Fan Perception of Ana-Lucia Cortez

FAN PERCEPTION OF ANA-LUCIA CORTEZ

I have a confession to make. I did not watch the ABC series “LOST” from the beginning. In fact, I did not start watching the series until (2.02) “Adrift”, the second episode of Season Two. However, I could barely maintain interest in the show, until the Season Two episode, (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo”.

To be honest, there was nothing particularly special about that episode. But there was one scene that really made me sit up and notice. This scene featured a moment in which Tail Section survivor Ana-Lucia Cortez punched James “Sawyer” Ford. I cheered when that happened, because … well, I found Sawyer rather annoying. Unbeknownst to me, Sawyer was already a fan favorite by this time and many fans were upset by Ana-Lucia’s act of violence.

They were even further upset when she accidentally shot and killed fuselage survivor, Shannon Rutherford near the end of (2.06) “Abandoned”. It was an accident and Ana-Lucia thought she was defending herself from an attack by the Others, following the disappearance of fellow Tailie Cindy Chandler. Mind you, Season One (which I saw, thanks to the release of its DVD box set) featured Charlie Pace’s murder of a defenseless Ethan Rom, Jin Kwon and Michael Dawson’s beatings of each other, a fight between Sawyer and Sayid Jarrah, and Shannon’s attempted murder of John Locke for lying about the circumstances of her step-brother Boone Carlyle’s death. But it was Ana-Lucia’s accidental killing of Shannon that pissed them off – even to this day.

But it was the seventh episode from Season Two that sealed my fate as a regular viewer of “LOST”– namely (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”. This episode conveyed the experiences of Ana-Lucia and the other Tail Section passengers of Oceanic Flight 315 during their first 48 days on the island. To this day, “The Other 48 Days” remains my favorite “LOST” episode of all time. But I also noticed that the fan opinion of Ana-Lucia remained at an all time low.

As the years passed, I never understood the fans’ low opinion of Ana-Lucia. She did not seem any better or worse than many of the other characters on the show. Honestly. During my years of watching the series, I was surprised to discover how unpleasant or annoying many of the regular characters could be, including the golden quartet – Dr. Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sawyer and Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. Even a borderline villain like Ben Linus proved to be more popular than Ana-Lucia.

I found myself wondering if the series’ decision to make her a leader of the Tailies made her so unpopular. A Latina woman who did not live up to the fans’ ideal of the early 21st century white woman? At first I had dismissed the idea … until I read this article by Theresa Basile called “Lost Season 2: What if Ana-Lucia Was a White Guy?”. Here is the article. Is Ms. Basile right? Most fans would be inclined to dismiss her opinion. But after years of reading the fan reaction to Ana-Lucia, I am beginning to suspect that the author might be right.

“LOST”: The Death of Nathan

“LOST”: THE DEATH OF NATHAN

(2.07) ”The Other 48 Hours” is the 31st episode of ”LOST” that aired on November 16, 2005. This episode featured the Tail Section passengers of Oceanic Air Flight 815 and the story of their first forty-eight (48) days on the island. A controversy popped out from nowhere in this episode and it featured a fellow survivor named Nathan, whose death led to a barrage of criticism aimed at another character – Ana-Lucia Cortez, portrayed by Michelle Rodriguez.

The previous episode, (2.06) ”Abandoned” ended with the kidnapping of one of the Tail Section survivors, stewardess Cindy Chandler (Kimberly Joseph) and Ana-Lucia’s accidental shooting of one of the regular Fuselage survivors, Shannon Rutherford (Maggie Grace). ”The Other 48 Days” unfolded the events experienced by the Tailies that led Ana-Lucia to pull the trigger in such haste. And one of those events included the death of a Canadian-born passenger named Nathan (Josh Randall) at the hands of the Others’ spy, Goodwin Stanhope (Brett Cullen), The ironic thing about Nathan’s death is that when this episode had first aired, many of the series’ fans blamed Ana-Lucia for the Canadian’s fate.

When Flight 815 of Oceanic Airlines had first crashed on September 22, 2004, the plane broke into several pieces. One of those pieces included the tail section, which landed in the water, somewhere opposite of the Fuselage passengers’ camp. Not long after the survivors swam ashore, some of them – Ana-Lucia Cortez, Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Libby (Cynthia Watros) and Others spy Goodwin included – helped the others. But after Tail Sections passengers (aka the Tailies) settled down for the night, the Others snatched three adult males and Eko managed to kill two of them with a rock when they try to take him. It was Nathan who pointed out the disappearance of the three male survivors. Several injured survivors die in the passing days before the Others attacked again on the twelfth night and snatched nine more survivors – including two children named Emma and Zack. Ana-Lucia managed to kill one of the Others. The remaining survivors – Ana-Lucia, Mr. Eko, Libby, Cindy, Nathan and Bernard Nadler (Sam Anderson) – and Goodwin head into the jungle to evade the Others.

During their trek into the jungle, Nathan peevishly insisted that they break for rest and water. Although against the idea, Ana-Lucia obliged due to the arguments from the other survivors. She eventually dug a pit – on her own – and converted it into a cage. For Nathan. Apparently, Ana-Lucia had developed a suspicion toward the Canadian-born survivor since the Others’ second attack. Along with Cindy, he wanted to stay on the beach, following the Others’ first attack on Day One. Nathan also lengthy trips into the jungle, supposedly to take a bathroom break. He also seemed rebellious toward Ana-Lucia. Nathan spent four days in the pit without food, despite protests from Bernard and Goodwin. He also had to endure unrelenting questioning by Ana-Lucia. When she indicated her intention to torture him, Goodwin helped Nathan out of the pit. Then he killed the Canadian by snapping the latter’s neck.

Ever since Nathan’s death, many fans – but not all – have dumped most of the blame on Ana-Lucia’s shoulders. In the Television Without Pity recap for”The Other 48 Days”, someone named Daniel had this to say:

”She kneels by a stream, and starts to break down. Who says Michelle Rodriguez can’t act? She stops herself when she sees Eko standing there watching her. She barks at him, for no one must see her cry. He tells her that everything’s going to be okay, and he crouches beside her. “What, you’re talking now?” he says. “It’s been forty days,” he says simply. “You waited forty days to talk?” she says. “You waited forty days to cry,” he says, and that totally sets her off, and she collapses, sobbing in his arms. I’m going to hope that the tears aren’t strictly of the “even a girlfighter needs to let it out once in a while” variety, and that some of these tears are being shed for Nathan, whose death Ana-Lucia bears some of the responsibility for, whether you like her or not.”

He was right to claim that Ana-Lucia bore some of the responsibility for Nathan’s death. I only wished he had included the others who were also responsible in the above passage. Even one of the series’ screenwriters got into the act. Both Elizabeth Sarnoff and Christina M. Kim, who wrote (2.16) ”The Whole Truth” had Ana-Lucia assume all of the blame for what happened to Nathan:

GALE: I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but why are you going to help me get out of here?
ANA: On the other side of the Island there was this guy with us. I was 100 percent convinced that he wasn’t on the plane. So I dug a whole and I threw him in it.
GALE: And what happened?
ANA: I was wrong. And now he’s dead. But good news for you Henry — I don’t make the same mistake twice. So how about you tell me your story?

