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My 2 Cents on The Beach
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Bilbo67
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 Posted: Fri Jan 12th, 2007 12:49 am

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My 2 Cents on Episode 3.12: The Beach
(9/20/02)


As I’ve already mentioned a time or twelve before, I’m a Stan fan.  I know, I know, that’s like admitting you admire your creepy, lecherous next door neighbor, but it’s the average Joe factor that won me over because, let’s face it, we’ve all got a spoonful of Stan in us (twist that one however you like).  So perhaps the fact that much of season 3’s multi-tiered story arc centers around the Stunner is one of the reasons why it is my favorite (despite the fact that my favorite individual episodes are from seasons 2 & 4…makes perfect sense to me, but then again, I’m something of a walking contradiction).

This episode and the one that follows are essentially a series of climaxes (not to be confused with what goes on on Boomtown), insomuch as it brings Stan’s story to a head while providing the catalyst for the big finale.  Speaking of Stan’s story—which I’ll be doing a lot of—one could actually argue that his story arc came to a climax in May, and that everything up until now has been a long, slow denouement.  I mentioned once that that episode might very well be subtitled The Last Temptation of Stan; if that’s the case, you may as well call this one You Reap What You Sow.    

All that heavy, character-driven stuff aside, if you think about it, The Beach is essentially a clip show. It’s a cheap ploy that many long-running shows futz with from time to time, and on average, nine times out of ten they usually suck (I’m tempted to say ten times out of ten, but those Simpsons clip shows that feature Homer saying “D’oh” 40 times in rapid succession hold a special place in my heart). As luck would have it, this is one of the rare instances in which the gimmick works. Rather than simply going along with the trend of showing old footage for no apparent reason, the beans found a way to not only work it into the story, but make the flashbacks an integral part of the climax. Leave it to Lexx to take yet another television cliché and give it their own unique shot in the arm.

Alrighty, when last we left our heroes they had been thrown from their gondolas after Lexx took it upon himself to devour a fleet of balloons (because unlike anyone else who appears onscreen for at least seven seconds, they’re equipped with character shields that permit them to survive for more than one episode), and are building copious quantities of momentum as they plunge to a wet, gooshy demise; leaving Xev in control of the Lexx for the foreseeable future.

Like all of the visuals in S3, the opening shot of Kai and Stan preparing to do the mother of all cannonballs was nicely done, and the look on Stan’s face when Kai informs him that he does not float is vintage Downey all the way.

I always found it interesting that the key leaped out of Stan’s body as soon as he fell. It has been often theorized that the key can simply be passed willingly, as Thodin did shortly before his duel with Kai, but I don’t buy that when it comes to Stan. He would never surrender the key on his own, so perhaps it was the key itself that made the decision for him. I don’t want to speculate on how exactly the thing works (that kind of stuff is Valdron’s bailiwick), but since the key itself is a living entity, perhaps it possesses some minimal degree of sentience and is able to recognize when its host is in great danger and likely to die. Think back (er…ummm…ahead) to ep. 4-01...the key leaps out of Xev the instant before the bullet strikes her. Once again, it seems to have anticipated the death of its host, and therefore decided to get while the getting was good (I think the same thing happened with Digby, though I haven’t seen those eps in a long time, so I’m not positive; plus that little twerp couldn’t die fast enough for my tastes).

How Stan survived his fall is a question for the ages; as hitting the water at that speed would likely cause your body to explode into something resembling a multi-colored Rorschach test. Still, I’m willing to accept that he was extremely lucky, but for the love of all that is good and decent in the two universes HOW IN THE HELL DID HIS HAT STAY ON!?!? Good God, not even Indiana Jones was that skilled when it came to getting his hat to stay in one place. Did Stan have it surgically grafted to his skin, or is the thing just that damn tight?

Despite a valiant search effort, a dejected Xev returns to the Lexx empty handed (despite just narrowly missing Stan…of course there’d be no show if she found him), allowing for a bit of give-and-take with the freshly nourished Lexx and an appearance by 790 (whose total season 3 screen time effectively amounts to a few cameos, which, IMO, lead to his over-use in season 4).

