After its weak opening six-episode arc, Lost returned from its extended break to run interrupted all the way through the end of the season. We're now halfway through this second run and it seems like a good time to assess the show once more.
Lost has, against all the odds and predictions, made something of a return to form in these latest episodes. The producers have seemingly decided to concentrate once more on showing as much of the cast as possible each week, with seperate plots and subplots giving more of the cast time in the limelight. This has had some ramifications (the supposedly long-running Paulo and Nikki subplot was curtailed and ended rather abruptly in the episode Expose) but overall has worked quite well. The characters feel more connected and the somewhat lightweight subplots back on the beach have contrasted nicely with the claustraphobia of the Others' storyline.
First out of the box was Not in Portland, the conclusion to the story arc that had Kate, Sawyer and Jack as prisoners of the Others for the first part of the season. The producers made a major mistake in not transmitting this with the first batch of episodes, as it would have provided satisfying closure to the mini-arc that opened the season rather than left us hanging on the rather insipid cliffhanger provided by I Do. Nevertheless, Not in Portland was a good episode which provided some decent backstory for Juliet and got Sawyer and Kate out of that damned prison.
Flashes Before Your Eyes is an odd episode, seemingly breaking one of Lost's fundamental rules by having one of our characters travel in time. The opening and conclusion of the episode are fine, although the dramatic final revelation lacks bite (on a show that is as profligate with its heroes' lives as Lost is, hinting that Charlie - not the most essential character on the show anyway - may soon die is not that interesting). The heroic effort to recreate London in Hawaii deserves some respect, but the basic errors that creep in are still irritating (few English pubs in London have a massive Union Jack over the bar and the mis-spelling of posters and signs with American words is just plain sloppy). The story itself is interesting and Desmond remains one of the most compelling characters on the show, but overall the episode felt somewhat lacklustre and didn't really feel like an episode of Lost at all.
Stranger in a Strange Land is yet another Jack flashback. A very weird and somewhat surrealistic tone to the episode actually works quite well, but the problem is that the mystery the show reveals - what is the significance of Jack's tattoos? - is a mystery that is far more interesting to the writers than the fans.
Tricia Tanaka is Dead is far more impressive. It's quite a funny episode (highlight: the meteor destroying Hurley's restaurant) with a somewhat whimsical plotline, whilst remembering to keep the main plotline chugging along in the background (Kate recruiting a band of asskickers to go rescue Jack). Plus the fate of the dog, Vincent, is revealed, which was of some significance for a large chunk of the audience.
Enter 77 is a bit of a fan-pleasing episode, as we see the Flame Station and some important backstory to the Others and the DHARMA Initiative is revealed. Sayid's backstory is a bit irrelevant, but Naveen Andrews turns in an excellent performance as usual. However, they really need to keep Locke away from computer terminals.
Par Avion showcases a much-guessed but previously unconfirmed connection between two of the major characters and also features the goriest death in the series to date, even if the Sonic Fence feels like something from the Command and Conquer games. Locke's increasingly bizarrre behaviour is also made more apparent, and the cliffhanger is quite mystifying. Unusually for Lost, we get some answers relatively quickly. The Man From Tallahassee answers probably one of the single most mused-over questions in the show - how did Locke end up in the wheelchair? - and features a very nice, large explosion. Inbetween there are some great acting and writing moments and the final shot of the episode is pretty bizarre, although apparently it won't be expanded upon until episode 19 (due to actor availability, I guess).
Expose is a mixed episode, focusing on the backstory to the somewhat tedious Nikki and Paulo, although apparently this is their last appearance on the show. Recreating the plane crash was quite impressive and seeing some characters again who've met their ends on the show is enjoyable, but some plot points seem unlikely (Paulo and Nikki knew about the drugs plane, the Pearl Station, Ben and Juliet weeks before anyone else did?) and the ending is just disturbing. The episode is saved by lots of loose ends being tied up and by some pretty funny dialogue, not to mention a brief appearance by Billy Dee 'Lando Calrissian' Williams as himself.
Left Behind is very much a transitional episode, clearing up the loose threads of the Others' storyline and putting our heroes back together again. Some impressive visuals (especially finding out what that slightly preposterous Sonic Fence is really for) and at least one major question being addressed (what is the connection between the Others and the Monster?), if not answered, leads to an enjoyable episode, especially when combined with Sawyer's subplot back on the beach. The flashback was somewhat pointless, but happily did not outstay its welcome.
307: Not in Portland ****
308: Flashes Before Your Eyes ***
309: Stranger in a Strange Land ***
310: Tricia Tanka is Dead ****
311: Enter 77 ****
312: Par Avion ****
313: The Man From Tallahassee ****
314: Expose ***
315: Left Behind ****
Forthcoming: One of Them (11/04/07), Catch-22 (18/04/07), D.O.C. (25/04/07), The Brig (02/05/07), The Man Behind the Curtain (09/05/07), Greatest Hits (16/05/07), untitled 2-hour Season 3 finale (23/05/07)