Friday, April 17, 2009

Miles And Miles

I've always had trouble with the character Miles on Lost. More specifically, with his power. He can communicate with the dead. I can buy smoke monsters. I can buy Walt's power over birds. I can buy time travel. I can buy Hurley's ghosts. I can even buy Locke's resurrection. But somehow talking to the dead seemed one step too far. As Ben put it last week, dead is dead.

The latest episode, "Some Like It Hoth," a Miles-centric one (which we might have had last season if not for the writers' strike), helped make his power somewhat more acceptable, but still left some inconsistencies.

In general, the episode was a decent one. The truth is, Lost is at a point right now where even average episodes are great. In the first season, they'd answer the question of who the character was and how the character got there through flashback, but almost everything else they did raised new question. As we're speeding toward the end--only about 20 episodes left--all parts of the story answer questions, and all the parts are clicking into place.

The show starts with Miles as a kid, discovering his power. Back in the present (i.e., 1977--earlier than the flashback), Sawyer tells him to erase the tapes of he and Kate taking young Ben outside the compound. But Horace comes into the security station and before Miles can complete the job, he's on a special mission. We know that tape will come into play, though nothing happens until the end of the episode. Of course, we know the whole LaFleur con is imploding with the return of the new Losties. They have to get out of there soon, anyway, because I don't think they can be there by the time young Ben returns, since (if we're to the older Ben) has no memory of them.

Turns out Miles' duty is to bring a body bag to a hostile area, where Radzinsky will supply him a body. (Radzinsky, as always, has a bad attiitude. Not a guy you'd want to share double duty with in the Swan.) Little does Rad know that Miles can talk to the dead. Miles asks the corpse what happened--force of habit, I suppose (or can he help himself?).

Another flashback with the death of Miles' mom. She spills a few secrets about his dad, and how he pushed them away a long time ago, and is long dead in a place where Miles can't get to. (Miles is a 90s punk, by the way. I like Claire as a Goth chick better.) This helps us understand why Miles is lost, empty and a mercenary (just like Han Solo--the title is already beginning to make sense).

Miles brings the body to Horace, who tells him to take it out to Pierre Chang at the Orchid. (So Chang, in addition to time travel and making videos, is in charge of corpse disposal? Does he send them to Tunisia?) Hurley, against Miles' wishes, hitches a ride.

Meanwhile, Roger notices son Ben was missing. Had to happen sooner or later. He's not happy, to say the least, but who cares what an alcoholic janitor thinks.

In the van, we get a continuation of the Miles and Hurley Show from a couple weeks back. Hurley notices something smells, and it's not the 70s music Miles has on (Albert Hammond, to be specific). He finds the corpse. Hurley's not thrilled, but he's been on the island long enough not to be shaken. However, when Miles starts telling stories about the corpse, Hurley guesses he can talk to dead people. Why not? Hurley has talked to a lot of dead people--he's seen them, too, and played chess with them. The dead guy's story (Lost wouldn't waste a dead guy's story), by the way, shows he wasn't killed by a bullet to the head, but by a filling shooting out of his mouth. Hmm--some pretty heavy electro-magnetism near where Radzinksy's working. Couldn't be the Swan station, could it?

Another flashback and we see Miles is in business , exploiting his talent. (His mom's already dead so he won't become Spider-man.) In fact, he's talking to Hank Schrader from Breaking Bad. This is interesting because Ken Leung, who plays Miles, was introduced to a lot of people as the psycho in a mental ward on another cable series, The Sopranos. Except that Leung is playing a fairly similar character on Lost, whereas actor Dean Norris is doing a 180 from loudmouth Hank. He's playing a father who wants to know if his dead son knew he loved him. (All these daddy issues on Lost. In the first season, Christian wanted Jack to know how he felt but couldn't tell him--lucky he told Sawyer. There'll be a lot more on daddy issues before this episode if over.)

But here's what I don't quite get. In this show, it appears Miles needs a corpse to talk to the dead. This I can buy (as ridiculous as it is). He explains he can hear what the dead have to say up to the point they died. So maybe he has some way of reading what's in their brain, especially when they're freshly dead. The inconsistency is the first time we saw Miles talk to the dead, he didn't have a body around, as far as I can tell. Miles does tell the grieving father it helps--but isn't necessary--if the body is around, but I wonder if that's a patch job, since every other case where Miles does his reading, the body is right there. Perhaps that weird machine he used on that first case we saw helps with the missing body. (Or is it used for hauntings?)

