Friday, 22 April 2016

The Lost Reviews: Part 2 - Season 1, Episodes 4-7

Welcome to the second in a new project for the blog: a rewatch of the TV series Lost. Over the next few months I plan to watch all 121 episodes of the TV series which aired for six seasons from 2004 to 2010. This is very much a rewatch thread, with the show watched with knowledge of what is to come in later seasons. If you've never watched Lost before, you definitely do not want to read this blog series.

Without further ado, let us continue after the jump.

One of Lost's earliest moments of pure WTFery.

104: Walkabout
Written by David Fury, directed by Jack Bender

Airdate: 13 October 2004

Survivor Count: 47

Days on Island: 4-5 (25-26 September 2004)

Flashback Character: Locke

On the Island: The survivors hear strange sounds coming from the plane wreckage and discover that wild boars have gotten into the wreck. The survivors scare them off. John Locke, who up until now has been keeping to himself, volunteers to lead a party to kill one of the boar calves and use it for food. He has a large and impressive collection of knives that he brought along on the plane. Kate and Michael volunteer to join his expedition, Michael leaving Walt in Sun's care. Sayid has also put together three transmitters which he hopes to use to triangulate the source of the French distress call. He asks Kate to place one in the jungle.

Jack suggests that they burn the bodies of the dead to stop them becoming a possible source of disease and attracting carrion. The survivors start pulling the bodies out of the plane and Claire goes through their identity documents. She volunteers to lead a memorial service after Jack declines. Jack seems to be increasingly uncomfortable with the leadership position he's being put in by others. Claire finds a photo collection belonging to Sayid, including a picture of a young woman that seems to cause Sayid pain.

Locke, Michael and Kate find a boar, but it injures Michael. They patch up his wound and Kate takes him back to camp whilst Locke goes on alone. Locke encounters the thing in the jungle - "The Monster" - but it lets him go unharmed. At the beach Jack tends to Michael's wounds whilst Kate reluctantly tells Sayid that the transmitter was damaged in the boar scuffle. Sayid is angry but decides to try again. Michael says they heard the Monster in the jungle and fear for Locke's safety.

Boone berates Shannon for not helping out more and being totally reliant on others. She tells Boone that she can fish, but instead manipulates Charlie into going fishing for her (with Hurley's help). Charlie is upbeat at her apparent interest, but then realises he's been manipulated. Upset, he hits his heroin stash again. Meanwhile, Rose, the woman Jack was sitting next to on the plane, is in denial about her husband's likely death in the plane crash and has isolated herself from the rest of the group. Jack gets her to reconnect with the others, but remains positive that her husband and the rest of the people in the tail section are still alive. When Jack says they're probably all dead, she replies "They're probably thinking the same about us."

Jack sees a man in a business suit watching him from the jungle. He runs after the figure, but instead finds a bloodied Locke stumbling back to the beach with a boar. The bodies are burned and Claire leads a touching memorial service. Michael asks Locke if he saw the Monster and Locke says no, but is clearly lying. Locke watches the flames consume the bodies...along with a wheelchair that someone found on the plane.

Flashbacks: John Locke is working in a dull office job for a box company. His only relaxation is playing Risk with a fellow worker. He has a dream of going walkabout in the Australian outback, but his boss berates him for living in a fantasy world. Locke has a telephone relationship with a woman named Helen, whom he pays to talk to, but is unable to persuade her to come with him on the trip. Locke travels to Australia but is told that his "condition" prevents him from going on the trip, which is physically gruelling and demanding. Locke angrily tells the travel representative, "Don't tell me what I can't do!" Locke has been in a wheelchair for four years, completely paralysed from the waist down, but when he woke up on the Island after the crash was able to walk. This is the "miracle" he told Walt about previously.

Major WTFery: Locke was paralysed but can now walk! Jack is seeing a person walking around that other people can't see. Rose is adamant that her husband Bernard is still alive, despite all evidence to the contrary. Also, a British person would never, in a million years, say "England is an island!" as Charlie does here (Britain is an island, England is a region on that island, but not the island itself). Bad writers.

Hindsight: Bonus points to Rose, who was dead right. 23 people survived the crash in the tail section of the plane, which landed on the other side of the Island. However, it's going to be quite a while (until Season 2) before we find out what happened to them. Like Kate, Locke has a reasonably coherent and interesting backstory, even if we don't find out how he got in that wheelchair - hurled from an eighth-floor window by his murderous father - until halfway through Season 3. Locke is also the first person to come face-to-face with the Monster and be allowed to live, because the Monster sees something in him that it didn't in the people it killed. Ironically, the Monster eventually takes the form of Locke and uses that form in an attempt to escape the Island in the last few episodes of the entire series, something that will apparently have catastrophic consequences for humanity. Meanwhile, Claire and Jack have some interesting exchanges which gain a little when you realise they're (unknowing) half-siblings.

