'Lost' review: 'The Candidate'

May 5, 2010

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There's an old saying: Never trust a man who smiles while holding four bricks of C4. (ABC)

Spoilers for Tuesday's eventful episode of Lost are contained in this post after the fifth paragraph. Do not read beyond the fifth paragraph (not counting this one) if you do not want to be spoiled on major events of Lost. You have been warned.

I had hoped last week to write a non-spoiler missive on my adoration for Lost, a series I came to late (having watched all the DVDs last year, and only now watching the show unfold week to week) after having studiously avoided spoilers for five seasons. But that missive hasn't happened yet, and I've been involved in a yard landscaping project that has pretty much monopolized my time for the past week.

If you, like me, somehow remained spoiler-free on Lost all these years and are not currently watching, I highly recommend you stay that way, avoid all news items about Lost, then get all the DVDs (or preferably Blu-ray discs, if you have the money to spare; the series looks fantastic on Blu-ray, but still very good on DVD), start at the beginning, and watch the entire series. It's a big time commitment with a massive number of episodes, and it requires patience at times, but it's well worth it if you like well-made, character-driven, serial television.

But what I want to do now is open discussion up on these final episodes of Lost, so let's talk a bit about Tuesday's episode, "The Candidate."

Note: I am not "formally" reviewing these episodes in depth; more like blogged shallow reviews to serve as a discussion starting point. I do not have the time or inclination to tackle Lost full-on, and there are so many other Lost reviewers out there who have been doing it forever and do a wonderful job. Lost fans already know who they are, or who I like to read regularly (Alan Sepinwall, Maureen Ryan, etc.), so you can seek them out for more in-depth discussion.

Okay, spoilers ahead! Don't say I didn't warn you!

So here's the milder, censored version of my thoughts of the last two acts of "The Candidate":

Holy [freaking] [crap].

I know we're getting down to the wire on Lost here, but if you had told me yesterday that no less than FOUR characters who appear as regulars in the opening credits would perish in the course of a single act of this episode, I'd have said you were crazy.

Lost is taking no prisoners, it would seem.

Submarine: Sunk.

Sayid: Blowed up. (Or as Jack put it, "There IS no Sayid!")

Lapidus: Knocked down by an exploding hatch and apparently drowned.

And Sun and Jin: Drowned in one of those heartbreakingly awful moments of choice that must be made as the water flows slowly but steadily up, like that scene in The Abyss. (Although I found myself wondering why Sun wouldn't appeal to Jin to save himself on the account of their now-to-be-orphaned daughter.)

All of this done with great excitement and suspense and emotion, I must mention.

Meanwhile, in the sideways timeline/universe, we have Jack being Jack — unable to let anything go if he can possibly "fix" it. This time it's John Locke, whom Jack calls a candidate for an operation that could reverse his paralysis. There is a strange crossover awareness that some of these characters vaguely have of the "real" universe, and I like how Lost subtly establishes those connections with lines like "I wish you had believed me" or "What happened, happened." The tapestry of Lost is so massive and complex that this sort of shorthand is not only a nod to the audience's memory, but necessary as a matter of storytelling economy.

Meanwhile, the ever-shifting faux loyalties and gamesmanship prove both intriguing and frustrating. No one trusts Smokey, and yet they all get manipulated into the submarine death trap anyway. And no one trusts Widmore, but it seems like he knows better what he's dealing with than anyone else. As per the usual Lost requirement, Widmore vaguely explains that he's the best bet for everyone being safe, but doesn't explain WHY.

That's one of those things (characters hinting at their reasons to other characters without ever explaining them, when they clearly should) you just kind of have to go with on Lost, and I'm more than willing to, hoping the solutions and motivations will all make sense before it's all over. Meanwhile, Smokey is an SOB, but I for one still have no idea what to make of his goals or methods. He's clearly a bad guy, but I would hardly call Jacob or Widmore the good guy who serves as is his opposite. Jacob all but kidnapped everyone to the island while Widmore sent a ship full of mercenaries to it to kill everyone. I guess it's all shades of gray.

After this season has spent its time setting up all the pieces, the endgame has sort of crept up on us here, and with "The Candidate" we have moved into a furious pace of casualties and consequences, and all hell seems ready to break loose. I should amend that: All hell seems ready to CONTINUE to break loose. With countless dead among Widmore's team, and four major characters dead, I'd say the breaking loose has already begun in earnest.

So what did everybody else think? Has Lost gone suddenly bloodthirsty, and did you see it coming?

