Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lost: The End (2/2)

The End

In our past, we were broken.
In our present, we were lost.
In our future, we were healed.
In our church, we were whole.

Part Two: Leaving

--All right, time to wrap it up. Or at least, wrap up this particular chapter of a long and timeless story. Just because Lost ended doesn’t mean the story of the Island is done. It will never end; that’s the point. Every time and place is a waypoint to somewhere else. And death, well, death may be the end of the line if that’s what you want to believe. Or it could be just another transition, a way of moving.....sideways. Yes, in a final twist that will doubtlessly be debated long into the future, the sideways world, the place I’ve been calling Timeline LAX, turned out to be....a waystation. A stopping place for a select group of people who came together to do something extraordinary. They found each other in life, and they found each other again after life. Because what they did was important enough to earn them the right to go out together.

--Some people are mad, I know. With a TV show like this, the riskiest thing you can do is pull a twist that cancels out what’s come before. It Was All a Dream! It’s All Going On In Someone’s Head! Or, in this case, They’ve Been Dead the Whole Time! I’ll admit that my first reaction was, “Oh, come on!” Then I thought about it, and found that I didn’t mind so much. See, the sideways world is more complex than your usual idea of Purgatory. After all, it came into being simply because of our heroes, and within its confines, as they unwittingly waited to move on, they had a chance to give life another try, to make things different, for better or for worse. Think about it -- if you had the chance to examine your life from a different angle or scenario, wouldn’t you do it, just to see? The Lostaways did not consciously realize what was going on; they had to be clued in, activated to the truth by contact with one another. And, over the course of the finale, that’s exactly what happened. It’d be a long and pointless chore to break down the entire sequence of events, so I’m going to go character-to-character, describing their revelation and why their sideways story mattered.

DESMOND: As always, our time-unstuck Scot had a unique role to play. He’d already found happiness in life, but due to his special mind, it seemed right that he had to be the first to reawaken and take action. Sideways Desmond had the life that living Desmond used to think he wanted, but he learned that some things are more important than respect and influence. Of course, he found Penny again, because if any two people were fated to be together, it’s them, by golly. It was easy for Desmond to let go; in some ways, he was very lucky to find happiness in life before anyone else. Damn if he hasn’t earned it!

SAYID: Ahhh, one of the biggest fan complaints. Why the HELL did sideways Sayid wind up with Shannon and not Nadia? It’s a little disturbing, that whole triangle; it’s like, whenever Shannon’s around, we’re supposed to pretend Sayid’s original love doesn’t exist. But (and I know this is a controversial thing to say) maybe Nadia was never quite right for Sayid. As Kate has proved with her two men, you can love different people but still acknowledge that they’re not the one to spend your life with. Sayid’s past is dark, violent, and angry; Nadia, sweet and nurturing though she may be, is part of that past. Remember how he literally had to torture her? Sideways Sayid sadly rejected Nadia because Sayid’s personal journey involves forgiving himself. In a scene that I found really sweet, Hurley and Boone conspired to put Sayid and Shannon back together. Why? Because the Island gave everyone a chance at a fresh start, and for Sayid, that included a new love not mired in the tragedies and guilt of yesterday. He will always love Nadia. But your first love should never be your last, people. You move on. As Sayid did.

CLAIRE: What was the biggest question on Claire’s mind the whole way through? It was, Can I be a mother? Yes, Claire, you can. Despite loss and tragedy and abandonment, you can be a mother. Kate told her that when she didn’t want to leave the Island. Kate, despite all her flaws, knows how to nurture. Sideways Claire was once again pregnant and abandoned, dumped by first. But then came Kate, and the Shepherd family, and Charlie. People to help. People to care. Claire wound up birthing Aaron all over again, backstage at the fateful concert, and it acted as a confirmation: Yes, you did it right. This is your son; see how alive he is! You never, ever failed him! That moment was what reawakened both Claire and Kate, the secret bond that mothers see in each other’s eyes. But a father is always needed at some point, and so Charlie got to be there as well. For his own personal journey involved learning to nurture rather than destroy, and with his own death, he succeeded gloriously.

HURLEY: Well, we already saw Hurley’s reawakening with Libby. Wasn’t it adorable? Seems appropriate that Hurley was the first one to have his revelation after Desmond. Because Hurley, remember, is the caregiver. So who better? I loved Hurley’s look of joy when he kidnapped Charlie, and the way he conspired with Boone, who is apparently way, way cooler than his Island exploits made him out to be. Maybe it’s because he’s spent some time as a vampire. But in all seriousness, let’s remember that the “activated” sideways Hurley also has all the wisdom from his time as Island keeper, which could have been even longer than Jacob’s reign for all we know. He’s practically a Jesus figure! Though he’d hate to be called that, the big sweetheart.

SUN AND JIN: Pretty easy to interpret. In life, they were kept apart by many people and forces, including their own doubt. So now, they get a do-over in which their love never wavers and they overcome all obstacles. I don’t think the bad guys, Keamy and Omar and Mikhail, were “real” in the same sense that our heroes were. They weren’t the actual souls of the men, but were conjured up by the sideways world to serve as proof that devotion conquers evil. The overcoming of evil serves as a reconfirmation of good. See how happy Sun and Jin were upon their reawakening, even knowing how they’d died? What was important, what made them smile, was that they died together, in love and loyalty. And little unborn Ji Yeon appearing on the ultrasound? A gentle reminder that they made a life before they lost theirs. A triumph.

MILES: Heh, I’m not sure. Was that the “real” Miles we saw in the sideways world, or another virtual person designed to interact with Sawyer? For that matter, what about Daniel and Charlotte? Okay, I think the two of them were real; their meet-cute at the concert suggested that they’re themselves. They just aren’t ready to move on yet. Not everyone was. I feel like they’ll get their moment; we won’t see it, but it’ll happen. As for Miles, well, maybe he has to make a kind of final peace with his father, Pierre Chang. Maybe then he’ll get his turn.

ELOISE: Yeah, she was real. When she asked Desmond if he was going to take her son away, that gave her away as real. But because Eloise Widmore/Hawking is the Grande Dame of Time Travel, she was perfectly aware that she was in a virtual pseudo-afterlife. And she took full advantage of that, creating a life where she could hold onto those she’d loved: her husband, Charles Widmore, and her son, Daniel. A life where she did not have to push Daniel or dominate him....or kill him. A life where she could be happy, even knowing it was only a temporary waystation. So she’ll be staying there until she’s quite satisfied, thank you very much.

SAWYER: Interesting that sideways Sawyer seemed just as flawed as living Sawyer. A cop rather than a con man, but still haunted by the same guilt and rage. Why would he subconsciously create this for himself, rather than some ideal, drama-free sideways existence? Well, letting go is harder for some people. Sawyer not only had to let go of his baggage, he had to let go of Kate, who appeared to him as a temptation. Should he help her escape? Throw in his lot with this woman whom he desired so deeply? No. Because, though they loved each other in life, they didn’t really heal each other. Sawyer found someone else to heal him, someone whose presence in the sideways world soothed all wounds. And that someone, bless her heart, is.....

