Ah, Ken Leung. We’d buy a karaoke machine from you any day.
This was a great episode. By which we mean that it did exactly what it intended to do: Fill out Miles’s character, advance some key plot threads, tie up a few unresolved questions (the $3.2 million, Dr. Chang and Miles being father/son), yet still raise even more questions that need to be answered. Two thoughts to start off with:
1. This season has been the show’s most unified yet. We’re seeing a consistency in the plot lines and character arcs that wasn’t matched in any of the first three seasons. (Last season was very good; this season is better.) It made Ben think of a Richard Price interview on “Fresh Air” when Price talked about writing just one episode per season of “The Wire.” He was told exactly what had to happen, plot-wise, in his episode, and yet he had to fill out other themes and move the character development along as well. In other words, David Simon and Ed Burns knew exactly how the season looked as a whole and as twelve individual parts. The “Lost” creators have evolved to this point now. We’re not saying seasons one through three were at all poorly conceived; we’re just saying they had a little slack here and there (three especially). Some episodes went deep into character at the expense of the island story moving forward. Others (but less so) were mythology-intensive and skimped on character development. Now the two are perfectly in sync. There’s no doubt it’s a result of their maturation as writers, but certainly the fact that the show’s creators have an ever-nearing end point has given them clarity and urgency to make every episode essential. They can’t afford to waste one.
2. This was a vastly improved version of the season three episode “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead.” That episode was, in our estimation, one of the show’s low points. A quick recap: Hurley’s daddy issues come to light as well as the rotten string of luck he’s had since winning the lottery. (Tricia Tanaka is a local newscaster who interviews Hurley outside a Mr. Cluck’s restaurant moments before a meteoroid destroys it. Yes, a meteoroid.) On the island, Hurley talks to Libby’s grave, discovers a Dharma skeleton and beer inside the V-Dub, and takes a literal and metaphoric leap of faith by pushing the van down a hill and hoping it will start before it crashes into something. (It starts. Barely.) Episode takeaway: Hurley moves from pessimism to optimism and acts on it. (Off-island, he breaks from his father and commits to Australia. On-island, he drives the bus.) Sound familiar to last night? In the “Tanaka” episode, though, the flashbacks didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about Hurley, and the episode, mostly intended as comic relief, simply treaded water. Part of it was that the flashback format was occasionally going stale: “Every Man For Himself” (3.4) was a retread of “The Long Con” (2.13); “Further Instructions” (3.3), one of three Locke episodes that season, didn’t develop his character in any significant way from “Orientation” (2.3). But part of it was that Hurley was saddled with a filler episode that accomplished little else.
“Some Like It Hoth” was technically a filler episode (or perhaps it’d be fairer to call it a “transition” episode). But let’s consider what it accomplished:
- We learn about Miles, who we find to be a winning character. He’s the son of Dr. Pierre Chang. He’s been able to hear ghosts since he was a kid. He was recruited to the island by Naomi. He can exist twice in the same timeline. (Hurley: “Maybe you can change your own diaper.”) He too has daddy issues.
- Miles and Hurley (the R2D2/C3PO-Jack Lemmon/Tony Curtis duo of “Lost”) deliver some of the season’s funniest exchanges, even if you aren’t a Star Wars geek. (We also enjoyed the Meet the Parents echoes evoked by “the circle of trust.”)
- Key plot developments: Ben’s dad unravels and Kate’s well-meaning gesture backfires, planting the seed of the castaways’ Dharma implosion; Sawyer loses his grip and punches out Phil; we see the hatch being built and the origin of the numbers; and Daniel Faraday’s reappearance at episode’s end sets up the moment we saw at the beginning of the season when he was on site at the Orchid as they discover the frozen donkey wheel.
- More questions raised: Who is this rogue “What Lies In The Shadow of the Statue?” group working for? Who was Felix? (We think Doc Jensen is on it.) What dead bodies might Miles stumble upon in the season to come? (His dad’s?) Where can we get a Dharma onesie for our friends? Why hasn’t it been raining in 1977? What was with all the Egyptian stuff on the blackboard? (And what’s the symbolism of Jack erasing it?) When (and why) does Dr. Chang abandon wife and son?
Our bet: Miles will reveal himself to his dad by season’s end, an act that will trigger and/or coincide with a catastrophe (or two … obviously The Purge is coming soon). His dad will kick Miles and his mom off the island. Miles will be complicit in his own abandonment. And perhaps this will explain why every other character (aside from Rose/Bernard and Nikki/Paulo*) on the show has his/her own daddy issues. Just as we know that the island will stop delivering babies sometime soon, what if some upcoming cataclysmic event also imprints an endless reiteration of generational conflict between fathers and sons? And what if the cause for that is Miles and his dad, the heart of the Dharma Initiative?**
We await your thoughts.
* = These were the only remotely significant characters Doc Smith and Ben could come up with on the spot who do not have daddy issues. Seriously, did we miss anyone? Maybe Sayid? Besides that his dad encouraged him to snap the necks of chickens?
** = If this theory has any merit, we’re more inclined to think it’d be a result of the rift in Ben’s relationship with his dad than between Miles and Chang. Ben killed his dad. (On the island.) Who raised his son in a way that effectively killed him. The sins of the fathers…