I was anticipating “Sundown” with a bit of dread, not only because the last few episodes of Lost have been so frustrating, but because I figured this would be about the Kwons, and Yunjin Kim, with her halting line readings and bugged eyes that signify "distress," is, like, my least favorite actress ever. But, hooray, this was a Sayid episode, restoring to prominence a character who had been castrated for what seems like forever by bullet wounds and, well, nothing to do but bleed, die, and be tortured.
Right from the start, he took charge, playing the cheerable audience surrogate. “I want some answers,” he tells Dogen, sounding a little like Sawyer last week, except this time we actually got a few because we were with a character willing to kick ass for them. It was mostly little things: the torture machine is an evilmeter; Flocke is “evil incarnate”. But what Sayid was willing to do last night, which no other character has yet, was to instigate some shit, to get the ball rolling. He was told to stab Flocke without hesitation and he did, without a googly eyed Jack-esque crisis of conscience. Yes, kill that goddam Oriental caricature! (No mercy for drunk drivers!) Kill his friend! Kill everyone! Destroy that narrative prison that the characters call The Temple! (For a second I thought he was even going to kill Ben; Michael Emerson almost earned another Emmy just for that face he made at Sayid before slowly backing out of the room.) “Sundown” was about destroying the whole season up to now. Kind of a cheap storytelling move—akin to Dogen’s telling Sayid to leave, and asking him to stay in the next scene—but I’m happy to know the Lost writers have anticipated fan objections and are moving forward. Painted yourself into a corner? Burn down the room, let’s get on with it.
The episode began with Sayid, in both realities, declaring that he was, in fact, a good man; it was a classic Lost moment of “character arc, settled” that usually spells death, but instead the writers turned that old trick on its head: Sayid, instead, became an agent of death. So many of our Losties began the series as bad people—torturers, con artists, murderers…unwed mothers?—but we came to sympathize with them as heroes, thanks to carefully constructed backstories and redeeming on-island actions. But now, some of them are embracing their ostensible evilness, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, with the inevitably coming conflict between Flocke & Co. and the remaining “good” survivors.
What was maybe most refreshing about “Sundown” was that the parallel storylines had a strong connection in their shared emotional motivations. Sayid’s conflict, whether or not to become the murderer he once was to save his brother and his family, nicely mirrored his on-island problem: kill all those Others and get a Nadia? It functioned like an old-fashioned flashback—one of the ones that worked well, anyway—with the ante upped by the Flocke’s suggestion that he could restore Nadia to life. The Jin and Keamy cameos, meant to intrigue, in fact almost ruined it. I get it, things are different but kinda the same. I just don’t care.