Ben takes them both down with some kickass Rambo style moves.
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Geek alert: Edgar Halliwax was the name given by the narrator in the Orchid Station orientation film. He called himself Dr. Marvin Candle in the video for the Swan Station and Dr. Mark Wickmund in the Pearl Station film.

Back from commercials, we see Ben in Tunisia checking into a hotel as a preferred guest using his Dean Moriarty passport from “The Economist” episode. The hotel employee seems alarmed. He asks what day it is, and she replies “October 24th.” “2005?” he asks. Ben sees a TV report of news crews hounding Sayid as he begs, “Please, I just want to bury my wife in peace.” Ben high tails it to Tikrit, Iraq, and although in the middle of a war zone, he manages to use press credentials to get to the top of a building where he photographs a bald man. Sayid catches a glimpse of Ben on the roof and then ambushes him. He didn’t realize it was Ben (is there paparazzi in a war zone?), but Ben convinces him the bald man is working for Widmore and was responsible for Nadia’s death.

Later, we see Ben chasing after the bald man again, but Sayid takes him down and empties out his handgun into the guy. Sayid volunteers to work with Ben, who walks away with a smirk. Was this Ben’s plan all along?

Next we see Ben in London. He enters a posh building and tells the doorman he’s visiting the Kendricks in 4E. However, he uses his key to access the penthouse and walks into Widmore’s bedroom. This ain’t no late-night booty call, and he’s not there to kill Widmore either. He’s there to confront him on having changed the game by killing Alex and to let him know that now he’s going to kill Penny. The rules appear to have been that no family would be killed, but Ben’s going tit for tat.

Ben cannot kill Widmore. Will the island not let him or is Ben still following some rules despite them having been changed by Widmore?

Did you take note of how stunningly this scene was filmed, with shadows and both Ben and Widmore only half-lit. It seems to play off the whole idea of light/dark, black/white, good/evil.

There are some fans that are drawing connections to theories of dark matter coming into play. Feel free to check the link for a detailed description, but be prepared for a serious headache.
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For discussion: Hurley, Locke and Sawyer are playing the game Risk at the beginning of the episode. Hurley gets frustrated at Sawyer and says that “Australia is the key to the whole game.” Is this a clue that the writers view this all as a big power struggle – perhaps with the armies of Widmore (and Paik) advancing on the island? Perhaps Australia actually is the key to understanding what is going on here.

The shape of things to come on LOST is good since the writers keep raising the bar. What did you think? Leave me some comments in Morse Code below.

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