JULIET: Took you long enough, show! Yeah, my annoyance, she was indeed Jack’s ex-wife. But, to my relief, they only shared one scene together and it was clear they’d stayed friends rather than stewing in awkward resentment. To Jack, Juliet was the flawed ideal, the “We could have, if only....” But to Sawyer, she was life and love itself. Of all the reawakening scenes, my favorite was between Sawyer and Juliet. I loved the vending machine business, which cheekily mirrored the Island and its Core. And then, when they remembered, when Juliet broke down and Sawyer held her, held onto her like he’d failed to do in life....holy shit. “Kiss me, James.” “You got it, blondie.” And I cried. That was the one moment where I actually cried. That’s how perfect this couple was.

BEN: Oh, how I cheered. I’ve been hoping for a full-blown Ben redemption, and boy did I get it. It was really neat and appropriate how Ben wasn’t ready to move on yet. Not just because he was reluctant to leave his cozy new sideways life with Danielle and Alex, but because he wanted to...think about some things. Well, that’s very wise of him. Passing out of life is not something you should ever do lightly, and the complexity of Ben’s life surely required some self-reflection. He was a bad man once. He killed people, lied, manipulated, stole a leadership that was never meant to be his. But was he evil in the same way that the Man in Black was evil? Of course not. No human being is all good or all evil. Ben wanted to think about his own duality, and so he’s outside, waiting. He’ll always be the outsider in many ways, but that no longer bothers him.

KATE: So, after all this, who did Kate choose? Jack or Sawyer....or neither? Well, that’s interesting, because I honestly don’t know. It’s important to note that, while many of her fellow castaways were reawakened upon contact with a lover, Kate had her moment as Aaron was born. It was not brought about by Jack or Sawyer. It think this may be linked to Kate’s much-debated absence from Jacob’s final list of candidates. He realized, and she eventually realized, that her place in life isn’t what she thought. It’s not being a lover, or a killer, or a shaker and mover. She always tagged along and got on our nerves because she wanted someone to depend on her, but that dependance took a form she didn’t see coming. “You became a mother,” Jacob said. Yes, and that’s what mattered in the end. She couldn’t be with Sawyer because they just exacerbated each other’s flaws. She couldn’t be with Jack because each wanted the other to depend upon them. What Kate needed was to stop playing the bad girl. Note that sideways Kate was innocent. Yeah, we just have her word on that, but I believe her for once. Innocence heals; guilt deepens the wounds. As she learned.

LOCKE: In life, he failed. He strove to do something and be something that was so, so important, and he failed, and became a pawn of an evil being. He lost his life, his dignity, and even his face. But sideways Locke? He got another chance to learn what matters, what happiness is and how to find it in the face of adversity and tragedy. At first, he took the self-indulgent route and accepted the wheelchair, even welcomed it. Punishing himself. But sometimes, you need to accept that you make mistakes and can’t do everything. Basically, Locke told himself what he couldn’t do. No one can tell you what you can’t do; you have to decide for yourself. Try to do everything, and you’ll get nowhere. Try to be a martyr and you may wind up on a pedestal, but it’s cold and lonely up there and you’re too high to hear people’s voices. Locke finally listened, both to himself and to others, and wound up winning back the use of his legs. He learned the humility to allow someone else to fix you, and as a result, he got to leave this life with grace and poise, on good terms with his former antagonists. He went out with a bang, not a whimper.

JACK: Yes, Jack. The hero, the fixer, the man who had the most trouble letting go. But let go he did. In the sideways world, he had a son, and although David was not real in the sense that you and I are real, he was real in the ways that mattered. He allowed Jack to avoid the mistakes he’d already made in life, the daddy issues, the resentment and misplaced sense of responsibility. Jack had to let someone else go before he could let himself go, and that someone was the son he’d never had. Letting David go, fixing Locke, coming to terms with his father’s death -- these were the steps Jack needed to take before he could be reminded of how he’d died, the great and noble sacrifice he had made. The finale really made Jack into a Christ figure, complete with bleeding stigmata, but don’t panic; it’s a metaphor. Jesus Christ was literally made to help others, and could never help himself. God wasn’t interested in Christ’s own welfare, because God (or Fate, or the Island’s Source, or whatever you call it) has to be cruel a lot of the time. It was cruel that Jack was always meant to die, but cruelty and comfort go hand in hand. Another duality. Balancing the two halves of a whole leads to grace.

Some people didn’t make it. Some people weren’t there in that church, and didn’t even appear in the sideways world. Let’s briefly discuss why...
EKO: Okay, yeah, the real reason is because they couldn’t get AAA to come back as Eko. Which makes me sad. But Eko was always a loner, defiantly resistant to redemption. The Monster killed him for this very reason. Eko never wanted to forgive and let go, so why should he be here? He walked his own lonely path by choice.
MICHAEL AND WALT: Michael failed. Yeah, his last living act was redemptive, but it wasn’t enough. His story is one of the most tragic on Lost, because although he was a good person, he did one thing so bad that it broke his chances. He was trapped. He became a Whisper, unable to move on. Poor, poor Michael. As for Walt....well, I do wish we’d seen him in the church at the end. I think leaving Walt out was a mistake on the show’s part. Oh, well.
ANA-LUCIA: Not ready yet. Desmond said as much. She was a deeply flawed and troubled woman, and it’s gonna take her awhile to work through the shell she built around herself. Doesn’t mean she won’t do it eventually, though.
FRANK AND ILANA: I’m putting them together because I feel both of them would be equally resistant to all this romantic, symbolic nonsense. Frank and Ilana were practical functionaries who happily did what they’d signed up to do because they knew it was what they were meant for. They had it much simpler than all our Lostaways with their endless baggage. In a way, both of these folks made the necessary peace with themselves ages ago, because there was so little to forgive! Ilana did appear in the sideways world, you think that Ilana the lawyer knew the truth and was quietly helping Jack and Claire find their way? I think she just might have.
RICHARD: A man who had a long, long, long life. A life in which he was never truly happy or content. I can’t imagine he would have wanted to linger in some dreamy afterlife, even if it meant generating a sideways copy of his love to snuggle with. He was ready to move on a long time ago.

--So, that about sums it up. In a beautiful church of no single religion, all the friends and lovers came together for one last hurrah. Jack was the last to arrive, and he found his father waiting for him. His real father, not a sham. Christian Shepherd was there to play, well, the shepherd, opening the doorway for our beloved gang. Why a church? Because, all religions aside, a church is universally a place of quiet comfort, serenity, and community. A place where you can spend time with those you care about, without all the hassle and stress of the outside world. A place where no one will complain if you just sit and rest and think awhile, no matter what your faith. I mean, I personally follow no religion, and yet I have never felt awkward or unwelcome in a church. This was their place, the final space they chose to make. And it was where they sat together while the way to....whatever came next....was opened for them. At the same time, we saw Jack die peacefully, good old Vincent keeping him company, his final seconds perfectly mirroring the opening seconds of the entire show. A cycle. A transition.

