Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lost - Season 4

*SPOILERS EVERYWHERE* Don't read this post if you haven't seen Lost before. This is intended as a retrospective review from someone who has seen the show before, and so will not resonate as well or be particularly revealing for someone who hasn't.


Sawyer is a character who, while always amusing, is generally predictable. You can always look to him to make up ridiculous nicknames, to show macho bravado, and to flirt incessantly with any woman who looks remotely attractive to him. He's the jerk with the heart of gold, the rogue with a past, the one who refuses to take any dangerous situation seriously. These traits define his character for much of the series, though one can definitely observe a change from think-for-your-selfer to defender of the group, like any good Han Solo.

But what I want to talk about here is how his relationship with Kate seems to change him. From day one, we know that Sawyer has the hots for her, but we're never given much of an impression that he would genuinely change himself in order to get her. Yes, he says that he loves her but, hell, so does everyone else on the island. More seriously, despite what he says in how much he cares for her, you're never really convinced that the two of them hooking up will make him become anything but what he appears to be: a charismatic, happy-go-lucky, independent philanderer.

However, this seems to change subtly in season 4. Presented with the opportunity to finally leave the island, Sawyer tells Kate that he's going to stay. What's more, Sawyer asks Kate to join him, to move in with him, and to make a life on the island together. Given the context, this is tantamount to a marriage proposal. Kate is unable to take the offer seriously, but Sawyer looks as serious as we've ever seen him. When she later spends the night with him halfway through the season, Sawyer is happy as can be, viewing it as her being close to taking up his offer to live together on the island, no matter what others say. But then he discovers that the truth is anything but. In a bittersweet scene, Sawyer tries to reason with Kate about what's bothering her, but fails to reach her (mainly because she's there to spy on Locke's group and has to manufacture an excuse to leave). I found this poignant because, of all people, Sawyer tries to solve a problem just like someone in a marriage or relationship would, by talking about what Kate really wants and how he can factor that into his own point of view.

Why the change?

This isn't something I really noticed the first time I watched Lost, but Sawyer here genuinely tries to shape himself into something solid and lasting. Faced with the choice of the island or the real world, Sawyer chooses the island and, in that choice, it's as if he's decided to grow up. Instead of going with the flow of things, rejecting to look out for others, and following his own interests, Sawyer embraces as his own those who chose to stay on the island. And he tries to get the one person he truly loves, Kate, to be a part of this with him.

As for why, I think that Sawyer wised up. From conversations with Ben and others, Sawyer can see that what Kate wants is someone who is good at heart, caring, and selfless (like Jack). This shift in his goals and interests, this maturing, is what he believes Kate will stay for, and so he makes that change his number one objective. It's hard not to appreciate how much this says about the depth of his caring for her. It's frankly adorable, like watching a gruff hairy dog that never listens to you suddenly trot up to a cute dog, lick her, and quietly walk along beside her.

Dog analogies aside, I thought the change in Sawyer's character worthy of note. For a character defined by his independence, it was surprising to see him try to stretch as far as he could to sway Kate to spend the rest of her life with him. It doesn't work out for Kate and Sawyer in the end, but it is the first change we see of what results in him becoming a responsible leader of all the others remaining on the island after the main survivors split off.

Desmond Hume

I actually don't plan on writing much about Desmond himself here so much as I want to point out why it is that he's everyone's favorite character. The funniest part is that the reason for this is because the writers failed. They tried to write him a certain way, but screwed up. The result is to ironically make him better than he would have been if he had 'worked as intended'.

