Top Ten Favorite TIME TRAVEL Television Episodes

Below is a list of my top favorite television episodes that feature time travel:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE TIME TRAVEL TELEVISION EPISODES

1. “Future’s End” (“Star Trek Voyager”; 1996) – A 29th century timeship causes a time paradox when it accidentally sends itself and Voyager to two different periods in 20th century Earth.

2. “Tempus Fugitive” (“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; 1995) – Lois Lane and Clark Kent are brought back to the past by H. G. Wells, in an attempt to stop the time-travelling villain Tempus from killing the infant Superman.

3. “Endgame” (“Star Trek Voyager; 2001) – Admiral Kathryn Janeway comes from the future to try and shorten Voyager’s trip home.

4. “War Without End” (Babylon Five; 1996) – Former Babylon 5 commander, Jeffrey Sinclair, returns with a mission vital to the survival of the station – travelling back in time to steal Babylon 4.

5. “LaFleur” (“Lost”; 2009) – The remaining survivors of Flight 815 and the freighter find themselves permanently in the 1970s and become part of the Dharma Initiative, following John Locke’s disappearance.

6. “The City on the Edge of Forever” (“Star Trek”; 1967) – After accidentally overdosing on a powerful stimulant, Dr. McCoy acts erratically and disappears through the Guardian of Forever, a newly-discovered time portal on a remote planet. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock follow after learning that McCoy somehow changed history. Arriving in the 1930s, the duo meet Edith Keeler, a New York social worker who gives them a place to stay. As the days pass, and McCoy is nowhere to be seen, Kirk finds himself falling in love with Keeler… but Spock discovers that Keeler must die to restore the timeline.

7. “Déjà Vu All Over Again” (“Charmed”; 1999) – As a demon makes plans for his attempt to kill the Charmed Ones, he receives a visit from another demon named Tempus, who will turn back time until the demon succeeds in killing all the sisters.

8. “Babylon Squared” (“Babylon Five”; 1994) – A previous station, Babylon 4, reappears at the same place it disappeared four years before; and Jeffrey Sinclair and Michael Garibaldi lead an expedition to evacuate its crew.

9. “Chris-Crossed” (“Charmed”; 2003) – A mysterious woman from the future named Bianca arrives to take Chris Halliwell’s powers and bring him back forcefully to the future.

10. “D.O.A.” (“Timecop”; 1998) – After Jack Logan and his boss, Gene Matuzek are murdered, Claire Hemmings takes an unauthorized trip back to the past to warn Logan.

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“LOST” – (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” (Or . . . The Emergence of Saint Kate)

“LOST” – (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened” (Or . . . The Emergence of Saint Kate)

While looking back at some of the articles I have written about“LOST” and its characters, I discovered that I have written several articles that were either about the character, Kate Austen, or in which she featured heavily. One would think that she is such a compelling character. But I do not think so. I suspect that my problem with Kate was that I found her to be one of the most badly written characters on this show and in the history of television . . . and she was the female lead. And I find that disturbing. My past dislike of the character (which I eventually overcame) went up a notch after I had watched the Season 5 Kate-centric episode, (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened”.

This episode of “LOST” – “Whatever Happened, Happened” was not well written. It really was. I felt as if I had watched the emergence of a character called “Saint Kate”, instead of an interesting episode about the reasons behind a woman’s choices. But there were no reasons given for Kate’s sudden desire to save Ben’s life. Instead, the episode had her in a state of frantic over Ben’s condition that did not make any sense. Even worse, the episode went too far and had her donate blood to him in a heavily contrived attempt to make her seem selfless and worthy to the fans.

First, I want to focus on the situation regarding young Ben’s shooting. Why did Jack refuse to save Ben? Was his reason the same as Sayid’s? Because Ben will grow up to be a manipulative and murderous man? How did Jack suddenly become anti-Ben, again? I read a piece on this episode on WIKIPEDIA, which claimed that Jack was to blame for creating the monster, Ben Linus. I not only found this hard to accept, but rather ludicrous. It seemed as if they are trying to absolve Sayid of his crime. And that does not work with me.

Speaking of Sayid’s crime, it seems that Ben will no longer have any memories of it, following Richard’s treatment. If this was the case, what in the hell was the point of Sayid shooting Ben in the first place? What were the writers trying to achieve? Was the shooting nothing more than a contrived event to make Kate lovable to the fans again? Was it a plotline to explain how Ben became so murderous? Hell, they could have done that and allowed Ben to retain his memories of the shooting. This whole “erasing Ben’s memories of Sayid’s crime” made no sense to me. What was the purpose of it? To explain how Ben “lost his innocence”? Ben was already on that road by living under an abusive father.

But you know what? Despite Sayid shooting him, Jack’s refusal to save him or Richard’s memory-wiping cure, the one person who was mainly responsible for Ben’s moral downfall . . . was Ben. Other people have come from traumatic backgrounds and managed to make decent lives for themselves. Ben did not have any real excuse. Sayid has to deal with his crime of shooting an innocent boy, himself. Jack had to deal with his refusal to treat that boy. But they were not mainly responsible for Ben’s crimes. Ben was.

When I first heard that Kate might finally confess about the lie surrounding Aaron back in the spring of 2009, I thought she would end up confessing to Sawyer, Juliet and the other castaways. Instead, she confessed to Sawyer’s old girlfriend, Cassidy. That was disappointing. And now, Sawyer still does not know about the lie surrounding Aaron. Nor does he know that Kate had no intention of returning to the island to save his life. And she still has the murder of Wayne Jensen hanging over her head. If we’re supposed to root for them to get together following this episode, I think that the writers have failed. At least with me.