--And that’s the end. Some people were a little confused and thought that we were supposed to infer that everyone had died in the initial plane crash. This wasn’t helped by the shots of the Oceanic 815 wreckage that ABC chose to insert over the end credits; people thought those images were meant to be important somehow. (They weren’t.) No worries, folks, Lost wouldn’t be so lame as to go with the “They’ve Been Dead the Whole Time” ending. Yeah, in the sideways world, they’ve been dead the whole time. But they all arrived at different times, some earlier, some later. The sideways world has nothing to do with real space and time; it was there for everyone exactly when they needed it. Because, hell, these people saved the world. Each of them helped in their own way, so they’ve earned this. And so have we. And while I would have loved to see a snapshot of the surviving characters’ post-Island lives....well, that’d just be copying Six Feet Under, and it probably wouldn’t be as good as I can imagine it in my mind.

--Lost is over. I fell in love with the show after hearing the very first promo for it. I thought it was going to be cool and unique, and I was right. It exceeded so many expectations. Parts of it sucked, I will admit. There are mysteries left unsolved (the food drop in Season Two...where the fuck did that come from??!!), characters I wish they’d handled better (why hire Lance Reddick if you’re not gonna do anything interesting with him?), backstories that were insufferable time-filler (Michael’s custody woes, Charlie’s puke-a-thon, and Jack’s whacky Thailand adventure can all go fuck right off), and a lot of other frustrations. But there were also brilliant and complex characters, gorgeous visuals, top-notch acting, mind-melting revelations, fun comic relief, deep tragedy, and a plot that delighted me with each new, intricate little cog and spring and hidden chamber. Lost took us backward, forward, sideways, and beyond in a roller coaster of fascination and enjoyment, and I will always treasure it. As I will treasure my DVD collections of each season. I never want to stop watching, because I know that each new viewing will bring new surprises and insights. The show will just keep on giving. And, hopefully, it will go down in history as a work of collective genius.

--Thanks for reading. What a long, strange trip it’s been. I’m signing off now. And, though it’s hard to do that final sound effect as an onomatopoeia, here you go:


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost: The End (1/2)

The End

First, there was mystery.
Second, there was fear.
Third, there was anger.
Fourth, there was regret.
Fifth, there was confusion.
Finally, there was truth.

Part One: Island

--It’s taken me awhile to begin writing my recap/review/reflection on the finale of Lost. I’ve had to do some thinking. Normally, I try to write an episode recap/review right away, while it’s still fresh in my mind and I haven’t been influenced by what anyone else thinks. (Case in point: I might’ve been a lot more critical of “Across the Sea” if I’d waited to see the backlash.) But this is The End, folks. I can’t just bolt it down like a Happy Meal; I need to digest it like a gourmet dinner. And many of the things I’ve read that other people have said or pointed out...they helped me form my own conclusions. And because it was so huge and required such thought, I’ll be doing this in two parts. Part One examines the climactic events on the Island, while Part Two will be all about the sideways world, what it is, and what it meant for each character to be there.

--So, yes, I loved the finale. Was it perfect? No, of course not. How could it be? How could six seasons be neatly wrapped up in one two-hour block? Plenty of questions were left unanswered and new ones were raised. But, as others have pointed out, Lost is about its characters, its people. That was what they wanted to address in the finale -- the characters we know and love. How much time would be left for character closure if they’d used it all up meticulously explaining every tiny, pissant mystery? The final clash between our heroes and UnLocke was thrilling and intense, and intensely personal. As it should be.

--The images of the beautiful! UnLocke standing on the edge of a rain-swept cliff like the last man on earth. Kate peering through a tapestry of brilliant green fronds like Eve herself. Frank rising from the waters like Jonah (oh, how I cheered!). Two faces gazing down into a golden chamber in a shot that deliberately echoed the famous Hatch zoom that ended Season One. A bamboo grove, peaceful and isolated. A plane. A dog. An eye. And then.....

--Getting way ahead of myself here. The gorgeous cinematography echoed the theme of the show, the duality and life and death, creation and entropy. UnLocke was the agent of destruction and chaos, determined to destroy the Island and tip the world off its precious balance. Jack was the hero and the shepherd, making the ultimate sacrifice. And Desmond was the tool, the weapon, his special connection to the Island’s energy rendering him immune to the deadly effects of the Core. Both sides needed him, but both Jack and UnLocke realized that there was literally nothing they could do but lower Desmond to his destiny....and see what happened. What a beautiful, wicked moment -- the two men, so completely transformed, enemies, yet equally enticed by the promise of that golden light, that Core. And Desmond, serene because he was convinced that once he did his deed, he could escape for good, one way or the other. But it didn’t work that way. Once Desmond pulled forth the stone plug, what came out was not golden and healing but crimson and malevolent. The Island began to shake itself to pieces, and UnLocke discovered he’d become mortal. Why? Perhaps because, as the Monster, he had always been connected by an invisible lifeline to the power of the Island, and when the cork was pulled, that link was severed. He was part of the Island itself. His victory was his downfall.

--Ah, but it wasn’t just Jack and UnLocke, was it. Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, and Ben had to be there as witnesses. Why them? Well, who else? So much of the show has revolved around Kate and Sawyer’s love and stubborn determination, Ben’s search for meaning, and Hurley’s deep, seemingly endless compassion. All were central and all were addressed. I loved it when Kate joked about tagging along with Sawyer; that moment alone made me forgive a lot of her past idiocies. I did find it weird that no one confronted Ben about seemingly siding with UnLocke, or even mentioned it. I suppose that when the shit hit the fan, everyone was appropriately shocked and awed to throw their differences aside -- and like I said earlier, Ben was just following UnLocke to keep himself alive, not because he harbors any remaining animosity towards the castaways. Ben is a follower, not a leader, and so his role helped foreshadow what was to come. And thank you so much, show, for bringing back Rose and Bernard! Yes, they too flashed back to the present and are still living quietly on the Island. When they rescued Desmond, they inadvertently brought UnLocke to their door, and yeah, for one horrifying moment, I thought the writers might be that mean. But, no, Rose and Bernard are safe. Their love for each other is just as vital to Lost as any other love. They are the keepers of truth.

--Miles, Frank, Richard -- wonderful. Yeah, they mostly played a functional role in the ep, getting Flight 316 ready to fly. But were they unimportant? Never. They represented the common man, the humble everyperson who does the right thing, helps when help is needed, but is practical enough to keep his or her own skin intact. They each had their moments. Richard found a gray hair, a sign that the tired old ways are changing -- and, judging by his reaction, he’s more than ready. Miles proved that under his cynicism and hilarious assholery, he’s a decent human being. (He also got away scot free with those diamonds, and I couldn’t be happier.) And Frank, well, he did what he’s always done. He flew the plane. “Here we go,” the pilot whispered as he coaxed the battered, scarred hulk of 316 down the runway that the Others had built without even knowing why it was so important. It was important because good, everyday people like Frank and Richard and Miles are what keeps the world together, but even they need help from others. Everyone helps everyone.

