Feb. 25th, 2016

proximoception: (Default)
All Leftovers brought out to spoil:

So season 1 was about different reactions to true loss, the sort that shatters the implicit deal the world has made with you. New deals are sought, many ostensibly with the world but in fact with oneself - the first deal is "naive," the second sentimental/self-conscious, one you know you're making, one you know (deep down you know) your hands are both sides of the shake.

Deals like: if I stop caring then what I care about cannot be taken away again; if I do the bidding of one saying he is God then I can tell myself I will be spared further pain (and then maybe start to believe it, which really might remove the true pain); if I listen to the irrational then I can reason with it, or adopt its reason and this pain will have mesnt something; if I expose those who seek to tout false new deals for safety with the world then I will cease being driven mad by the thought one might be possible, even though it means accepting the permanence of my loss; if I lie to others to take away their pain perhaps I'll start to believe it myself and lose my own - perhaps my lie will prove to be true magic; if I perform the traditional magic rituals just as I did before my loss perhaps it will prove a test and all will be somehow restored; if I convince others that nothing can now be done perhaps I'll believe it myself; if I am good in every way possible perhaps further loss will be prevented (as I was not good before, perhaps I was somehow the cause); if I try hard enough perhaps I'll find something close enough to what I've lost that if I blur my eyes I'll feel I've lost nothing; if I ignore or silence those who speak of loss perhaps I can pretend it didn't happen.

And of course a lot of these have "secondary" versions, where they're about those lost TO loss - attempts to win back someone lost to one of these other costly deals.

Season 2 recaps a lot of this, but ropes in another group of deal-makers: those who see others lose - vividly enough that they can no longer be naive in their world-trust - and seek to make new deals so as to not face loss themselves. (Though we eventually learn they've all lost too, such that maybe there's never a point of naivety, but only ever different approaches to poking the mystery.)

Deals like: if we repeat the traditional magic rituals of safety perhaps they'll prove to have been what protected us and will continue to work (priest at black church, doctor); if we irrationally repeat the singular or repeated actions that happened when others were lost perhaps we'll appease the irrational taking forces enough to stay saved (goat guy, wedding girl); if we sacrifice something immense perhaps we will be spared greater loss (ex-pedophile, presumably pillar guy, maybe Kevin); if we go where the safe ones are and do what they do perhaps we will be safe like them (Nora, Matt, all the outside people).

The safety-avouchers breed resentment in those who feel no safety can be found: your magic didn't work for me, so why should it work for you? I will make it stop working for you (Liv Tyler?), I will show you by harming you that it never could have really worked - that all was coincidence (Liv Tyler?), I will show you that you have been harmed and have suffered losses you are denying (glasses daughter?, her brother finally).

The fireman is against novel supernatural promises of safety and vaguely annoyed but tolerant of routinized non-invasive traditional ones. This would seem to make sense: back your shit up or telegraph that you don't really mean it or you're a dangerous liar. His mistakes aren't "deal" ones like all the others, but superadded - he's a psycho vigilante about it because he's been hurt by a religious man (or anyway we assume the man was then religious); he's not wrong in his worries but in his lack of trust in the judgement of others (which is sort of justified, in context) and (especially) his lack of sympathy. He's a strawman, since what he represents barely exists and where it does causes much less preventable grief than every other mistaken position examined on the show. And is essentially a hybrid, a patch-man: the direction and means/intensity of his opposition are separate matters. The latter's brought in to help justify attacking the former, like it was with Nora in S1.

Lindelof has to use him to slander the New (i.e. activist) Atheist position because a) otherwise the show looks like an attack on religion rather than a sympathetic and disinterested examination of how/why it happens (an attack which it totally is, but will mostly be dismissed as propaganda if it looks like it is), b) otherwise the show's own take on the supernatural becomes clear and it loses a huge source of audience interest (two, actually: the tease of what the supernatural wants and the tease of whether there's a supernatural), and c) because he's probably an agnostic of the "in case of emergency break glass" kind rather than the "it's in a strict sense possible that a different sort of Anything can happen than the sort that all plausible sources of confirmation have thus far confirmed exclusively extant" kind (i.e. atheists). You'd think he couldn't be, given his close probing of so many of the psychological and just plain logical issues involved, but that's the easiest sort of nonsense for people who know better to retain - and history teaches us people who know better can retain just about any nonsense.

