By GUY AOKI
(SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to see this week’s “Lost,” stop reading now.)
When “Lost” began its premiere in September 2004, Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun Kwon (Yunjin Kim) were the stereotypical Asian foreigners. He was the uptight, chauvinistic jerk who told his wife to button up her shirt as if she was showing too much skin. She deferred to him. He beat up a black man, Michael, because he’d unknowingly taken a watch belonging to his gangster father-in-law (but at first, it seemed it was “just another” black/Korean conflict). And no one else on the strange island could relate to them because they only spoke Korean and to each other.
Then things began to change. Sun had actually studied English in secret…but only because she’d planned on leaving her husband. While on the island, she wanted to reconcile, but Jin bitterly told her it was too late. He and Michael became friends. In fact, when Sawyer told Jin he was going along with a group of people to escape from “The Others,” Jin insisted they stay behind to look for Michael.
Eko, a big Nigerian, tried to stop Jin, and he whopped him in the face (great, more black/Korean tension). Eko whopped him back, but then, impressed by Jin’s loyalty, joined him in his search for Michael.
Eventually, Jin told Sun they were on the island because of all the wrongs he’d committed while working for her father. He promised to get her and their soon-to-be-born child off the island. A handful of them escaped in a helicopter, but Jin seemingly died when the ship they were leaving blew up in the season finale in May 2008.
Sun went back to Korea and raised her daughter by herself. Jin washed up on shore and, with some of the other survivors, ended up in the year 1973 where they made lives for themselves. Eventually, three years later, those who went back to civilization came back to the island for unfinished business. But due to numerous plot contortions, they were kept apart, in viewer time, for almost two full years.
Finally, last week, they reunited in a teary hug. Jin promised he’d never leave her again. But seconds later, their reverie was interrupted when the henchmen of industrialist Charles Widmore said their boss’s deal with Sawyer was off and it looked like they were all about to be executed.
This Tuesday, we found that they were instead put in cages. Widmore said it was for their own good. Meanwhile, the Man In Black (also known as the smoke monster) kept trying to convince the castaways that Widmore was out to kill them and he, like them, wanted to get off the island.
To make a long story short, Smoke Monster betrayed our heroes. They were in a submarine bound for civilization when Dr. Jack noticed the liar had put a time bomb in his backpack. It was set to go off in less than three-and-a-half minutes.
Sayid, the former Iranian soldier who acted like a zombie almost all season because he’d been brought back from the dead but with seemingly no soul, suddenly began behaving like his old self again. He explained how to diffuse the bomb. Jack tried to talk Sawyer out of it, saying Smoke Monster can’t kill them—they have to kill themselves, and if they tamper with the bomb, they’ll do just that. Leave it alone and the bomb won’t go off.
Sawyer wouldn’t hear of it and disconnected the wires. With a minute-and-a-half to go, that only made the countdown speed up. After quickly telling Jack how to find another one of their friends, Sayid took the bomb, ran down the corridor, and was blown to smithereens. The sub began to sink with water quickly rising. Hurley (the fat guy) and Kate left. Sun was pinned behind a huge refrigerator-like appliance. With the help of Sawyer and Jack, Jin removed it. But Sawyer got knocked unconscious by another explosion and Sun was still trapped by some metal debris.
Jack offered a breathing apparatus to Jin, but our hero told Jack to take it because he’d need it to bring Sawyer to the surface. After a long 17 second glance between the two (and with sad music playing), Jack (who suffers from a savior complex), reluctantly left. Jin kept diving underneath the rising water to free his wife, but it was impossible. She begged him to leave and save himself. He insisted he was going to save her: “I won’t leave you!” Finally, realizing it was futile, they looked at each other like the long-lost lovers they were. He reiterated in Korean: “I will never leave you again!” And in English: “I love you, Sun!” Sun smiled, said, “I love you!” and they kissed. A few seconds later, the camera panned up, and we saw their two clasped hands slowly drop apart.
It was an emotionally numbing scene. Jack and the others made it back to shore. When Kate asked about Jin and Sun, he shook his head. She began to cry.