Anyway, Miles walks to his car and runs into Naomi. Though Naomi is a "bad guy," I always enjoy having her pop up. This isn't the first time she's appeared on the show after her death. Just like she doubled back to fake out Jack after Locke threw a knife in her back, so does Lost regularly double back on its plot. (Everyone's still waiting to see Libby again.) So this is where Miles gets his offer to go back to the island. They need his powers. I'm also guessing Widmore knows Miles is from the island--otherwise, quite a coincidence. (I just spoiled a "surprise" they dropped at the end of the 30 minute point. Yep, Pierre Chang is Miles' dad. We all knew this. The opening of the season had Chang with a newborn. Later, Miles is getting a nosebleed before the Losties, so he must have spent time on the island.)

Now we see Kate, who knows Ben will survive (and later kill his father), try to comfort Roger. All this does is make the drunken Roger angry and suspicious of this new girl. Why does she have so much interest in my son? What's interesting about this scene, and many others at the DI, is the new position of the Losties. For the longest time on this show, the castaways were buffeted about because they had no idea what was going on. Last week, the newly confident (and arrogant?) Locke chided Ben because now he was the one who had to ask the questions. But now all the Losties in 1977 are like Locke today--they know all sorts of stuff that would amaze the DI. However, they can't spill or and get found out. (Though when Sayid spills a bit, like any Cassandra, he's treated as a nut). Still, it's fun that for a change they're one-up on everyone. In any case, if we're to believe Faraday (and this is Miles and Hurley's debate), it doesn't really matter what they do or say since whatever happened, happened.

Back to the van. Miles doesn't want to talk about it, but he does explain to Hurley what reading a dead guy's thoughts is like. He responds to Hurley mostly because he's so annoyed that Hurley says he has back-and-forth conversations with visible ghosts. "You're just jealous my power's better than yours" Hurley responds in what may be the funniest line of the season.

They get to the Orchid (Marvin's Garden) and Hurley, who shouldn't even be there, spills (with very little provocation) that he knows about the body. It took Sawyer and his gang a while to get into the swing of things, and now all the new Losties come into the Dharma Initiative and just don't know when to shut up. Chang threatens looselips with polar bear feces duty. (Chang doesn't think much of the experiments they're doing on Hydra island. I like the competitive spirit in the different DI departments, though I wonder if this lack of cohesion spells trouble. Doesn't really matter, because they're getting trouble whether they like it or not.) Chang has a few harsh words, but he's actually pretty easy on these guys. They wouldn't have gotten off so easy if it had been Horace. And Radzinsky probably would have shot them.

After Chang leaves, Miles drops the bomb about his dad, as we were expecting.

We're back to Naomi testing Miles' power with a fresh corpse. He proves he's what he says he is. And this dead guy seems to have been in charge of faking the 815 crash. I'm assuming he'd worked for Widmore, and was killed by Ben's forces since Mr. Friendly showed Michael the evidence of the faked flight. (But it's possible he was working for someone else and Widmore's people got to him.)

Naomi explains the mission--get a guy on an island who killed everyone there. Miles has better things to do until Naomi offers him $1.6 million. Right away we know that this explains the $3.2 million--twice as much--he'll later ask Ben for. I was also expecting Naomi to tell him his dad is on the island, but either she doesn't know or she doesn't care.

Miles and Hurley ride back with Chang, or as Hurley calls him, "the dude [or is it douche] from all those movies." Miles doesn't want to talk about his dad, but Hurley, who (like everyone on the show) had trouble with his dad wants to help Miles reconcile with him (or maybe just wants to get into his business). I should add that we can see that Miles gets (or believes) he can't change the purge, or anything else. I'm not sure if Hurley understands yet. We also learn, to my surprise, that Miles figured Chang was his dad not long after he ran into his mom in the DI cafeteria. As noted, I'd guessed he knew about his dad before he came to the island. On the other hand, I should have remembered when he was walking with Locke et all through the time flashes, he didn't seem to know he'd been on the island before.

Next, an odd little scene where Roger the janitor runs into Jack the janitor in a DI classroom. Jack is busy erasing information about Egypt from the blackboard--guess he needs to make room for the Latin lessons. Jack's mostly faded into the background. By choice, one assumes. He figures fine, let Sawyer run things for a change. I'll just wait and see what the island thinks. But here he senses that Roger might cause trouble for Kate so he tries to convince him that he's too suspicious.

Miles and Hurley drop Chang off at the site of the latest station, still being built--the Swan. Brings chills to Hurley, means nothing to Miles. (Hurley wonders if destroying the station would mean Flight 815 doesn't crash. Perhaps, but not if Faraday's right.)

Another flashback. Miles is grabbed by some guys who don't want him to work for Widmore. They know trouble's ahead and Widmore's the wrong side. The promise Miles self-knowledge and fulfillment, but he wants something more important--$3.2 million. No deal. At first I'd assumed these were Ben's goons on the mainland, but then they mention the shadow of the statue. Hey, that's Ilana's line. Since they explicitly disavow Widmore (and Miles is working for Widmore anyway) I don't think they're on his side. But are they Ben's Others? Ilana's troopers? Or maybe just pissed of remnants of the DI?