Regarding Kate’s decision to return to the island – she told Cassidy that her intention was to find Claire and get her back home to Aaron. I wondered how she was going to accomplish such a task, especially since she must have realized that there was no way to achieve this after crashing on the island for the second time. She did not know about the runway that Frank Lapidus had used to land Ajira Flight 316. Locke had destroyed the Dharma submarine back in Season 3. And Kate knew about the destruction of the freighter. How had she planning to send Claire back to Aaron? Or was she simply talking out of her ass?

You know, ever since (4.04) “Eggtown”, Kate’s story arc has been badly handled by the writers. It started with that ludicrous attempt by her to get information from Miles about her status as a fugitive. Then it developed into the storyline surrounding her custody of Aaron that went no where. The only thing that the Aaron storyline achieved was a temporary estragement between her and Jack. It was revealed in (5.04) “The Little Prince” that she had decided to claim Aaron as her own, because she was traumatized over losing Sawyer. And yet . . . “Eggtown” made it clear that she was willing to use Aaron to re-start a romance with Jack. If Aaron represented as a substitute for the loss of Sawyer, why did she have a photograph of both Aaron and Jack on her mantlepiece in Los Angeles? Was this a symbol of her continuing desire for both Jack and Sawyer? Or what? And the storyline surrounding her return to the island . . . contrived and badly written. After refusing to return to the island for Sawyer’s sake, she visited his ex-girlfriend, confessed the Aaron kidnapping and vowed to return to the island in order to find Claire Littleton and send the Australian woman back to her son and mother . . . without knowing how to achieve these tasks? The only thing Kate did right was to hand Aaron over to Carole Littleton. And I saw that coming a mile away. Once Kate returned to Los Angeles, she used Jack for comfort sex and later rejected him after boarding Ajira Flight 316.

And in the second half of Season 5, the producers dumped the badly written “Whatever Happened, Happened” episode on the viewers in order to make Kate favorable to the viewers again. They had her acting like a frantic Florence Nightengale over a kid she hardly knew. I would have understood if she had been perturbed over young Ben’s situation, like the others (sans Jack). But the writers . . . took it too far with Kate’s frantic desire to save him, which included her donating blood to him. And they even used this episode to blame Jack for Ben’s slide into darkness.

I guess that the show’s writers and producers’ attempt to redeem Kate in the eyes of the viewers eventually worked. The viewers eagerly lapped up this shit. But Lindehof and Cuse achieved this at a heavy price. In the end, all they did was sacrifice any semblance of artistic achievement for bad characterization and mediocre writing. As for me, another season and a confession to Claire by Kate would finally win me over to the latter.

How sad.

“LOST” – Who Ordered the Purge of the DHARMA Initiative?

Ever since Oceanic Flight 815 survivor Sayid Jarrah tried to murder young Ben Linus in (5.10) “He’s Our You”, and fellow survivor Jack Shephard refused to operate on the 14 year-old to save his life in (5.11) “Whatever Happened, Happened”, I have heard comments that compared Ben to Adolf Hitler. I have also heard comments that compared Ben’s younger self to a “young Hitler”. Many people have claimed that it was Ben who had ordered the deaths of the Dharma Initiative members on December 19, 1992. However, I have my doubts.

“LOST” – WHO ORDERED THE PURGE OF THE DHARMA INITIATIVE?

According to the series, Ben has offered contradicting facts on whether he had ordered the Purge of the Dharma Initiative or not. In (3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”, he had claimed to Jack that he was responsible for the Purge:

“Not so long ago, Jack. I made a decision that took the lives of over forty people in a single day”

Unfortunately, Ben contradicted this claim in the Season 4 episode (2.11) “Cabin Fever”, when he had the following conversation with another survivor of Oceanic Flight 815, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes:

HURLEY: So… This is where you shot Locke and left him for dead, huh?
BEN: Yes, Hugo, I was standing right where you are now when I pulled the trigger. Should have realized at the time that it was pointless, but… I really wasn’t thinking clearly.
[Hurley steps back a little]
HURLEY: Is that why you killed all these people, too?
BEN: I didn’t kill them.
HURLEY: Well, if the Others didn’t wipe out the DHARMA Initiative–
BEN: They did wipe them out, Hugo, but it wasn’t my decision.
HURLEY: Then whose was it?
BEN: Their leader’s.
HURLEY: But I thought you were their leader.
BEN: Not always.

Interesting. He had admitted to trying to kill John Locke. But he denied being the one who had ordered the Purge. In the final flashback featured in another Season 3 episode called (3.21) “The Man Behind the Curtain”, viewers finally saw Ben’s experiences during the actual Purge. And most of his scenes featured his last moments with his abusive father, Roger Linus:

[Ben looks at his watch]
ROGER: Why do you keep looking at your watch? You got a date? [Pauses] Listen…if it makes you feel any better, I will do my best to remember your birthday next year.
BEN: I don’t think that’s going to happen, Dad. [starts to unzip bag]
ROGER: What do you mean?
BEN: You know, I’ve missed her too. Maybe as much as you have. But the difference is, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had to put up with you. And doing that required a tremendous amount of patience.
[Ben pulls out a gas mask]
BEN: Goodbye, Dad.
[Ben puts it on and then releases a gas canister]
ROGER: Ben?
[Roger struggles for breath, coughing and retching as blood spurts from his nose and mouth, clawing at Ben’s mask]
[At the Barracks, Ben walks with gas mask on. He sees all the DHARMA employees lining the ground, all dead. He then notices Horace on a bench, and closes his eyes. Richard and the Hostiles arrive with masks on. Richard checks his watch, then removes his mask taking a deep breath. The rest of the team follow, as does Ben]
RICHARD: You want us to, um…go get his body?
BEN: No, leave him out there.

