Lost in Retrospect: Exodus, parts 2 and 3

Continuing the frantic pace of the part 1, there isn’t a dull moment or a wasted scene in this incredibly tightly written, brilliantly acted and visually stunning episode of television.

For a quick refresh on this episode, I suggest you check out Lostpedia’s excellent Wiki page.

Splitting the Losties into three distinct groups works wonders for the pacing and the storytelling. Anytime things get dull, skip to the next storyline. Anytime we have a repetitive action, like sailing the raft or traipsing through the jungle, just cut to something interesting happening in the next storyline. It’s storytelling 101, but Lost has always excelled at telling its story well and keeping things fresh and interesting — even the weaker stretches of seasons 2 and 3 were more interesting and compelling than the majority of other shows.

Dynamite + monsters = awesome television. Someone should write that down in a maths textbook somewhere, because the A-Team mission to the Black Rock and back had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. The inclusion of Arzt paid off dividends, redshirting at its absolute finest, because what better way is there to show how dangerous dynamite is than to have the dynamite expert blow himself up by accident? The following scenes were a bizarre mix of funny and solemn, as the very idea of this boisterous guy blowing himself up is kinda humorous, but Hurley’s stunned reaction sits in the cockles of the heart as well. The scenes of Jack and Locke wrapping the dynamite were only made more intense by their conversation — seemingly a way of steadying the nerves as they go about a dangerous task, but that last line, “Do you like to play games, John?”, struck me as Jack testing out how much of a problem Locke will be once he’s accomplished this task that’s become the be-all-and-end-all of his existence: opening the Hatch. As Jack says to Kate later on, “if this works, we’re gonna have a Locke problem.”

The trek through the jungle ramped it all up by another eleven notches. What seems like a paradox of danger just unfolded in my head as the chase played out, the dynamite and the Monster just making things even more and more dangerous for the characters. And even if the CGI wasn’t nearly as good as it would be from season 2 onwards, the first actual appearance of the Monster is still enough to give me goosebumps. You can see the tendril of smoke wrapping around Locke’s leg as it drags him towards the hole in the ground, and the wisp that reforms and speeds away after the dynamite explosion. It was this electrifying moment — I mean, did anyone guess that this Monster was a malevolent cloud of black smoke? Hurley’s ‘pissed off giraffe’ theory would’ve seemed a safer bet before this episode aired.

But it does make me wonder why the Man in Black would (seemingly) try to kill Locke at this point in the story, since not only would the events of “Walkabout” seem to indicate that he’d chosen Locke as the chief patsy, but Locke is a Candidate, and therefore the Man in Black cannot simply kill him directly. My proto-theory is that perhaps the Man in Black was hoping to either accidentally kill Locke, thereby staying within the rules, or create a situation in which Jack and co. would kill him by accident, probably with the unstable dynamite they’re all carrying. With Locke dead, the Man in Black could begin impersonating him, manipulate the Losties directly, even gain covert access to the Hatch and use it to make his escape — I suspect that if the button were not pressed and the Swan’s energy released, the result would eventually be akin to what happened when Desmond removed the Cosmic Cork in the finale, something that (supposedly) would also have resulted in the world’s destruction.

Finally, at the end, I loved the slow deliberation with which the groups set about blowing open the hatch. It was a marked different to the frantic pace of their plotline so far, but worked just as well, because we’re all expecting something to go wrong and the longer we have to wait until something does, the more we wants to leap off the couch and throttle the television. Nothing did go wrong in the end, though, but we still got two brilliant moments. The first was Jack and Locke’s big conversation which lays out pretty much the main conflict in a series that’s built almost entirely on them: the Man of Science vs. the Man of Faith. The sceptic and the believer. The Scully and the Mulder, if you will. This was the scene where I originally came to see Locke as the potential Big Bad of the series, and the fanaticism was enough to freak me out as much as it did Jack.