Hurley and Miles in the van again. Hurley gets too personal and Miles grabs Hugo's notebook to see what he's been writing. He's re-creating (with improvement) The Empire Strikes Back--we knew from the episode's title it had to come in somewhere--and he plans to send it to George Lucas to help him with his sequel to 1977's Star Wars. (I heard a rumor that a deleted scene a few weeks back had Hurley in the cafeteria telling some DI people who'd seen Star Wars that he felt Darth Vader was Luke's father, which they think is ridiculous.)

Sawyer finally comes back home to Juliet, and Jack is there to tell him of the problem with Roger, and then just walks away--let Sawyer handle it. Since I'd recently watched the long con episode, where they're quite angry at each other, it was interesting to see how far their relationship had come.

Finally, Phil (Jimmy Barrett from Mad Men) shows up. I say finally, because he's the one with the tape that we knew would come into play. In fact, he's seen the tape and knows LaFleur took Ben. LaFleur invites his man Phil in and, in lieu of an explanation, knocks him out and ties him up. Now for sure it won't be long before the Losties cover is blown and there's a lot of unpleasantness.

Flashback to just before Miles leaves on the freighter. He gives the grieving father his money back, since he lied to him about his son knowing dad loved him. You should have told him, says Miles. This must be a big deal for him to give any money back. Daddy issues.

Hurley talks to Miles about Darth Vader, and dads in general. His main argument is still about changing the future--if only Luke and Darth had gotten along in Empire, we'd have been spared Return Of The Jedi. Miles goes over to Chang's place and looks in the window. There's Chang, loving his baby son. (I'd guessed early on in this episode that Chang was a good dad--perhaps he forced his wife and son off the island to spare them the trouble that was coming up. We'll no doubt be seeing this trouble soon.) This is actually a big moment, since I don't believe we've had a character confront an earlier version of himself before. (Heinlein had a good story about this.) Locke could have, but chose not to.

But it's still only visual contact. Could Miles have actually walked into Chang's place and held himself in his arms, or would that break the rules?

Miles sees his young mom take baby Miles in her arms. Then Chang comes out and has Miles drive him to the submarine. (Miles is commandeered a lot in this show.) They're going to pick up some scientists from Ann Arbor.

Miles gets there and who comes out of the sub but Faraday. A Faraday who knows Miles, so it's "present" Faraday. Faraday's in the cool new DI black suit (I'm guessing designed by Radzinsky for the Swan people--hey, Black Swan).

Now how Faraday got to this situation, we're not sure. He could have gotten off the island on his own and gone to the University of Michigan, met the DeGroots, impressed them with his knowledge, and gotten aboard the DI. Or perhaps it was more official. Maybe he was working for the DI, applied for a higher position, was sent back the mainland, passed his test with flying colors, and was sent back. Either way, he's back in the show and will soon be doing whatever it is he's meant to do--which, more likely than not, will have something to do with The Incident.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've watched Lost a couple times now and find it to be a ridiculous show. I am saddened that it is so popular and that you (l.a guy) waste so much time watching and writing about it. Can't you do something more constructive with that time like watch grass grow or paint dry?

1:36 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger LAGuy said...

All I can say is if you don't like it, don't watch.

I would like to know if you started at the beginning. Not only is it hard to follow otherwise, it's also a way to get to know and care about the characters. Dropped into the middle of the action, there's not nearly as much time to understand all that's going on behind it.

Oddly, I didn't like the two-hour pilot. It was only after I took a chance on a few more episodes that I realized the show was something special.

2:03 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

LAGuy is right: If you are willing to give Lost a chance, start at the beginning. Starting in the middle is like starting an Agatha Christie book in the middle.

The dead guy's story (Lost wouldn't waste a dead guy's story), by the way, shows he wasn't killed by a bullet to the head, but by a filling shooting out of his mouth. Hmm--some pretty heavy electro-magnetism near where Radzinksy's working.This is an example of the impossibility of a newbie joining Lost at this point. They don't explain to the audience what this meant. A newbie -- or even someone who has watched most of the show, seeing each episode only once and missing a few here and there -- would miss the significance of this.

In fact, a lot of the 1977 story has the whole "Prequel" feel, like Star Wars Episode 1 and Smallville. The audience is meant to be moved by seeing the numbers stamped on the hatch, or meeting Pierre Chang in person, precisely because we know what these will mean in their future. Normally I find prequels less than compelling, but the Lost writers can make anything work!

By the way, I thought Walt and the dead birds was much dumber than Miles. I'm glad that they dropped it.

