Doc Jensen takes a break from dodging time-traveling bullets to hit Comic-Con with the ''Lost'' masterminds, talk about ''Watchmen,'' and (wait for it!) reveal the title of season 5's premiere episode
UNDER 'LOCKE' AND KEY? No, the Doc has the scoop on the season 5 season premiere title...
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''
Let's not hold this up with pleasantries and sentiment — the proverbial ''Hi, kids! It's been awhile, and boy, have I missed you!'' — although to be clear, it has been awhile, and I have missed you.
We have stuff to discuss.
Yes, even though the premiere of Lost is still more than five months away, I have news for you, including a bit of business that represents one of the first official ''spoilers'' of season 5 — the title that producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have given the first episode.
Kinda evokes that moment at the end of season 3, when Flash Forward Jack was about to kill himself by leaping from that Los Angeles overpass. It's an important moment to evoke, as it sets up his redemptive quest to return to the Island and rescue those he left behind. Of course, Jack first has to find the Island, which vanished right before our eyes in the season 4 finale. One might wonder if ''The Bridge'' represents the segue from Jack's current position in space/time to the Island's present temporal locale. ''The Bridge'' also has subtext: after all, season 5 will be the bridge season of Lost — the year we must cross in order to get to season 6, the terminus for the series. All to say, ''The Bridge'' would make a fitting title for the first episode of season 5...
Except ''The Bridge'' isn't the title for the first episode of season 5.
I just made that up.
Rest assured, I do have the real title for you, and I do intend to disclose it in this special summertime edition of Doc Jensen...
Right after this:
DOC JENSEN'S COMIC-CON WRAP-UP
Actually, Doc Jensen didn't go to Comic-Con: that kooky theorist had to hide in the backseat of my mind as his alter ego, ''Jeff Jensen, Journalist,'' covered the annual popculturepalooza. I had to moderate three panels in my Clark Kent capacity, beginning with a Friday a.m. presentation devoted to director Zack Snyder's adaptation of the comic book classic Watchmen. My stomach was kinked with anxiety — speaking in front of 6,500 people = not my thing — but I'm grateful to a good friend and fellow Watchmen fanatic who hung with me behind the scenes and helped calm my nerves via geeky conversation and a reminder that the opportunity should be (humbly) enjoyed and appreciated, not dreaded.
After surviving the Watchmen circus, I facilitated my second panel of day, an EW-sponsored event in which we invited a bunch of TV producers whose work we admire and respect to talk about their work and various Big Picture industry issues: Josh Friedman of Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bryan Fuller of ABC's Pushing Daisies, Josh Schwartz of NBC's Chuck and The CW's Gossip Girl, and Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof of Lost. Some on the panel were big comic book fans, so I asked if comic-book storytelling had influenced their TV storytelling, and Lindelof, a Watchmen devotee, shared how the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons saga's intricate flashbacks and easter egg construction inspired the way he writes episodes of Lost. There was some time for audience Q&A, and yep, there were a lot of Lost questions, which the non-Lost guys on the panel endured with grace and humor. In fact, Fuller — a professed Lost obsessive — confessed he had a number of questions himself, none bigger than this: Did Jin survive the season finale? (Apparently, he has a sushi dinner riding on the outcome.) Cuse explained that yes, we will be seeing actor Daniel Dae Kim next season — but considering how a growing population of maybe-ghosts walk the Island, that doesn't mean Jin is assured a corporal state.
My public speaking duties done for the day, I relaxed by accepting an invitation from Messrs. Cuse and Lindelof to accompany them to bizarre bazaar that is the Comic-Con floorshow, where thousands of people just like you (albeit often dressed up as superheroes or Star Wars characters) shop and lurk at booths representing scores of comic book publishers and retailers, movie studios and TV networks, videogame and toy companies. And in the thick of it all, there was a small, curious space, managed by an outfit purporting to be the Dharma Initiative.
THE NEW LOST ARG: DHARMA WANTS YOU!
Comic-Con served as the starting line for a new Lost alternate reality game, akin to ''The Lost Experience'' prior to season 3 and ''Find 815'' prior to season 4. ARGs are going to be ATG (all the rage) this season: look for Heroes, Fringe, and Dollhouse to engage with reality-blurring transmedia entertainments this fall. My policy on ARGs: Argh! Conceptually fascinating, experientially frustrating. I don't play them, but I do like watching other people play them via fansites that track their development. (I recommend Lostpedia.org's ARG page, which compiles clues by date. It's a great way to keep track if you're not playing or for catching up if you're joining late.)
Lost teased the ARG during its season finale back in May with a faux commercial for Octagon Global Recruiting, a firm hired by a reconstituted Dharma Initiative. Apparently, the secretive scientific concern is looking for new embittered button-pushing suckers and doomed polar bear food — um, I mean, world-saving, humanity-expanding volunteers to challenge the unknown! And since Comic-Con is the kind of place teeming with Right Stuff humanity, Dharma decided to begin head-hunting there. Interested participants were brought inside a phone booth-sized space and given their choice of several screening exams administered via video monitor. The dozen-plus questions veered from ethical to personal to non sequitur. What would you do if you found a tortoise lying upside down on a beach and couldn't get back on its feet? Describe your first kiss. What does pride sound like? The alternately amusing and unsettling inquiries were open-ended and required verbal responses, which were recorded on video. (However, the online version, currently available at dharmawantsyou.com, is multiple choice and, of course, click oriented.) I passed — ''barely'' — and was told I would be contacted via email with further instructions.