Well, it is all peachy keen that Ana-Lucia was able to accept responsibility for Nathan’s death. But it would have been sweeter for me if the other Tailies had accepted responsibility on screen, as well. Yes, I am saying that the other Tailies – along with Goodwin – were responsible. Let us exam how each individual in that group was responsible:

*Nathan – You read it right. I believe that Nathan was partially responsible for his own death. I realize that he had spoken the truth that intestinal problems led him to disappear from the Tailies’ camp every few hours. But Nathan had been the one who first noticed that the Others had kidnapped three survivors on that first night. He should have realized that disappearing into the jungle by himself for several hours – for whatever the reason – was a stupid move. The Others’ attack on the first night would have convinced me to overcome any embarrassment and insist upon company so that I could groan and fart for two hours with some semblance of safety. And there was the problem of Nathan’s personality. Not only did he have an ornery personality that irritated Ana-Lucia and the other Tailies, he also had a secretive nature that aroused many suspicions amongst his companions.

*Ana-Lucia Cortez – As I had stated earlier, Ana-Lucia was partially responsible for Nathan’s death. She was the one who had dug the pit. She was the one who dumped Nathan into the pit, starved him and questioned him constantly. She also threatened to torture him. And although Nathan’s behavior failed to help his cause, I suspect that Ana-Lucia’s own dislike of him allowed her to easily believe that he was a spy for the Others.

*Bernard Nadler – Although Bernard had protested against Nathan being dumped and kept in that pit, he did nothing to help the latter escape. Despite knowing that Ana-Lucia was attempting to starve Nathan into confessing.

*Libby – Like Ana-Lucia, she disliked Nathan’s behavior. And she had expressed her distrust of Nathan before Ana-Lucia had finished digging the pit:

LIBBY [entering]: Hey.
ANA: Hey.
LIBBY: Back at the beach — the night they came back — you said that Nathan was gone for 2 hours? That he was missing? Creeps me out, Ana. Do you really think it’s possible that one of us is one of them?

Later, she responded to Goodwin’s protest:

GOODWIN: You’re not all serious.
LIBBY: He never talks about himself, Nathan. Every time I ask him anything, he just dodges.

You know what really irritated me about Libby in the end? She dumped all of the blame for Nathan’s death on Ana-Lucia in (2.08) ”Collision”:

ANA [to Libby]: What about you?
LIBBY: I just don’t think you’re the best judge of character. I was with you when you put Nathan in the pit.

That is correct. Not only was she there when Ana-Lucia dumped Nathan’s ass into that pit, she was one of those who had supported the act. Her hypocrisy toward Ana-Lucia really annoyed me.

* Cindy Chandler – Like Libby, Cindy expressed distrust of Nathan. She also claimed that she had never seen him on board Flight 815 before the crash – despite her gift for knowing faces:

ANA: We were in the air for 2 hours — I didn’t see him once — not once.
GOODWIN: It’s a big plane, Ana, just because you didn’t…
CINDY: No, I didn’t see him either. I’m pretty good with faces, you know, with the passengers, and I did not see him.

I believe that Cindy may have overestimated her talent for faces. Apparently, she had failed to spot Nathan before spent time in one of the plane’s restrooms, dealing with his “problem”. And she failed to realize that Goodwin had never been a passenger on Flight 815.

*Mr. Eko – He was kind enough to feed a banana to Nathan, while the latter was being deliberately starved by Ana-Lucia. And yet . . . he did not bother to free Nathan from the pit. One could argue that Mr. Eko had feared incurring Ana-Lucia’s wrath. But we all know that he was the last person on that island who could ever be intimidated by her. Like most of his companions, Mr. Eko probably harbored suspicions about Nathan.

*Goodwin Stanhope – Naturally, he is the main person to blame for Nathan’s death. After all, he snapped the other man’s neck. Goodwin had helped Nathan escape from the pit. He realized that if Ana-Lucia had tortured the other man, she would have realized that Nathan had been speaking the truth. As a spy for the Others, he could not afford for her to continue any suspicions. But . . . there had been no need for Goodwin to commit murder. He could have simply allowed Nathan to maintain his distance from the other Tailies. But he chose murder instead.

From the above statements, it is easy to see that I have managed to place the blame for Nathan’s death on just about every member of the group that had left the beach, following the Others’ second attack. Yet, because Ana-Lucia happened to be so unpopular with many fans of “LOST”, she has received most of the blame. I hope this will finally set the record straight.

“FURIOUS 7” (2015) Review

 

“FURIOUS 7” (2015) Review

Following the success of 2013’s “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, I felt sure that the FAST AND FURIOUS movie franchise would finally end. After all, Universal Studios and director Justin Lin had proclaimed the fourth, fifth and sixth films as part of a trilogy. But to my utter surprise, the producers announced their intention for a seventh film by ending “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” on a cliffhanger.

Anyone who has seen the sixth film knows that Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and their circle of friends had assisted Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent Luke Hobbs in taking down mercenary Owen Shaw in exchange for the clearance of their criminal records and finding Dom’s lady love, the amnesiac Letty Ortiz. Their actions had left Shaw in a coma and a return to normal life. However, Dom and his friends learn that Shaw’s older brother, a rogue special forces assassin named Deckard Shaw, is seeking revenge against the team for what happened to the younger brother. The end of “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” revealed that the older Shaw was responsible for Han-Seoul-Oh’s death in Tokyo, which was first seen in the 2006 film, “THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT”. Next, Shaw nearly kills both Agents Hobbs and Elena Neves in an explosion at the DSS Los Angeles Field Office, leaving Hobbs seriously wounded. After Shaw sends a package that destroys the Toretto home in Los Angeles, a C.I.A. covert team leader named Frank Petty recruits the remaining friends to help him prevent a mercenary named Mose Jakande from obtaining a computer program called the God’s Eye that uses digital devices to track specific people, in exchange for allowing them to use the latter to find Shaw first. Unbeknownst to the others, Shaw has allied himself with Jakande to take down Dom, Brian and the others.

I must admit that on paper, “FURIOUS 7” struck me as a first-rate story. Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who has been writing for the franchise since “TOKYO DRIFT”, did an excellent job of continuing the story first set up in “FAST AND FURIOUS 4”. He even managed to skillfully connect some of the story acrs of the franchise’s past films with this latest plot. This was especially the case for Han’s death in “TOKYO DRIFT”, his romance with Gisele Yashar and friendship with Sean Boswell; Letty’s amnesia, which was never resolved in “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”; and, of course, the Shaw brothers. Morgan also did a solid job in utilizing the situation regarding Frank Petty, Mose Jakande and the God’s Eye device for the team’s search for Deckard Shaw. And although I feel that James Wan lacked Justin Lin’s more technical skills as a director, I thought he did a pretty good job in handling a high budget production that was nearly derailed by Paul Walker’s death.

