Waaaaait a second – I’m not Doc Jensen! No, you’re not suddenly reading some kind of Sideways Popwatch, and I promise Doc J and I aren’t actually the same polymorphous entity, although that would be pretty cool. No, our fearless leader on all things Lost is simply traveling on assignment, but don’t worry. The Doc will still file his weekly Lost TV Watch as per usual.
For this week’s Lost run-up, however, you’re stuck with Asst. Prof. Vary. And like the unruly sub I am, before we dive into our hopes and dreams for the episode that just might, finally, at long, long last, reunite Jin and Sun, I’m going to take this rare opportunity atop the official Lost soapbox to bring up one of the most divisive questions among the Lost faithful: Is this show still worth caring about?
Cards on the table: I very much think it is. I’m pot-committed on this show, and have been for years. I love it for all of the obvious reasons – the characters, the mystery, the shirtless Sawyer – but mostly I love it for its sheer swing-for-the-fences ethos, the very idea that television as dense and sprawling and weird and ambitious as Lost is even possible.
As this season has unfolded, however, anyone who’s bothered skimming a Lost-related message board would have to admit there is some fan dissatisfaction a-brewin’ of late. I’ve seen lengthy Facebook and Twitter rants from friends and strangers alike. I’ve read this thoughtful essay from a bitter Lost fan over at New York magazine’s website, in which the author said the revelation that Lost boils down to a centuries-long battle between Jacob and Smokey is “like folding an enormous, colorful, mysterious map into a tiny wad of chewing gum.” And I’ve received e-mails like the following from my father:
OK…here’s my latest idea for you to pitch as a story for EW:
1. Buy all seasons of LOST DVD’s (or borrow from friend/library)
2. Watch all the episodes of LOST in reverse order…last to first.
3. It’ll make more sense.
The ratings for the season have held steady, so there certainly hasn’t been any Lost fan exodus this year. It’s hard to know whether the angry Lost fans are simply a vocal minority, or a symptom of a larger fan discontent. But we’re halfway through the season, and we only just got the major mythological download with “Ab Aeterno” that I’ve noticed at least some of you felt should have come much sooner. And this week’s episode looks to zero in on the one couple who have traditionally had the least to do with Lost’s larger mythology, Jin and Sun. Of course there’s fan frustration. Of course some fans have considered jumping ship – or have jumped ship already.
To those people, however, I say: Don’t. We now know the general playing field; we know who Jacob thinks he is, and who Smokey thinks he is, and who Jacob and Smokey think each other are, and that knowledge, to me, makes the whole question about whether one is “Good” and the other “Evil” entirely moot. We know why Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, and Locke were brought to The Island, and I have a sneaking suspicion that tonight we’re going to learn whether Jin, Sun, or (my hunch) both of them as a team are candidates to replace Jacob. As each Sideways story has unfolded, we’ve also gotten a fascinating and emotionally satisfying quasi-resolution to each of the character’s respective redemptive hang-ups. And we still have half a season to go. Which is to say, Lost really is giving us answers, just not in the way we may expect, or want.
Put it this way: We’ve come this far, it would just be silly to stop now. We’ve argued over the monster, over Dharma, over the Others, and over whether Sawyer should end up with Juliet or Kate. (Duh. Juliet.) Why would any self-respecting Lost viewer want to miss out on the ultimate Lost debate: Was it all worth it?
For tonight, though, we’ve got “The Package,” and, as per usual, I find myself pondering the many possible meanings of that title. There’s the package of money Sideways Jin was caught carrying at customs, along with that fancy watch. There’s the metaphoric package (i.e. a bound-and-gagged Sideways Jin) that Sideways Sayid found in Sideways Keamy’s sideways restaurant. (Sideways sidebar: Are Darlton big Paul Giamatti fans, big Alexander Payne fans, or both?) There’s the package Island Sun carried for nine months, wee Ji Yeon. (Remember her?) There’s the package deal that the Lockeness Monster has been pitching to all his potential recruits. And, of course, there’s the Seinfeld episode that’s also called “The Package,” in which Jerry refuses to sign for a package because it has no return address – could that be an allusion to Smokey’s desire to return to an as-yet-undetermined home? Ponder that.
Really, though, this episode exists for one reason only: The reunion of Jin and Sun. I expect swooning. I expect tears. I expect my heart to be wrenched but good. And if this show doesn’t frakking deliver on every single one of my expectations, then, blast it all, Lost and I are through.