Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost Neverland

I posted the review of the second Douglas Clegg book I read yesterday, Neverland , which I enjoyed a great deal:

Clegg employs an easy-going first-person narrative in Neverland, with Beau as our storyteller. His voice is extremely effective, having lulled me into the story with a sense of comfort. The style is, for the most part, matter of fact, but Clegg manages to balance that element with the horrific things Beau and his cousins experience in Neverland. The tension is ratcheted up as Sumter’s ‘god’ begins to hold more sway over Sumter, and it seems to have an adverse affect on the adults as well. When the adults drink and argue, the children inevitably seek out Neverland as something of a twisted haven creating a cycle of discord.

There’s a timeless nature to Clegg’s depiction of the children, Beau in particular as our protagonist is very relatable and that fact (and its effectiveness) cannot be underestimated. In many ways, the loss of childhood innocence here in Neverland is very comparable to the same type of loss of innocence the boys in Stephen King’s masterful short novel The Body (basis for the film Stand by Me) experience. Though Beau’s tale is much more ostensibly supernatural, the similarity in the way he and Gordon Lachance lament the episodes featured in their respective stories is very similar.

A small television program ended on Sunday, one that a few people may have heard of - Lost. I’ve touched on the show here at the o’ Stuff in the past but never really gone too deep into analyzing the show. There are already quite a few folks on the intarwebs doing a spectacular job of this, the best of whom is the venerable Doc Jensen, although Alan Sepinwal covers things nicely, as do Doc Artz and whole slew of other folks.

I really enjoyed the finale and think Darlton did a helluva job bringing closure to these characters. Granted we didn’t see what happened to Kate, Sawyer, (and perhaps most potentially interestingly, Alpert) once they escaped The Island that Houses the Soul of the World, but that’s not important. As Christian Shepherd said, what happened on the island was real and was the most important part of these character’s lives. After all, do we want to see Frodo’s daily chores in the years before he gains possession of the One Ring?

I will admit, I was getting a bit scared towards the end when everybody was converging on the Church of All Holy Symbols. My fear was that we would get a reveal much like that of the film Identity wherein all the characters are actually one of multiple personalities in a character’s head, either Hurley or Jack, take your pick. What we got instead was the reveal that the Side-Flash was the way station before ascending to Heaven. I can buy that, I like that. These characters went through the most emotionally powerful time of their lives on the Island. I think the Island’s power allowed them to create the way station so they could meet each other one last time anew and whole in a manner they wanted themselves to be, the way they always sought to become.

The stuff on the Island worked great as well. The uncorking of the Golden Light, which made Smokey Locke vulnerable was a necessary step in the progress of the characters and towards The End. O’Quinn’s fear when he was in pain and bleeding from the mouth was played superbly and showed that the magic leaving the island allowed for mortality and other bad things. I see The Heart of the Island as a repository for all the souls of the world – as Jacob’s “mother” said, a little bit of the same light that is in the cave is inside every man but that people always want more … while the other people can't take the light, they might try and if the light goes out here it goes out everywhere.

Desmond popping the cork began sucking the souls away, leaving all people with just their physical shells and no inner power. It happened to Smokey and the islanders first since he was so close to the source. If Jack never put the cork back in its place, the effect would have spread. Of course, Jack (and the viewers by extension) had to take that with a leap of faith and the power of the series’s narrative in the previous 100+ episodes made that leap of faith, for me, possible.

With Jack’s last act before his heroic sacrifice, he anoints Hurley as the guardian of the island, recreating the circle which gave Jacob the reins in a way – that is both are initially reluctant guardians. Although much of the entire series focused on Jack as the protagonist and “Hero” much of the surrounding elements focused on Hurley – in the flash-forwards he helped to bring people together, he brought Jacob’s message to Dogen, his soul and uplifting attitude made him the Heart of the Losties. With him so connected to the numbers, it made logical sense that he would become the new Island Guardian. The scene outside the Church of All Holy Symbols between Hurley and a humble Ben was bittersweet and touching as was the scene between Ben and Locke.

Many things were seemingly unanswered –

The Polar Bears – Nothing was really explicitly stated why they were on the Island, but many things can be deduced. They are big and strong, the donkey wheel was difficult to push and was in a ice-cave when Ben pushed the wheel. It isn’t a stretch to believe they could have been used by the Dharma Initiative for pushing the wheel, amongst other things.

The Dharma Initiative fizzling out of relevance – Again nothing explicit, but their connection to the Hanso family, who owned the Black Rock, and their tampering with the Island’s properties could be a cautionary tale that maybe Man just wasn’t ready to understand the heart of the island.

The Island itself – I think I covered my theory on just what the Island was supposed to be.

Walt and his powers – Was he a potential candidate for Island guardianship? Maybe, but more likely that the character grew to be a nine-foot tall kid and just couldn’t be worked back into the story.

Widmore’s quick death and seemingly unsatisfying end at Ben’s hands. – The creators are big fans of King’s Dark Tower and his death, and role as a Big Bad in previous seasons, mirrors the role and fall of King’s mainstay baddie Randal Flagg. I was quite annoyed with how King disposed of one of his signature characters. Was it frustrating that we didn’t get a knock-down, drag-out confrontation similar to Jack and Flocke? Of course, Widmore was built up so long as a relatively mysterious, power player that his final moment and quick death were unsatisfying and a bit frustrating. What did Widmore do to be exiled from the Island? Was it because he left the Island when he shouldn’t have? We’ll never know. This is probably the one element of the series with which I have the most issues.

The Pregnancy Thing - This is likely some kind of mythological side-effect of Jacob’s fake mother braining his real mother.

In the end, these seemingly unanswered elements don’t add up to much in the larger picture. If Darlton had told us, through perhaps Pierre Chang, that the Polar Bears were brought to the island to use in experiments to determine bear shit makes good fertilizer how would that add to the overall story or its ending? Leaving such things for the viewer to ponder works for me.

The finale was a great ride, and will leave me and many of the show’s fans thinking and debating for a long time. I’ll be saving this on my DVR for quite a while.

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