One would have to be blind not to notice how beautiful “FURIOUS 7”. Then again, that has been the case for the entire franchise since the first movie. One has to thank Stephen F. Windon, who has worked on the film franchise since “TOKYO DRIFT”, and Marc Spicer for their colorful and sharp photography. The beauty of their work was especially apparent in the Abu Dhabi sequences. Speaking of Abu Dhabi, it also featured some of the movie’s best action scenes. One of them featured a fight between Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty Ortiz character and martial artist Ronda Rousey, who portrayed the head of security for an Abu Dhabi billionaire. Another featured an attempt by Dom and Brian to steal the billionaire’s car, which contained the God’s Eye device. This scene also led to one of the most spectacular stunts I have ever seen on film. In an attempt to escape the billionaire’s security team, Dom drives the stolen car through a series of hi-rise buildings that . . . hell, I do not know how to describe this stunt. It has to be seen on the movie screen in order to believe it.

The movie also featured another over-the-top stunt, in which the team airdrop their cars over the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, in order to ambush Jakande’s convoy and rescue Megan Ramsey, the creator of God’s Eye. For some reason, I was not that particularly impressed with this particular stunt. Perhaps it is because I found the sequence a little too frantic and clumsily shot. The best aspect of the Azerbaijan sequence was the fight scene between Brian and one of Jakande’s men, a martial artist named Ket. Not surprisingly, the film’s producers hired martial artist/actor Tony Jaa to portray Ket. They were also lucky in that Paul Walker had been a martial artist for several years, himself. The pair, along with fight choreographer Jeff Imada, created a first-rate fight scene. They also managed to repeat themselves with another excellent fight scene staged inside an empty building in downtown Los Angeles. Imada also served as the choreographer between the Rodriguez/Rousey fight scene in Abu Dhabi and a surprisingly effective fight between Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw near the film’s beginning. The only fight scene that failed to impressed me occurred between Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Shaw on a downtown L.A. parking structure. If I must be honest, there seemed to be too much testosterone and dialogue, and not enough skillful moves to impress me. It almost seemed as if director James Lin overdid it in his attempt to transform this particular fight into a showstopper. Instead, the fight simply bored me.

However, the Toretto/Shaw fight scene was not the only disappointing aspect of “FURIOUS 7”. I had other problems with the movie. Exactly how many years had passed between “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” and “FURIOUS 7”? After watching the 2013 movie, I had assumed that Deckard Shaw had killed Han Seoul-Oh at least a few months after the events of the movie. But in “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, Brian O’Conner and Mia Toretto’s son Jack was still an infant. “FURIOUS 7” revealed that young Jack was a toddler between the ages of 2-5 around the time of Han’s death. So . . . I am confused. Another problem I had with the film was the dialogue written by Chris Morgan. I might as well be frank. Dialogue has never been a strong point with the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise. But I was surprised that only three characters were forced to spew some of the worst dialogue I had ever heard in the entire movie franchise. And that bad dialogue came out of the mouths of Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. It seemed as if the three actors were engaged in some kind of verbal testosterone contest to see who is the toughest. No wonder some critics had claimed that the movie’s three worst performances came from them. And if this was not bad enough, I had to endure that uber-macho fight scene between Diesel and Statham that really unimpressed me. Worse, the movie featured a moment in which the convalescing Agent Hobbs becomes aware of a struggle between Dom’s team and the combined Shaw/Jakande alliance inside his hospital room. So, what does he do? Hobbs flexes a muscle, forcing his cast to tear apart. It was one of the most wince-inducing moments I have ever seen on film.

According to the movie’s publicists, Universal Studios and the producers had decided not to kill off the Brian O’Conner character, because of actor Paul Walker’s death. For that I am utterly grateful. Learning about his death had been difficult enough. I certainly did not want to see the same for his character on screen. However, the public was told that instead of being killed off, Brian’s character would retire at the end of the movie. This announcement left me confused. Retire from what? Brian’s law enforcement career ended in “FAST AND FURIOUS 4”, when he helped Dom Toretto escape from a prison bus. His brief career as a criminal ended, following the successful Rio de Janeiro heist in “FAST FIVE”. Brian and the rest of the team’s actions in the sixth movie revolved around their search for an amnesiac Letty Ortiz and efforts to get their criminal records cleaned. As for this seventh movie, they were mainly concerned with finding Deckard Shaw before he can kill them all in retaliation for his brother’s condition. So, from what exactly was Brian retiring? The producers could have simply stated that Brian, Mia and their son had moved to another city . . . and away from Dom and Letty. How did retirement fit into all of this?

I also had one last problem with “FURIOUS 7” – namely the Roman Pearce character, portrayed by Tyrese Gibson. Ever since his first appearance in 2003’s “2 FAST 2 FURIOUS”, I have been a fan of Roman and Gibson’s portrayal of him. But I have become aware of the franchise’s recent portrayal of him as the team’s clown. When this happen? Oddly enough, it began with “FAST FIVE” in which the Tej Parker character made a few snarky comments at his expense. In the 2011 film, it was mildly amusing. In “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, it got a little worse. But the Azerbaijan sequence pretty much solidified Roman’s role as the team’s clown. This sequence nearly made him a dye-in-the-wool coward, when he originally refused to participate in the car jump. What the hell? Roman has always been a verbose, temperamental and impulsive guy. But he was also a very pragmatic man, who always seemed to have a more realistic view of their situations than any of the other characters. This does not mean he was gutless. Why on earth did the franchise decided to make him this embarrassing clown? And why team him with Tej, who always seemed hell bent upon humiliating him? One of the aspects of “2 FAST 2 FURIOUS” I enjoyed so much was that Roman and childhood friend Brian O’Conner had struck me as a well-balanced screen team. Brian never went out of his way to constantly humiliate Roman . . . like Tej. And Roman never treated Brian like some adopted offspring . . . like Dom. But the producers were determined to exploit the original Dom/Brian relationship in the movies, starting with “FAST AND FURIOUS 4”. And in order not to leave Roman out of the loop, they teamed him with Tej Parker, whom he first met in the 2003 film. Unfortunately, Tej (through screenwriter Chris Morgan), has transformed poor Roman into a clown.

