Quick note to any potential readers out there: due to a hectic college schedule, I won’t be able to get my reviews of Lost out until the weekend, after everyone else. My grand apologies.
Lost is a series of which I sometimes, ever so subtly, feel that I don’t give enough credit to. When I review or discuss the show, I often criticize certain aspect’s of the show’s style, specifically the seemingly unfocused writing and the unusually large amount of suspension of disbelief the show requires. While these are legitimate criticisms and I don’t apologize for concentrating on them, I am also conflicted because I realize that these things are simply a part of the identity of the series, and I can’t really expect them to change. Well, except in once case: now that the series has a set endgame in May 2010, it’s time that everything started coming together. And in a (small) way, Season 5’s two premiere episodes were a testament to this. And I’m glad.
The show itself has remained brilliant in terms of storytelling mythology and in its blatant defiance of television conventions, which is one reason I have put forth the effort to keep watching, while clearly much of the television audience was simply too lazy (it has lost about 55% of it’s average viewership since Season 1). Each season has become progressively more complex in terms of what sort of storytelling devices are used. The first season, all we had to worry about were the mysteries of what was on the island. It was closed off, and attention was focused entirely on the on-island drama, with the off-island flashbacks being a pillar for the on-island material. With the second season, we were introduced to the Dharma Initiative, deepening that amount of potential off-island involvement. Season 3 was the Others’ season, in which it was determined that not only did they have direct contact with the outside world, they were actively participating in it, and influencing it.
Season 4 had to provide three big new focal points for the series, all of which could have been incredibly poor if mishandled: the freighter and new people coming to the island, the Oceanic Six storyline with people actually getting off the island, and perhaps most dangerously, time travel was confirmed to be a part of the series, after it was hinted at all through the previous seasons. With the beginning of Season 5, all three of these things are still up and active. We have Dan, Charlotte, and Miles, still relatively fresh characters, becoming active in the storyline at last. We have the Oceanic Six out and about, dealing with their own demons. And we have the islanders dislodged from time, and shooting across it at seemingly random, like a broken record, Dan points out.
I am very appreciative here that the writers have seriously put so much thought into how to do these things right. Imagine if they had established direct time travel as an element of the show earlier, in the wrong place. It could have been a disaster. No, they knew they had to hint at it bit by bit, so when they did finally reveal its importance in the story, it felt like it wasn’t all that unbelievable. The same goes for Lost’s idea of ghosts. There was enough mystery about them that we never knew right away what they were, or if they were simply hallucinations or projections of some kind. Now that we know the dead linger about, it feels like we knew this the entire time. The true brilliance of Lost for me personally lies here, in the methods in which it imparts upon us the incredibly complex story material it harnesses.
So, now onto the episodes. Season 4 is generally considered to be a very strong season. Indeed, I think it definitely ranks in the top two (I’m a sucker for Season 2). One disappointment for me was that Season 4’s premiere episode, The Beginning of the End, was possibly the worst episode of the season. That has been completely remedied here: both Because You Left and The Lie were excellent Lost fare, heavy on mythology, character development, and story clarification (or at least as close as Lost comes to it). It is clear that now that the series is on a deadline to finish off, everything left unresolved is starting to be addressed. We even saw Ms. Hawking, from way back in Season 3, make an appearance. I’d almost forgotten about her!
First, Because You Left. I like the convoluted nature in this painful situation for the Oceanic Six. Nobody knows who to trust, and everyone (even the normally powerful Ben) really has a sense of dramatic urgency here, a strong (sometimes subconscious) desperation to return to the island. They are no longer in the positions of power they had on the contained island; they are now just once again pawns in a world of people trying to take advantage of each other. Each of them has returned to their little niche by the end of the episode: Kate on the run, Jack taking responsibility for the other characters, Hurley a misunderstood goofball, Sayid an uncompromising badass, and then there’s Sun, who figures to possibly be the most interesting figure here. She got the least attention these past two episodes, but I figure that her business ties with Widmore are going to become important soon, whether as an obstacle or a benefit to the exodus back to the island. My question: does Ji Yeon have to go back to the island too?
The on island story was also fascinating, especially when Dan was around. Dan has become one of my favorite characters very quickly, because he actually helps us (or me, anyway) understand what’s going on, and in an entertainingly confused way. It’s a clever way for Lindeolof, Cuse, and the other Powers That Be to give us half an answer, while still not sucking the mystery out of the show just yet. I appreciated the Shirtless Sawyer gag (an inside joke amongst Lost message boards), as well as the sudden appearance of the now infamous Neil Frogurt (yet another inside joke with the Lost team). Locke’s side of the story was weaker, though I did like his scene with Richard. Which brings up a couple potential time travelling questions I have:
Assuming time in Lost is linear, which it certainly appears to be unless there is one gigantic piece of misinformation spreading around, then Desmond should recognize Daniel when he finds him outside the hatch (the two met each other in The Constant, when Desbond was thrown back into his pre-island time). Also, in regards to Richard, who has apparently been very interested in Locke ever since he was born, why would he need to give Locke the compass to prove his identity to Richard, unless… heh, I just answer my own question. Maybe Richard suspects Locke will be travelling back in time farther than his own birth, meaning that it is Locke himself who gets Richard to track him down later on.
Now for The Lie. Sayid and Hurley have made a great team, and have ever since their first scene together on the beach in Episode 1. They continue to make a great team, even with Sayid unconscious and poisoned. “Why is there a dead Pakistani on my couch?” Hurley’s parents continue to be a nice layer of comic relief for the Hurley bits, and Mr. Reyes tuning into an episode of Expose was a fun reference.
As I understand it, with Sayid now with Jack, and likely open to the explanation that returning to the island is necessary, we have Jack, Ben, Hurley, Locke (as a corpse), and potentially Sayid ready to go back. We also have Desmond not far behind, as he goes to investigate his sudden recollection of what Dan told him outside the hatch at Oxford. The remaining challenges are therefore going to be Sun and Kate. Sun is a question mark at this point. If she is in league with Widmore, he might send her as a spy. If she’s actually opposing him, as we’re meant to believe after their scene together, she probably still may want to go. Even if she doesn’t, clever Ben might pull a “Jin is still alive” bomb and get her in. The issue will be that if Ji Yeon does indeed have to come too, will Sun risk her child’s life on such a dangerous trip?
The most obvious trick is going to be getting Kate to come back, seemingly the only one who has adjusted to life back home in some sense of the word. She seems happy as a mother, and even though psychics, ghost hallucinations, and other forces have been warning us all season that only Claire can raise Aaron, it seems for the moment that Kate is a trustworthy surrogate here, as so far, nothing has gone seriously wrong with Aaron. But how will they convince her to go? Perhaps now that she is once again on the run from her past, she’ll be easier to persuade.
So, to wrap up, the season is off to an excellent start, and I expect nothing but the best level of entertainment as Lost hurdles to its close in about 32 episodes over two seasons.