--So....a final, brutal battle on that haunted clifftop. A fatal wound for Jack, a stigmata. But who killed UnLocke in the end? Kate. Kate, the rejected candidate, the criminal, the mother. A provider of life, here to take it away. With the Younger Brother’s long, sad, broken excuse for a life brought to its end, Jack went to do what he realized he was supposed to do all along: die. But die so that others might live. Jack dropped back into that beautiful, deadly Core and, like Frank, did what he does, what he’s always striven to do. He fixed. And who was left to take on Jacob’s duties? Oh, God....I laughed and I cried. Hurley. Poor, kind, reluctant Hurley was the right one all along. I used to hate the idea that Hurley might be the new Jacob, but in the context of the finale.....who else, really? Jack is the fixer. Kate is the mother, with the mix of life and death that entails. Sawyer is the father, the strong provider. And Hurley, what does he do? He takes care of people. That was what Jack realized: that though you may spend your life attempting fix people and sometimes even succeed, it does them no good unless they are cared for. Now things will be different. Jacob kept the Island together, but it was never meant to be his job, and he knew it. His rule, his role, was flawed. But maybe, just maybe, things will be better with Hurley in charge. Not just on the Island, but among all humanity. And Ben, who has realized the truth about himself and a lot of other things, gets to be Hurley’s loyal and experienced right-hand man. The way it was meant to be. Everything falls into place. Everyone finds their proper role to play, and all is well. Or as well as can be when we’re talking about the ever-changing mix of love and loss that is part of every human being.

--I’m not going to talk too much about the final moments on the Island, because I feel it makes more sense to discuss them in relation to the final moments in the sideways world. That comes in Part Two. But I will say that another huge Lost theme is the Cycle, and those final, quiet, tragic, triumphant moments in the bamboo grove brought everything to its proper...beginning. And no one has to die alone. And death need not be mournful, especially when the sun is shining and a gentle breeze is blowing. And when they assured us that Vincent would still be alive at the end, we had no idea of the significance of that statement. Because, hey, Vincent also did exactly what he does. And what does he do? Oh, come on. Do I really need to answer that?

--So, the Island still stands. Some stayed, some left. I am sad that we’ll never know what happened to our heroes next. What did the passengers on the final flight of Ajira 316 do once they returned to the real world? Did Sawyer and Kate make a life together? Did Miles become a millionaire? Did Richard find the life and death he’d been denied for so long? Did Claire finally become a mother? (I didn’t mention Claire earlier because her final scenes on the Island speak for themselves, but I’ll touch on them in Part Two.) And what about those who stayed behind? Did Desmond make it back to Penny and little Charlie? Was Hurley a good leader? Did he round up the scattered remnants of the Others and the original 815 castaways (assuming any of those poor redshirts survived at all) and build a better society? And, when all is said and done, what about Walt? We’ll never know. Though this pisses me off a little (the sneaky bastards promised Walt would appear, and he archival footage. Fuck you, Darlton), I’m happy to see that I still have the grace to accept what I cannot control. And besides, now we can all imagine the lives our heroes had, and imagine them in the way we prefer.

--Except for Jack. Because Jack died. Just like he was always meant to. And his death, and the idea of turning back the clock and remaking your life how you want, or think you want, ties directly into the revelations about the sideways world and the other big conclusion to Lost. So stay tuned for Part Two...and my final thoughts on the finale.

--(Not necessarily my final thoughts on Lost, though.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 16

6.16: What They Died For

--Not sure how much I like this episode. Maybe I should be more forgiving...I mean, I recognize its quality and it had some downright awesome moments. I think I’m starting to get freaked out about the series finale, to the point where I’m being overly harsh. Also, “set-up” episodes bug me. This is, of course, the last set-up episode that Lost will ever have, but still. The stage is set for the big finish; the characters know more or less where they’re going and what their goals are, and so do we. Oh, there will be last-minute twists and turns, or so one assumes. But the end is on the horizon. To our chagrin.

--Things were moving right along in Timeline LAX, where Desmond, I swear, has become Professor X. Seriously, he’s doing the whole “I’m here to unlock your potential and recruit you for an amazing task, and by the way, I already know everything about you” thing so well! All he needs is to steal Locke’s wheelchair and shave his head. But for now, he meddled in the affairs of a bunch of people -- he prank-called Jack about Christian’s missing body, he beat up on Ben, and he sprung Kate and Sayid from the slammer with the help of Hurley and (hilariously) an oblivious Ana-Lucia. It all seems to be coming down to the big concert where Jack’s vampire son will play. What will happen that night??!!! Is there any remaining hope that Jack’s ex-wife won’t be Juliet???!!! Is Lost going to rip off that opera house business from Battlestar Galactica???!! Oh, and Locke’s starting to think that he was wrong and Jack was right. Will Locke walk again???!!! And what other familiar faces might we see at the concert???!!! Yes, I’m excited.

--So, yeah, it’s Jack. Jack is Jacob’s replacement, barring some last-minute switcheroo, which seems impossible given that Jacob seems to have flown the coop for good. After summoning Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sawyer for a poignant fireside chat, Jacob did the whole mystic communion deal with the former man of science, and I guess that’s that. Lame. Good scene, though. I liked seeing Sawyer’s intense guilt and Hurley’s smart detachment (“I’m glad it’s not me” -- and so are we, Hurley!). Also, interesting that Jacob crossed off Kate’s name because she became a mother. Mommy issues much? Kate was less annoying than usual and Mark “Jacob” Pellegrino has never been hotter, but I felt like Jack rose to the occasion too easily. Also, the dialogue never really answered the question of whether or not Sun, Jin, Sayid, and all the other dead ones had to die. Did Jacob know they would? How much was him and how much was his evil brother? Meh, I guess I’ll have to be satisfied.

--Whoa, Ben’s gone all Snape on us! That is, he has us wondering if we should be howling for his balls on a platter or congratulating him on successfully hoodwinking the Island’s very own Voldemort. He, Richard, and Miles met with Widmore and Tina Fey in the barracks and might have hammered out a deal, but then UnLocke appeared, and...
--MILES ran like the hilarious coward that he is. I so hope he survives, because he’s worked so damn hard at saving his ass. Spare the comic relief!
--RICHARD tried to stand his ground and got body-checked by black smoke. Is he dead? The show had better give us some closure on him. While we’re on the subject, Frank didn’t even get mentioned, so either he’s still alive (maybe Claire will rescue him?) or they’ve utterly failed to do the character justice.
--TINA FEY was murdered by UnLocke. Brutal, yes, but did you really expect a recurring character to be allowed to live at this point? Bye, Tina Fey! Loved you on SNL with Betty White!
--WIDMORE revealed his Desmond gambit after UnLocke threatened to kill Penny. It’s kind of appropriate that Widmore so utterly failed, because his character is all about failure: he can be rich and powerful, but he can never obtain the things he truly wants. Because he is weak. And now dead.
--And finally, BEN put his lot in with UnLocke, betrayed his companions, and agreed to kill our heroes. Or did he? I just can’t believe that Ben’s sunk back into darkness, not after his redemption earlier. I think that Ben’s pulling the wool over UnLocke’s eyes and will reveal his true noble intentions at the crucial moment, probably dying in the process. Yes, he shot Widmore, but that moment was the culmination of the hatred between the two men, and was fully earned on Ben’s part. “He doesn’t get to save his daughter,” Ben snarled, and who can forget Alex’s pitiful death at the hands of Widmore’s man? No, Ben’s not a lost cause. Because sideways Ben is getting all cozy with the foxy Danielle Rousseau! Predictable, yes, but nicely ironic and also fully earned. So don’t write Ben off just yet, folks....