Review: For a TV show to be successful, it's generally a good idea to have a really strong pilot and then follow it up within a few episodes with some kind of major storyline moment that will get people to keep coming back (such BSG's 33, or The X-Files's Squeeze). In Lost's case, that moment comes with the revelation that John Locke was paralysed and was never supposed to walk again but was then "healed" by the Island. This, combined with him being allowed to survive by the Monster, clearly means he is important in some fashion. Also, an underrated part of Lost's appeal is its constant willingness to mock itself and its own tropes: Jack starts wondering why it's always Kate to go on a "hike into the Heart of Darkness" at roughly the same time the audience is also wondering it. It's also great to see Locke, having been set up as a balder version of Bear Grylls who knows everything about survival, exposed as someone just using the knowledge he gained from TV and reading, and actually has rarely been into the great outdoors. All in all, Walkabout is an extremely well-written and well-played episode that shows that J.J. Abrams made a great decision when he cast Terry O'Quinn in Lost without an audition. (****½)

Every viewer's face when they realise it's a Jack flashback episode.

105: White Rabbit
Written by Christian Taylor, directed by Kevin Hooks

Airdate: 20 October 2004

Survivor Count: 47

Days on Island: 6 (27 September 2004)

Flashback Character: Jack

Flashbacks: As a boy Jack is told by his overbearing father, Christian, that he doesn't have what it takes to help others or take charge of a situation. Years later, Christian, now an alcoholic, goes to Australia on a binge and Jack chases after him, guilted into it by an argument he had with his father two months earlier. In Australia Jack finds that Christian had been drunk and out of control. Eventually his body is found after he died of a heart attack. Jack agrees to fly the coffin back to Los Angeles for burial, after arguing about it with the woman on the Oceanic Airways check-in desk.
On the Island: Two of the survivors get into trouble whilst out swimming: Joanna and Boone. Jack dives into the water and saves Boone, who is much closer to shore, but by the time he goes back out for Joanna, she's already drowned. Boone is angry with Jack, as Boone is a trained lifeguard and tries to make out that he could have saved himself whilst Jack went after Joanna. Jack also faces a fresh crisis when he is told that the fresh water supplies from the plane are down to just 17 bottles, not enough to keep 47 (now 46) people alive. Jack becomes frustrated with the leadership role that's been forced on him. Jack keeps seeing the besuited figure, either standing in the surf or by the treeline, but other people don't seem to see him. Jack chases after the figure, who appears to be his father, and into the jungle.

Meanwhile, Claire falls ill due to the heat and someone steals the remaining water bottles, prompting a manhunt. Sayid and Kate suspect Sawyer, but Sayer is innocent. Sawyer is amused that Kate is now the Island's "sheriff" and gives her the marshal's badge. The real culprit is Boone, who was trying to make a point to show he should be in charge, but he really isn't up to the job. Locke goes into the woods to search for a river or fresh water source, but instead finds Jack dangling from a cliff whilst chasing after what appeared to be his father. Locke tells Jack that this mysterious figure is his "white rabbit" and he needs to follow where it goes. He also tells Jack that Island is special, and that (during his previous encounter with the Monster) he looked into "the eye of the Island" and it was beautiful. Jack continues following the image of his father and finds a series of caves surrounding a natural spring. Part of the plane's cargo bay also crashed nearby, spilling additional supplies into the area. Jack finds his father's coffin, but it is empty. Jack returns to the beach and starts organising a party to head up and refill the water bottles. He urges the survivors to find a way of living together, otherwise they are going to die alone.

Major WTFery: Christian Shephard and his missing body, and what Locke saw when he met the Monster.

Hindsight: The mystery of Christian Shepard's missing body is one of the more obtuse ones in Lost's history. Later episodes would reveal that the Monster was masquerading as Christian at this point, but would also reveal that it didn't need the body, it just needed the person to be dead and their body on the Island. In fact, unless I'm misremembering, the ultimate fate of Christian's body is never revealed. However, Christian does go on to become arguably the most important recurring character of Lost, responsible for events in the lives of Jack, Claire and (briefly) Sawyer.

Review: Jack episodes tend to get a reputation later on of being quite boring, but this one is okay at providing some backstory and motivation for him. The mystery about Christian Shephard isn't quite up there with Locke's story from the previous episode, but it does do a good job of continuing to prove that the Island is a very odd place indeed. This episode also gives us a good, cheesy Lockeorphism ("A leader can't lead until he knows where he's going,") and one of the show's major catchphrases ("Live together or die alone). (***½)

Arguably one of the more important emotional relationships in the show.