Clown or not, Roman had the good luck to be portrayed by Tyrese Gibson, whom I believe is one of the better actors in the main cast. Mind you, he is no Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou or Elsa Pataky, but I still believe he is slightly better than the other actors and actresses in the movie. Speaking of Russell, he gave a dry and witty performance as shadow agent Frank Petty. The actor injected a good deal of sharp wit into a film nearly marred by bad dialogue. As for Hounsou, he made an effective and intelligent villain, capable of thinking on his feet and quickly exploiting a situation or individual. In my review of “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, I had commented on Paul Walker’s increasing skill as an actor. This improvement of Walker’s acting skills were obvious in scenes that reflected his character Brian O’Conner’s struggle to adapt to a family lifestyle, his conversation with wife Mia two-thirds into the film and his reaction to Dom’s decision to drive a stolen car through the window of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper. Another memorable performance came from Michelle Rodriguez, who continued her portrayal of Letty Ortiz’s struggles to deal with amnesia. This was especially apparent in a scene in which the actress had to convey her character’s frustration in facing fleeting memories of the past and Dom’s attempts to help her regain her memories. The movie also featured solid performances from Jordana Brewster (who was missing throughout most of the film), Chris Bridges aka Ludicrous, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black (of “THE FAST AND FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT”), Elsa Pataky, Ali Fazal and Tony Jaa. Even Ronda Rousey, despite her lack of acting experience, was appropriately intimidating as the billionaire’s head of security. She is no Gina Carrano, who acting managed to improve by “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, but she was effective.

I know what you are thinking. What about Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham? Surely they were not that terrible? All three actors are pretty decent performers. But “FURIOUS 7” did not show them at their best. As I had earlier hinted, all three were hampered by Chris Morgan’s machismo dialogue and attempt to raise the testosterone level, via their characters. But each actor had their moments. Diesel’s best moments were featured in his scenes with Rodriguez. Johnson’s best moments occurred in the film’s first half hour, which included his character’s fight against the Deckard Shaw character and his playful interactions with Elsa Pataky’s Elena Neves. And Statham’s best scene in the film, at least for me, was his first. This featured Deckard Shaw’s visit to his comatose brother’s hospital room, in which he expressed tenderness and family concern for the latter (portrayed by Luke Evans in a cameo appearance). Otherwise, Diesel, Johnson and Statham proved to be problematic for me in so many ways.

I am not saying that “FURIOUS 7” is a terrible movie. It would probably be considered terrible by certain fans and moviegoers, whose tastes in films are a lot more elitist or intellectual. But as action films go, it is pretty decent and a lot of fun to watch. Yes, I found it difficult to endure some of the movie’s bad dialogue, the re-imaging of the Roman Pearce’s character into a clown and the over-the-top machismo portrayed by Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. And James Wan does not exactly strike me as skillful a director as Justin Lin. But, I believe “FURIOUS 7” is still a fun-filled action flick and a worthy last film for the late Paul Walker.

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R.I.P. Paul Walker (1973-2013)

“LOST”: “Kidnapping a Child”

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“LOST”: “KIDNAPPING A CHILD”

I was reading this ARTICLE about the girl who had been kidnapped at 11 and found, 18 years later. And it made me think of the numerous child kidnappings that have occurred on “LOST”:

 

 

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*Ben Linus’ kidnapping of Alex Rousseau, Danielle’s infant daughter. Ben had kidnapped Alex when she was an infant, against Charles Widmore’s orders. He pretended to be her father for sixteen years. Eventually, mother and daughter were finally able to reunite. But they were never able to enjoy their reunion, due to them both being killed by Charles Widmore’s hired thugs within a few days.

 

 

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*Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by Tom Friendly, at Ben’s orders. We all know the circumstances that resulted from that particular kidnapping. Walt’s father, Michael Dawson, disappeared for a while to search for Walt. Once he found the Others, he made a deal with them to free Ben, who had become the Losties’ prisoner. In order to free Ben, he murdered Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidentally killed Libby. Then he made a deal with the Others to lead Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, James Ford and Hugo Reyes to their camp. Upon leaving the island, Walt forced him to tell the truth about his deal with the Others and his shooting of Ana-Lucia and Libby. Father and son became estranged. And later, Michael returned to the island to atone for his actions . . . and ended up deal in a freighter explosion. All because Ben Linus had ordered Walt’s kidnapping.

 

 

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*Kate Austen’s kidnapping of Aaron Littleton. Upset over Sawyer’s decision to jump from a rescue helicopter and return to the island; and traumatized by the events of their departure from the island; Kate decided to claim Aaron Littleton, the infant son of missing castaway Claire Littleton, as her own. She convinced Jack to help her. And both of them convinced Sun Kwon, Sayid Jarrah, and Hurley Reyes to pretend that Aaron was Kate’s son. Kate kept Aaron from his grandmother, Carole Littleton, for nearly three years; despite knowing that the woman was alive. And I cannot help but wonder if Carole Littleton would have ever learned about her grandson if Sawyer’s ex-girlfriend, Clemmentine, had not convinced Kate to give him up or Kate had decided to do so on her own.

 

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.11) “The Hunting Party”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.11) “The Hunting Party”

I may be a bit picky about my tastes in television viewing. But I must admit there have been a few television episodes either dismissed or lambasted by critics and fans alike, but which I have come to like. One of those episodes is the Season Two episode of“LOST” called (2.11) “The Hunting Party”.

This eleventh episode from the series’ second season picks up not long after the previous episode, (2.10) “The 23rd Psalms” left off. In the previous episode, Michael Dawson believed he had managed to contact his kidnapped son Walt Lloyd, while using the twenty year-old computer inside the DHARMA Swan Station. He also recruited the help of fellow castaway, John Locke, to teach him how to use a rifle. When “The Hunting Party” began, Dr. Jack Shephard found an unconscious Locke on the floor of the station’s armory. Before he could do anything, Michael appeared with a gun trained on Jack and in a desperate tone, revealed his intentions to find Walt. Michael forced Jack to remain by Locke’s side, before locking both of them inside the armory. When other castaways Kate Austen and James “Sawyer” Ford go to the station to have the latter’s bandages changed, they free both Jack and Locke. Jack immediately reaches for a rifle and state his intentions to find Michael and bring him back. Both Locke and Sawyer volunteer to join him. Kate also volunteers, but Jack curtly orders her to remain behind and be ready to punch in the numbers for the station’s computer. The three men leave without her. Despite Jack’s refusal of her help, Kate recruits Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and Charlie Pace to monitor the station’s computer for her, while she heads out into the jungle to join the hunting party.

The episode’s flashbacks start with Jack and his father, Dr. Christian Shephard, diagnose a middle-aged Italian man with a spinal tumor named Angelo Busconi. The two Shephard surgeons inform Signor Busconi and his daughter, Gabriela that his tumor is too far gone and that he is not eligible for surgery. However, Signor Busconi and Gabriela insist that they are interested in recruiting Jack’s help. They had learned of the miracle he had achieved after performing surgery on his wife, Sarah Shephard, before their marriage. Much to Christian’s dismay, Jack agrees to perform the surgery on Signor Busconi. The older surgeon also notices the attraction between Jack and Gabriela. And Jack also continues spending more time at the hospital, either ignoring or evading Sarah’s company at home.