--Where does all this leave us? With the newly immortalized (?) Jack and his friends heading toward the golden light at the heart of the Island. With UnLocke plotting to destroy the Island entirely. With Desmond, the lynchpin that both sides need, out of the well and missing, rescued by.....whom? With some characters unaccounted for, others out of the running, and a select few ready to wage the final battle that will decide the fate of Craphole Island, not to mention this flawed but precious blue ball we call home. Not much to say, then, we are, and here we go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top 10 Least Favorite Video Game Bosses

So, I love boss battles, but that doesn’t mean each and every one is automatically good. In fact, there are plenty of boss battles that just plain suck on balls. It kinda bites, getting to the end of a level/stage/chapter only to discover that the boss sucks, and it’s even worse when it’s the final boss of the entire damn game. Here are my criteria for a shitty boss: it requires no strategy, only endless button mashing; it’s repetitive and predictable; it’s a big old anticlimax; it’s designed to fuck you over by being different from the rest of the game; it’s lame and/or sloppy in design; it’s too damn easy; or it’s so damn hard that the flow of gameplay is broken. A boss need not meet all of these to be hated by me, but it helps. Okay, I admit that I hate some bosses as a result of personal bias. So if you find yourself going, “No way! [Name of boss] is freaking awesome!”, relax. This is my list, not yours. Here are....


(Note: I don’t think I could rank these in order of hatred, so they’re just in alphabetical order.)

Bowser (Super Mario 64, N64)
Yeah, yeah. You know it’s true, people. Don’t get me wrong, Mario 64 was awesome, but the boss battles sucked. Especially the three fights with Bowser, which were just the same fight repeated thrice with one or two new attacks on his part. There’s no strategy at all: you just get behind him, grab his tail, and fling him into an exploding mine. And this was a very frustrating and difficult thing to do, requiring perfect timing, so you constantly failed and had to try again. And again and again. I’ve noticed that Mario bosses tend to be lacking, but Jesus. I guess the at-the-time-groundbreaking 3D conception precluded the possibility of boss fights that didn’t suck. After this ordeal, Peach had better have given Mario some bow-chicka-bow-wow. Mmmhmm.

Death/Doom/Demon/Etc. Walls (Final Fantasy, various consoles)
They have a different name and appearance in every game, but these things are one recurring feature of the Final Fantasy franchise that I wish they’d demolish with sledgehammers. I don’t work well under intense pressure, so I fail to get enjoyment out of a boss that kills me if I don’t defeat it quickly enough. The Walls crush you into oatmeal if you’re too slow, and my resultant frantic spamming of the attack command removes all strategy from a game that’s supposed to be all about strategic fighting. I mean, the concept is cool and the battles worked, but I just hated them. And no, I didn’t like the FFX version, either. Because I don’t enjoy having Pharaoh’s Curse cast on me every time I fucking sneeze.

Every Boss in Super Mario Land 2 (Gameboy)
Remember what I said about lame Mario bosses? This Gameboy sequel was actually quite enjoyable, but all the bosses were dumb and childishly easy. You just bounce upon each one three times, and it dies. And they barely have any attacks. I mean, all the rat did was scurry about, all the crow did was fly back and forth, and the three little pigs? Whooooaaaa, each one jumps around in a slightly different manner! How unexpected and dynamic! And don’t get me started on Wario. Just don’t. If he chooses such lazy and uninspired critters to guard the six gold coins, he deserves to have his fat ass kicked.

Gary Oak (Pokémon Red/Blue, Gameboy)
I was never really seriously into Pokémon, but I did play the original on the Gameboy. Never beat it, though. And Gary Oak is the reason. Everyone hates Gary; you’re supposed to. He’s your nemesis! From the beginning, when he sneakily waits for you to pick your starter Pokémon so he can gain the advantage, it’s all downhill. I COULD NOT win the final fight with him. His stupid fucking Alakazam mopped the floor with me every time. And don’t bombard me with strategies for beating him; I sold the game ages ago. Even if I’d won and made it to Indigo Plateau and Mewtwo, I’d still loathe Gary Fucking Oak forever. I’d like to stick his smirking face in a Pokéball full of AIDS blood.

Kusabi (Fatal Frame 2, PS2)
Sigh....another game I didn’t finish because of a shitty boss. After you explore a haunted village and combat malevolent phantoms with a camera -- which rocked, don’t get me wrong -- they pull a major dick move with a final boss that pulls all kinds of shit you’re not prepared for. His main attack one-hits you, and you can’t even damage him except for this one small window of opportunity....which occurs the instant before his main attack. Get the picture? What really sucked, though, was that between the final save point and the final boss was a corridor that was about fifty fucking miles long and crammed with hard-to-avoid ghosts. After the Kusabi killed me in less than a minute, I thought: I’m expected to go through that slog again? Fuck that. Guess I won’t be watching no Fatal Frame 2 end credits. The people responsible for that dick boss don’t deserve to have their names read by me anyway.

(Note: The screenshot above is actually from Fatal Frame 3, since I couldn't find a good pic of the FF2 Kusabi. But as the FF3 version looked about the same and sucked just as hard, I think it's okay.)

Mr. Patch (Banjo-Tooie, N64)
Banjo-Tooie added the boss battles that Banjo-Kazooie lacked, and they were....decent. Except for Mr. Patch. This boss was a giant inflatable dinosaur thing (you just know some furry somewhere has fapped to him) who spat exploding beach balls. You had to fly around him, firing grenades at the colorful patches on his body, gradually deflating him. Yeah, it sounds fun, but it was just plain tedious and frustrating. The flying in Banjo-Kazooie was never very fine-tuned or precise, and the arial aiming could have used a polish as well. The result: hair is torn out, teeth are gnashed, controller is flung. Boss battles are allowed to be really hard, but not when the difficulty is the result of shoddy gameplay mechanics. Mr. Patch wins bonus shit points for failed potential.

Prince Froggy (Yoshi’s Island, SNES)
Here’s another one that sounded better on paper. While most of the Yoshi’s Island bosses were ordinary baddies that had been magically blown up to size by Kamek Koopa, this battle had Yoshi getting shrunk and eaten by a frog. You’re trapped in his gullet, battling his uvula. Seriously. Meanwhile, drops of stomach acid rain from the ceiling and big shy guys crowd in with you. Setting aside the logistical issues (if Kamek can shrink Yoshi, why didn’t he do it earlier?), the cramped setting and raining acid made it practically impossible to beat the boss without taking damage. Seriously, can someone give me pointers? How am I supposed to unlock the hidden bonus levels if this shitty, unfair, overly difficult boss battle drains my timer?

