LOST: "The Substitute"

Brief thoughts on the latest lost episode:
I have great faith in the LOST writers. They’ve given us some very entertaining television for five seasons. But episodes like this make me doubt their judgment. I just feel like the remaining length of the show is very short, and it seems like a waste of time to have two “bridge”, “nothing really happens”, “sets the scene” episodes in a row. On a smaller level, I thought that some of the flashbacks in the scene between Locke and Sawyer in the cave were gratuitous and deeply annoying. The alternate/safe landing timeline mostly worked for me this episode, and I’ve been really bored by that in other episodes. I don’t really understand the fan/online community’s unconditional love for Rose; I’ve never gotten over her first few episodes where she was self-consciously written and annoying.
I’m starting to get annoyed by the hacky script with gratuitous repetition of “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” (three times in like two minutes), paralyzed Locke on the lawn when the sprinklers go on, Esau saying that “I have answers,” that kind of stuff. I’m fine with sly references to audience confusion and fan argument. But please don’t ham up the script. You don’t want bad laughs.
Even though it was tediously wrenched out of a pretty boring episode, there was some really interesting mythology things happening. First, although it’s so obvious I never really thought about it until this episode, in the safe landing timeline all the interesting connections between characters in their past seem to be coming together quickly. In three episodes, Locke has met Boone, Jack, Rose and Hurley, and other characters are interacting similarly as well. Surely this will build to some kind of cimax.
I was also pleasantly surprised by a tasteful appearance of the numbers. Even though the logical thing is to think that the numbers are still mysterious because Jacob used them in his list, I prefer a more romantic explanation. I’d like to believe that the numbers on the list of names were simply assigned chronologically, and that failure of some kind of “test” has caused some names to be crossed out. Therefore, the power of the numbers comes from the success of some of these people. In other words, if things had worked out differently in the past, if some characters had acted differently at some point, the numbers might be different.
Finally, I’m very interested in that list. Most of the smaller names are illegible, but (although I’m taking this on faith from the show) we know who are still candidates: 4 Locke, 8 Hurley, 15 Sawyer, 16 Sayid, 23 Jack, 42 Kwon (Sun or Jin). I think this probably is too deep for the show’s planning, but I’ll be interested to see if the ordering of the numbers has any significance (maybe it’s the order of deaths…). The fact that Locke’s name is still on the list after his death –potentially same with Sayid– is really interesting. I think it’s a wise move that Kate’s name isn’t on there; the script ran that character into the ground, and Evangeline Lily hasn’t been charming for a few seasons now. Both Sun and Jin were touched personally by the island in their past, so I’m not sure which is the last name. I do know that if they handle a Sun-as-a-major-character poorly (she hasn’t really been interesting since season 4), it will be really embarrassing.
The inclusion of Sawyer and Sayid on the list surprises me more than that of Hurley and Sun/Jin. Hurley interacts with the supernatural elements on the island better than anybody else, and Sun and Jin have come to be defined by their anger at time travel gone bad.  Sawyer and Sayid, however, always seemed to me explicitly written as more focused on the need of the present and the immediate environment than the mysterious forces at work on the island or the metaphysics of going back.
I’m excited to see how this plays out, and I’m expecting a much faster pace episode next week. The fact that the promo showed no new footage encourages me.

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