Episode 15 - Follow the Leader
20 December 2009
Present: Locke finds the Others camp. Sun asks Richard if he saw her friends in 1977 and he says he saw them all die. Locke takes Richard and Ben to the beachcraft. He instructs Richard what to tell the Locke who gets shot by Ethan (501). When they return to camp Locke tells everyone that Richard will take them to see Jacob. He tells Ben that he is going to kill Jacob.
Flashback: Jack and Kate are captured by Charles. Jack tells Eloise that if they follow Daniel’s plan that she won’t have to kill her son. She heads off with Eric, Richard, Jack and Kate to find Jughead, which is buried beneath the Barracks. Kate wants to leave and when Eric threatens her with a gun, Sayid kills him. Sayid, Jack, Richard and Eloise arrive at Jughead.
Radzinski assumes control from Horace and begins beating Sawyer and Juliet to get answers. Chang goes to Miles, Hurley and Jin and realises that they are from the future. He begins an evacuation of women and children from the island as Daniel suggested. Sawyer, Juliet and Kate are pit on the submarine as it leaves the island.
The Good: This is a really mixed bag. Rather like the first episode of season five, there is so much going on that none of it quite has the effect it might have done with more focus.
The “Follow the Leader” theme sees Locke, Jack and Sawyer all going through different stages in their relationships with the island. Locke has been given new life by the island and is now more in tune with what “it” wants. Jack is finally taking a leap of faith based on what he thinks might be his destiny. Where as Sawyer is beaten down and exiled from the island like Ben and Charles before him. But he looks back at the island and says “Good riddance” not realising what the island has given him and doubtless not being done with it yet.
Locke’s story is the most convincing and effective of the three. I haven’t been happy with the cyclical time travel story this season. Even ignoring the head ache inducing impossibility of it, it seems dramatically less interesting if it Locke who “chose” himself and if it is Locke who tells Richard what to tell himself in the past. However the writers do a good job of making that story seem more satisfying here.
Locke seems now to be fully in tune with the island, actually taking literal instructions on where to go and what to do. If Jacob is somehow working against the will of the island, then Locke, its chosen disciple, looks set to be the one who kills Jacob. It’s as if Locke had to die in order to be reborn with this new stronger connection to the island. Only now can he fully see and hear what he must do. That new connection is a good justification for the circular logic of Locke being the one who tells himself he needs to die. The island had to engineer Locke’s death for this purpose, so why not send Locke to tell his past self what he must do. Who else would be more convincing and understand better what effect these instructions would have?
Locke has changed outwardly too, making these changes seem real and convincing to us. He has a new found confidence and is comfortable with Ben’s presence at last. He has nothing to fear from anyone it would seem and now grins happily about his own death. We even get a hint of what direction the island would like to see “its” people going in as Locke opens up about Jacob to all of the Others. They seem very happy to know the truth. We know they have all had to have faith in Jacob all these years but given the chance to actually see the man behind the curtain they are all very happy and begin slapping Locke on the back.
Over to Jack who now sees what his destiny may be. Unlike Locke he isn’t tuned into the islands needs, he is still thinking about his own. He sees the chance to change the past as a way to save all those who have died in the past three years. A perfectly understandable desire for a doctor and for a man who always wanted to fix problems for other people. It particularly rings true for Boone, Ana Lucia, Charlie and Michael who he perhaps feels more personally responsible for than others. It’s also a way to make sense of the seeming insanity of being trapped in 1977. Considering no one has bothered to explain the time jumping and other island science to Jack, it’s easier to see why he would see his presence in the past as an indication that he has been sent there to save people.
The fact that Eloise Hawking was the one who told him how to get back to the island helps the logic of his behaviour too. She entrusted him personally with the responsibility of getting his friends on the plane, so again from his perspective it must look like she meant him to go back in time and help her former self to change the past.
Kate’s desire not to change the future makes sense too. She got to share some good time with Jack and of course a lot of love with Aaron. She got to avoid prison, she got to have a stable home and stop running. No wonder her instinct is not to change the past. I liked Sayid’s rationalisation even better. From his perspective he is trapped alone on an island where he is welcome nowhere and could be killed any day. It is 1977 and he has nothing much to live for. So Jack’s crazy sounding plan is as he says a way to “put us out of our misery."