Lost is defined by showing us characters who are inherently flawed. Nobody is perfect. The average character of the show is a person who tries to do good but is prevented from easily doing so by a crippling imperfection, usually deriving from a past experience. Here are some examples:
  • Jack – Great, determined, good leader. Doesn't know when to quit, hates leading, and cries a lot.
  • Locke – Capable, caring. Rejects the status quo if it doesn't have something he is driving towards. Needs lessons in anger management.
  • Jin – Entertaining. Resolved to do the right thing. Occasionally forgets that he can be a good husband.
  • Sayid – Great guy. Has trouble not torturing people.
  • Charlie – Cool dude. Drug addict.
  • Claire – Cute with baby. Unspeakably annoying.
  • Hurley – Adorable heart of the group. Technically useless.
  • Vincent – Dog. Never around.
  • Michael – WAAAAAALT!
I could come up with more, but the point is that every character has at least one clearly negative trait that prevents them from being fully admirable.
Pictured: Vincent, who tragically never gets his own episode

But what about Desmond? What makes Desmond an exception (and a writing failure) is that the audience is informed that Desmond's weakness is that he is a coward, but he is clearly anything but. There is nothing this guy does that doesn't reek of courage. When Locke flips out because he messed up the hatch, Desmond takes charge and risks his life to save everyone on the island. When Desmond receives visions of Charlie dying, he goes out of his way to stop fate itself from succeeding. When presented with the fact that the love of his life is out in the real world and far away from the island, he does everything within his power to reunite them both while simultaneously saving everyone he can.

Even in moments where we are supposed to view him as a cowardly failure, we see him as anything but. Any scene he has with Charles Widmore is indicative of this; Widmore tells Desmond why he's useless and Desmond stands up to him and refuses to say the same. When Widmore tells Desmond that he isn't worthy of marrying Penny, Desmond completely ignores him. If this is cowardice then how are we supposed to tell when Desmond is being courageous??

This is why I say that the writers failed. Unlike the other characters, whose flaws we can visibly see, we are simply told that Desmond is a coward but not given any actual evidence. It's like George Lucas telling you that Darth Vader is intended to be a super cuddly nice guy and then him putting you in a chair to watch Star Wars for the first time; it just doesn't make sense! Consequently, because Desmond is arguably the only character in the show without a genuine flaw, he becomes everyone's favorite guy, the character you can always root for, with an epic romantic odyssey besides.


I have less to say about how the overall story of season 4 progressed because it was relatively short and wasn't objectionable. Well, let me correct that: everything that happened on the island was pretty cool. We see Jack's camp versus Locke's camp, the warring factions of Ben's Others versus Widmore's freighter mercenaries, and we start to see interesting manipulations of the island's supernatural side-effects, such as time travel.

By contrast, everything that happens in flash-forwards was a pain in my ass. Seriously, if it had been less of a chore, I might have skipped these scenes. It isn't necessarily because the events within them are uninteresting, it's because the characters themselves moan endlessly about how we should go back to the island, just like I am. This show is based on weird stuff happening on the island, so why the hell are we off it? Flashbacks are one thing, but to have actual plot occur off-island when the real important stuff is what happens on it made it feel like a depressing waste of time. It also features Jack at his most annoying (beardy alcoholic).

On the bright side, I'm really looking forward to season 5 because, flash-forwards aside, I want to see the progression in Sawyer and Juliet (who was ridiculously hard to write about and pin down, if you couldn't tell). More to come soon!


  1. You hit the nail on the head, Sawyer ultimately does change for Kate.

    However, I disagree about WHEN the change begins. I think it STARTS happening in season 3, when he returns to the beach after being captured by the Others. Kate, Sayid, and Locke are running around trying to find Jack. Hurley comes up to Sawyer and says that they're essentially "voting him off the island" for being a turd. If he can prove to them that he can provide for the group: catch food, build fires, kiss babies, etc. he can stay.

    Sawyer does all this for fear of being banished. When he learns that Hurley has deceived him, he proclaims it, "the lamest con in history!" To which Hurley replies that Sawyer has leadership potential. Season 3 has left the survivors super depressed (especially Hurley). With all the other "leader types" off on the other side of the island, Hurley says that they need someone they can depend on. They all SEE this in Sawyer, even though he doesn't see it in himself. He's capable of being more than what he views himself as.

    Sawyer: What if I don't want to be the leader?
    Hurley: Yeah, well, I don't think Jack wanted it either. Sucks to be you, dude.

    That was the moment for me that Sawyer begins to see himself other than someone who's just a conman. He CAN change his stripes, and as is often said in the series, he gets a chance to be something else, something better.