I look at it charitably for two reasons: 1) it probably helps someone write a show like this, since it allows more of the "wrong" characters to be "inhabited" by the writer, both because of a lack of temptation to categorically reject and the fact that they and the writer are both finally addicts (sounds bad, fine, but anyone with ANY position on this at last thinks everyone else is an addict, no? - and the show shows quite handily how non-positions are still positions, in this area), even if one is a mint-sucker and the other a chain-smoker; 2) because it keeps the "anything can happen" vibe alive in the narrative - real life has it by default, but art dealing heavily in ideas starts to feel constructed BY ideas, thus arid, unless something about the characters is kept clear of those ideas, which is facilitated by a final position of "no one knows what the fuck is going on" (or, as Yeats puts it, "What do we know but that we face / One another in this place?"). I mean, it's kind of cheap but it technically means the characters' inability to see through one another is guaranteed, and this mechanical otherness keeps alive dramatic otherness - or anyway lets the human otherness of the actors' faces into the conceptual push of any given frame.

There's other ways to do that, but maybe not with this particular series-m.o. It's literally sui generis the way The Walking Dead is, since for each unprecedented and unbreakable rules have been set up that mean most normal t.v. show practices have to be heavily retooled or abandoned. I think it's sensibly become even more reliant on realistically idiosyncratic and/or opaque actor expressions in season 2, since fewer and fewer people can be thinking of it as a thriller, even if our attention is still directed by thriller conventions and pleasures. In S1 the big trick was keeping *occurrences* feeling realistically unstable - finding a place where the weird of real life and the weird of the supernatural could both fit the tone of events, so that the two sorts of explanations for each weren't just causally compatible with it but tonally so; they kept that up (and fantastically) for the early episodes of S2 but then switched to "miracle" mode, where we're pushed beyond 50/50 ambiguity toward thinking something more than physical laws must be at work in events even if we can't begin to guess what or why, as though (ironically? knowingly?) embracing the logic of Kevin's ex-wife when she makes her son go charismatic. S2 tries to give us a positive belief, after all, one more or less borrowed from the end of The Road: other people are still a distinct sort of miracle even if nothing else is a miracle or (equally unhelpfully) everything else is. Treat them that way. All other math is nonsense or cancels out.

The ending works because it sticks exclusively to atheist-agnostic common ground (as well as ground the religious have trouble denying they're still on - as it's mostly what they made their modifications to feel they could STAY on). But what works works even more when you make the final step: We don't only know that we face one another here. We know that we face only one another here.

(Also dogs. That sequence was beautiful. The last part most of all. Because dude, I may have loved you but I. Am. Out. Just like the daughter the abuser of abusers unknowingly abused.)


Re. Int'l Assassin and Liv Tyler: I guess these two strands are going for the same thing - death providing a reality test? Thinking the kids are going to die makes the guards unwilling to attack those waiting. Tyler with the son at the bar is basically embracing pleasure as meaningful in itself, and not as part of a plan that (Genealogy of Morals-style) justifies pain. She's so amused by the Remnant leaders because she isn't one. She wants people to remember death so they'll stop lying about it, and by extension life. I think we're supposed to like her? Though her not helping chest-shot Kevin suggests there's something wrong with her position too. Also the fact that she's terrorizing kids - flat out assuming they're already making bad deals with the world. Whereas Kevin can only throw into oblivion the depression-embracing, family-distant strand in him by acknowledging what created depression in Patti, thus by extension himself - events have traumatized him. He has to "die" because only that clarifies his values enough for the one to prove prior to the other - the desire to save. This is why he tries to save her from the well AFTER pushing her in: that's his final self. His policeman self. None of it makes a damn bit of sense unless we conclude that that guy from S1 was a figment of his imagination, which I can't remember if it's confirmed that he is or isn't? Somehow still a spokesman for a part of his psyche, if real, at least - and one who was speaking to a figment of his own IIRC?


Related: I don't fully get the smoking stuff, probably because I don't smoke. I think I intellectually grasp it - something you're compelled to regularly do even if it's dangerous/morbid, a second, pause button sort of mode that takes you out of full allegiance to the normal flow of your life? But I don't know what that feels like, precisely, so am likely missing other aspects of it. I have persisting trouble sorting out what smoke and smoking signify in Bishop for the same reason, I think.


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