Despite the opinions of other “LOST” fans and critics, I have always liked “The Hunting Party”. I found the plot regarding the Losties’ hunt for Michael very interesting. And believe it or not, I rather enjoyed the flashbacks regarding Jack’s attempt to save Angelo Busconi and his troubling marriage to Sarah. But for the likes of me, I have always had difficulty making the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks. Exactly what is the connection? Was Jack’s difficulties in his relationship with Kate and her attraction to Sawyer a reminder of Sarah’s infidelity and the end of his marriage? Was his decision to embark upon a near impossible task – finding Michael and bringing him back – similar to his decision to accept Signor Busconi as a patient? Did I hit the mark regarding the episode’s main plot . . . or what? After eight years, I am still confused.

But I still like “The Hunting Party” . . . very much. It is one of my favorite Jack-centric episodes. The hunt for Michael showcased an aspect of Jack’s personality that has been problematic – his inability to let go. The problem with Jack was he lacked a real instinct on whether to give up on an impossible task, or to continue it. On one hand, he never realized that Locke was right about letting Michael go. The choice to leave the Losties’ camp and go after Walt was up to Michael, not Jack or any of the other castaways. I think Jack took his “live together, die alone” mantra a bit too far in his determination to get Michael back. However, it seemed a pity that he and the other Losties never extended that mantra to Walt. In the case of the flashbacks, I suspect that the Busconis’ stroking of Jack’s ego led him to accept Angelo Busconi as a patient. Even though the Italian father and daughter were grateful toward Jack’s willingness to take a chance on the former, I cannot help but wonder if that was a chance Jack should have ignored.

Both the on-island plot and the flashbacks also featured Jack’s problematic relationships with the two women in his life. Two episodes ago in (2.09) “What Kate Did”, Sawyer unconsciously expressed his love for Kate, while Jack was tending him. This bedside confession conjured feelings of jealousy within Jack, who must have recalled the kiss that Sawyer and Kate had exchanged in the Season One episode, (1.08) “Confidence Man”. In “What Kate Did”, Kate kissed Jack in a confusing moment and ran off into the jungle in tears. Between her action and Sawyer’s confession, I suspect Jack found himself wondering if Kate ever loved him. This so-called “love triangle” must have reminded him of his previous marriage. The problems in Jack’s relationship with Sarah proved to be more straightforward. Flashbacks in an earlier Season Two episode called (2.01) “Man of Faith, Man of Science” revealed how Jack and Sarah first met – she was a victim of a car accident that eventually killed Shannon Rutherford’s father, and Jack was the surgeon that prevented her from becoming physically disabled. In the Season One episode, (1.20) “Do No Harm”, flashbacks revealed that some time after Jack’s successful surgery on Sarah, they got married. I never understood why those two had married. Was it gratitude on Sarah’s part? Had Jack been caught up in the emotional relief over saving her? Who knows. But the flashbacks in this episode revealed that their marriage had slowly deteriorated to the point that it led to Jack spending most of his time at the hospital . . . and Sarah committing adultery and later, leaving him. Some fans had complained about the quiet manner in which their marriage had ended, despite the erotic moment between Jack and Gabriela Busconi. Actually, I found it very realistic . . . and very common among relationships.

There were other aspects of the episode I found interesting. Locke revealed to Sawyer and television viewers, the latter’s real name – James Ford. This revelation proved to be a mild shock, considering that viewers had already learned back in Season One that Sawyer was an alias. This episode also saw the return of the “Bearded Man” aka Tom Friendly, who had kidnapped Walt in (1.24-1.25) “Exodus”. Tom and his fellow Others had trapped the hunting party before convincing them (actually through coercion) to return to their camp. Not only did the Losties’ encounter with Tom provided another bump in the road for Jack and Kate’s relationship; it also reminded viewers that Sawyer blamed Tom for shooting him (one of the members of Tom’s party had shot him, when he reached for his gun). For the first time, Sawyer declared his intentions to seek revenge for what happened to him, proving that of all the series’ characters, he was a master at combining revenge with murder in order to alleviate his pain. There was one aspect of this episode that I found . . . perplexing. Throughout most of the episode, Locke questioned Jack’s decision to go after Michael, spouting free will as an excuse. And yet . . . he had decided to accompany Jack on this expedition, anyway. Locke was also not above enforcing his own will upon others. So, why did he join this hunting party in the first place? Even the state of the Kwons’ marriage ended up affected by Jack’s hunting party. When Jin learned about Michael’s flight into the jungle, he considered joining the hunting party, until Sun stopped him. For the first time, Sun truly got her way since the beginning of the series. In a marvelous scene, she put her foot down and revealed her opposition to Jin’s intentions. She also revealed how she had felt about his past controlling behavior toward her. The Kwons’ marriage took a new step above the resentments, anger and lies that marred their relationship in the past.

“The Hunting Party” featured some solid performances from cast members such as Terry O’Quinn, Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly and Naveen Andrews; and guest stars that included Julie Bowen, Ronald Guttman, Monica Dean and M.C. Gainey. But in my opinion, the best performances came from guest star John Terry, Harold Perrineau, and especially, Matthew Fox. It seemed a pity that Perrineau never received any nominations for his outstanding work. And I find it laughable that Fox had to wait another four seasons before the Hollywood community was even willing to nominate him for his work on “LOST”. But if many of us are truly honest with ourselves, acting and production awards are usually based upon popularity contests, not upon any worthy endeavors.

I wish I could say that I consider “The Hunting Party” to be one of the best episodes that aired on “LOST”. The narrative written by Elizabeth Saranoff and Christina M. Kim allowed for strong characterizations and some interesting subplots. Unfortunately, I found the connection between the on-island plot and the flashbacks rather weak. Even worse, the episode ended with Jack proposing Tail Section survivor Ana-Lucia Cortez that they create an army to deal with the Others. And this potential subplot never went anywhere, in the end.

“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

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“LOST” RETROSPECT: (2.94) “Everybody Hates Hugo”

Unless I am mistaken, Season Two of “LOST” is not very popular with the show’s fans. This season expanded on the Hatch (DHARMA Swan Station) subplot that was touched upon in the second half of Season One. This season introduced a tiresome running joke surrounding the Michael Dawson character. And it also featured the introduction of the survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section, which included the unpopular character, Ana-Lucia Cortez. In some way, the fourth episode – (2.04) “Everybody Hates Hugo” – seemed to be some kind of manifestation of Season Two.

Aside from the joke regarding Michael Dawson, “Everybody Hates Hugo” touched upon most of the topics I brought up in the previous paragraph. In the previous episode, (2.03) “Orientation”, the survivors of Michael’s raft (Michael, James “Sawyer” Ford and Jin Kwon) were captured by a mysterious group of people upon their return to the Island. “Everybody Hates Hugo” focused on their incarceration inside a deep pit. Before Sawyer could finish plotting their escape, the mysterious group revealed to be survivors from Oceanic 815’s Tail Section. Despite some hostile conflict between Sawyer and the Tailies’ leader, Ana-Lucia Cortez, all agree it would be best to head for the Fuselage passengers’ beach camp. Claire Littleton stumble across the bottle of messages from Michael’s raft on the beach. She and several survivors worry over the fate of Michael, his son Walt Lloyd, Jin and Sawyer. Following the tiresome three-episode introduction of the Swan Station’s interiors, Jack and Sayid explore the hatch. They also order a very reluctant Hugo “Hurley” Reyes to ration the food found inside the station. The episode’s flashbacks reveal the consequences of Hurley winning the lottery . . . and his reasons for wanting to be in charge of food distribution on the Island.