    I agree with you that he primarily does it for Kate ESPECIALLY in the season finale, but when season 5 comes around, he is thrust into a leadership position. At that point, their hope for survival is for Sawyer to use his charm, bravado, and quick thinking to help everyone else to continue to live on the island. Juliet (not unlike Hurley) puts her faith in him for this, and because he's begun to change, Sawyer can become a real hero.

    Ha ha, I concur that the stuff that happens off the island is kinda dumb. The skipping back and forth between WHEN things happen off the island is also annoying. Jack has a beard, now he doesn't, blah blah. Yet, it's essential for the characters who WANT to leave (mainly just Jack) to realize what the island did to them. What changes came about because of it, and that there are people back there that need and depend on them. Ben says this to Jack at the end of Season 3, that he has NOTHING to go back what, he wants to go back to FIXING things there?

    It makes sense why they leave, and really, the two main people who whine about it are Hurley and Jack. Nobody else wants to go back.

    Also, and I know I'm probably the only one who feels this way, I like that Jack has to fall apart and pick up the pieces to put himself back together. I felt like the series needed to know that because Jack is fixated on perfection, he ultimately breaks himself (and the island insures that) so he can become better and let go of his need for control.

  2. Haha, I agree and disagree. I definitely agree with Sawyer's transition to leader beginning where you describe it. But I disagree with regard to it having anything to do with Kate (at that time). In this post, I tried to focus specifically on how Kate herself affected change in Sawyer. With his leader time on the beach, I don't believe Kate was present, and it seemed more like it was Sawyer liking the idea of being trusted, appreciated, and relied upon by people other than himself. This is good change, don't get me wrong. But it didn't have anything to do with Kate. Though, I will admit, seeing that he could change like that probably was a spur in him trying to change for Kate later, in the events I focused on.

    I ALSO agree with you regarding the events off the island. I don't doubt that they're necessary, but it's hard not to get frustrated with watching them. After all, the characters themselves are frustrated, everything is supposed to feel off, and nothing productive is happening because they have to get back to the island. From a character growth standpoint, it's necessary. Watching it, however, isn't all that fun.

    I'm with you on appreciating how Jack has to break in order to figure out that his perfectionist perspective is flawed. More than perhaps any other character, Jack changes in a big way throughout the series. He'll almost certainly be one of the characters I write about in the last season review. But, you have to admit, he's kind of a pain in the ass in the middle section where he gets more and more extreme before finally making that change, no? =P

  3. Ohhhh okay. No, I don't think that had anything to do with Kate at the time (no, she wasn't present). I thought you meant that Kate sparked the beginning of the change and that it all started in season 4.

    That's true, like the hatch season 2. Or ANY "previously on Lost" from season 2 and 4.

    I don't think Jack was that whiny. I mean, he sees his dead father, Hurley thinks everyone's in heaven, he thinks Kate is emotionally cheating on him with Sawyer, and then she breaks off their engagement (which reminds me, I have a good icon for that!). I do think he's kind of a self-entitled twat, "I saved you, he's not your kid" etc. Plus, he finds out he has a half sister.

    Of course, I should probably yield to your judgement. It's been awhile since I sat through all of season 4, so you're probably right. I know a lot of the "previously on's" have him yelling about going back, which annoyed the hell out of me.

  4. Holy crapola, if only there were a button built into Netflix so that I could skip any "previously on Lost" on a whim, my life would be complete.

    Yeah, you're right. Jack isn't that whiny, and he's justified in what he's doing. He's just so absolutely TERRIBLE at convincing the others to go with him back to the island that it's somewhat agonizing to watch. It's as bad as his bedside manner! That and all his alcoholism seems about as tired for him as it is for us to be presented with the question, "Will Charlie do drugs again?" Alcoholism is something Jack associates with his father; it seems silly that he'd genuinely embrace that. But maybe I'm just nitpicking!

    "We have to go baaaack!" *punches the TV screen*

  5. ...I had to hold in my bladder at that last part. TMI, I know, ooooor you're just that funny.