Psychonauts End Boss (PS2 & Xbox)
I won’t identify the boss because that would spoil the plot, but it provided a hideously anticlimactic ending to an otherwise excellent game. Everyone’s heard about the difficulty curve of Psychonauts, how it starts out really easy and then gets insanely difficult. Well, the final boss could be toppled by a toddler. Why? Because they abruptly hand you this super special awesome power that renders you invincible, that’s why. Here is how the fight goes: you avoid the boss for a bit, which is really easy as you are faster than it. Then your power meter maxes out and you pummel the boss invincibly for a bit. Lather, rinse, repeat. What lame bullshit is this? Oh, and in addition, the final battle has so much needless particle rendering going on that it usually causes my PS2 to crash. Dammit, Psychonauts, you are so good! How can you also be so lazy?

Walter Sullivan (Silent Hill 4: The Room, PS2)
I love the character and backstory, hate the final battle with him. Walter Sullivan is this freaky undead serial killer who must be in tight with the supernatural powers that be, because the boss fight pulls every dick move in the book. You can’t even damage him for most of it; he runs around impudently, carving away at your health with a fucking PISTOL and a fucking CHAINSAW as you attempt to retrieve some spears and stick them into this monster-fetus thing growing out of the wall. Only then can you actually hurt Walter, and the camera is totally on his side because you can barely see what you’re doing. Also, your female sidekick is marching cheerfully toward a razor-sharp death machine, and if you don’t beat Walter quickly enough, she dies and you get a bad ending. Silent Hill 4 was just a dick game in general, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the final boss was designed to ruin your happiness.

Yu Yevon (Final Fantasy X, PS2)
I put the fight with Sin as one of my favorite boss fights. Too bad the awesomeness couldn’t carry over to the actual final battle. Yeah, let’s stick this one with the other classic Final Fantasy end bosses. Zeromus, Kefka, Sephiroth, and.....a little bug-like thing that can’t kill you. Wait, what? The game goes on and on about how powerful and evil Yu Yevon is, and yet he just looks like a slightly oversized tick. And if he kills you, that cute little angel flies down and brings you back, thanks to automatic auto-life. I know that video games have gotten easier as they’ve grown into the mainstream, but why must we assume that all PS2 owners are fragile children who’ll have a breakdown if they can’t win the game? I like to pretend that the battle with Jecht is the real final battle and that all that follows is just a big interactive cutscene. It eases the disappointment of an end boss that you could squish beneath your Chuck Taylors.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 15

6.15: Across the Sea

--Once upon a time, there, where to begin? With the Island, a physical receptacle for something divine and unknown? With the woman who served as its protector and knowingly damned herself? With the brothers who failed....or the brothers who succeeded? It’s all woven together into the myth, the myth of the Island and, just maybe, all humanity. Golden light and churning smoke. Black and white stones in a leather pouch. “Our very own Adam and Eve.” Oh, Locke, you spoke more truthfully than you ever knew. Wow.

--This episode forms the counterpoint to the earlier “Ab Aeterno.” In that ep, we saw the mystery of the Island and its dueling twin entities through the eyes of the outsider, the mortal man. Now, we see through the insider’s eyes, and much (though not all) is revealed. It began much as the Season Five finale did, with a sequence made confusing because we were meeting people for the first time. The mothers: one, the physical mother, a Roman (?) maiden named Claudia washed up on a strange shore. Second, the spiritual mother, whose name we never knew, but who was already there, waiting. Played rather unexpectedly by the wonderful Allison Janney, this Mother helped Claudia give birth to twin boys -- and then murdered her in an act as shocking as it was unsurprising. Twins: Jacob and....the other. “I only picked one name,” Claudia gasped, and so the younger, darker brother went nameless. For real, I think. I don’t think they were just withholding his name from us, I think Jacob’s brother literally has no name. Again, shocking and oddly...appropriate.

--So the boys grew up, Jacob content with his lot in life while Younger Brother’s azure eyes turned outward, toward the horizon. He was never content with his mother’s assurance that there was nothing else out there. Some part of him knew it had to be a lie, or at least a misconception. They spent their days in Eden, chasing boars and playing a game with black and white stones, a game the Mother gave to the Younger Brother, for he was her favorite. I liked these sequences; the two strapping tweens they got to play the brothers did fine (man, what a dream role for an aspiring young actor!), and we now know that the young boy UnLocke keeps glimpsing in the jungle is Jacob, some ghost or memory of him as a youth. I wonder what Island force is causing him to was implied that the Island does indeed hold some strange sentience. After the brothers saw real people for the first time -- others from Claudia’s ship, now settled on the Island -- the Mother was forced to reveal her hand; she brought the boys to a beautiful glade, with a waterfall and a cave....and a golden light, spilling forth from somewhere underground. That light is the key. “Life, death, and rebirth.” The exact nature of this life-force may remain once of the true mysteries of Lost; what’s important is that the Mother knew one of her sons would have to replace her as its guardian....and it was clear she hoped it would be the son who wore black.

--It was not to be. The ghost of Claudia appeared to the Younger Brother (more evidence for an Island mind?) and showed him the truth. Furious and determined to find his real home, he left his fragile little family and grew to manhood with the outsiders, despite his contempt for them. He and Jacob stayed close, and continued to play their games, until Younger Brother found his way out: a new entrance to the source of that golden light. To harness it, he built a wheel. Oh, yes, a wheel. He was planning to unlock forces he could not understand, and so the Mother foiled his plan. She was forced to accept that her favorite had failed, and so it was Jacob who got the gift of immortality and the responsibility that came with it. What a bitter cup of wine for Jacob to swallow, knowing that, despite the meaningless reassurances from his mother, he was always the back-up plan, the secondary. Ahh, and how significant to the overall Lost mythos! We felt the Younger Brother’s pain. Even after he discovered that his path to the Wheel was erased and his people killed, even after he murdered the Mother in a fit of passion, his actions were guided by sorrow. Something that is inherent to all men. Only....we’re not dealing with a man any more, are we?

--Yes, the crux of it all. The revelation. Equally sad, equally enraged, Jacob proved why he was not the preferred choice for Island guardian. Despite his mother’s warnings, he dragged his brother to the cave of golden light and flung him inside. And from that light, two things emerged: a pillar of angry black smoke.....and the body of the Younger Brother. Separate entities. Jacob was left to place the bodies of his two loved ones in a cave, along with the two remaining black and white stones from the Younger Brother’s beloved game. And, centuries later, someone would find them and wonder, not knowing, not suspecting.....

--Wow. Some may hate the vague, spiritual nature of the Island’s lifeforce, but I dug this episode so hard. I’m gasping at the big revelation: the Smoke Monster, the Nemesis, is not Jacob’s brother. It never was Jacob’s brother. It took his form, his voice, perhaps his memories, but it is something else, something conjured up from that golden light. The yin to the yang, the darkness to the light. It is no more Jacob’s true brother than it is John Locke. And that makes everything so much more terrifying, the stakes so much higher. Our heroes are fighting something formless and unspeakable, the personification of evil. And Jacob, poor Jacob, under his immortality and wisdom and endless patience, was always just a man. Just a man, like the rest of us. And I doubt there’s going to be a saintly avatar of goodness emerging from that golden light. It’s mortals pitted against the darkness in all our souls. If we want to stop it....we have to be the golden light ourselves. It’s the best we can do.