Does this mean that Ben had ordered the deaths of the DHARMA Initiative? I do not know. The only order Ben gave in the above mentioned scene was to leave Roger’s body in the van. Following the flashback, Ben said the following to Locke:

[In real-time, Locke stands over a mass open grave full of skeletons, some still wearing their DHARMA jumpsuits]
BEN: This is where I came from, John. These are my people. The DHARMA Initiative. They came here seeking harmony, but they couldn’t even coexist with the Island’s original inhabitants. And when it became clear that one side had to go, one side had to be purged, I did what I had to do. I was one of the people that was smart enough to make sure that I didn’t end up in that ditch.

That last passage interested me. What exactly was Ben trying to say? That he had ordered the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative? Or that he made sure that he, as a member of the Initiative, would survive the Purge? Thanks to the most recent episode of ”LOST” – ”Dead Is Dead” – viewers know that Charles Widmore was the leader of the Others in 1988. And in another Season Four episode called (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”, viewers learned in a flash forward that Ben had taken the leadership of the Others away from Widmore:

WIDMORE: I know who you are, boy. What you are. I know that everything you have you took from me. So… Once again I ask you: Why are you here?
BEN: I’m here, Charles, to tell you that I’m going to kill your daughter. Penelope, is it? And once she’s gone… once she’s dead… then you’ll understand how I feel. And you’ll wish you hadn’t changed the rules.
[Widmore shifts in his bed.]
WIDMORE: You’ll never find her.
[Ben turns to leave.]
WIDMORE: That island’s mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.

So, when did Ben Linus replace Charles Widmore as leader of the Others? Before December 19, 1992? Or after? The photograph below from ”The Man Behind the Curtain” hints that Ben was still a worker for the DHARMA Initiative during that period, despite the fact that he had been one of the Others since the 1980s:

But had Ben assumed leadership of the Others by then? If not, does that mean Charles Widmore was still leading the Others in December 1992? Both the LOSTPEDIA and the WIKIPEDIA sites claimed that Richard Alpert had led the Others in the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative. But neither site made it clear who had ordered the Purge. And ”Dead Is Dead” never gave a clear date about when Widmore was exiled off the island.

In the end, viewers know that Charles Widmore had been the leader of the Others in 1988-89, when Danielle Rosseau’s companions were killed and she gave birth to a daughter, Alex, before the latter was kidnapped by Ben Linus. Viewers also know that Richard Alpert led a group of Others in the Purge against the DHARMA Initiative on December 19, 1992. On that same date, Ben killed his father, Roger Linus, in a similar manner – toxic gas. And viewers know that Widmore was eventually replaced by Ben as the Others’ leader and exiled off the island. If we only knew when Widmore had been exiled, perhaps the mystery of who had ordered the DHARMA Initiative Purge will finally be cleared.

“LOST” – (5.08) “LaFleur” Review

Below is an article I had written on my opinion and observations of the latest episode of “LOST” – (5.08) “LaFleur”:

 

”LOST” – (5.08) “LaFleur” Review

Many fans of ”LOST” have claimed that its Season Five has been the series’ best since the first season. I have to be honest. I do not think I can agree with that sentiment. At least not for Season Five’s first five episodes. I have mixed feelings for it, just as I had for Seasons Two to Four. But there are elements of the fifth season that I have enjoyed so far. And many of those elements had a lot to do with the story arcs surrounding the island castaways left behind when the Oceanic Six departed the island at the end of Season Four.

”LaFleur”, the eighth episode of Season Five, picked up where (5.05) “This Place Is Death” left off – when John Locke turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel from ”(4.13) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” and vanished from the island and into the future. Following Locke’s departure, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles and Daniel are relieved to discover that they no longer have to endure the constant time jumps that have threatened their existence and ended Charlotte Lewis’ in ”This Place Is Death”. However, they are surprised to discover that the time jumps have stopped in 1974, when the Dharma Initiative has been in existence for at least four years. The five survivors decide to return to the beach and make camp, when they comes across a pair of Dharma Initiative members who have been captured by some of the island’s native inhabitants, known as the Others. Juliet and Sawyer kill the two Others and free Amy (Reiko Aylesworth), but her husband has been killed. The group returns to the Barracks, where Amy resides; however, she tricks them into walking through the sonic fence which surrounds the Barracks, knocking them unconscious. The rest of the episode focused upon how the five survivors ended up joining the Dharma Initiative in 1974 and the state of their lives, three years later in 1977.

Remember when I had stated that I had mixed feelings about the series’ Season Five? Well, some of those reasons had a lot to do with how Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof’s writers handled the story arcs surrounding the two groups of characters during this season. Of course, there are the members of the Oceanic Six who made it off the island – Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, Sayid Jarrah, Sun Kwon, Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and the infant Aaron Littleton. And there are the members of those left behind on the island, included James “Sawyer” Ford, Juliet Burke, John Locke, Jin Kwon, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis, Daniel Faraday, Bernard Nadler and his wife, Rose Henderson. Quite frankly, I did not care for the episodes that heavily featured the Oceanic Six. One, I never cared for their lie that left the infant Aaron in the hands of fugitive Kate Austen for nearly three years. Two, I simply did not care for their story arc in the first half of Season Five. I found it contrived, trite and a waste of my time. On the other hand, the story arc featuring those survivors left behind turned out to be a different kettle of fish.