A little later we are treated to some more badass visuals: Kai sinking to the bottom of Water, and the outline of the planet Fire as night falls over a struggling Stanley. BTW, this may be biased since I know a thing or two about swimming (two summers as a junior lifeguard…thought I’d be fawned over…how very, very wrong I was), but why didn’t Stan just float on his back? Granted he still probably would have starved to death, been parched by the sun until his skin resembled a suitcase, or succumbed to dementia, but it’s a lot easier than trying to tread water for 12 hours, plus he may have just floated to one of the cities. Oh well, such is the case when plot advancement is called for, so I’ll simply chock this up as one of those “Bilbo, you dolt, then there would be no story” moments.

So he dies…

And now we get to the real meat of the story, Stan’s judgment. The segments on the Beach are some of the best in the entire series, and I’ve got to admit, they had me slightly confused the first time I saw this ep. To this day I still have to wonder about Prince’s role in the process. Are we to assume that he judges every individual soul of every individual person in the two universes? I suppose he could…time and space are pretty much moot on the Beach. Or could it be that he only presides over special cases (after all, it is not Prince who judges Stan, but Stan himself…Prince is little more than a gadfly; a third-party facilitator drawing inherent knowledge out of his subject, ala Socrates [albeit a much snappier dresser]). Could it be that this entire process is some kind of sick joke concocted by Prince for his own amusement?  Sure sounds like the Prince I know.

Kai passing through the multitude of souls near the center of Water is absolutely stunning, not to mention kind of eerie. Even Kai himself looks a little confused as to what is going on (though what I’ve mistaken for a confused look could simply be due to the fact that this scene was shot underwater).

I always found it interesting that considering all of the bad choices, selfish acts, and downright stupid things Stan has done throughout the show’s run, none of them would have actually condemned him to Fire until he made his deal with May. If you think back to every time Stan has nearly been killed (somebody who’s good at math will have to field that one), every one of those instances that occurred before he met up with May would have guaranteed him a place on Water. That being said, I wonder what city he would have woken up on? At first one would have to figure Boomtown, but if you think about it, the guys there don’t exactly remind me of Stan. Considering the town is essentially a perpetual orgy with a few superfluous meals thrown in every now and then (along with occasional stoppages to work through muscle cramps and stave off friction-induced rug burn), those folks are all talk, no action. Of course Stan wouldn’t really fit in on Gametown either (unless they’re in need of a scorekeeper/towel manager). Since we didn’t get to see all that much of Water, I guess that leaves it up to the imagination.

I admire Xev’s unflinching determination to find Kai, but let’s analyze her situation logically (always a gamble with this show). The dead man has been sinking all night, so he’s God knows how far from the surface. Did Xev honestly think her little Divine-Order-emblazoned fishing rod would do the trick? Secondly, if they had that thing all along, why didn’t she haul ass back to the Lexx and grab it right away? Finally, and in my mind, most importantly, why did they have that thing to begin with? There must be a big phallic shaped storage closet somewhere on the Lexx where all those nifty little gadgets are stored (right along side Stan’s testicular spark plug and the vacuum cleaner from hell that was featured in Bad Carrot).

Herein lies the best part of the ep: the season 1 flashbacks. I had honestly forgotten just how radically different the interior of the Lexx looked back then (not to mentioned the whole “Xev looking completely different” thing, which blew my uninitiated mind the first time I saw this episode).  

As if it isn’t painfully obvious by now, Prince has been playing our heroes for suckers from the moment he met them. The May-ruse was an absolute no-win situation that keyed in on Stan’s weakness (not that I’d call longing, unrequited desire for companionship a weakness, but Prince certainly would) and drove him to damn himself. Despite his every effort to litigate his way to Water, Stan is doomed. BTW, I liked the black Stan a lot more than the white one. The black one looked like a badass (possibly what Stan would look like as a Divine Assassin), while the white one looked like a janitor (which, as we all know, is closer to the real Stan). Despite being doomed to everlasting suffering and magically whisked away to the ninth circle of Dante’s hibachi, Stan’s hat remains secured to his melon, proving that its grip on his head is stronger even than death itself.

