Special (ep. 14) - Part II: Off-Island Edition
I’m not sure why this recap has run so long, but I’ll try to keep things tidy here in the back-half, where we’ll exclusively look at the flashbacks. First: Michael’s flashback is sadness incarnate. We don’t learn what drove a wedge between Michael and Susan, the woman who is carrying his baby (and who will go on to teach River Tam about the savage outer planets) but we can pretty safely assume one of two things: (1) Michael was an emotionally and/or physically abusive boyfriend, or (2) Susan is a terrible human being.
Michael wants to name their son Walt, explaining that it was his father’s name, and this is to my knowledge the only ‘father issue’ that comes up tangentially in Michael’s story. Of course, Michael is the father issue for much of “Special,” and one of the interesting things about the episode is how it serves as what may be the only example (other than Hurley and Cheech, much later) of a father and son healing their wounds together – not separated by death or space or time, but present and united and visibly working toward intimacy.
Lost’s first season flashbacks are wonderfully good at showing us the reasons for why people are the way they are. These moments of stolen time show us that there is rarely ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ just selfish and selfless, and that selfishness can be ‘good’ and selflessness can be ‘evil,’ just as much as they can be the opposite. Michael missed most of Walt’s childhood completely. I cannot imagine what that would feel like – to have your son regard you as a stranger while you have been figuratively beating on the door to see him. It’s no wonder, then, that he would automatically treat Walt like a child – Mike doesn’t have the literal background with Walt that would developmentally help him to understand that Walt needs more than strict discipline. He doesn’t have a parenting background to allow him any knowledge of how to deal with a child, period. And he’s dealing with the remorse and guilt and relief and the need to experience what he missed over all those years – no wonder he doesn’t treat Walt like an adult. On a number of levels, Mike can’t/won’t/doesn’t want to do so.
I’m confused, frankly, by Susan’s seeming utter unwillingness to let Walt have any contact whatsoever with his biological father. I’m not sure what the laws in Amsterdam have to say about paternity, but here in the US, even an unmarried father has rights. But presumably she knows this, being a lawyer herself, and presumably she knows just how hard it would be for an unmarried, unemployed artist like Michael to successfully sue for paternal rights. Either way, I’m at a loss over her attitude towards him in general and that attitude, combined with Michael’s obvious short fuse, makes me wonder if Michael was ever abusive toward her. The only other explanation for her behavior would simply be that she is an utterly selfish human being.
Michael is hit by a car after having a furious phone conversation with Susan over wanting to visit his son (and who is driving that car? A random stranger? The same figure that impregnates Locke’s mother? The driver of the bus that kills Juliet’s ex? The man who murdered Sayid’s Nadia? So many mystery drivers…) and, seemingly humanely, Susan visits him in the hospital and arranges to pay all of his hospital bills. Of course, there’s a catch – Susan has remarried, and she wants Michael to agree to let her new husband Bryan adopt Walt. In arguing with Michael, she asks whether Mike is ‘holding on’ for Walt’s sake, or for his own. This is a ridiculous question. It’s both, obviously, and only a heartless person/lawyer would dare to ask it. Add to this the fact that Susan has been carefully collecting and hiding every letter and birthday card that Michael has ever sent to his son, and you have the portrait of a terrible, terrible person.
This struggle, between a moneyed, powerful woman and her poorer, impotent ex, is powerful stuff. It moved me to watch it. And the scene where Michael gives Walt all the letters he's ever written him actually might have made my eyes mist up a little, though I'd never outright admit to it. But of course, that’s only most of the flashback story. The rest is really Walt’s tale and while some might have found it annoying, I found it clever, like placing a tale within a tale – an unexpected extra Russian doll. We get a brief scene of Walt, Bryan and Susan at home (and learn that, since leaving Mike in the US, Susan and Bryan have moved Walt from Amsterdam to Italy to Australia, advancing up the corporate law ladder as they go, illustrating what an attentive set of parents the both of them must have been), and this scene is eerie stuff.
As Susan complains of feeling suddenly weak (an obvious television telegraphing for “I’m going to die soon!”), Walt demands that Bryan look at the bird he’s chosen from a book. As Walt repeats himself (‘You’re not looking!’) that same bird smacks into the glass door at the back of the house. It appears as though Walt has called the bird to him with his mind-powers.It’s creepy stuff, and Bryan seems to believe that the boy has the Shinning, because the day after Susan dies (!) he comes to Michael and tries to unload Walt:
“There’s something about him! Sometimes, when he’s around – things happen. He’s different somehow.”And what that difference is, we still don’t know.
What we do know:When Mike goes to pick Walt up at Bryan’s house, we get our first Dharma symbol of the show – looming over Michael’s head like an omen.