106: House of the Rising Sun
Written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, directed by Michael Zinberg

Airdate: 27 October 2004

Survivor Count: 46 (following Joanna drowning at sea)

Days on Island: 7 (28 September 2004)

Flashback Character: Sun

Flashbacks: Sun is the rich, privileged daughter of a South Korean businessman. She falls in love with the humble-born Jin, who is working as a waiter. He gives her a white flower as a symbol of his affection. Jin asks for her father's permission to marry her, but they both believe it is unlikely to be granted. Instead, he agrees on the condition that Jin works for him. Soon Sun and Jin are living in an expensive apartment and Jin showers his wife with gifts, but is away from home for long periods. Sun yearns for the more innocent days of their romance. One night Jin comes home covered in blood and Jin realises that her father is involved in some shady business and Jin is actually working as an enforcer of some kind. Distraught, she hatches a plan to run away during a trip to Australia and Los Angeles. Whilst waiting for the plan to LA, she prepares to sneak out of the airport, but Jin gives her a white rose to show he still loves her. She decides to remain with him and they get on the plane.

On the Island: Jack, Locke, Kate and Charlie depart for the caves to collect water (after Kate pauses to admire Jack's tattoos, which she thinks are out-of-character for some reason). No sooner are they gone than Jin suddenly attacks Michael and tries to drown him. Sayid and Sawyer pull him off and handcuff him to the plane wreckage whilst they try to figure out what happened.

At the caves, Jack and company find two corpses. Jack suggests that they've been dead for a few decades, with black and white stones placed on them. Locke calls them "Adam and Eve". Charlie upsets a bee hive but the group escape with just a few stings. Jack analyses the logistics of having people convoying between the caves and beach every day and suggests moving the survivors to the caves permanently. Kate is resistant to the idea, fearing that abandoning the beach and the signal fire also means abandoning any hope of rescue. They return to the beach whilst Locke and Charlie continue to search through the wreckage near the caves. Locke turns out to be a Drive Shaft fan and recognises Charlie as the bassist. Charlie admits he is desperate to find his guitar, which was stowed away in the hold. Locke suggests that Charlie give up something that was tying him to his previous life and is holding him back on the Island. Charlie gives his heroin to Locke and immediately finds his guitar, undamaged, hanging from a nearby cliff.

Sun finds Michael and reveals that she can speak English. She hasn't told her husband as she thinks he'd be angry about it. She says that Jin saw Michael wearing a watch he found in the wreckage that belonged to Sun's father. Michael thinks it's crazy that Jin attacked him for that, but for Sun's sake he gives Jin back the watch and lets him go.

The survivors become divided over where the camp should be. Eventually they decided to split into two camps: one group will stay at the caves and send water shipments down to the beach, whilst the other tends the signal fire on the beach (the funeral pyre for the bodies that they've kept burning. Jack, Jin, Sun, Hurley, Charlie and Locke set up at the caves, whilst Claire, Boone, Shannon, Sayid, Sawyer, Kate, Walt and Michael remain on the beach.

Major WTFery: The bodies in the caves are the first indication that the Island may have been previously inhabited, or might even still be inhabited (gasp). Charlie making a sacrifice to the Island and getting a reward suggests again that the Island may be partially supernatural.

Hindsight: The identity of the bodies in the caves - "Adam and Even" - becomes one of the most endearing mysteries on the show and is teased several further times throughout the series (at one point Hurley even posits they might be themselves after time travel weirdness, a popular fan theory). Eventually, a mind-boggling 111 episodes of this one, they're confirmed to be the original body of the Man in Black (before he was transformed into the Monster) and his adopted Mother, having been left in the cave by Jacob. To be fair, for such a long-running mystery it did eventually end up being important to the resolution of the show. Seeing Jin and Sun's relationship here in the knowledge of how their story ends in that sinking submarine is genuinely emotionally affecting.

Review: Jin and Sun's relationship becomes the emotional cornerstone of the show, helped by excellent performances from Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim, and this episode sells that pretty well with a straightforward but nicely-played flashback storyline. The present day storyline is also reasonable, but Jack seems to get a bit carried away with insisting that people move to the caves. The ultimate decision, to split the camp to ease logistical difficulties but maintain the signal fire, ends up being the most sensible one. With the discovery of the bodies in the caves providing Lost with its longest-running mystery, this turns out to be a more impactful episode than it first looks. (****)

Why friends don't let their friends go to Isengard.
107: The Moth
Written by Jennifer Johnson and Paul Dini, directed by Jack Bender

Airdate: 3 November 2004

Survivor Count: 46

Days on Island: 8 (29 September 2004)