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10 comments on this post

    It was a brilliant episode, I really enjoyed it. The season's island storyline has been on a slowbuild towards this showdown, and finally all hell broke loose. The resultant deaths of Lapidus and Sayid were shocking, but Sun and Jin staying together so they wouldn't have to be apart again really got to me. The submarine action had been shot very well and was tense throughout, so the result of Sun and Jin staying with a wonderfully sad score was heartbreaking. And we still have three episodes to go!

    Smokey is a real bastard then! But it was definately coming. There has been so much death throughout the history of Lost to not expect it really. It tends to be abrupt, shocking, and also tends to further the story. The loss of these four characters is sure to piss off our remaining Losties and push them towards whatever the ultimate endgame will be.

    I've tried my best to remain spoiler-free throughout the show's run, and this has been very successful, give or take the odd fail. Lost is a show that endears itself to the spoiler-free as half of the fun is not knowing what the hell has been going on. I'm going to miss the show when it finishes.

    I loved the episode with minor reservations. My feelings towards Lost's handling of the deaths of its characters has always been mixed. I feel they sometimes drift too far towards the "death for shock value" that 24 has raised to a flawed art form. Killing so many so fast was certainly shocking, but I feel that each death (and is Frank really dead? not buying it just yet) sort of stole the thunder from the others. The all time best Lost death was Charlie, which was nicely telegraphed as all-but-inevitable, and then briefly teased that maybe he could escape his fate before Mikhail and his grenade. That was well-handled in terms of the character level, even if his sacrifice didn't mean much in the end.

    That being said, I recognize the need to up the ante as the show winds down. There is simply not enough time to give all the characters their due, I'm afraid. The last few seasons Sun and Jin had pretty much been relegated to "I've got to find Sun/Jin!" Once they were reunited, their storyline was, for better or worse, pretty much concluded. I never bought that either of them could be "The Candidate." Sayid pretty much had to die, given his story turn this season. I'm glad he did so in an act of redemption.

    I think you are being too hard on Jacob. He is, in my opinion, pretty obviously a metaphor for the Judeo-Christian God, whatever his in-story origins turn out to be. He is sort of generically benevolent and kindly but distant. Not above tweaking people's lives to impact his own inscrutable ends. He seems genuinely sorry when his influence result in pain for those people. He is also unwilling to be the Deux ex machina in these peoples lives, fulfilling at least a certain view of a God that "helps people who help themselves."

    Jacob and Smokey as God and Satan seem fairly cut and dry (not literally in-show, but metaphorically) to me. One works mysteriously towards inscrutable but seemingly benevolent ends, yet does not go out of his way to help no matter his power, preferring to let the castaways find their own paths. The other works for similarly inscrutable but clearly malevolent ends, and contrary to Jacob's hands-off style, Smokey interferes with/influences/corrupts whoever will lend him an ear.

    Anyone notice we haven't seen Jacob's ghost on the scene since Desmond had his "religious" experience in the EM chamber? While I strongly believe Jack will end up replacing Jacob, it does beg the question of some sort of link between the spirit of Jacob and Desmond's newfound enlightenment.

    While it may seem brutal (the only word to describe the episode) to kill so many characters at once, it does make sense. It was a trap. And it is rather cliche for charaters to escape such a trap with one or no sacrifices. But in this case the trap was more effective. I for one do not think we have seen the last of Jinn.

    I have really enjoying the transformation of Jack from 'man of science' to 'man of faith.' I also like that Sawyer seems to be at his most cunning and distrustful, but still manages to get conned.

    Remaining spoiler free is a must for enjoying show.

    I too had come to Lost late--saw first three seasons on DVD, then watched on network starting with Season 4. I have given up on it though. I has become so ridiculous and contrived I can't bear any more. I started watching this season as it aired, and gave up about three episodes in--I'll probably check it out on DVD sometime though.

    The first season was the best television I have ever seen, with images and story lines that I still think about--with "The Moth" still being one of the best episodes of any series ever-- but since then, they have been steadily going downhill. I stuck with it so long because i thought MAYBE they might come back to what made the first season so wonderful. But no. The ridiculous adding of new characters (all of whom have a mystery or secret knowledge), the unexplained stuff, the jumping through time and dimension (which throws any attempt at reality out the window) -- all of these have added up to an expensive piece of crap. But this show pretty much lost me completely after Season 2.

    I'm vaguely curious about how they are going to end, but I know one thing--it won't be satisfying, so I am heading into it expecting to be disappointed.

    I enjoyed the episode as much as I've enjoyed this sixth season so far (after a DISASTROUS fifth season, IMHO), but the feeling I'm getting, in general, is that somehow these latest episodes have lacked an epic quality to them (aside from the one in which the "smoke" destroyed the temple).