The Rousseau storyline really came out of nowhere, in my opinion, but in a good way. The previous episode had done such a good job of setting up the threat of the Others that I was blindsided by what was essentially a very good Batman Gambit on the part of Rousseau. The misdirections, the traps, the black smoke — and she would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddlesome Losties! The scene in the camp where the other shoe really begins to drop was very intense, even though you don’t realise why at first. As soon as Claire has that flash of scratching Rousseau, suddenly Team Darlton is making the audience, as well as the characters, reconsider just how much trust they’ve put in this woman. This story lead to even more great moments. Charlie getting his head wound cauterised had me flinching — that scream, it was horrific! It also contrasted well with the flashbacks, but I’ll get to those later. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking when Charlie and Sayid stop to catch their breaths in possibly the most temptation-filled place on the Island. I’m not a drug addict, but there was something recognisable in Charlie’s eyes as he stared down at the heroin baggies: that battle in the centre of the mind, the conflict between the part of one’s personality that thinks and the part that wants that I think everyone fights all the time, though not in situations nearly this dangerous. I was really hoping he’d overcome the temptation, and it was heartbreaking to see the Virgin Mary statue in his bag at the end.

Finally, the actual confrontation with Rousseau on the beach, with that fire belching black smoke behind them. It was almost another heartbreak when we learned that almost everything that had happened in the three-part finale had been for nothing, part of this woman’s game to get back her child — itself almost a worthy goal, and probably the only reason why we still have any sympathy for her. But then she mentions the Whispers, and though I confess to having completely missed the importance of this fact the first time through, she pretty much lays the groundwork for the final raft scene: “They said they were coming to take the boy.” (I’m paraphrasing) I think that feeds perfectly into the final reveal of just what the Whispers are and what they do on the Island: the souls of countless dead people reside on the Island, forced to watch events unfolding, and in true ‘View from the Gallery’ style, they shout things at the characters, warnings or snarky jokes, like you or I would if we were watching a horror movie on TV. The Whispers are what the characters hear when the dead spirits try to communicate, their equivelant of “Don’t open the pantry, woman! The axe murderer is hiding inside!” Rousseau didn’t hear the Others, she heard a warning from these Whispers who could see what was going on, and she completely misinterpreted it.

I’m amazed how well the raft storyline holds up, considering that nothing really happens until the very end. The sudden drama when the rudder snaps adds a bit of action, but the real meat of this subplot is a chance to give these characters some nice interactions. Sawyer opens up to Walt — willingly! — more than I think he’s ever opened up to anybody except Kate. Jin and Michael really make friends. The four continue to work as a team, being awesome, generally making me like all four characters even more as the episode goes on. Of course, it’s the end of the episode where things get really interesting, because it turns out the Whispers were bang on the money: they’re coming to take the boy. The mood goes from jubilation to abject terror in about a third of a second, and only gets worse as the facts begin to sink in for the Rafties. Jack Bender did a masterful job with the direction of the scene, it plays out like the best spaghetti westerns. A lot of standing around and waiting for something to happen, knowing something’s going to happen, letting the tension mount until it’s thick enough to pick up and bludgeon something with–and suddenly everything happens at once and within a few seconds, its all over. They’ve got the boy, the raft has been destroyed, Sawyer and Jin are gone and Michael is left treading water, shouting “WAAAAAALT!” at the top of his lungs, and what’s hilarious out of context seems like not only the sanest thing to do but the only thing to do. This is just a breakdown of one scene in particular: this episode if full of similarly fantastic, tense, well-directed scenes, just as every season finale is. Bender has contributed as much to the run of Lost as Team Darlton and we’re better off for it.

Compared to the Island plotlines, the flashbacks aren’t nearly as compelling. Instead, they provide a nice counterpoint to the heroism and character development we’re seeing through the rest of the episode. Compare the Charlie we see rooting around his room for another fix with the man who demands to have gunpowder poured into his head wound and ignited because dammit! He’s gotta rescue a baby from a crazy Frenchwoman! Compare the downtrodden man in the wheelchair to the upright, confident man who waltzes into danger with all the bearing of a leader and a Messiah — just a shame it all comes crashing down. Compare Walt and Michael’s relationship as it was to how it is now. It also made me think forward to the flash-sideways in the series finale, which was structured and shot very similarly (at least, that’s how it seemed to me). The slow music, the characters slowly coming together… I’m not sure the significance, I just wanted to point out what a singular work of fiction this show is and how much I love its subtle touches, even the ones that have yet to come up.

I think I’ve made myself clear by this point, but just in case, I’ll reiterate: the series finale was brilliant. Thrilling, funny, dramatic, exciting, scary, heartwarming. The writing, acting and visuals are all superb. It’s Lost firing on all cylinders and more evidence as to why this show is one of the greatest ever made.


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