This Lost in Space review contains spoilers
Lost in Space Episode 10
In my review of Lost in Space season 1, based on the first five episodes screened for critics, I declared it the ultimate “above average” show. Those first five episodes never achieved greatness, nor did they strive for it. Instead Lost in Space presented a perfectly pleasant (if very expensive) above-average sci-fi entertainment option.
After viewing the whole season, I stand by that initial impression. Lost in Space is an above average show. What I never expected, however, was the circuitous path it would take to being above average. If you were to chart our star ratings for episodes six through ten, you would get something that resembled the EKG of someone on meth.
4 stars, 2 1/2 stars, 4 1/2 stars, 2 stars, and now 3 stars.
All of that averages out to…well to average, or slightly above it. It’s just mystifying why the show couldn’t find more consistency. This was a show with good ideas and often poor execution.
I almost get the sense that the writers would write episodes the way I write my reviews. They are seized by an exciting idea, rush through the creation process and then are too spent to bother and fine-tune and perfect what they’ve come up with.*
*Case in point: I was so excited that I came up with that self-serving, masturbatory analogy that I initially wrote “the way I right my reviews.”
That’s not really acceptable when I do it, and I’m not even the one receiving millions upon millions of Netflix’s hard-earned dollars. Though let the record show that I’m certainly not opposed to receiving Netflix’s millions. Lost in Space is passionate storytelling with strong characters and an easily identifiable emotional core, felled by some pure laziness.
Let’s just take stock of some of the contrivances, inconsistencies, poor logic, and utter laziness on display in “Danger, Will Robinson.”
First of all, overlong finales can be kind of annoying or unnecessary but there is still no reason for Lost in Space’s finale to be one of the season’s shortest episodes.
It’s very dumb and silly that the way Don and John survived the explosion of the Jupiter 4 is that…they just kind of survived it. Sure, I guess John makes mention of ejecting them but how did they then end up in a piece of wreckage that’s so homey and accommodating. Though I must admit it the two of them on the outer space equivalent of Jack and Rose’s Titanic door is rather stunning.
It’s contrived that Don suddenly wouldn’t be able to see because of some antifreeze in his suit. If you’re trying to set up a reason for John to share his soul and for Don to cry, you just have to do better than that.
Why does the show insist upon not letting viewers interpret the significance of the characters’ dialogue for themselves?
“You and me are still friends so that means you and the Robot can still be friends,” Smith tells Will after commandeering the Robot.
“It’s not my friend.,” Will says.
“You said it, not he,” Penny observes
Oh my God, Penny, I know! I just saw. Go play with your harpoon.
Speaking of God, why on Earth would a loving God let Parker Posey getting a role on a big TV show only to deliver lines like “Guilt is like a stomach ache from overeating. Everyone is like me. I’m just not in denial. That I’m looking out for myself. You like John because he protects you.”
Why couldn’t the Robinsons just leave the cargo bay when the bay door was stuck open and their suits were leaking air? The Robot was already gone. Furthermore why couldn’t Maureen just go back to the Resolute an then explain the whole Don and John situation. They have plenty of time and the Resolute clearly has more tracking capabilities than the Jupiter 2 doe. Why does Smith talk to herself so much? Why would Penny wear her hair in pigtails? Doesn’t that feel weird with a helmet on? Why do fools fall in love? Why wasn’t Jason Kipnis’ hard hit foul ball during the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series hit just a little further and a little straighter? Why? Why? Why?
There are far too many basic logical questions ignored in Lost in Space’s finale that make it impossible at times for the viewer to suspend his or her belief.
And yet…there’s this cool Robot, you see.
The thing that’s kept Lost in Space firmly in above average territory even as its quality spikes from episode to episode and its brain sometimes leaks out all over the floor is that it understands that some things are just cool. The Jupiter 2 is cool. The spacesuits are cool. The Robot is cool.
