I have come to the conclusion that Lost is the televisual equivalent of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Initially enjoyable, with interesting characters and a storyline that intriguingly unfolds backwards as much as forwards (the ongoing storyline exposes more of the mysterious backstory), Lost has started to show signs that it has peaked and may be entering a somewhat mediocre stage as the writers try to come up with new ways on how to delay the revelation of important story elements in the misguided belief that if they actually told us what the hell was going on people would start switching off in droves. This ridiculous belief is what drained The X-Files of everything that made it interesting and turned it into an ongoing joke, and Lost may be showing the first signs of that here.
The season got off to a rousing start. Seeing the crash again from a different angle is a clever storytelling device, if not original (previously used in Season 2's The Other 48 Days). We then got into an intense prison story, as Sawyer, Kate and Jack are held and interrogated by the mysterious Others. We learn that their leader (the Artist Formerly Known as Henry Gale) is actually called 'Ben' and the Others' society is lot more comfortable then we'd been led to belief. Frustratingly, Jack still doesn't bother asking questions any normal person would and the Others' intransigence is becoming ridiculous (would it kill them to say simply yes, they are former DHARMA/Hanso scientists, or no, they're not?). Yet it's a reasonable episode. We then move into seeing Sayid, Jin and Sun mounting a rescue attempt on our heores, only for it to fall apart. Some very bad editing makes Sayid - probably the most competent and dangerous of the survivors in this kind of situation - look like a moron, setting a trap and then watching it so intently the Others sneak right past him (the next episode reveals the Others actually used a submarine to get to the boat). The flashback is very interesting, however, and Sun and Jin remain seem to continue to have interesting backgrounds for storyline possibilities (unlike Jack, whose backstory has been mined dry by repeated, pointless flashbacks).
Episode three continues to pick up things from last season, with the fates of Desmond, Eko and Locke revealed. Some good stuff with Locke getting his hunter mojo back is derailed by an appaling CGI polar bear and the fact that the entire episode's plot is derailed by what happens two weeks later. Things get shaky in episode four: Sawyer continues to be a great flashback character but by simply going along with the wardens' plan he looks like a bit more of a chump than we are used to. The ending is interesting though: there is more than one island (this is what passes for true excitement in Lost).
Episode five is probably the best of the new bunch, although it's been criticised for killing off yet another tail-section character. Apparently the decision had been taken when Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbajge decided to leave several episodes early. Despite this, his character has a reasonably decent ending, giving us a much closer look at the enigmatic smoke monster (real name: Cerberus, apparently) and, more importantly, undertanding that it has mimic abilities and also doesn't like to be crossed. This dramatically satisfying episode does make the events of episode three look pointless though. Why bother having Locke save him from the polar bear? Nevertheless, a good one and, thanks to the revelations about the smoke monster, one that answers quite a few mysteries from the first three seasons in one fell swoop.
Episode six, on the other hand, is weak. Kate's flashback is so pointless it defies belief and Nathan Fillion is badly wasted in his role. The only good news is apparently he'll be back later in the season. Back on the island things are more satisfying: Kate finally chooses her man and the scene where Sawyer is about to have his head blown off is genuinely tense. They've just killed off one regular character, who's to say they're not going to kill another? But the cliffhanger is pointless. We were promised a season-ending style cliffhanger and get lots of shouting instead. Bah. And now it's off the air for two months, leaving the audience not so much as on the edge of their seats as rolling their eyes. Still, at least we have a few more weeks of BSG and Heroes to keep us entertained in the meantime.
301: A Tale of Two Cities ***
302: The Glass Ballerina ***
303: Further Instructions ***
304: Every Man For Himself **
305: The Cost of Living ****
306: I Do **
Forthcoming: Not in Portland (07/02/07)