--So, having been amazed by all this, I can bite my nails for two more weeks of this show I love. Next week’s ep will set it all up...and then, the finish. I can scarcely believe how far it’s all come.

FINAL DISCLAIMER: A day has passed, and I still love this ep. However, from reading the forums and whatnot, I can tell that this is turning into one of Lost’s most polarizing episodes ever. I can understand that. A lot of fans want something more coherent than a cave of magical light and a bottle of wine that somehow grants immortality. Doesn’t change my feelings, though. The way I see it, there are two major types of Lost fans: those who came on board with the assumption that the show would end how they wanted it to end, with everything neatly explained and tied up in a perfect narrative bundle.....and those who came on board, realized what kind of crazy, frustrating, brilliant ride they’d signed on for, and decided to just hold on tight and roll with it. I am part of the latter category; Lost has already earned my love and respect, and (unless they go so far as to pull some kind of “It Was All a Dream” cop-out) I will accept whatever conclusion they throw at me. Because, for pulling off a story like this, they’ve earned the right to end it on their terms. And if we love the show, we should find the grace and patience to accept that.

Oh, and to anyone who thinks they want a rational, pseudo-scientific explanation for all the mystery and mysticism of Lost, all I have to say is: Midi-Chlorians.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Top 10 Video Game Bosses

I love boss battles. If done well, they are the whipped cream and cherry atop the sugary sundae of the game. Seriously, the best reward for completing X amount of gameplay is to be faced with a big, pissed-off adversary looking to fuck up your day, and then having to topple them without getting splattered all over. How satisfying! For me, the ideal boss should meet the following criteria: it should be unique, it should require the skills you’ve learned playing the game, there should be an element of strategy to the fight rather than just frantic button mashing, it should be challenging but not pointlessly frustrating, and you should feel good about yourself after beating it. Bonus points if it’s just really fucking spectacular. A boss need not fill ALL the above conditions in order to be a fave of mine, but it sure helps. Here are...


(Note: I don’t think I could rank these in order of preference, so they’re just in alphabetical order.)

Avion (Shadow of the Colossus, PS2)
Shadow of the Colossus is my favorite video game of all time, ever. And the entire game pretty much IS boss battles, so which one to choose? They’re all good, but I have to go with Colossus #5, the great eagle. This fight managed to be both spectacular and poetic, as you swim through a drowned city, attract Avion with arrows, then cling desperately to its back as it swoops and twirls above the ruins. After the first four colossi stayed predictable, Avion showed that the game was going to take the concept in all different directions and surprise you with each new foe. Noble, elegant, and tragic, the eagle raised the bar high for successive battles.

Colossus of Rhodes (God of War 2, PS2)
Everyone said, “How the hell can God of War 2 top the incredible Hydra battle that opened the first game?” Then our jaws hit the floor as a pissed-off Zeus magically animated the Colossus of Rhodes, and Kratos found himself tear-assing through the burning city with a 100-foot tall bronze pretty boy on his heels. How badass is a game that has this as its freaking tutorial sequence? My testosterone levels went through the roof as Kratos launched himself from a giant crossbow to tear the statue’s eyes out, it retaliated by flinging live soldiers at him, and then, just when you thought things couldn’t get any more intense, our hero found himself inside the damn Colossus, sabotaging its iron guts. Whoa. Just whoa. Why can’t all games start like this?

The Great Mighty Poo (Conker’s Bad Fur Day, N64)
Juvenile? You bet. But this improbably funny boss fight should be the standard for all scatological humor. It’s a giant, sentient mound of scat. That sings. In fact, he sings pretty well, and serenades our furry hero in a resonant bass while trying to subject him to a messy fate. The battle itself is pretty basic: you run, you dodge flying poo balls, you fling rolls of toilet paper into the GMP’s maw when he pauses for more operatics. It’s all in the presentation....the gross, tasteless, and awesome presentation. Oh, and when you defeat him? “I’m flushing! I’m flushing! Oh, what a world!” Excuse me while I poo myself laughing.

The Mad Hatter (American McGee’s Alice, PC/Mac)
Picture a tall, gaunt, decrepit old coot who shoots poison syringes from his fingertips and explosive mortar rounds from his top hat. Picture fighting him on a dizzying platform in some sort of nether space as giant gears and watches fly by. Picture some robot minions as well. If this sounds awesome to you, why the hell haven’t you played American McGee’s Alice? The Mad Hatter’s entire trippy, fucked-up realm was my favorite part of the game, and the boss battle with the old bastard did not disappoint. Also, remember how I like boss battles to end in a satisfying manner? When you beat the Hatter, his head explodes. Now that’s bloody satisfying, chaps. Being a polite Victorian teenage girl was never so manly.

Mad Jack (Donkey Kong 64, N64)
I love all the ginormous, creative bosses in this and other Donkey Kong games, but the prize must go to Mad Jack, a psycho jack-in-the-box who is also a duck. It’s like Ducktales meets the Insane Clown Posse. You fight him on a grid of tall pylons, helicopter-spinning frantically as he chases you, then pounding the correct switch to give him electric shocks. He shoots fireballs and lasers, then turns invisible. This deadly game of leapfrog was challenging, unpredictable, and way too much fun. The DK franchise has always had a slightly demented aesthetic, and the cackling Mad Jack personifies cartoon psychosis.

Miracle Matter (Kirby 64, N64)
I have no clue what this boss was supposed to be, but that’s Kirby for you. What matters is how fun it was. Miracle Matter appears to be a giant floating dodecahedron covered in red eyes, and it morphs into seven different forms that correspond with the seven powers Kirby can steal. So it’s basically seven battles in one, as each form moves and behaves totally different. Button mashing won’t work; each form is only weak to one ability. Kirby must think fast, memorize patterns, and be ready at all times, since you never know what the boss will turn into next. Surprising, that a cutesy game starring a fat pink marshmallow could stimulate the gray matter so much.

Oogie Boogie (Kingdom Hearts, PS2)
Kingdom Hearts is a button-mashing kinda game, and most of its boss battles were confusing particle-rendered clusterfucks. Leave it to a giant sack of bugs with a great singing voice to provide the one really interesting boss fight. Oogie Boogie traps the game’s heroes on his rotating roulette wheel of pain and flings all kinds of death at them -- swords, saw blades, you name it -- while you attempt to pound the right button that will give you access to the evil bogeyman. Aww, yeah, strategy and timing galore! And then, after you apparently defeat him, what happens? He fuses with his house to create a gigantic freaky tower of sentient doom, which you must climb all over, sabotaging its weak spots. Thank you, Tim Burton, for injecting so much cool into what could have been a kiddie game.

Pyramid Head (Silent Hill 2, PS2)
The first time you see Pyramid Head, he’s standing behind a metal gate, just....looking at you. Therein likes the creepy effectiveness of this knife-wielding, metal-headgear-sporting demon: most of the time, he’s just....there. He has a habit of appearing with no warning, and the “battles” with him consist of you just trying to avoid him, often in a dark and claustrophobic space. Yeah, we’ve heard all the rape jokes, but guess what? Play the game again, and Pyramid Head is just as scary, brutal, and mysterious. While most bosses advertise their strategies and weaknesses, he gives nothing away. I could spend hours debating Freudian symbolism and psychological subtext, but the important thing is that Pyramid Head scares the fuck out of me in the best of ways.