Finally to Sawyer whose motivations are also clear and strong. He has found happiness with Juliet. He has become wiser and respected. Perhaps he now sees a crime-free, happier life stretching out before him. He and Juliet made the best out of their time with the Dharma Initiative and he is already confident of finding a way to survive in the 1980s. He was also looking out for his friends. He didn’t want to tell Radzinski anymore than he had to if it might endanger them. It was a nice moment to see him take one “last” look at the island and be glad to leave it.
It seemed to me that he was missing the point. It was the island that gave him the chance to redeem himself. It was the island who freed him from the dark identity of Sawyer (319). It was the island that took him to 1977 and gave him the chance to be happy with Juliet and earn his own self respect as a leader and thinker. The island isn’t done with him yet it would seem and he doesn’t seem to have realised (as Jack and Locke have) that this is where he is supposed to be.
There were a number of other good threads picked up here too. Pierre Chang decides that perhaps Faraday’s claims might be worth checking out. This leads to a hilarious attempt by Hurley to pretend he wasn’t from the future. And a chance for Miles to see that his father did love and care about him all along. This is what happens for those who stay on the island. Perhaps now Miles will begin to let go of his anger and sarcasm as Sawyer began to do.
We also seem to get the answer to a big question which is very rewarding. Eloise now has Daniel’s journal in her possession. Suddenly one of the most bizarre mysteries begins to make sense. In “Flashes Before Your Eyes” (308) Eloise was able to confidently assert what Desmond’s destiny was to be. She knew how his relationship with Penny would develop and where he was meant to end up. Between her relationship with Charles (which would give her knowledge of Penny’s life and Desmond’s whereabouts) and Daniel’s journal, we can just about see how she knew. The journal would have details on Desmond’s time in the Swan station and how he would crash Oceanic 815. It would explain his relationship with her own son and the importance of Desmond’s role in making sure whatever happened, happened. It also offers another part of the explanation for why she pushed Daniel so hard to become a scientist, as she knew he would need tremendous knowledge to achieve all the things written in his journal. Finally it also explains her comment to Penny that for the first time in a long time she didn’t know what would happen next.
I liked the strong wind and roaring sea in the scenes with the Others. We so often only see downpours or peaceful sunshine on the island, so it was a nice realistic change of pace. Ben describes Richard as an adviser. He certainly fills that role here, trying to steer Eloise and Locke but never openly defying them. The Barracks were built on top of a series of tunnels which seems to explain how Ben’s smoke monster summoning tunnel was under his house.
The Bad: The producers are putting all the players in place here for the season finale. Unfortunately they make several important errors which marred my enjoyment of this story considerably. Considering the producers know exactly how many episodes are left, these mistakes are pretty irritating and can’t be ignored as necessarily evils in setting up the finale.
Eloise is shook up by Daniel’s death. Of course she is. He first appeared in 1954, gave good advice about Jughead, claimed to be from the future and then disappeared into thin air. The hand that Charles places on her belly suggests she has recently become pregnant with Daniel. The idea that she is going to have to raise her son only to end up killing him is heartbreaking. Of course it is. No wonder in that state she would be susceptible to a plan to change all this, to make sure that this tragedy doesn’t unfold.
Yes it all sounds convincing but it isn’t. She thinks about it for five minutes before agreeing to show a stranger where a nuclear weapon is. She doesn’t ask him to explain his plan, she doesn’t ask him to give details of the future to convince her. She doesn’t even ask what they are supposed to do with the bomb once they get to it, making her “So what now?” when they get there make her look pretty foolish. Hadn’t she read Daniel’s journal to see what it said? No she just took the word of a man in a Dharma jump suit. She doesn’t seem to give any thought to Jack being a liar and ignored Richard who raises similar questions.