Visually, there is so much working for this show. More importantly, it’s a show where the characters are just flat out nice to one another. In a TV landscape littered with moral ambiguity and the dark depths of man’s soul, shows that present a hokey Norman Rockwell-ian view of a family that sticks together can feel revelatory.
When Maureen starts the Jupiter 2’s suicide dive back into the unnamed planet, Smith remarks that there’s no way she’s crazy enough to kill herself and her three children.
“We’re Robinsons. We live together or die together,” she responds.
That’s so corny, and overly idealistic, and frankly dumb. It’s also sweet. It ties together the only theme that the show has been able to present consistently: Robinsons: good; not Robinsons: bad. This time around it also has the added benefit of being a legitimately brilliant move on Maureen’s part. The Robot, sensing danger for his new “master” quickly shuffles her off to the most secure part of the ship. Then Maureen locks Smith in plot prison where she belongs.
Then with Smith safely tucked away, the second half of “Danger, Will Robinson” actually gets to open up and have a bit of fun. The challenges the Robinsons start to face become a natural extension of the plot rather than Smith and West-compelled contrivances.
Maureen and Will are finally able to track down John and Don after Don successful lightts a fuse of sorts on their “vessel.” Maureen plans to launch a harpoon to them so they can make it back to the ship but it’s going to take 30 seconds before the ship is in harpoon range. How helpful of all these science fiction ships to always have a countdown timer for every possible crisis. It’s like the Jupiter engineers foresaw this exact circumstance.
Maureen has to cut the countdown short, however, and fires the harpoon a few meters shy of John and Don because the June is now loose. Maureen, Will, Penny, and Judy run throughout the ship, trying to avoid the Robot’s path before they’re finally cornered in the bay.
This season was always going to end with Will showing the Robot the real magic of friendship so he can overcome his violent programming. Still, it’s nice that the show offers one big fake-out before the inevitable happens. Instead of getting in the safety of the Chariot, Will approaches Robot and tries to warm him over. Robot responds by lifting a heavily armored fist into the sky to crush Will like the mop-topped little beetle he is.
This fake out provides Maureen an opportunity to play the as she uses the bay’s mechanical arm to knock the Robot aside and then opens up the pod doors to send his mechanical ass into outer space. Of course, you know what Chekov always said. If you introduce a giant alien Robot in the first act, it better go toe-to-toe with another giant alien Robot in the second act.
Robot returns in an alien ship along with another Robot friend. But this time seeing Will in legitimate danger finally does the trick and his face goes from red to blue. The two Robots battle and it’s dope.
Look, this show was almost always going to be about the Robot. Or at least that is the element most people were going to care about. In its screener notes, Netflix requested that critics keep pretty much everything about the Robot a secret in reviews. They knew the appeal of the show was largely going to hinge on whether the Robot is believable and exciting. Thankfully he was both to the very end.
This isn’t the last we’ve seen of Robot should the show get a second season, obviously. But he has the cleanest, most satisfying character arc of anyone on the show in the first season. That should be surprising but TV and film writers have proven time and time again that they are anti-social monsters who can only empathize with machines.
One near ill-fated Will spacewalk and Smith re-launching the harpoon later, the Robinsons are all united on the Jupiter 2 where they belong. Still, the finale was one final fake-out in store. The Resolute waited for them! As Victor directs the Resolute towards the Robinson’s broken and useless Jupiter 2, somehow the ship springs to life.
The alien technology that Smith brought aboard has commandeered the ship and reroutes it via faster-than-lightspeed (or just straight-up transportation) to the outskirts of two planets smushed together. Will immediately recognizes the landscape as the pattern Robot drew in the sand. The Robinsons are home. Not their home, mind you – the Robot’s.
Lost in Space’s first season finale is a fairly frustrating experience that nonetheless eventually reaches the target of “above-average” and ends exactly the way it should. The cast and setting now exactly matches the original show’s and 1998 film remake’s. John, Maureen, Judy, Penny, Will, Smith, and Don are all aboard the Jupiter 2 that just happens to be lost…in space.