Kai descending into the light and disintegrating is yet another in a long line of cool, head-scratching visuals. When he materialized on Gametown I thought for a fleeting second that perhaps he was alive, but that was not the case. I’m wondering how exactly that all worked, since Kai was not a soul, but a decarbonized husk…pretty much the opposite of a soul. Just another of those little details the beans leave us to ponder. I should also point out that Kai doesn’t find what just happened to him to be the least bit strange. I know if I were Kai (and God willing, minus the fact that he’s dead, is completely devoid of a sense of humor, tends to get shot a lot, wears a hairstyle that I have to imagine hurts your neck, and has what I can only describe as a suped-up roach motel attached to his nether regions, some day I will be) at the very least I would have asked one of the Gametowners what just happened to me. Speaking of Gametown, are we to assume that the cities themselves regenerate along with the inhabitants? After all, last time we saw Gametown Duke and co. had systematically blown the hell out of it and killed everybody in sight. Regeneration would actually explain some things; such as how the cities on Fire are constructed, but that is once again left to our imagination.

Thankfully, before we have time to induce a collective aneurism pondering that one, Xev flies by and the credits roll.

Cliffhangers are nothing new this go-around, but this one leaves the viewer absolutely salivating for more, and all those who have seen the next ep know that there are still plenty of surprises around the corner.

So let’s see, thus far we’ve had a musical and a clip show.  So far the beans are batting a thousand when it comes to reinventing TV gimmicks.

Cheery bye.



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Ketana
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 Posted: Fri Jan 12th, 2007 05:30 pm

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well another time it happened was in P4X when the key left Stan as Prince was ready to drop him to his demise onto a concrete floor! Remember that one Bilbo? So yeah maybe Lexx, itself would decide also when it was time to leave the keymaster!



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 Posted: Sat Jan 13th, 2007 09:53 am

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I dunno, I think the key was intuitive, could sense its 'husks' demise and flitted off to find a more suitable host.  But for some reason it wouldn't choose Prince, so was Prince not really a living entity?  He seemed flesh and blood as he could die, and he would come back again and again, and could even assume other forms.  How did the key know he wasn't a suitable host?  I loved the black and white Stan and the trial of a sort where he had to judge himself, but did he really judge himself?  He ended up in Prince's Hell basically having to push pedal or get his head lopped off.  Stan wouldn't have chosen that for himself, so I think Prince was the ultimate judge anyways and possibly just toying with Stan, already knowing where Stan was headed, or be-headed...ahem..



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 Posted: Sun Jan 14th, 2007 05:34 am

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When I watched The Beach a 2nd time I thought this could all be something Prince had inflicted on Stan just to amuse himself. And in this Stan judged himself, but since Prince produced all this, he was of course the one who actually judged Stan.

And yes, Stan's hat really must have been very tight...

mayaXXX
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 Posted: Mon Jan 15th, 2007 01:53 am

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I just assumed this episode was Prince making Stanley confront himself and his previous actions and how they led to the predicament that he was in, instead of blaming others for his own mistakes. I know that Prince gave everyone a choice on how to deal with crisies and that was evident in the 'judgement' as well. Prince made Stanely see himself for what he really was...and he literally judged himself.

Of course, I beleive he had a ball doing it, too..

:c030a:



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Bilbo67
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 Posted: Sat Jan 20th, 2007 05:55 pm

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Might it not also be possible for the recently deceased to unfairly pass judgment on himself?  If that's the case, perhaps Prince is intruding on the process.  Remember, he wants Stan's soul to end up on Fire, so while he doesn't personally judge Stan, he effectively tips the scales to ensure the outcome he wants.  Perhaps, through persuasion and his own unique brand of subconscious tinkering, Prince was able to sway Stan's thinking, effectively convincing him that he belonged on Fire.

