Thursday, January 22, 2009

For what it's worth...

I think both Battlestar Galactica and Lost are back in good form.

The two bits of my pre-premiere talk on "Lost" last night that I'll now cherry-pcik to make myself look smart:

1) Hume's philosophy includes a funny combination of apparent determinism with skepticism about [what we can know about] causation. Desmond [David Hume's] unique status with respect to the timeslip parts of the story-- he was the first character to get knocked loose from the timestream, the first whose consciousness went time-traveling, the first to experience the impossibility of changing history, and the first to nonetheless make use of timeslips in non-paradox-inducing ways-- and his unique status off the island [he's not one of the Oceanic Six and so far there haven't been any indications that he's included in the mandate to return, but he's still an island escapee and therefore tied to it-- in a way that seems more important than, say, Walt]-- will be centrally important as the story becomes more and more about time.

2) One of the three possibilities I laid out for why Locke becomes Bentham is that, in between then and now, he learned that he had to sacrifice his life to maximize the well-being of the greatest number of Islanders for whom he now had responsibility. Locke (philosopher) not only supports individual rights but also insists on the moral priority of life and condemns suicide. An act of utility-maximizing self-sacrifice is commemorated by his ceasing to be Locke at all and becoming Bentham. (But I admit that this was not my *preferred* possibility.)

A thought about Lost that doesn't have anything to do with political theory: Hurley always seems like he's in a slightly different show, and somehow the actor and the writers make that work very effectively. It's not just that he's comic relief, or that he's the one to stand in (very obviously) for the viewers ("I was never too clear on that part"). More generally he seems like his world only occasionally intersects with the dark, grim, meaningful, trumpet-heavy world of the rest of the characters, and that he's only intermittently interested in that world.

This has always been true of him, though he didn't always seem quite so on his own. The grimmest characters from the first season have tended to have the highest survival rate into later seasons; Rose and Bernard excepted, the major surviving Survivors are people with pretty heavy baggage and major Issues. Charlie, Boone, and Shannon had all of that too-- but they often featured in lighter scenes and exchanges. Now: well, everyone else's world has Alan Dale as a glowering presence in it, whereas Hurley's has Cheech. And Linus seemed not to understand this; he showed up in Hurley's kitchen making the kind of grim, opaque, meaningful speech that works on someone like Locke, Jack, or Sayiid. And Hurley responded appropriately-- which meant that he responded like a character from a different show. I got a kick out of it.

3 comments:

K.S.Erickson said...

I like your take on Hume. The first (and so far, only) thing that's come to my mind re: the Locke/Bentham transformation is the fact that John is now, if not like Bentham in mind, at least so in body.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Bentham#Auto-icon

Jacob T. Levy said...

That was the first of my three options: cheap sight gag for the dead philosopher in a box.

K.S.Erickson said...

Here's hoping the vote to return to the island is split 3-3 amongst the Oceanic 6 and Bentham breaks the tie by voting in favor.