I have to be frank. The episode’s main subplot involving Hurley’s job in the Hatch and his flashback did nothing for me. I found it boring. Well . . . I almost found it boring. Hurley’s reasons behind his reluctance to win the lottery and be in charge of the Losties’ food distribution clarified an aspect of his personality that I have always suspected. Despite some flashes of wisdom and common sense, Hurley is at heart a man-child who is reluctant to grow up. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of Hurley’s character I have never admired. In fact, I found it tiresome . . . over and over again. And I never could understand why fans have never noticed in past viewings. One could point out that Hurley became more mature as the series progressed. I find that hard to believe, considering the circumstances behind Hurley’s eventual fate. Hurley’s minor quarrel with Charlie over the secrecy of the Swan Station struck me as infantile. It did not help that Charlie’s constant rants about betrayal really irritated me. But I must admit that both Jorge Garcia and Dominic Monaghan gave first-rate performances. The only thing about this subplot that I found entertaining was Hurley’s interaction with Rose Nadler, portrayed by the very talented L. Scott Caldwell.

The second subplot regarding Jack and Sayid’s exploration of the Swan Station only seemed a step above the main subplot. The only reason I found it slightly more interesting was due to the mystery surrounding the Hatch. It seemed like a more mature subplot than one about Hurley’s man-child issues. That even includes Jack’s accidental encounter with a nearly nude Kate Austen, after she had finished taking a shower. What interested me was Sayid’s discovery of an electromagnetic energy within the Hatch’s walls. This discovery will end up being fully revealed by mid-to-late Season Five. The third subplot involved Claire’s discovery of the bottle of messages from the raft. This subplot struck me as irrelevant . . . period. Aside from giving Shannon Rutherford a moment to see a wet manifestation of Walt – an event that will have greater impact in a future episode – this subplot did nothing to drive the series’ main narrative forward. Instead, it involved some of the female survivors speculating on the fates of the raft’s passengers. And nothing more.

It was the final subplot regarding Michael, Jin and Sawyer’s experiences with the Tailies that really injected energy into the episode. It was not so much the mystery surrounding the raft survivors’ captors that made “Everybody Hates Hugo” so interesting to me. The three men discovered they had been captured by survivors from the Tail Section before halfway into the episode. But the psychological conflict between the more familiar characters and the newcomers crackled with a lot of energy that made me take notice. I especially found the conflict between Sawyer and Ana-Lucia, thanks to Josh Holloway and Michelle Rodriguez’s intense performances very entertaining. I realized that a good number of “LOST” fans disliked the Ana-Lucia Cortez character ever since this episode aired during the fall of 2005. I must admit that I had a different reaction. The powerhouse punch that Ana-Lucia delivered to Sawyer in “Orientation” had already thrilled me. Her continuing abuse of the always annoying Sawyer filled me with even more glee. I realize that most fans would probably be put off by my comments. But I do not care. I like Sawyer, but he was a real pain in the ass in this particular episode. At least to me.

“Everybody Hates Hugo” ended both on a mysterious and uplifting note. The Tailies led the raft survivors to another hatch that had been originally constructed by the DHARMA Initiative. Apparently, they had been using it as refuge from the jungle and the Others inside the nearly abandoned Arrow Station. So much for the mystery. What did I find uplifting about the episode? Certainly not the cheesy monologue featuring Hurley’s generous distribution of the food from the Swan Station. It was that moment when one of the Tail Section survivors approached the raft survivors and asked if they knew Rose. Thanks to a poignant performance by Sam Anderson, I nearly cried when he revealed himself to be Rose’s missing husband, Bernard. Great way to end an otherwise mediocre episode, “LOST”.

“A Deadly Choice”

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“A DEADLY CHOICE”

One of the most emotionally devastating episodes that aired on ABC’s “LOST” (2004-2010) turned out to be the Season Six episode, (6.14) “The Candidate”. The episode marked a final turning point in the saga’s main narrative. More importantly, it featured the deaths of three main characters who had been with the series since the beginning.

The fact that three long-standing characters met their deaths made “The Candidate” a topic of great debate by “LOST”fans. The fact that the three characters happened to be non-Western – Jin and Sun Kwon, along with Sayid Jarrah – added fuel to the episode’s controversial nature. But the main controversy that emerged from “The Candidate” centered around a choice made by Jin Kwon. It was a choice that affected (off screen) his and Sun’s young daughter back in South Korea, Ji-Yeon.

The end of the previous episode, (6.13) “The Last Recruit” saw the Kwons and other Losties prisoners of billionaire and former Other Charles Widmore on Hydra Island. Widmore called himself protecting the castaways from the Smoke Monster, now assuming the form of the late John Locke. However, the “Man in Black” recruited Jack Shephard and Sayid to rescue the castaways from Widmore and his followers in “The Candidate”. The Losties made their way to the Ajira 316 airplane, where the “MIB” discovered explosives planted inside. Eager to leave the island, the castaways and the “MIB” decided to use Widmore’s submarine to leave. At the same time, James “Sawyer” Ford conspired with Jack to prevent the “MIB” from leaving the island by instructing the latter to shove the Smoke Monster into the water. A gun battle between the Losties and Widmore’s people exploded near the submarine. Jack shoved the Smoke Monster into the water and Kate got shot. The rest of the castways – aside from Claire Littleton boarded the submarine. Jack carried the wounded Kate aboard. While searching for something to treat her inside his backpack, Jack found a bomb planted by the “MIB”. He tried to convince Sawyer and Sayid not to pull the wires, explaining that the Smoke Monster wanted them to do exactly that so they would kill each other. But Sawyer refused to believe Jack and pulled the wires.

Before the bomb exploded, Sayid grabbed it and ran into another chamber in order to prevent the other castaways from experiencing the initial blast. The explosion loosened a door that knocked pilot Frank Lapidus unconscious. It also put a hole in the side of the submarine, which allowed Frank to float to the water’s surface. More importantly, the explosion loosened heavy debris that trapped Sun into a corner. Jin, Jack and Sawyer tried to free Sun with no success. Jack ordered Hugo “Hurley” Reyes to take one of the air tanks inside the chamber and help the wounded Kate reach the ocean surface. After Hurley and Kate left the submarine, more debris loosened and knocked Sawyer unconscious. Jin told Jack to grab the remaining air tank and take Sawyer to the surface. Jack reluctantly followed Jin’s suggestion, leaving the Kwons alone aboard the sinking submarine. And here is where viewers arrived at the controversial moment. Jin made several attempts to free Sun from the debris. When husband and wife realized his efforts were futile, Sun sadly suggested that Jin attempt to swim for the surface on his own. Recalling the three years he and Sun had spent apart, Jin refused to abandon his wife and insisted upon remaining by her side. Both of the Kwons remained together to the very end and drowned.