I found myself enjoying the segments surrounding the ‘Left Behinders’ in episodes like (5.01) “Because You Left”(5.02) “The Lie” and ”This Place Is Death”. So, it is no surprise that after eight episodes, my favorite Season Five episodes turned out to be both (5.03) “The Jughead” and ”LaFleur”, which heavily featured Sawyer, Juliet and the gang. But . . . I am not here to discuss both episodes. Only ”LaFleur”.

What can I say? I loved the episode. I love it so much that I now consider it to be one of my ten favorite episodes of the entire series. And I never thought I would be saying this about a Sawyer-centric episode. Five days after it first aired, I found myself still thinking about it. I am sitting in front of my computer, trying to think of something meaningful or witty to say about this episode. But the words continue to elude me. I have a deep suspicion that my high opinion of ”LaFleur” had more to do with how this episode had such an emotional impact upon me.

Like the Left Behinders, I felt the relief they must have felt over the end of the time jumps, following Locke’s departure. Or the confusion and they had felt upon stumbling across Amy, her dead husband Paul and the two Others. I felt Daniel’s continuing grief over Charlotte’s death . . . or Amy’s grief over Paul’s death. I felt Richard’s curiosity during his conversation with Sawyer (from now on . . . James) about Locke’s appearance twenty years earlier. I felt Horace’s despair over his suspicions that his new wife, Amy, had yet to get over her grief for her husband now dead for three years. I felt James’ desperation to find help for Amy, who was in labor with Horace’s child . . . and Juliet’s reluctance to deal with another childbirth. I certainly felt James’ relief and happiness over the successful birth of Amy’s child and Juliet’s tearful joy. I felt James’ relief and disbelief in discovering that some of the Oceanic Six – Jack, Kate and Hurley – had made it back to the island. And I especially felt the friendship and love both James and Juliet had for one another.

But the above paragraph strikes me as being too simple a way to describe my enjoyment of ”LaFleur”. Foremost, I have to commend writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Kyle Pennington for penning a well-written episode that revealed the Left Behinders’ experiences with the Dharma Initiative in two time periods without disintegrating into a big mess. The fact that Sarnoff and Pennington also managed to inject some character development – mainly James and Juliet – into a complicated plot has raised my admiration toward their work. Another thing that I liked about ”LaFleur” is that for some reason, it strongly reminded me of my favorite ”LOST” episode of all time – (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”.

This episode is not an exact replica of the Season Two episode that revealed the backstory of the Tail Section passengers’ first 48 days on the island. But I feel that both “The Other 48 Days” and “LaFleur” allowed viewers to experience the interactions of a small group – in the case of the Season Five episode, the Left Behinders – developing a close relationship through shared experiences. Mind you, most of James, Juliet, Miles, Jin and Daniel’s worst experiences occurred in previous Season Five episodes like “Jughead” and “This Place Is Death”. Still, we got to see how they became part of the Dharma Initiative in 1974. And how they had managed to settle into their new lives in 1977.

Josh Holloway literally owned this episode with a performance that nearly knocked my socks off. His James Ford aka James LaFleur has come a long way that rough-hewed Southern con man who had irritated just about everyone back in Season One. This transformation did not happen overnight. In fact, I suspect that it had its origins during late Season Three, when Hugo Reyes forced him to take the mantle of leadership of the Losties during Jack, Sayid, Kate and Locke’s absence during that period. The Southern accent has remained intact and so did the snarky sense of humor and talent for pulling a con job. Not only did he managed to convince one of the Dharma Initiative leaders – Horace Goodspeed – that he and his fellow castaways were survivors of a wrecked salvage vessel looking for the Black Rock. Within three years, James had become Head of Security for the Initiative and found a new love, namely one Dr. Juliet Burke.

When I had earlier stated that Hollowy had owned this episode, perhaps I should have said almost. After all, Elizabeth Mitchell (who has become one of my favorite actors on this series) was just as good as Juliet Burke. After three years, she has forgone her profession as a fertility doctor by becoming an auto mechanic for the Dharma Initiative. At first, I was surprised that she would choose to become a mechanic, instead of continuing her role as a doctor. But considering her past heartaches in dealing with previously pregnant Others, I eventually understood. But the premature labor of one of the Dharma members, Amy Goodspeed (portrayed by Reiko Aylesworth of “24” fame), led James to convince Juliet to act as midwife for the new Goodspeed baby. The result of Amy’s labor led to one of the most beautifully acted moments in the series’ entire history, when Mitchell and Holloway expressed Juliet and James’ relief and happiness over the baby’s successful delivery. I could go on about the strong screen chemistry between the two actors. But I have been aware of that chemistry ever since the Season Three finale – (3.22) “Through the Looking Glass”. The interesting thing about James and Juliet’s relationship is that the series used their growing friendship in the previous six or seven episodes to show how they eventually became a couple. They seemed to have become the first romantic pairing, whose relationship started out as a mature friendship. Perhaps that is the reason why I find it so appealing.

The other cast members in this episode also did a fine job – especially Jeremy Davies, as the grieving Daniel Farady, Doug Hutchison as the Dharma Initiative mathematician who came off as less self-assured than he did in past episodes, Nestor Campbell as the Others’ ageless second-in-command, Richard Alpert and Reiko Aylesworth’s sly performance as Amy, another Dharma member, whose life James and Juliet save. Daniel Dae Kim had a nice moment when Jin witnessed Juliet’s news about the successful birth of Amy and Horace’s baby.

