SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, grab yourself a milk—no, make that a juice box—and watch last night’s episode of Lost.
Everything, they say, comes back into fashion eventually. So though I wouldn’t have believed it had you told me a few weeks ago, Lost has actually begun having interesting flashbacks again. This week, in fact, a flashback that was more compelling than the events on the Island—and a flashback centered on Kate, yet. Will wonders never cease?
I’ve taken my potshots at Kate Austen over the seasons, but this was probably one of Evangeline Lilly’s best episodes so far. While I was not, am not, and cannot imagine being interested in whether or not Freckles ends up with Sawyer, or Jack, or any man on the Island, Lilly completely sold me on why Kate needed Aaron so badly after escaping the Island, and how badly it hurt her to leave him in order to go back.
Lilly was so good in that tearful parting motel scene, in fact—you could almost feel her tearing herself away from her baby—that I felt the episode didn’t need the explanation that it devised in order to get her to that place. Her flashback seemed, in part anyway, reverse engineered to answer the questions: why did Kate pretend that Aaron was her baby, and why didn’t she just return him to Claire’s mother?
Saying that she did it for herself—that keeping Aaron was somehow a way of getting over having her heart broken by Sawyer—made dramatic sense, I guess, and it allowed the story to come back around to Cassidy and Clementine. But it would have been simpler, and would have made as much or more human sense, simply to say that she took Aaron because he was her friend’s baby, that she kept him because she trusted only herself to keep him safe (as we all know, Kate isn’t the trusting kind) and that it was wrenching to give him up not because of some three-year-old heartbreak, but because she had raised him as her own baby.
In the same way, the story on the Island may have been working a little too hard to explain things that didn’t need explaining. The conversation between Hurley and Miles was a pretty blatant let’s-break-down-time-travel-for-the-home-audience scene, but is the concept really that hard to get? Hurley and Miles have traveled back in time, but they haven’t traveled to an earlier point in their lives, so of course they can die. On the other hand, Young Ben is a kid who hasn’t grown into Big Ben yet, so he can’t. And, the end of the episode confirms, he doesn’t.
That said, the show is getting into hairy enough sci-fi territory that it probably needed someone to say, flat out, “This is not Back to the Future.” (Had no one on Oceanic 815 seen Twelve Monkeys? What was the in-flight movie, anyway?) And it was probably worth it just for the who’s-on-first exchange between Hurley and Miles, concluding with a question we’d been asking here: why, then, didn’t Ben remember having been shot by Sayid when he was captured as an adult? Answer: “Huh.”
Personally, I’d assumed that Ben did remember, and concealed his knowledge because he saw some advantage in it. Because he’s Ben, and that’s what he does. I was wrong, I guess, given Richard’s saying that Ben’s “treatment” in the temple will have the convenient side effect of erasing his memories of the shooting incident.
So bottom line: much of “Whatever Happened, Happened” served simply to explain that whatever happened did, in fact, as we suspected, happen. Ben lived. He didn’t remember his past with Sayid in the future. And no one faded away, Back to the Future style.
Beyond that—and the revelation that both Ellie and Widmore are still on the scene with the Others in the 1970s—we’re kind of like Hurley sitting in that living room, biding our time, awaiting instructions, wondering what will be the next development to move the Island story forward, now that it’s not clear whether or why the other survivors need the Oceanic Six.
Most of the action in this episode was instead on a character level. First, Juliet, Kate and Sawyer came to the decision that whether or not one can change the past, it’s not worth changing your moral character in the attempt. Young Ben is still a child, still an innocent, and it’s still wrong to let him die.
Unless you’re Jack, of course, whose moral compass is again aligned 180 degrees in the opposite direction. His decision to let Ben die at least stems from some kind of principle: he’s seen what Ben does in the future and, like the doctor he is, wants to catch the disease in its early stages. But he also seems to be acting partly out of pique, telling Kate that he’d already saved Ben once, at her request to save Sawyer, and he regretted it.
Jack says he’s made this decision because he’s a different person. But has he? Because once again, it seems that it’s all about him. Except this time, that’s true in an even bigger sense: his decision, his willingness to be callous, was probably what ended up making Ben become what he did, as young Linus gets adopted by the Others.
The child is father to the man, and in an episode that was so much about adoptions and their repercussions, Jack has become a kind of father to the man Ben will become. In that sense, it really is all about Jack—much more than he may like to admit.
Now to the hail of bullets:
- OK, I think we all expected Ben would end up alive somehow. And I accept that Lost is a TV show. People will appear to die, and then not die. It has happened before. But: Sayid is a trained killer. You mean to tell me he’s going to screw up the killing of an unarmed 12-year-old? Does no one on this Island know how to shoot for the head? Do we have to get Snoop in here to teach people how to kill a m__________?
- Lesser quibble: are microbuses really the best vehicle choice for offroad driving? And how do you get one in on a submarine? Break it down into parts?
- I was surprised to learn how much blabbing Kate did about the Oceanic Six’s lie. With Cassidy and Claire’s mother both knowing that there are people left alive on the mountain, we’ve got to figure that, at some point, that information gets from them to someone else, right?
- It’s good to see Juliet and Kate working so well together on the Island—the cheap and predictable route would be for the triangle/quadrangle issues to arise immediately and for the claws to come out. But so far the only one being a total bitch is Jack.
- I’m so happy whenever I see Miles. “You’re all free to leave whenever you want. But I’ll shoot you in the leg.”