This lack of thought and analysis is inexcusable. Aren’t the Others charged with protecting the island? A plan to detonate a Hydrogen Bomb on the island must require more thought than this. Did she lie to Charles about what she was going to do? Doesn’t she need the Others help if they are going to move Jughead around? I assume at least one of them would ask questions before committing mass suicide. Sayid’s suggestion that perhaps she is going to use the bomb to get rid of the Dharma Initiative is surely laughable? A thermonuclear weapon will kill everyone on the island. If not from impact itself then the fallout and radiation poisoning will make life unsustainable. Which raises the question of whether they need to get Jughead anywhere near the Swan at all? Surely if they detonate it on the surface then they will all die, no one would drill anymore and Flight 815 would sail happily by?
Now some may argue that because Daniel was clearly from the future and disappeared into thin air, Eloise has all the evidence she needs that she is doing the right thing. But I disagree wholeheartedly with that. On an island with immortal Richard, invisible Jacob, healing powers, a temple that can change people and a magic box bringing things people need how is Daniel disappearing into thin air that strange? I am very serious about this, to ignore the supernatural on the island and claim that Daniel’s time travel would be enough to shock her into these actions is very casual storytelling. It ignores the logic needed to make these characters seem real.
Speaking of which, Sun asks Richard if he saw her friends in 1977. It’s a good question and in typical Sun fashion she wants to know answers (407, 512). Richard Alpert says he saw them all die. It’s Lost’s absolute worst habit but we then cut to the next scene where Sun asks Locke if he thinks it’s true. Locke? Why not ask Richard if it’s true. Ask him what happened, how they died, where are their bodies? It looks so lazy not to have Sun ask. It doesn’t make her look stupid, it makes the writers look stupid.
Then we have Kate who reminds us of why she has always been a difficult character to fully invest in. She challenges Sayid and Jack as to when exactly killing a child and using a hydrogen bomb became morally acceptable. But this is a woman who shot and possibly killed a bunch of guys just to steal her toy plane back (112), who killed her father (209), who shot at the Others unprovoked (223) and threatened to blow a guys knee off (307). Yes she can point to a moral justification for her actions, but so can Sayid and Jack, with a lot more utilitarian conviction than she can. It’s particularly amusing considering Sayid just murdered a man to save her from harm.
Worse than her flip flopping morals though is the fact that she saunters away whingeing about looking for help to stop Jack. He is about to detonate a hydrogen bomb! If she really believes that he needs to be stopped then she needs to run. And when she is captured and dropped into the submarine she ought to be screaming and telling them that they are all about to die. Didn’t she come back to save Claire? She seems pretty resigned once she is plonked down in the sub.
Finally we have Radzinski taking charge from Horace and then trying to give Chang orders too. We haven’t been told what the hierarchy of the Dharma Initiative is while they are on the island. So I suppose this coup d’état can be seen as the result of the lack of central authority and another reason the Initiative didn’t survive on the island. But it comes across like a classic flimsy television plot device. As we have no understanding of the Dharma corporate structure, I am left to wonder whether Chang ought to go round up some men with guns to stop Radzinski from running amok? After all he is threatening to cause the catastrophe that Chang is trying to avoid. Really good television would have filled this power vacuum with an explanation, instead of viewers being left to feel like Radzinski is just being forced down our throats as the villain of the piece.
The Unknown: Is the ship in a bottle a clue to Richard Alpert’s origins on the Black Rock? Or just a demonstration of his considerable patience. Perhaps he built it in the last three years which makes me question what the Others have been doing for three years? I imagine no one else cares but I still want to know what the Others do when there is no external threat to rebuff. Locke is still in a suit on a beach surrounded by people, which recalls Walt telling him that some people would want to kill him in that situation (507).
It’s interesting that Ben claims the Island never told him anything. He certainly claimed he was doing things for the island. Locke claims that Ben never saw Jacob. Did he? What will Radzinski do with the location of the Hostiles? How did the Others get the bomb in to the tunnels? What are the tunnels for?
Best Moment: Hurley really did make me laugh but I think Sawyer taking a look back at the island was an understated moment. It’s nice when characters acknowledge significant moments like that and allow you as a viewer to empathise with their emotional state.
The Bottom Line: There is a lot of good storytelling here and there are a lot of good details. But I was taken very much out of the moment by the bad logic of the characters. For me this episode reflects poorly on the producers who could have planned this out much more convincingly.
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