Flashback Character: Charlie

Flashbacks: Charlie, a practising Catholic, finds his role as bassist in Drive Shaft is causing him to forget his morals as he spends nights with groupies and drinks too much. He is worried that the band's growing success will lead him further into temptation. He discusses the situation with his brother Liam, who also sings in the band. Liam reveals they've been offered a record deal. Charlie agrees to stay in the band on the condition that if they agree things have gotten too crazy, they'll split the band up. Liam agrees, but Drive Shaft become more popular and then go through the roof with their lead single "You All Everybody". Although Charlie writes the songs, Liam believes that he is the reason for the band's success and starts taking over the parts of the songs where Charlie normally sings. After one nasty argument in which Charlie sees Liam taking heroin and Liam refuses to split the band as agreed, Charlie becomes an addict himself. A few years later he flies to Australia to find Liam, who is now clean, married and a father. Charlie fails to convince Liam to reform the band. Liam realises that Charlie is still a user and offers to help him get into rehab, but Charlie refuses.

On the Island: Charlie is starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms and asks Locke for his heroin stash back. Locke believes that Charlie can overcome his temptation and makes Charlie a deal: he'll give him back his drugs if Charlie asks twice more. Charlie resolves to resist the temptation.

Jack picks up some supplies from the beach and learns that Sayid has repaired the transmitter he was trying to get Kate to put in the jungle, as well as building two more. Sayid's plan is to use the three transmitters to triangulate the location of the French woman's signalling equipment and its power source, which must be considerable to run the message for sixteen years. Sayid leaves one transmitter on the beach with Boone after telling him to switch it on when he sees Sayid's signal flare. Sayid and Kate set off to place the others. Along the way, Sayid tells Kate that it is highly improbable they would have survived the plane crash. The plane fracturing in three and landing the way it did should have killed absolutely everyone on board.

At the caves Charlie gets into an argument with Jack after Charlie is left feeling useless to the group. This causes a cave-in, which Charlie escapes but traps Jack. The rest of the cave crew starts digging Jack out, but Charlie, angry and frustrated, asks for his drugs from Locke a second time. In response, Locke shows him a moth cocoon, pointing out that the moth will struggle hard to get out of the cocoon. Locke could free the moth, but it would be too weak to survive. It needs to fight hard to come out stronger. Charlie goes back to the cave and aids the rescue effort.

Michael, a former construction engineer, heads up to the caves with Boone to help in the rescue effort. Boone puts Shannon in charge of Sayid's transmitter. Sawyer interrupts his reading of Watership Down to volunteer to tell Kate about Jack's predicament and catches up with her and Sayid. Stung by Kate's criticisms, he decides to keep quiet but offers to help set the transmitter up. Eventually he tells her about Jack and takes over the transmitter himself.

The group digs a tunnel into the cave and Charlie, as the smallest person present, is able to crawl through and reach Jack. However, the tunnel collapses behind him. He frees Jack and they follow a trail of air to find another way out. They emerge to a hero's welcome. Charlie asks for his drugs back from Locke, only to burn them. Michael and Walt decide to move to the caves, whilst Kate returns to the beach. Improbably, given their usual reliability issues, both Shannon and Sawyer trigger their transmitter at the right time and Sayid is able to set homing in on the beacon...until an unknown assailant knocks him unconscious.
Major WTFery: For the first few episodes of Lost, more than a few viewers commented that it would have been impossible for so many people to survive such a violent and bloody plane crash. Sayid voices the same thought here. We actually never really get an explanation, although fans have theorised that the Island's electromagnetic repulsion effect may have slowed all three parts of the plane enough for some people to survive. But in real terms, it's just part of the whackiness of the show.

Hindsight: The later revelation that it's Locke who knocks out Sayid feels a bit lame, and possibly a retcon (the inference is that Locke is skinning boars just outside the cave, with people traipsing back and forth past him, all day). Beyond that, this is one of the most straightforward episodes of the show up to this point with not a lot going on in the overall mystery side of things.

Review: Dominic Monaghan is an engaging performer who plays Charlie with enthusiasm, which is good because the "junkie Charlie" storyline is one of the show's more tiresome. It doesn't help that the writers aren't particularly hot on British culture either. On the plus side, it does riff nicely off the fractious brother relationship from British rock band Oasis (even if it felt a bit late for that kind of reference, coming ten years after Oasis's heyday) and the episode does a good job of defining some of the character relationships a bit better. (****)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with the comment an Englishman would never refer to England as an Island.

I'm English and I always refer to Britain as England (much to the annoyance of the Scots I know) and I'm not the only I know who does.

So I would say actually very astute writing.