I'm not sure that Kate knows that Ben will kill his father someday. I've always been unclear on how much backstory the characters explain to each other. In season one, the Losties didn't even bother to inform each other about the polar bear or Rousseau. But than in season five, Locke apparently told Sawyer the full details of his conversation with Richard in 1954, since Sawyer clearly knew it in his own conversation with Richard. Meanwhile, Juliet -- who knows a heck of a lot about the Others -- seems to have revealed relatively little about them to her new friends.

2:39 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

And this dead guy seems to have been in charge of faking the 815 crash. I'm assuming he'd worked for Widmore, and was killed by Ben's forces since Mr. Friendly showed Michael the evidence of the faked flight. (But it's possible he was working for someone else and Widmore's people got to him.)In an equal-and-opposite scene, the captain of the freighter showed the same evidence to Sayid and Desmond, and claimed that Ben had masterminded it. If I had to pick between the two, I'd say it was Widmore (I don't think Ben's off-island resources are large enough). But now I wonder if it was done by a third group -- perhaps the Shadow Of The Statue cult.

In any event, I suspect that the Statue cult is a new player, not under Widmore or Ben or the DI. Which raises a question: If Ben's mainland operatives learn what has transpired recently, will they transfer their loyalty from Ben to Locke?

3:01 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger LAGuy said...

It almost shouldn't matter if the Others follow Ben or Locke, since Ben has now been told (essentially on pain of death) to do whatever Locke says. Of course, knowing Ben, it's hard to believe he'll be able to follow this advice. His whole character has always been based on manipulating and, at times, killing others, not on following the rules. (But you can't fool Smokey. Does this mean Ben will be in trouble?)

It's possible we won't find out a lot more about the present-day Others during the final episodes of this season (have we even seen them this season?). It's normal for Lost to set up something and not pay it off for a long time. Right now, there's so much to deal with in 1977, including the Losties' imposture implosion, Faraday's return, and The Incident. Also, you've got to have Sun try to get back to Jin. There's so much to do that I wonder if there's enough time to even show Hurley's reason for getting on the Ajira flight.

3:50 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

have we even seen them this season?Just Richard, in his one brief scene with Locke.

But of course, we got to see the Others in 1954, and 1974, and 1977, and 1988, and 1992-ish... plus Jill and friends (the Others Diaspora) in 2008.

I tend to assume that all the Ben loyalists off the island are people who have spent a lot of time on the island, and plan to return. They all seem to be personally loyal -- not just people who are being paid.

On the other hand, I don't know how to square that with Ben's claim in season three that after the Second Incident and the destruction of the sub, all communication with the outer world has been cut off. And he wanted the sub destroyed to keep Juliet and Jack on the island, but why was he willing to permanently ban Jill et al. from the island?

For that matter, we know that Mikhail's station communicated freely with the outside world up to the day that Flight 815 crashed. (On that day, Richard was still in Florida. By season three he was back on the island. Probably he came in the final submarine arrival.) In early season three, Ben said the second Incident had cut off communications; at the end of season three Mikhail is surprised that the Looking Glass girls are jamming his signal. Does that mean that Ben instructed them to begin that jamming when the second Incident occurred? If so, what were they doing there before that?

I think there are some inconsistencies here....

6:35 PM, April 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's me again with the grass grow/paint dry comment. You and King sound like my two grandmothers arguing over their soap operas. And by saying that you need to see it from the start is like soap opera talk. Thus, at this point, I equate Lost with General Hospital. A good show should be enjoyable at any time -- newby or veteran.

7:51 AM, April 18, 2009  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

A good show should be enjoyable at any time -- newby or veteran.The BBC did an amazing adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice", in six episodes. If you started with the fifth episode, you wouldn't be able to enjoy it very much. Does that make it a bad show?

3:07 PM, April 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up, I used to think anyone who watched golf on TV was absolutely ridiculous. The whispering commentary, the tiny white ball against a blue sky, the silly looking pants. Then I met my husband and he taught me: Even if you don't enjoy something yourself, if people that you respect do enjoy it, you should assume there is something potentially interesting there. This construct has helped me immensely in adult life, and I even have learned the value of watching a golf tournament during family holidays. (They have also become more exciting since my youth -- no more whispering plus Tiger Woods!)

However, none of this has stopped my husband from ridiculing "Lost" when I'm trying to watch it. Typical conversation: "I just can't follow this show." "You have to watch it from the beginning." This is followed by my trying to explain some complication: "No, he didn't go on the plane -- he turned a big wheel to make the island disappear and ended up in a desert." This quickly devolves into: "Oh, just be quiet, okay? I'm trying to enjoy the show."

7:24 PM, April 20, 2009  

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