As I had earlier hinted, this scene had generated a good deal of controversy among “LOST” fans. Some fans were moved by the Kwons’ fierce devotion to each other and determination to die together. Some complained over what they saw as a lack of originality about the Kwons’ deaths, claiming that “LOST” not only provided Charlie Pace a similar death in Season Three’s (3.22-3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”, but also a more dramatic one. But many had issues over Jin’s decision to die by his wife’s side. They believed that he should have tried to swim for the surface and live in order to be with his and Sun’s only child, Ji-Yeon. They believed that Jin had neglected his parental duties when he made the decision to remain by his wife’s side. By making Ji-Yeon an orphan, Jin left his daughter in the hands of Sun’s ruthless father, Mr. Paik. If I had to be honest, my sentiments regarding the Kwons’ death seemed to match the first group. I was moved Jin’s decision to remain at Sun’s side. Part of my feelings were based upon my frustration toward the two seasons in which the couple were separated. But I also believe that Sun’s parents would care for Ji-Yeon . . . and Jin would have never survived a swim to the surface.

Mr. Paik may have been a ruthless bastard, but I could never accuse him of being a lousy parent. Granted, he struck me as something of a disciplinarian. But Sun has never struck me as an ideal offspring, considering her penchant for lying and other flaky behavior – including an extramarital affair. The only true downside for Ji-Yeon – aside from being parted from her parents – is that I suspect she will never get to meet her paternal grandfather, Mr. Kwon. As for my allegation that Jin would have never survived a swim to the surface, I stand by it. If Jin had left Sun behind and accompanied Jack and the unconscious Sawyer to the surface, he probably would have survived, thanks to the remaining air tank in Jack’s possession. But Jin continued his efforts to free Sun when Jack departed the submarine with Sawyer and the air tank. Without an air tank, Jin would not have survived. Even if he had managed to free Sun, they would not have survived the swim to the surface. Not without an air tank.

Many would point out Frank Lapidus’ survival of the submarine’s destruction as proof that Jin could have made it to the surface without an air tank. But the bomb blast had knocked Frank unconscious. Because he was in that state, his body did not offer any resistance and this allowed the water’s currents to convey his body to the surface. Ana-Lucia Cortez had experienced something similar during the Oceanic 815 plane crash, three years earlier. When that plane broke apart in mid-air, a suitcase fell from one of the overhead compartments and knocked the former police officer out cold. The water’s current carried her body close to the surface, before she eventually regained conscious.

Unlike Frank and Ana-Lucia, Jin was conscious. Unlike Jack, Sawyer, Hurley and Kate; he lacked the assistance of an air tank. I suppose that many can still accuse him of selfishly choosing Sun over a future with their daughter. But since Jin was conscious and lacked an air tank, he would have drowned before reaching the surface. And in the end, both he and Sun would have died anyway . . . only apart from each other and alone.

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Top Five Favorite “LOST” Season One (2004-2005) Episodes

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of “LOST” (2004-2010). The series was created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof; and produced by the latter and Carlton Cuse.

 

TOP FIVE FAVORITE “LOST” SEASON ONE (2004-2005) Episodes

1 - 1.22-1.23 Exodus

1. (1.23-1.25) “Exodus” – This season finale served as a transition in the series’ narrative, as an expedition sets out to find dynamite to open the hatch recently discovered by castaway John Locke. And the raft planned by Michael Dawson finally leaves the island with him, his son Walt, Jin Kwon and James “Sawyer” Ford, resulting in unexpected circumstances.

 

2 - 1.17 In Translation

2. (1.17) “. . . In Translation” – This episode featured Jin Kwon’s backstory in flashbacks and the further disintegration of his marriage, when he discovers that his wife Sun had learned English behind his back.

 

3 - 1.04 Walkabout

3. (1.04) “Walkabout” – While Locke and a few others set on a hunting expedition to find boar for the other castaways, his flashbacks reveal his reason for being in Australia.

 

4 - 1.11 All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

4. (1.11) “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” – Jack Shephard leads an expedition to find two castaways that had been kidnapped in the previous episode. The episode’s flashbacks reveal the events that led to Jack being responsible for his father’s dismissal from the hospital they worked at.

 

5 - 1.19 Deus Ex Machina

5. (1.19) “Deus Ex Machina” – In their search for a means to open a hatch they had found, Locke and Boone Carlyle find a Nigerian small plane. And their discovery leads to tragic circumstances. In the flashbacks, Locke meets his parents for the first time, who prove to be major disappointments.

“LOST”: Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

The following is a list of questions I have regarding subplots that have been featured in past episodes of “LOST”. If you have an answer to any of my questions, please feel free to reply:

 

“LOST”: THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO . . . HMMM?

1. Who gave the original order for Walt Lloyd to be kidnapped?

 

2. Why did the Others kidnap some of the surviving Tail Section passengers of Oceanic 815?

 

3. Why did Ben Linus and the Others scheme to keep Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, and James “Sawyer” Ford as prisoners on Hydra Island?

 

4. Why did Michael Dawson confess his murder of Ana-Lucia Cortez and accidental killing of Libby to his ten year-old son, Walt Lloyd, following their departure from the island?

 

5. Why did Tom Friendly claim that no one was able to leave the island, following the explosion of the Swan Station, despite the fact that he, Michael and Walt were able to do so?

 

6. Why did the prosecuting attorney blindly believe Jack’s false testimony that Kate gave birth to Aaron Littleton, during their three-month stay on the island?

 

7. Why did the prosecuting attorney fail to continue her prosecution of Kate for the charges of bank robbery, assaulting a Federal peace officer, after the murder charges were dropped?

 

8. Why were the Losties, the Freighter people and Juliet the only ones who time traveled on the island and not the Others or Danielle Rousseau?

 

9. Why did Ben kill John Locke in “The Death of Jeremy Bentham”?

 

10. What happened to Claire Littleton during her three-year stay on the island, following the departure of the Oceanic Six?

