This Lost in Space review contains spoilers.
Lost in Space Episode 2
The premiere of Lost in Space lived up to Netflix’s “10-hour movie” mantra with picture perfect pacing throughout the adventure, stunning CG, and a major cliffhanger to lead us into episode two. Completing a 10-hour movie on a TV budget is a really freaking hard mission, though. With few exceptions, the shows that Netflix attempts to do on this scale (looking at you, Marvel) tend to exhaust their goodwill towards the middle of the season.
So while episode one hopefully satisfied what long-time fans of the franchise have been waiting for since the 1998 feature film adaptation crashed through the sun, episode two is more reflective of what we’re going to see over the course of the season. And if Lost in Space is going to beat the “10-hour movie” curse, it needs to turn out delightful, challenging adventures in each episode. We do get some of that with Penny’s mission to rescue John, Maureen, Will and Robot, but episode two mostly serves to expand on the storylines in the premiere.
As the episode opens, we’re properly introduced to Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith and Ignacio Serricchio’s Don West. One of the best parts of the early part of this season is that no time is wasted on exposition. It all comes pretty naturally as the characters fight for survival and struggle to gain an understanding of the brave new world they’ve landed on. We still don’t know exactly who Posey’s character is. We saw her assume the name Dr. Smith (played by the original Will Robinson, Bill Mumy) at the end of the premiere and steal his spot on the Jupiter 18. When the ship crashes into this foreign planet, Posey’s Dr. Smith immediately is forced to put on a guise. Hotshot pilot Don West wants some answers and to establish a connection, but Dr. Smith is trying to keep a low profile.
If you went into this show knowing anything about Lost in Space (or read our interview with Posey), Dr. Smith’s arc in this episode was pretty clearly telegraphed. Dr. Smith is not actually a doctor, doesn’t have a brother, and is devious to the point where she’d leave Don West and another colonist for dead. This doesn’t stray far from the original series which often pitted Jonathan Harris’ wise-cracking Dr. Smith against the Don West, and it could make for some dramatic tension to have West and Smith at odds in this new world when they inevitably reunite.
While Dr. Smith, Don West, and the chicken claw their way to survival, the episode is about building trust among the colonists. Dr. Smith already broke that trust with West, but on the other side of the planet, the Robinson family has a leadership dilemma on its hands. There is ample tension between John and Maureen during their excursion to the wooded area of the planet. At one point Maureen takes command: “It’s important they hear us speaking with one voice… That voice is mine.” Since landing, she’s made several asides to assert her control over her clan. Not only is she showing strength as a leader, but there’s some maternal instincts kicking in. John did leave his family for long stretches of time and everyone seems to resent that. In a particularly emotional and kind of awesome scene, Will finds a baseball and plays catch with the Robot while talking about his daddy issues. Someday, Robots will be good at baseball
The problem with Maureen taking command, while she’s perfectly qualified in some areas to do so, is that she has a contrasting leadership style. Maureen is a scientist and wants to continue exploring. John is a military man who needs to keep his battalion safe at all costs. With a storm on the horizon that makes the movie Twister look like a windy day at the beach, John has to make the call to save his family. His soldier mentally kicks in when they spot a flare, leading to them picking up Dr. Smith. On both accounts, it was the right call.
In an episode with some wonderful CG with the map inside the Robot ship, plus the introduction of the Chariot and two key Lost in Space characters, the worldbuilding is secondary to the bubbling family drama. So far, so good.
Through the first two episodes, the Robinson family has made some bold moves, some that nearly cost lives. We can excuse the practicality of those decisions because they move the story along and help to develop the characters. Will is still dealing with his anxiety issues, and hiding the secrets about the Robot almost hurting him certainly will come into play down the line. Judy is dealing with the PTSD of nearly dying in the ice. John and Maureen are making strides, and Maureen’s apology could go a long way in thawing their frosty relationship. Dr. Smith already has an uncomfortable history with the Robot. Don West is pissed off in a cave. And yet Penny might be the only one thinking straight right now. A box full of Oreos on a strange planet will do that.