I'm going out on an extreme limb here (not to mention contradicting the old "graduated purgatory" theory), but this could account for some of the "misfiled" souls our heroes encountered throughout season 3.  Look at the "girls" for example...there's nothing to suggest that they are in any way deserving of their punishment, but they're confined to Fire nonetheless. 

mayaXXX wrote:

Of course, I beleive he had a ball doing it, too..


So perhaps this is all some sick form of entertainment for Prince.  Most souls wind up where they belong, but every now and then he intervenes and has a little fun at the expense of the system (which, based on what we've seen, is as convoluted as a Rube Goldberg contraption).  Ergo, we get things like Fifi winding up on Water and the "girls" confined to Fire.  In that sense, Stan, being someone who has never died before, is essentially Prince's latest, greatest toy.



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 Posted: Fri Aug 29th, 2008 02:41 pm

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I just finished watching the series over the course of two weeks and I think a strong case can be made that Stan didn’t belong on Fire at all.

Consider the events in Brigadoom. Xev and Kai were content to remain with the troop. It was Stan who had the courage to return and convince them to accompany him on a suicide mission to attempt to destroy Mantrid. In organizing this not only did Stan avenge the light universe, but he saved the dark universe and all its inhabitants as well. (Witness Mantrid’s plans for the dark universe in “End of the Universe”).

One can not consider one poor, selfish choice made under duress without taking into account the brave, selfless choice made of freewill that saved countless innocents.

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 Posted: Fri Aug 29th, 2008 09:14 pm

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I agree. I think the whole 'Judgement' think on Fire was a farce, Prince wanted him to be 'guilty' from the beginning. Nothing that he had done was intentional or with malice, the one thing that differentiates E-vil from Good.  He should have been sent to Water to live out his days on Boomtown, *snort*



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Bilbo67
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 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 01:19 pm

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It's entirely possible that the beach itself might be a farce, that whatever higher power established Fire/Water as the repository for disembodied souls metes out judgment instantaneously, and that the "trials" Prince holds are merely constructed for his own amusement.  In other words, for all his talk and tricks, he's not the arbiter of anything...

...at least that was the case before the Lexx showed up.  I think part of the reason he was so excited to meet someone who had never died before was because it finally offered him the opportunity to personally sway someone's fate, rather than merely bully them with the notion that he could.  Thus, he presented Stan with the impossible-to-win moral conundrum: May or Water...which one lives, which one dies. 

(By the way...I only say this because I'm a frothing fanboy, but did anyone else notice that Prince's May-or-Water test paralleled some of the "social experiments" that the Joker engineered in the new Batman flick?)



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 Posted: Sat Sep 27th, 2008 08:32 pm

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(By the way...I only say this because I'm a frothing fanboy, but did anyone else notice that Prince's May-or-Water test paralleled some of the "social experiments" that the Joker engineered in the new Batman flick?)


 

I'm SO glad that someone was paying attention to that....;)



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 08:44 pm

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Allow me to "necro" a bit.

When I first watched--and thoroughly enjoyed--this episode, it was on SciFi. I had not seen the Second Series or the First Movies. The show did succeed in the primary objective: I could follow it. The "flash-backs" worked.

When I watched it again after seeing the previous series, I rather thought Stan needed a better lawyer: he does not mention some of his real acts of courage--such as returning to destroy the Gigashadow and, as mentioned, fight Mantrid.

Prince is clearly a "Prince of Darkness" however, interestingly, he is more like the classical mythological construct of "obstacle" or something you "trip over" that tests you. Water clearly does regenerate--else at some point Fire would win. Prince gives the opportunity to make "bad choices"--it is his "job" as he jokes, which allows him to punish.

Regarding the punishment I think the message is that you cannot balance out "good" and "bad." A willingness to sacrifice yourself on one days does not, as Prince suggests, allow you to commit mass-murder!

And I think Stan knows this. Once confronted by the obvious--his willingness to destroy innocents for his own ultimately selfish reasons--he really does not have a defense.

One thing on trials--I think Prince explains that they are on the juncture of Fire and Water metaphorically--a beach. As he states, if Stan had chosen suicide over capture by Sub-end Mercenaries, he would have gone to Water. Trial is for those who are on the edge.

--J.D.


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