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'Lost': Hugo Reyes is a sad, sad man

April 13, 2010 | 11:45 pm

 See, here's a pretty big reason for why I don't think the answers we're going to get as the show ends are not the most important thing as we head into the end of "Lost." Because tonight, we got an answer to a big question that's been around since Season One -- just what are the strange whispers some characters hear when they enter the jungle -- and the answer was pretty much exactly what many, many people have guessed it would be from back around Season Two, when it became pretty obvious that they weren't The Others. The whispers, then, are the Island's dead, telling the living to look out, in the least helpful way possible (whispered and backwards). Now, I didn't mind this revelation entirely because it was nice to see Harold Perrineau as Michael again, but the dialog tried its best to ruin the scene for me. 

Michael pretty much just wanders over to Hurley while Hurley's out in the middle of the jungle, having broken apart from his friends because he heard the whispers, and he says something along the lines of, "SO THE WHISPERS ARE JUST THE ISLAND'S DEAD?" and Michael says something like, "YEAH, PRETTY MUCH," and it was a scene that was all exposition and tried its best to drag down what ended up being a nice character moment, when Michael apologized for killing Libby oh so many years ago and Hurley seemed to be OK with that apology. I mean, it wasn't the worst scene in the history of the show (or, really, even as bad as I'm making it out to be above), since both Perrineau and Jorge Garcia sold it as best as they could. But it was clumsy, and it continues my theory that many, many of these answers are going to be the things we guessed way back when, that the show is clever but not so clever as to outsmart literally every person following it obsessively on the Internet.

This may be why the creators of the show spent most of the build-up to the final season frantically spinning about how the final season wasn't going to be about answers. It was going to be about characters. The problem with this, I guess, is that these episodes, then, rise or fall based almost entirely on how much you like the characters at their center. Me, I don't have a "Lost" character I terribly dislike (only Kate tends to raise my ire), so the season has mostly slid by me, with even the weaker hours striking me as nicely agreeable. But if the show is going to give us answers -- and give them to us clumsily -- then I'd like it to couch them in character storylines I can get behind. And, for the most part, the tale of Hurley's attempts to take charge in two different timelines was the kind of "Lost" candy I most enjoy.

Hurley's always been one of my favorite characters. He started out as the audience identification character (and the show still uses him as such much of the time), but as the series has gone on and all involved have realized just how soulful of an actor Garcia is, the show has made him something much closer to the series' heart. He's the one the show turns to when it wants us to feel something more intensely than we might normally. When Charlie died in the third season finale, it was a tear-jerking moment, to be sure, but when the show wanted us to feel that pain all over again, it showed us just how destroyed Hurley was by the information (coming off of a moment when he was joyful at the prospect of rescue). Hurley's the guy the show turns to when it needs to make some of its most ridiculous plot twists sound organic -- remember how he summarized the show to his mom at the top of Season Five? -- and he's the guy that seems to most fully feel the tragic weight of what has happened on the Island.

Hurley started out as a comic book type, an easy reversal, like so many of the characters. He was the rich guy who had one moment of luck and then saw that luck washed away by an even worse series of misfortunes. It was the kind of easy character switch that the show thrived on in its early going, but as the series went on, Garcia proved he could be everything from sweetly tragic comic relief (the unfairly maligned "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead") to something of a romantic (the even more unfairly maligned "Dave," one of my 15 or 20 favorite hours of the show ever). The Hurley backstory was filled with tragedy, and Garcia found every moment of nuance in it, yet kept pressing forward. (I have a friend who thinks that "Tricia" is the key that unlocks the entirety of the show's themes, positing the show as less a series about fate versus free will and more a series about what YOU do when you realize you have a choice to make. I made fun of him for coming up with the theory at the time, but now, he looks downright prescient. Between "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "Tricia," the mid-section of Season Three might prove to be the most significant portion of the show.)

Anyway, when Tuesday's episode opened with a slideshow featuring Hurley's face, growing into the man he became, smiling, holding a dog, hanging out with his family, it seemed as though the show was going to show us just how happy the other world was for him, just how much he'd gotten everything he'd always wanted. Like all of our other castaways, Hurley is living the life he thought he wanted -- everything he touches turns to gold, and everybody loves him -- but he's learning that it's missing the one thing it would need to make it exactly what he wanted. And he's willing to move heaven and Earth to get that one thing, just like Desmond, just like Charlie, and maybe just like everybody else.

Look again at that scene, though. As Pierre Chang (and hello to him!) talks about how great Hurley is and the images flash by, the music is almost gorgeously sad. Michael Giacchino's score (which may have been the best it's ever been in this episode -- and that's saying something) plays off a simple theme for piano and strings that builds from the basic melody line and becomes something that echoes all of the tragic weight that has accumulated around Hugo Reyes over the years. Here's another man faking at being happy in this alternate universe, another man who needs Desmond to come along and wake him up. It's a great scene because the text is almost all happy -- even Garcia's face shines with a genuine smile. We read the tragedy into it because we know Hurley's true story, and Giacchino is there to guide us. It's the kind of scene that indicates we're in the hands of people who know exactly what story they're telling and where they're going. It's a scene that, frankly, is probably better than the episode it leads into.