There were many moments in “LaFleur” that have remained stuck in my mind . . . even after five days. Here are a few that I consider truly memorable:

*James, Juliet, Miles and Jin spot a giant, Egyptian-style statue following Locke’s disappearance.
*The brief look on James’ face after Juliet saves him from being shot by one of the Others.
*Amy tricks the Left Behinders into walking past the sonic fence.
*James mentions Richard’s encounter with Locke and the ‘Jughead’ bomb in 1954 to the very surprised Other.
*James convinces Juliet to remain on the island for a while.
*Juliet and James’ happy reaction to the successful birth of Amy and Horace’s child.
*James’ conversation with Horace about dealing with past loves.
*The sight of James and Juliet in bed, with her body spooning his. She really ‘had his back’ in that scene.
*Jin delivers three of the Oceanic Six members – Jack, Kate and Hurley – to an awaiting James.

Even thought that last scene was memorable, I must admit that I found myself comparing it to the sight of a roach crawling across a white rug. It also made me wonder how the Oceanic Six’s arrival will affect the Left Behinders – now members of the Dharma Initiative. Both Kate and Jack’s presence might prove to be a trial for the James/Juliet romance. Right now, I am beginning to wonder if it will survive. And will the Oceanic Six’s presence threaten the Left Behinders’ standing with the Dharma Initiative? Or will another threat emerge – mainly in the form of the still grieving Daniel Faraday? I guess that in the remaining eight episodes, we will find out.

“LOST” – Musing on Season Four and the Finale

“LOST” – MUSINGS ON SEASON FOUR AND THE FINALE

ABC’s megahit series, ”LOST’ is considered among the best television series on the air during this past decade. The magazine,”Entertainment Weekly” considers it to be the fifth best series in television history. I have to admit that it is one of the most original series I have ever seen. But after watching its Season Four finale – (4.13-4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home (Parts 2 and 3)”, I cannot help but wonder if the series’ reputation might be a little exaggerated. 

To put it bluntly, ”There’s No Place Like Home (Parts 2 and 3)” left me with mixed feelings. Mind you, it had its virtues. One of the best moments during that two hour broadcast was watching Yunjin Kim’s performance as the complex Korean wife who may or may not have witnessed the death of her husband, portrayed by the equally talented Daniel Dae Kim. Her performance was fantastic, whether she was expressing Sun Kwon’s horror and grief over witnessing her husband being blown up, while trying to escape a freighter that had been set up to explode. Whether he is dead or not, will be revealed in Season Five. But she believes he is dead. Which would explain the cold, avenging angel she has become in the months following the birth of her fatherless infant daughter.

There were other virtues in this episode:

*Evangeline Lily’s performance in a scene in which Sawyer (Josh Holloway) says good-bye to Kate. Yes, I am actually complimenting Lily’s performance. She is no Yunjin Kim, but I think that she managed to rise up to the occasion in that scene and in the episode’s opening scene that featured a continuation of Jack (Matthew Fox) and Kate’s meeting at the L.A. airport in the flash forward, carried over from Season Three’s (3.22-3.23) “Through the Looking Glass”. However, I still dislike the Kate Austen character.

*The Two Kisses – For me, I was impressed not only by Sawyer’s good-bye kiss to Kate, but Desmond and Penny’s reunion kiss. Actually, I would say that the last one was more spectacular.

*The fight scene between Sayid (Naveen Andrews) and Keamy (Kevin Durand). It seemed fitting for two men-of-action characters, such as themselves.

*I also liked the moment when Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Sayid joined Frank Lapidus for the first time, aboard his helicopter. There was nothing particularly special about it, but it seemed to have its own sense of magic.

*And there was Sawyer’s return to the island, where he meets Juliet on the beach. The scene started out light-hearted, until Juliet points out to the former con man of the freighter’s (and possibly the passengers on Lapidus’ helicopter) fate.

Unfortunately for ”There’s No Place Like Home (II & III)”, the flaws seemed to outweigh the virtues. Flaws that had a lot to do with contrived writing. First example? The bomb on the freighter. What was the purpose of that bomb? Why did Keamy even bothered to plant C4 explosions on that freighter, ‘The Kahana’? Even worse, why bother to wear a remote trigger linked to a heart-rate monitor in order to blow up the boat? What was the point of this plot twist . . . other than to kill Michael Dawson and place anyone aboard the freighter in danger? Did Keamy assume that the castaways would start making their way to the Kahana? What? It all seemed so contrived.

Speaking of contrivance, there is the object dubbed by ”LOST” viewers as ’The Frozen Donkey Wheel’. Apparently, this is the wheel that Ben (Michael Emerson) had turned to move the island or make it invisible. According to a ”Popular Mechanics” article, the wheel changed the island’s space-time connection to the rest of the Earth. Yeah. Whatever. Let’s just say that it did not impress me.

Another problem I had with this episode was the fate of Claire’s infant son, Aaron. Yes, I know that the fourth episode of this season – (4.04) “Eggtown” – made it clear that Kate ends up as Aaron’s guardian back in the States. Even after seeing how Aaron ended up in her custody . . . it still does not make any sense to me. I keep thinking of that scene near the end of the episode, when Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sun and Hurley part from Desmond and Penny, so that they could complete their rescue with a nine hour voyage to some nearby island. Why would Penny hand Aaron over to Kate? Why would Kate take custody of Aaron? Surely, she should have considered the possibility that her chances of keeping Aaron was not that hot, considering her fugitive status. Or why did Kate fail to ask Penny for cash and place where she and Aaron could hide out? The moment when Penny handed Aaron over to Kate seemed so contrived and stupid.