 

11. Who killed some of the surviving Ajira 316 passengers at their beach camp and why?

 

“FAST AND FURIOUS 6” (2013) Review

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“FAST AND FURIOUS” (2013) Review

When “THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS” first hit the movie screens in 2001, I never imagined that it would be such a major hit . . . or spawn five sequels. The franchise seemed in danger of ending with a whimper with 2006’s “THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT”, due to its lack of critical success. Three years later saw the rejuvenation of the franchise with the success of 2009’s “FAST AND FURIOUS”. This movie spawned a mini trilogy of its own, culminating in the latest film,“FAST AND FURIOUS 6”

The franchise’s fifth installment, “FAST FIVE” ended with Dominic Toretto and his accomplices reaping the rewards of a successful heist from a Rio drug lord. In the film’s Easter egg segment, U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs learns from U.S. Customs agent Monica Fuentes (from 2003’s “2 FAST 2 FURIOUS”) that Dom’s former girlfriend, Letty Ortiz, is alive and well, and working with one Owen Shaw, a British criminal (and former Special Forces soldier) who had recently pulled a heist on a Russian military convoy. Hobbs and his new partner, Riley Hicks, recruit Dom, Brian O’Conner and other members of the gang who helped pull off the Rio heist; to help them take down Shaw. Hobbes convinces Dom to help him, revealing Letty’s existence and offering full amnesty for past crimes. With the exception of Mia Torretto and former Rio police officer Elena Neves (who remain behind to care for Mia and Brian’s new baby), along with Leo Tego and Rico Santos (who remain on the French Riviera gambling); Dom, Brian and the rest of the gang arrive in London to help Hobbes and Hicks to track down Shaw. Upon their arrival, they discover that Letty has amnesia and that capturing Shaw might prove to be more difficult than they had originally imagined.

After watching “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”, I came to the conclusion that it was my second favorite movie in the franchise after “FAST FIVE”. However, I am not so sure anymore. There are certain aspects of this latest film that makes me reluctant to view as the franchise’s second best. One, the movie’s premise is not that original – even for a FAST AND FURIOUS movie. In fact, the story premise for “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” bears a strong resemblance to the premise for the 2003 movie, “2 FAST 2 FURIOUS”. In that movie, Brian O’Conner and Roman Pearce helped the Feds bring down a Miami-based drug lord in exchange for pardons and clean records. Brian, Roman, Dom and others help Fed Luke Hobbes take down international criminal Owen Shaw for . . . what else? Pardons and clean records. I also had a problem with the Roman Pearce character. I had no problem with Tyrese Gibson’s portrayal of the character. But I found it odd that Roman would immediately drop his airborne love fest with a group of models due to a summons from Dom Toretto, of all people.“FAST FIVE” did not exactly end with Roman and Dom as the best of friends. If the movie had established that Roman had received the summons from Brian, who was his childhood friend, I could accept his immediate decision to join the team. One last problem I had with “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” proved to be a flashback from 2009’s “FAST AND FURIOUS” regarding the origin of Letty Ortiz’s amnesia. The 2009 movie hinted that Letty had been killed by Arturo Braga’s henchman, Fenix Calderon. But a flashback in “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” revealed that Calderon missed Letty completely and shot the car to which she was standing near. The car exploded, injuring Letty. Why Calderon failed to confirm her death after the explosion remains a mystery to me. The entire scene struck me as clumsily handled. I also noticed that Dom’s ridiculous “Daddy issues” and desire to be “Papa Toretto” to anyone close to him still remains. When he made a comment at the end of the movie about Brian and Mia’s son, Jack O’Conner, being solely a Toretto, I merely laughed. When he repeated the “joke” again, I began to wonder if he was making a demented attempt to claim the toddler as his own offspring. Right now, I feel that Brian and Mia should leave the Toretto home and purchase their own house to raise their kid.

But despite these problems, “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” turned out to be a pretty damn good movie. The franchise’s street-racing theme played a major part in the efforts of Dom’s team to stop Shaw’s team from carrying out their crimes. This theme was definitely apparent in four scenes. One of them was a car chase through the streets of nighttime London that ended with the team’s failure to capture Shaw, as he was fleeing his hideout. Another scene featured Dom and an amnesiac Letty in a street race that ended in a sexy moment in which the former tried to revive the latter’s memories. There was also the film’s final action sequence at a NATO air strip in which Dom and his team finally prevented Shaw from escaping by plane. I found that particular sequence a little hard to bear, considering that at times, it seemed to go on forever and it was shot at night. The only daytime sequence that featured vehicles on a highway not far from that NATO base in Spain. What made this sequence memorable for was the spectacular car chase that featured an outstanding stunt performed by Tyrese Gibson . . . or his double. There is a spectacular fight scene between Letty and Hobbes’ partner, Riley Hicks, in the London Underground. I heard that Michelle Rodriguez felt a bit wary in doing a fight scene with Gina Carano . . . and I do not blame her, considering the latter is a mixed martial arts champ. There was also a pretty decent Dom and Hobbes vs. Shaw and his men aboard the cargo plane in Spain.

Action sequences were not the only staple that made “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” entertaining for me. The movie also featured some pretty damn good dramatic moments and rather funny scenes. I have already pointed out that sexy moment between Dom and Letty in which the former tried to revive the latter’s memories. I also enjoyed the sequence in which Brian allowed himself to be “arrested” (courtesy of Luke Hobbes’ Federal connections) by the FBI, in order to question former adversary Arturo Braga about Letty’s connections to Shaw. Not only did it featured a humorous reunion between Brian and his former FBI colleague, Special Agent Stasiak; but also a very dramatic one between Brian and Braga. “FAST FIVE” featured the beginning of a romance between Han and Gisele. But their relationship took on a more poignant note in this movie, which I found very satisfying. I especially enjoyed how Roman quickly figured out Han’s true feelings for Gisele. Speaking of Roman and Han, the movie featured a very funny moment in which both of them secretly agreed not to inform the others of their defeat against one of Shaw’s men in the London Underground. In fact, Roman proved to have the best lines in the movie. My ultimate favorite? Read the following scene between him and Tej Parker:

[Roman asks Tej for change to use the vending machine]
TEJ: You’re a millionaire and still asking for money?
ROMAN: That’s how you stay a millionaire.

“FAST AND FURIOUS 6” featured some pretty decent performances. But there were those that stood out for me. I especially enjoyed Tyrese Gibson, who not only proved to be even funnier as Roman Pearce, but shared a nice dramatic moment with Sung Kang, while the two discussed Han’s feelings for Gisele. Michelle Rodriguez gave one of her better performances as an intense and amnesiac Letty Ortiz, who is torn between her confusion over her identity and her growing wariness toward Shaw. Dwayne Johnson continued his energetic portrayal of DSS Agent Luke Hobbes with great style. Luke Evans made a particularly formidable foe as former Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw, who proves to be a very difficult to take down. Then again, the franchise has always featured some first-rate villains. Not only did Vin Diesel provided an unexpectedly sexy performance in one particular scene with Rodriguez, he and Elsa Pataky provided a nice poignant moment between Dom and former Brazil cop Elena Neves, who end their relationship due to Letty’s re-emergence in Dom’s life. However, Paul Walker really surprised me in this film. He has always struck me as mediocre or solid actor in the past. But his acting skills seemed to have grown considerably between “FAST FIVE” and “FAST AND FURIOUS 6”. This was apparent in his scenes with John Ortiz, which featured a hostile reunion between Brian and Braga in a California prison.

I feel that “FAST AND FURIOUS 6” had its share of flaws. But thanks to Justin Lin’s direction, a charasmatic cast and a solid script written by Chris Morgan, I feel that it not only proved to be one of the better films for the summer of 2013, but also one of the better films in the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise.