May 29, 2008

WERE BLIND, BUT DO THEY GET TO SEE?:

Philosophy, Mystery, Anarchy: All Is ‘Lost’ (GINIA BELLAFANTE, 5/29/08, NY Times)

“Lost” is deeply invested in the idea that no belief system is failsafe, no spiritualism entirely benign. The gods deliver and destroy. It is engaged in the conflict between reason and faith, a tension embodied explicitly in the character of Locke (Terry O’Quinn), a pragmatist who comes to the island in a wheelchair, but whose sudden ability to walk turns him into a believer in inexplicable renewal.

Intriguingly, this season we have seen Locke — whose full name is actually, yes, John Locke — both as a little boy and as a teenager, a youngster with impressive scientific aptitude, fingered early on by Mittelos. Here again, spirituality and science are all a jumble; both are ostensibly demons.

Locke, who was, as a boy, given the sort of test used to determine the next Dalai Lama, is apparently perceived as a potential chosen one by a recruiter from Mittelos who is one of the island’s Others. Here’s where the show’s encoded references just send us down circuitous, maddening paths: the recruiter’s name is Richard Alpert, that of the ’60s Harvard psychologist (and friend of Timothy Leary’s), dismissed from the faculty for experimenting with LSD. Mr. Alpert became the spiritual leader Ram Dass, whose name means “servant of God,” and in the context of the show could signify that Alpert, the character, is either not quite as creepy as he seems, or rather that all those who live to serve a higher power are creepily misguided.

In the years since Sept. 11 and the Iraq invasion, television has captured the national anxiety by dismissing the notion of easy resolutions. At its best — on the HBO series “The Sopranos” and “The Wire”— we were shown just how far out of our reach the gratifying conclusion really is. “Lost” is nowhere near as philosophically refined, but it has maximized the potential of narrative uncertainty and made it a beguiling constant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2008 5:51 AM
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