*And can someone please explain how a two-month old child was able to survive so many hours without his mother’s milk or food, along with a helicopter crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and nine hours of exposure to the sun, while in lifeboat with other castaways? I suppose one could say that ”the island” protected him. Yeah. Whatever. God, who wrote this shit?

Returning back to the Kahana, I have this question to ask – why didn’t Michael, Desmond and Jin warned the other Losties and crew members on the freighter to abandon ship, when they first discovered the C4? Why in the hell did they keep the matter a secret from the others? Why? What was the point? Drama? Another contrived reason to bump off Michael? This has to be one of the most stupid moments I have ever seen on television. To make matters even more idiotic, Jin hesitated to jump ship at the end, so that he could drag Michael along. ”Jin . . . darling, you have a wife and unborn child waiting for you. Why didn’t you get your ass up to the deck when Michael first told you?” Dammit, I hate such stupidity! I especially hate it when writers drum up this mess.

Finally, we come to the biggest pile of horseshit of the episode . . . namely, Michael Dawson’s death. After watching this episode, I can only say that Harold Perrineau’s return to ”LOST” was the biggest waste of his time and the time of his fans. What in the fuck were Cuse and Lindehof thinking? In a TV Guide interview, Perrineau had accused the two producers of bringing him back so that they could appease the bloodlust of the fans who hated Michael for his Season Two actions. I am beginning to believe that he might be right. Cuse and Lindehof could have kept Michael on the show for a while and allow him to deal with the consequences of his actions by facing the Losties. The only castaways who saw him were Sayid, the Kwons and Desmond, who did not even know him. And nothing much really came from his reunion with him. Sayid did expose him to the captain of the Kahana as Ben’s spy. But Michael did not really suffer from the betrayal, aside from one or two beatings. Sun seemed more upset about him being Ben’s spy on the Kahana than over what he had done in Season 2. And with the immediate discovery of the bomb, Jin and Michael immediately resumed their old friendship. After Cuse and Lindehof’s big announcement of Perrineau’s return, the actor managed to appear in at least five or six episodes out of fourteen, before his character was blown sky high in the Kahana’s destruction. All I can say is – ”What in the fuck?”

But the mixed quality of ”There’s No Place Like Home (II &III)” seemed a reflection of the entire Season Four. Some are claiming that this was the show’s best season. I wish I could agree. Season Four had started out as very promising. But in the end, it has not usurped my belief that Season One remains the best. Like its finale, Season Four turned out to be a curious mixture of the good and the bad.

There were plenty of good episodes during this season. Episodes like (4.01) ”The Beginning of the End” and (4.02) ”Confirmed Dead” not only led to the Losties being split into two camps, but it also introduced four new characters to the show – Daniel Faraday, Miles Straume, Charlotte Lewis and Frank Lapidus. Then came (4.03) ”The Economist”, which turned out to be my favorite Sayid-centric episode. Its flash forward eventually revealed Sayid as Ben’s troubleshooter – or hitman – who was killing colleagues of Ben’s enemy, Charles Widmore. Another standout episode turned out to be (4.05) ”The Constant”, a Desmond-centric episode. In it, the Scotsman encounters time traveling side effects from his exposure to an EMP discharge. Mind you, I found it a little confusing at times, but the emotional payoff was worth the confusion. Two other outstanding episodes – at least for me – were (4.08) ”Meet Kevin Johnson”, which revealed what happened to Michael Dawson and his son Walt, following their departure at the end of Season Two; and (4.09) ”The Shape of Things to Come”, in which the group of Losties under Locke, encountered Charles Widmore’s murderous henchman, Martin Keamy, and his band of killers.

There were also episodes that I found . . . decent, but not exactly mind blowing. There were (4.07) “Ji Yeon”, (4.11) ”Cabin Fever” and (4.12) ”There’s No Place Like Home (Part I)”. I take it back. The revelation that Jin did not make it off the island with Sun had taken me by surprise. And so did the appearance of Claire inside Jacob’s cabin with Christian also shocked me. Like the finale that aired on May 29, I have mixed feelings about (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home”. I found the circumstances surrounding Jack’s appendectomy rather pointless. In fact, I am still a little confused over how it was supposed to add to the story. But I must admit that the events that led to Jack and Kate’s breakup in that episode’s flash forward was fascinating. This episode also provided another glimpse at Matthew Fox’s superb acting skills.

There were three episodes – out of fourteen – that I found troubling. One was (4.06) “The Other Woman”, a Juliet-centric episode. In this, we learned that Juliet had an affair with Goodwin – the Other who had been killed by Ana-Lucia Cortez in Season Two. We also learned that Goodwin had been married. The episode also revealed that Ben harbored an obsession of Juliet. And it also featured a knock-out, dragged out fight between Juliet and one of the Freighter passengers – Charlotte. But this is an episode that belonged to Season Three. Even worse, there was no real follow-up over Daniel and Charlotte’s presence at the Tempest Station and their actions with the gas. Frankly, I found the ending to be rather vague. Still . . . it provided another outstanding performance by Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet.