On the other hand, after a few weeks when I can see why people thought the on-Island action paused for a bunch of character backstory (the magnificent "Happily Ever After" aside), "Everybody Loves Hugo" started down the path to the show's final hours again. Richard's plan to blow up the plane was returned to after what felt like months (it was actually only two weeks), and Hurley's decision to avert the plan at all costs after Michael told him lots of people would die trying to blow up the plane gave him the role of leader that the team Jacob crew has needed. (I mean, don't get me wrong. I like hanging out with these characters, but compared to team Locke, they're not exactly paragons of taking initiative.) So, again, the characters split off into separate groups, with Ben and Richard heading off on a seemingly quixotic task to blow up the plane all by themselves with no dynamite (since Hurley blew up the Black Rock). I find this endless reshuffling of who's on which side kind of tiresome even at its best, but Hurley's plan -- to go talk to Locke -- did give us that fantastic scene where all of the Season One characters sans Jin were together again in the same clearing, bruised and bloodied and DIFFERENT but still bound together somehow.

It's here that we'll pause for a moment to be sad that we barely knew Ilana. I knew that the show was never going to have time to delve into her backstory, since out of the gang on Jacob's side, it seemed far more pressing to give us the story of how Richard came to be who he was. And, yeah, Ilana (and pretty much everyone who came with her) seems to be about as useless to the overall narrative as the gang from the tail section was in Season Two (though, to be fair, Mr. Eko would have been far more important had the actor not wanted out of the show). At the same time, the way she was dispatched -- dynamite just suddenly going off -- shouldn't have been as effective as it was, considering it also took out Arzt. But man, that was, indeed, a great shock (and it didn't even close out the act).

Lockers  But speaking of Season Two characters who never amounted to much, we finally got closure on the story of just what was up with Libby, the character "Lost" added as a regular in Season Two, cast with a truly great actress in Cynthia Watros and then never did anything with before killing her off. Sure, we don't find out just why she was in the Santa Rosa mental hospital in the main timeline, but I don't know that I needed that answer for the show to make sense, and the answer we got in the sideways timeline -- she has problems recognizing reality, whatever that means -- is the sort of thing that could easily be ported over to the real timeline if I really felt so inclined. Does it mostly seem to be a commentary on Libby's realization that the sideways timeline is somehow wrong? Sure. But it's also a nice commentary on the show itself, on just how much the series has layered and built upon its mythology until it's harder and harder to know what's "real."

And, c'mon, even if Hurley and Libby aren't half the couple that, say, Desmond and Penny or Sun and Jin are, the scene where they finally got to go on their picnic was very sweet, a little bath of sunshine in the midst of an hour that just got darker and darker. It's no coincidence, I think, that this scene took place at the beach. The beach has often been a place of innocence and safety on "Lost," a place where the characters could retreat when they just needed. I wouldn't call it a great scene, but I think it's a sweet one, and sweet scenes are going to be few and far between as this show reaches its denouement.

Because, let's face it, "Lost" is finally embracing its tragic weight. As it reaches its end, the series has to become, in some ways, a show about sacrifice, about giving some things up to gain other things and seeing just what that looks like. Hurley's the guy who seems least likely to be the one still standing, the one that is Jacob's communication device (except when he's only pretending to be), the one who may step in and protect the Island. But, really, he's the perfect guy to have around as everything comes to its end, which may be why Jacob understands his gifts. Hurley's the guy who will deeply feel just how much things have shifted, just how much those who are lost will be missed. Hurley is the heart of "Lost," just as Desmond is its soul, but that heart seems almost cursed, now, to be one that is weighted down with sorrow, with the sense that duty often carries with it a grave sense of loss.

Some other thoughts:

  • *** Nice "Seinfeld" reference, "Lost." The Human Fund indeed.
  • *** And lo, though all around him stumble or are EXPLODED by DYNAMITE, FRANK LAPIDUS still draweth breath.
  • *** LOCKE PUSHED DESMOND IN A WELL. THEN DESMOND HIT LOCKE WITH A CAR. Now, I don't think Desmond is dead -- since he's not the kind of character you kill off without a body shown -- but I also imagine he's not long for this world. At the same time, I have to assume smacking Locke with the car is a way to try to wake up the Locke parts that reside inside of the Man in Black in the real timeline.
  • *** OK, that scene where Locke and Desmond talk about who dug the well and how Widmore is only looking for power (probably true) was really well-written and acted.
  • *** Jack's learning to let go, eh? That's probably good, since he's become a lot more palatable in recent weeks, since he's decided that his purpose will arrive if he just sits around and waits for it to. It's maybe not the most dramatically interesting tack, but as the supporting character in everyone else's story, I like what he's doing.
  • *** Man, Sawyer and Kate are just sitting around now, aren't they?
  • *** That shot of Desmond pushing his sunglasses up on his eyes and driving away from another successful love match was some straight-up "CSI: Miami" stuff.
  • *** Oh, and why can Desmond see that kid? There'd better be a Jacob and Man in Black episode that explains all of this.
  • *** I don't often say this, but I suspect this episode is one that will play a little better someday on DVD. It's the first show to deal with the series' altered flash-sideways reality, and that means a certain amount of restating last week's premise.
  • *** Willy Wonka? Really?
  • *** E-mail me or Twitter me if you got stuff to say! Or post in comments.

--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photos: Hurley (Jorge Garcia) mourns his lost love, Libby. Below: John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) cuts a pretty nice profile. (Credit: ABC)

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