    I mean, big mysteries are about to be solved (we hope) after so many years, and yet... even the submarine blowing up and several characters getting killed didn't have too much of an impact for me. In other words, I've been impressed by this show more successfully in the past. I'm not sure Lost still retains the ability to impress me, after sooo many episodes of what you mention ("do this but I won't tell you why").

    I DO enjoy the series, that's why I keep watching it (the "Dr.Linus" episode from this season was the best of the series in a LOOONG time for me, i.e) but... well, I hope they still have some exciting (and logical) surprises up their sleeves. They've trained us to demand that, somehow.

    The Candidate was one of the best episodes in the entire series. Easily giving the best resolution possible to the relationship between Jack and Locke. The man of science/man of faith angle comes full circle with this last outing. Locke's become the skeptic in both timelines, while Jack rose to his long foreseen leap of faith. It's a credit to Matthew Fox for making these last two seasons so convincing in character evolution, and also to Terry O'Quinn for being able to switch between roles with little to no effort, giving it all the little nuances possible.

    Between this, Ab Aeterno and Dr. Linus, the writers really managed to deliver a season's truckload of worthy payoffs.

    It's abundantly clear now that tragedy is the only possible outcome in the island timeline. Everything is shifting towards a tragic conclusion. Frank's fate is unknown. Sayid, Sun and Jin are gone, and Kate's bleeding to death. Now this is how i would end a show if i were the showrunner! No happy endings.

    Elizabeth Sarnoff, writer of this particular episode, and executive producer of Lost, has an extensive track record for murdering main characters on her scripts. The list goes as follows: Shannon , Ana Lucia, Libby, Roger Linus, Horace, Karl, Danielle Rousseau, Sayid, Jin and Sun (and possibly Lapidus).

    It's amazing how well the alternating storylines run together. Both timelines did a valiant job competing for my attention. Both were a delight to watch. I actually felt sorry for Locke and Anthony Cooper (one little issue: Cooper apparently still conned Sawyer's family despite having a good relationship with John). And seeing Helen Norwood is always a treat.

    One minor gripe though in the form of Alan Dale. The man has no range whatsoever as an actor. He's so used to Widmore-esque roles in numerous shows and films, that his voice breaks every time the role requires a more dynamic approach for his character.

    There's not much that can be said about the death of everyone's favorite korean couple. Jack Bender is a masterful director when it comes to manipulating the audience's emotions as are those two actors.

    This episode was all action and payoff, but no resolution or mysteries solved. I'm biting my fingernails until next week. I just hope Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse deliver on whatever's coming next.

    My fav tv show ever...possibly. but I'm beginning to get a sense of Deja vu watching current episodes. There still brilliant but did'ent Sayed and Jin already die. Fact is People just won't stay dead on this Island. I'm glad this is the last season as credibility is been stretched to extremes. (Actually that applys more so to last season).
    Never-the-less I love the dual storylines and I wonder will they impact on each other?
    All the main charactors are still in tact so we should still hava a few surprises
    before its all over. So with abit of luck, The best is yet to come.

    I disagree with everyone who thinks the series has gone downhill. Season 3 had some week episodes, but once they knew the exact number of remaining episodes, the story has been tight. Season 5 was flawless and this season is fantastic.

    Many people complain about the lack of answers over the course of the series. What you have to realize is that the series has been an 80-some hour single story. Sure there have been arcs, but the nature of the series has been one continuous story. And this last season, especially in the later half, has been steeped in answers. Sure, I don't expect every question to be answered, but what we have had so far has been great.

    Loved this episode, it had be crying by the end. Those reaction shots of the survivors on the beach after the submarine...man, tough stuff.

    I agree with Vincent that the show has really been pretty fantastic since about half-way through the third season. I don't get why people keep bringing up the fifth season as being flawed, I thought it was awesome. Everything from the time travel to the thrilling conclusion was just a blast.

    I guess to each their own though. Lost really has something for everyone.

    I would say if u watched every single episode back to back, that the continuous - and frankly unrealistic - amount of posturing, from characters who could quite easily explain their motives yet never do - would get REALLY ANNOYING.

    Also if u were to watch this weeks episode and not be extremely disappointed, i would be amazed, considering your reviews of enterprise, and how it often fobbed us off with ridiculous storylines, and episode conclusions.

    However the candidate, it was a good episode, thrilling conclusion, but that posturing was there again, and sawyers constant disregard for anything Jack says given all he has seen on the island is a bit silly, sorry doc, weve travelled through time, fought giant pillars of smoke, but i wont believe you when u say we arent going to die.

    Compare season 1 to season 5, Season 1 wins out every time

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