The second episode I had trouble with was the season’s last one – ”There’s No Place Like Home” (Part III)”. Since I have said all that I could about that episode and its predecessor, I might as well focus on what I consider to be THE WORST episode of Season Four – the Kate-centric ”Eggtown”. In this episode, Kate joins Locke’s group at the abandoned Otherville quarters, so she could find out if the quartet from the Kahana and the outside world knew about her status as a fugitive. The episode’s flash forwards revealed her trial, how she avoided jail time and ended up serving ten years’ probation. It also revealed that she became the guardian of Claire’s son, Aaron. Frankly, that last reveal proved to be the only interesting thing about this episode. Everything else struck me as a joke. One that left a bad taste in my mouth. And although I had praised Evangeline Lily’s performance in the finale, ”Eggtown” proved that on the whole, she has remained, at best, a mediocre actress during the show’s four seasons. The biggest travesty proved to be the trial, in which the defense called its witness – namely a lying Jack – first; the prosecution’s only witness was allowed to see the defendant in private; and because of this, the prosecution gave Kate a plea deal, because the witness (Kate’s mom) refused to testify against . . . conveniently forgetting the former castaway’s other crimes. One that includes attempted bank robbery. And what really annoyed me about ”Eggtown” is that it served as the beginning of a series of contrived events that led to Kate’s possession of Aaron. For me, Kate’s story arc proved to be the season’s biggest weakness.

Watching the finale made me realize something about ”LOST” that has made me reluctant to dub it as one of the finest shows in television history. Even some of the best shows I have seen – ”BABYLON FIVE” and ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” had its share of weak episodes or storylines that were dumped at the wayside. But those two shows and a few others have been consistently top-notch. I wish I could say the same about ”LOST”, but I cannot. I will admit that it is one of the most original television series I have ever watched. But that originality has been sabotaged every now and then by contrived writing and some pretty bad characterization. This has especially been obvious to me during the last half of Season Two – including the badly written (2.20) “Two For the Road”. Like ”Eggtown”, it was partially saved by a surprise ending. At least two-thirds of Season Three had left a bad taste in my mouth, including the contrived departure of Mr. Eko in (3.05) “The Cost of Living” and the atrocious ( 3.06) “I Do” and (3.09) “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

Aside from Season One, the series’ quality for each season always seemed to flip-flop. This show has yet to maintain a consistently top-notch season since the first one.

“THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

 

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“THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008) Review

In 2005, director/writer Christopher Nolan had rebooted the Batman franchise with the highly successful movie, ”BATMAN BEGINS” that starred Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Both men reunited three years later for a new story centered around Batman’s conflict with his greatest nemesis, Joker in this sequel called ”THE DARK KNIGHT”

There had been a great deal of attention surrounding this movie. Many have not only praised it, claiming that it is better than the 2005 movie. But most of the word-of-mouth centered around Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, especially after his tragic death two years ago. When ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was finally released, many critics and fans expressed the belief that the positive word-of-mouth had been justified. Not only have many judged Ledger’s performance as the best in his career, others have claimed that the movie is probably the best Comic Book Hero movie ever made. I do not know if the Joker featured Heath Ledger’s best performance ever. As for the claim about ”THE DARK KNIGHT” being the best comic book hero movie . . . I do not agree.

I am not saying that ”THE DARK KNIGHT” was a terrible or mediocre film. Frankly, I believe that it was one of the best movies I have seen this summer. Most of the movie featured an excellent story scripted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer, in which Gotham’s organized criminal element has found itself threatened by the law ever since the end of the Falsone family in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, thanks to Batman (Bale). A former inmate of Arkham Asylum named the Joker (Ledger) approaches the crime bosses, which include Salvatore “Sal” Maroni (Eric Roberts), with an offer to kill Batman for pay. At the same time, Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) contemplate including the new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in their plan to eradicate the mob, as he could be the public hero Batman cannot be. Harvey Dent is found to be dating Wayne’s childhood friend and object of romantic desire, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). This conflict between Batman, the Joker and their allies escalates to a tragic and well-directed dénouement that leads to Rachel’s death. And it is here where I believe that the movie faltered.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” could have ended with Rachel’s death, followed by the Joker’s manipulation of a grieving Harvey Dent into madness and his eventual capture or death. Instead, the Nolan brothers and Goyer allowed the Joker to escape and continued the story with Dent’s vengeful hunt for those he considered responsible for Rachel’s death and the Joker resorting to a Green Goblin situation involving two ferryboats packed with explosives. The situation involved him telling the passengers on each that the only way to save themselves is to trigger the explosives on the other ferry; otherwise, at midnight he will destroy them both remotely. All of this occurred during the movie’s last half hour and quite frankly, it was a half hour I could have done without. I found the entire ferryboats sequence so unbelievable and contrived. It seemed as if Nolan teased us with the possibility of seeing the darker side of the average citizen . . . and wimped out, because he would rather stroke the ego of his moviegoers with some “nobility of man” bullshit by allowing the passengers refuse to blow or try to blow each other to kingdom come, instead of telling the truth about human nature. Very disappointing. It would have been more interesting or darker if Batman had prevented the passengers from blowing up the boats at the last minute. Batman would have saved the people, but the Joker would have proven a point.

A fan had pointed out that the ending of the sequence was Nolan’s message about leaving a sliver of hope for the audience that human beings do have the capacity to do good things. I realize that this was Nolan’s aim, but this is a message that has been done to death by moviegoers for eons. The problem is that screenwriters and moviemakers are always giving moviegoers this “sliver of hope”. They call themselves pointing out the dark side of humanity and then they pervert these messages by allowing them to come out of the mouths from villains like the Joker, before the latter is eventually proven wrong. It just seems like a cop out to me. Which was why I found the whole ferryboat sequence something of a joke. Sure, human beings are capable of doing some good. But in that particular situation? I rather doubt it. If there is one trait that humanity possess, it is a talent for self-preservation. It would have been more realistic to me if the boats had detonated or Batman had prevented this before anyone on one or both of those boats and activated the bombs. Granted, Batman/Bruce Wayne would have been disappointed in Gotham’s citizens, but he would have learned a valuable lesson about the very people he calls himself protecting. Even better, I would have preferred if Nolan had never added that sequence in the first place.

As for Harvey Dent’s hunt for those he deemed responsible for Rachel’s death . . . I would have been more satisfied if Nolan and his co-writers had ended the movie with Dent’s eventual slide into darkness in that hospital room and saved his transformation into a twisted vigilante and arch villain in a third Batman film. This would have prevented the movie from being unnecessarily a half hour long. And it would have saved the talented Aaron Eckhart for the third film as “Two-Faced” Harvey. It would have also spared moviegoers of that ludicrous ending in which Batman and Gordon decided to allow the former assume blame of Dent’s crimes in order to save the reputation of the D.A. I am still stunned by this little plot development. What were the Nolan brothers thinking? Why was it so necessary to save Dent’s reputation in the first place? Did Batman and Gordon harbored such a low opinion of Gotham’s citizens that they had to treat the latter like children?

The performances in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” were basically superb. Christian Bale beautifully captured the growing dilemma of Bruce Wayne’s desire for a normal life with Rachel Dawes, juxtaposed with his role as Gotham’s costumed vigilante and his growing power over the city’s criminal element, thanks to his alliance with police lieutenant James Gordon and the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. There is one aspect of Bale’s performance I did not like – namely the growling tone he used, while in the Batman persona. I did not care for it in ”BATMAN BEGINS”. I cared for it even less in this film.

I have noticed how many have expressed the view that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Rachel Dawes was better than Katie Holmes in the 2005 film. Personally, I did not see much of a difference in the quality of their performances. Both actresses gave good, solid performances. But . . . the screenwriters’ portrayal of Rachel in this film disappointed me. They had turned her characters into an object. She was Bruce Wayne’s prize for giving up the Batman persona, as soon as he could get Dent to assume the role of Gotham’s “hero”. She was Dent’s love interest, Girl Friday and a reason to go on a rampage for Dent. And for the Joker, she was a means to get at Batman, once he realized how the latter felt about her. There were times when Rachel’s character almost seemed irrelevant and a sad decline from the legal and moral dynamo that Holmes had portrayed in ”BATMAN BEGINS”.

Heath Ledger as the Joker. What can I say? The man was brilliant. He made Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like chump change. Honestly. One of the reasons why I have never care for the Joker character in the past was due to his over-the-top persona. Cesar Romero’s Joker has never impressed me, regardless of the numerous insane clown laughs he had utilized. Nicholson’s Joker was too over-the-top for my tastes. As one can see, I do not have a love for overly theatrical characters, unless they are done right. Granted, Ledger portrayed the Joker as over-the-top. But somehow . . . I really do not know how to describe it. Somehow, he managed to infuse some kind of control in the character’s insanity – not only with his behavior, but also with a talent for emotional manipulation and the views he had spouted to Batman and other characters. Do I believe that the Joker was Ledger’s best performance? No. I believe that the character was one of his two best performances, the other being Ennis DelMar from 2005’s ”BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN”. Do I believe that Ledger deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance, despite his death? Hmmmm . . . yes. He was that good.

The other truly superb performance came from Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. One of Eckhart’s virtues was that he formed an excellent screen chemistry with Maggie Gyllenhaal. Frankly, I found their romance more believable than her relationship with Bruce Wayne. Eckhart projected a great deal of magnetism, charm and intensity into his portrayal of Dent. But I was more impressed by the way he expressed Dent’s descent into vengeful madness, following Rachel’s death. Granted, this turn of his character occurred in the movie’s last half hour. Although I disliked the movie’s last half hour, Eckhart’s performance in it almost made it bearable.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Cillian Murphy (Dr. Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow) all reprised their roles from the first film. All four gave solid performances, but only Oldman’s role as James Gordon seemed bigger. I found Gordon’s fake death somewhat contrived and manipulative. Aside from the creation of the Rachel Dawes character, everything about the two Batman movies directed by Nolan have adhered to the Batman canon. Which is why I found it difficult to believe that Gordon was dead. Alfred’s role seemed to have diminished from the first film. Freeman’s Lucius Fox is now quite aware that Bruce is Batman and seemed to be acting as the latter’s armourer, as well as Wayne Enterprises’ CEO. The only problem I had with the Fox character was his opposition against Wayne/Batman’s development an advanced surveillance system that can listen in and track the movement of any of the thousands of cell phones in the city. I found the whole scenario contrived. As much as I had enjoyed Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Dr. Crane/the Scarecrow in ”BATMAN BEGINS”, I found his less than ten minutes appearance in ”THE DARK KNIGHT” a waste of the actor’s time . . . and mine.

Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard returned to score the sequel. I must admit that I had been impressed by their work in ”BATMAN BEGINS” and had expected another exceptional score by them. Unfortunately, I barely remembered the score. I understand that they had rehashed the original score for this movie and added a new theme or two. But it all came off as unmemorable for me.

”THE DARK KNIGHT” had the potential to be this summer’s best film. But there were some aspects – the portrayal of Rachel Dawes’ character, Zimmer and Newton Howard’s score, the portrayal of some of the minor characters and the contrived writing that dominated the movie’s last half hour – that I believe had ruined the movie’s chances of achieving this potential. Fortunately, the virtues outweighed the flaws and in the end, ”THE DARK KNIGHT” managed to remain first-rate and become – in my view – one of the better films from the summer of 2008.