Sin (Final Fantasy X, PS2)
Okay, I’m finally getting around to a Final Fantasy boss (Kingdom Hearts does NOT count, dammit). You should know what I’m talking about here. Sin was a great video game nemesis, huge and ugly and lethal yet strangely poignant. I love that the game teased us for awhile before showing us what Sin looked like, and when the titanic creature took to the skies over the land of Spira...shock and awe, man. Shock and awe. The big battle with Sin takes place hundreds of feet up, with our band of heroes hunkering on top of a speeding airship and eventually hopping onto Sin itself. The great music and camera swoops were all epic and cinematic, the battle was dynamic and interesting, and this was everything a final fight should be. Of course, since this is a Final Fantasy game, there were like five or six more final fights after the Sin battle, but I don’t think any of them topped the big ol’ arial smackdown that preceded.

Yami (Okami, PS2/Wii)
This one actually was a final boss fight, and damn if it wasn’t fun and challenging. After hearing so much about Yami, the Evil Demon Lord of Deadly Doom, we finally meet him, and he angry little fish inside a giant robot sphere? Wait, isn’t this game set in ancient Edo? Oy, gotta love the Japanese. Anyway, the fight begins with Amaterasu the wolf losing all her powers, so you have to win them back over the course of the fight. This is a total dick move, but Okami made it work somehow. Meanwhile, Yami takes on several different forms, all of which must be fought differently with different regained powers. The fight goes on for awhile, but it’s awesome from start to finish, with moving platforms, fire, lightning, acrobatics, and a gay dude playing a flute. Yeah, even the gay dude playing the flute is badass. What a great climax to a wonderful game. And I bet you didn’t know that space aliens fucked up medieval Japan! Actually, it explains a lot.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lost, Season 6, Episode 14

6.14: The Candidate

--Fuck you, Lost. Just........fuck you.

--I hate you. But then, you knew I was gonna wind up hating you eventually, didn’t you? You knew it the minute you greenlit this fucking episode. In case people somehow missed it....Sayid, Sun, and Jin just died. Spoiler alert. UnLocke is pure evil and the fools theorizing that maybe the big twist is that we should be rooting for the bad guy...well, they can fuck right off. I’ll get the really uncomfortable question out of the way first: What is it about Lost killing off minorities? I mean, they already purged the show of black people (except for Rose, who might as well be dead for all we’ve seen of her on the Island lately), and now it’s time for the Arabs and Asians to go? Kinda tactless, maybe? Now I want Miles to survive just to prove my cynical theory wrong.

--Soooo, Jack’s little abandonment of his friends last episode was all for naught, as Widmore’s new captives were busted from the Polar Bear Cages and back under UnLocke’s wing before the freakin’ fifteen-minute mark. So much for that little development. Still, it was awesome to see all the surviving (at that point) Lostaways back together! Hell, if you covered your ears to block out the dialogue, you could pretend it was Season One and Locke was his old survivalist self, and Claire had just gone without Loréal for a little too long! As UnLocke led our heroes along by their noses, Jack played the broken record by constantly whining that he wasn’t leaving. UnLocke “discovered” some explosives on Flight 316 and led his band to the sub instead, which they captured with suspicious ease. In the process, Kate got shot and Claire got left behind but Jack managed to give UnLocke the slip and board the sub himself. Yay, the good guys win? Only...why does UnLocke have his most demonic leer on?

--As anyone could guess who was paying attention to backpacks, our heroes found they’d brought along an unwelcome extra passenger: the explosives. In a nicely tense scene, Jack tried to talk everyone else out of defusing the bomb, pointing out that UnLocke apparently cannot kill any of them....but they can kill each other. Sawyer wasn’t buying it; he tried to diffuse the bomb and wound up dooming half the main cast. Sayid took the fatal fall, running the bomb away after revealing that Desmond was still alive, duh. I called Sayid’s death. I also figured Frank would die and he (presumably) did, though I’m kinda fucking pissed that the show NEVER FUCKING DID ANYTHING WITH FRANK THIS SEASON. I rather LIKED him and would have liked to see him do more than STAND AROUND IN THE BACKGROUND AND MAKE THE OCCASIONAL WITTY ASIDE. Again, show, FUCK YOU.

--See, the problem is, this episode was overall really good. Like, gripping and dramatic and drenched in the best kinda irony. Which makes it sad that I have to hate the ep. How can I not hate it? As the sub sank, Sun was trapped by wreckage and Jin refused to leave her, and so they went down together. Hey, Lost viewers, that wound looks nice and raw and bloody, but maybe it could use a little salt. Here, have a shot of Jin and Sun’s lifeless hands drifting away from each other! That should perk ya right up! What’s that? You’re crying? Awww, don’t cry! Here, have a dead puppy on a stick! Seriously, show, I hate you. Yeah, they get to live happily ever after in the flash-sideways. Yeah, it would’ve been arguably more cruel to leave one of them alive and permanently guilt-stricken. But still. Also, WHY DID THEY SPEAK ENGLISH AT EACH OTHER? Do you really think we’re so dumb that we’ll take character inconsistency over reading subtitles? Grrrrrr.

--And in the slightly less horrific flash-sideways, Jack offered post-surgery Locke a new procedure that might fix his legs, but Locke refused. So Jack, meddling wannabe fixer that he is, did some research (hi, sideways Bernard!) and found his way to Locke’s evil dad, Anthony Cooper. Only sideways Cooper ain’t evil, on account of being a vegetable in a wheelchair.....courtesy of Locke, who talked his dad into a maiden airplane flight and promptly crashed them both into oblivion. As we see, irony is being applied with a paintbrush here. Hell, Jack even got to tell Locke, “I wish you’d believed me!” Pretty slick flash-sideways, and I like that they’re giving Claire lots to do, even if she still is kinda dumb. That music box that Christian bequeathed to her....were we supposed to recognize it? Apart from the “Catch a Falling Star” shout-out, I wasn’t sure of the significance. But it was amusing to see sideways Jack slowly crumpling under the weight of so many coincidences. Something tells me he’ll be nice and malleable when sideways Desmond tracks him down.

--So, yeah. Fuck you, show. You killed off some of our favorite characters, and even though it was inevitable that major heroes die at some point, that made it no easier. YOU MADE HURLEY CRY. There is no worse offense. When Hurley cries, the universe cries with him. You should’ve put this episode before the hiatus week so we’d have time to stop loathing you. As it is, I’ll be approaching next week’s ep with wounds that are still very raw. Can’t wait for the next load of salt to be rubbed into them! What’ll it be -- Kate dying of infection while Jack and Sawyer scream at each other over her corpse and Hurley accidentally shoots Vincent?

--One more thing to be pissed off about: Sayid’s last words were, “It’s going to be you, Jack.” I’m hoping that doesn’t mean what I think it means. Because I REALLY don’t want Jack to be the winning Candidate. It’d be so predictable and obvious! It needs to be Sawyer, dammit! SAWYER. Kate probably agrees with me; why can’t you?