The impish intrigue intensified the next day at the annual Lost panel, in which Lindelof and Cuse held court in their typically hilarious, hijinxy fashion. Dharma sponsored the event, and Initiative rep Hans Van Eeghen was permitted a few minutes to present a video featuring highlights from the on-site testing — or should I say ''lowlights,'' as Hans made it clear he was very disappointed with the overall quality of potential recruits. I was tickled and mildly humiliated to see that my response to the request to characterize my first kiss was included in the clip reel, although for the record, my full answer was ''Awkward and wet,'' not the abbreviated ''wet'' reported by the video. (Now I know what it feels like to be edited.) But the most provocative moment of the panel came when a panicked recruit named Dan Bronsen — one of four privileged souls chosen by Hans to immediately begin their Dharma orientation — stormed back onto the stage during the producers' audience Q&A to share a video he had just (secretly) shot during his Initiative processing. It seems Bronsen and his three friends were allowed to watch a mysterious video communiqué from our old friend, Dr. Marvin Candle, the cryptic emcee from those Dharma orientation tapes. The highlights:
1. Dr. Candle claims his true name is Dr. Pierre Chang.
2. Chang claims to be broadcasting from the past — 30 years in the past, so circa 1978 — and sending the signal through some kind of temporal pinhole.
3. Chang claims to know information about his future/our present — that our president is George Bush; that we use the Internet; that Dharma is doomed to be destroyed via ''the purge'' — and that he knows this information from a ''credible'' source.
4. A crying baby can be heard off-camera, and at one point, Candle/Chang asks someone to shush him. Could the child be someone we know — perhaps, say, ghost-whispering hustler Miles Straume?
5. Chang's urgent message for the present: The Dharma Initiative must be reconstituted in order to prevent some kind of calamitous future event.
6. The video ends with the man operating the camera despairing over the futility of the endeavor — a man who sounds a lot like time-traveling scientist Daniel Faraday.
This newest scrap of Lost mythology, which you can watch at abc.com deserves a whole column unto itself, and I promise a full dissection within the month. But my word count grows long, and we have other things to discuss, like...
''NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT''
Not a bad title for the season premiere of Lost. Certainly seems suitable given the time-travel shenanigans of season 4 and Candle/Change's assertion in the Comic-Con video that ''time isn't just of the essence... it IS the essence.'' The title pokes at the speculation that the Island isn't just missing in geographical space but also history, and it also winks at what Lindelof and Cuse suggested looms as a major new development in Lost's storytelling: episodes that have no ''present,'' but toggle between time frames — a show that is figuratively lost in time. All to say, ''No Place Like The Present'' would be a fitting title for the first episode of season 5...
Except it isn't the title for the first episode of season 5.
THE LOST BOOK CLUB!
Team Lost has devised an online book club, with a reading list comprised of the more than 40 books referenced and name-checked over the course of four seasons. Check it out over at the Lost page at abc.com. You'll find the selections organized by season, with brief comments describing how each book was dropped into the story. How it works: pick a book; read the book; head to a message board at abc.com to discuss. (That said, every couple of weeks, one book is singled out as a rallying point; currently, that book is Stephen King's Carrie.) Say the producers in an introductory statement: ''Pick up any of them and experience the richness of storytelling, character, and theme, and then allow your imagination to connect all that back into our show.... We can't promise you any of these books will lead you to answers about Lost, but we can promise you'll be enriched for having read them.''
What do you think of that for the title of season 5, episode one? I kinda like it. It evokes the price paid by Michael and Jin to help save their friends — and the price paid by Ben to save the Island. And it might suggest some kind of thematic context for the death of John Locke/Jeremy Bentham. I also like ''The Sacrifice'' because it links to a Russian film about death and survival set against the backdrop of apocalypse, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, who also directed an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, long suspected of being a Lost source text, despite not being part of the current Lost Book Club. All to say, ''The Sacrifice'' would make for fitting title for the first episode of season 5...
Except it isn't the title of the first episode of season 5. The REAL title for the first episode of season 5 is...immediately following this important announcement:
Longtime readers of this column know that about 18 months ago, cancer touched my family in a profound way. (Update: Amy is doing great, and thank you for all the warm wishes you continue to email. They do mean a lot to us.) It has also profoundly touched many people behind the scenes of Lost, which is why they've become big supporters of ''Stand Up 2 Cancer,'' a very cool, very smart, very strategic, very genuine, and very ambitious grassroots initiative designed to raise funds for cancer research. The campaign includes a primetime TV special that will air simultaneously on ABC, NBC, and CBS at 8 PM on Sept. 5. But there are many ways you can help in your everyday walk of life; check out standup2cancer.org for more info.
The producers and cast of Lost are contributing to this effort by conducting a fundraiser through liveautographs.com — zip over there when you have a moment and consider taking advantage of the cool opportunity they're offering fans. Times are tight; it's hard to part with cash; and there are so many urgent causes worthy of your resources. So I'll ask for nothing more, but I will thank you for the consideration...
...and I will, finally, give you this, the real-deal title of the Lost season 5 premiere, tentatively scheduled for a late January debut:
''BECAUSE YOU LEFT''
Reminds me of what Jack told Ben that Locke-as-Bentham told him before kicking the bucket. You remember, right? If you do, I want to hear your informed analysis. Send it to JeffJensenEW@aol.com.
And I'll be back next month with your reactions — and more analysis of that mysterious new Candle/Chang video!