Hurley started bawling. Jack walked into the ocean as if he was going to drown himself but stopped and cried too. At least Jin and Sun got the emotional send-off they deserved (these survivors never cried that way for most of the other castaways who’d died in previous seasons).
Within minutes, we lost three of the four Asian regulars on the show (Naveen Andrews, who played Sayid, is Asian Indian). Only Miles Straume (Ken Leung) is left.
Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse explained to Entertainment Weekly that the deaths were to make it clear that the Man In Black is the real villain, not Widmore. And, of course, that on this series, anything can happen. The magazine’s Web site was bombarded by reactions from fans in shock and in mourning for the couple that came to symbolize the Romeo and Juliet of the show.
Though the Koreans’ initial appeal was restricted by their limited understanding of English, viewers came to see the humanity in both and longed for their reunion. That it ended up being so short-lived made many of them feel cheated.
Since this series is heavy on themes of redemption, it makes sense that Sayid ended up proving his humanity. But Jin and Sun? Not quite sure what the lesson was for them or that their deaths were necessary; we already knew how much they loved each other. After being apart for so long—and Sun believing her husband was dead for most of that time—didn’t they deserve some happiness?
Of the original Season 1 cast, eight were white and six were racial minorities. Of those, we eventually lost three white characters (four if you count Locke, now impersonated by the Man In Black) and four people of color, leaving us with five (or four) whites and two POC. Of this final season, it was an even split: Seven white regulars and seven POC. But now, we’re down to seven whites and three POC. In other words, the only deaths have been POC (a few weeks ago, Zuleikha Robinson, who’s part black, white, and Asian, suddenly blew up when she let down a bag of dynamite too quickly). This week, the Iranian and the two Koreans bit the dust. Or, as Jimmy Kimmel joked that night on his talk show, “Tonight on ‘Lost,’ all the foreigners got killed!”
What’s left of the Season 6 regulars? Mexican American Hurley, Cuban/Spanish American Nestor Carbonell, and Asian American Miles Straume. Everyone else is white.
Now, since our castaways are also living their lives in a separate reality known as the “sideways world,” it’s possible that they could end up making that parallel universe their main world again if they can find a way to jump between the two. We were reminded of that when, in the next scene after Jin and Sun died, Jin was seen walking down a hospital corridor in the same shot as Locke, who, on the island, is also dead.
So Jin, Sun, Sayid, and others may yet live?
There are only three more episodes to go before this fascinating show ends: Thursday, May 11 and 18, and a two-and-a-half finale on Sunday, May 23.
Whew! Department: Luckily, the death of another character played by an Asian American, Demetri Noh (John Cho) was averted on “FlashForward.” Noh, an FBI agent, was supposed to die on April 29th, but his partner saved him at the last second.
Why? Department: It continues to be a confusing phenomenon: Asian American characters playing Jews. On ABC’s “Eli Stone,” James Saito, a full-blooded Japanese American, played an acupuncturist who was half Asian and half Jewish. He went by Dr. Chen, but his real last name was Jewish. Sandra Oh, portrays Dr. Cristina Yang, another character who claims she’s Jewish. This past week, on an episode of “24,” a distinctly Asian-looking guy said his name was Devin Rosenthal.
Oh give me a break. Is this the only way some Jewish writer/producers feel comfortable casting or writing about us? How would it look if a Jewish-looking actor got a name like James Nishimoto or Susan Wong? Why do they keep doing this?
Now, some Asian American actors like playing characters with white last names.
They think it proves they can play white characters. Sadly, that’s what an Asian American member of the Writers Guild told me a couple years ago: When Daniel Dae Kim (Jin on “Lost”) played a Counter Terrorism Unit agent named Baker, it impressed some whites that he could pull it off. Not like it was that challenging a role. He just had to act like an agent and speak regular English. How hard is that?
Back in the ‘80s when Kim Miyori played Dr. Wendy Armstrong on “St. Elsewhere,” she too liked having that last name because that’s how the character was conceived before she was cast. Even though it was never explained: No sign that she was married to a man named Armstrong, or that she was half white, or that she had been adopted.
Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.