This Lost in Space review contains spoilers.
Lost in Space Season 1 Episode 3
Although this third chapter in the Lost in Space saga on Netflix is basically “introductory crisis part two” for the Robinsons, it does an adequate job of delivering back story for Dr. Smith a.k.a. June Harris, digging deeper into Will’s relationship with the robot, and exploring the family dynamic a little more, which is something this show has chosen to dole out bit by bit for better or worse. With better episodes both preceding and following this one, it’s easy to view “Infestation” as simply a bridge from the exposition to the meat of the story, but in that sense it did what it was supposed to do: wrap up the intro.
The Dr. Smith character has been tough to pin down thus far, but often it’s the subtext that works the most in Parker Posey’s favor since all we really have to go on regarding her motivation is extreme self interest and a flirtation with sociopathic tendencies. Sure, the flashbacks showed us a sister to be jealous of who inherited their father’s business, but it seems June was a criminal before the Resolute launched and perhaps even before the disaster on Earth. Perhaps we’re not supposed to ask why Dr. Smith is the way she is but rather just follow the path of a selfish survivor and wait for her lies to catch up with her.
So how do we reconcile the June Harris who’s willing to poison or drug her sister, steal her spot on a colony ship, jettison her boyfriend from an airlock, and then abandon Don West in a deadly storm with the Dr. Smith who threatens to use the ejector seat to escape the Robinson’s Jupiter, eliminating its ability to fly, but who then helps Maureen fix the jammed engine instead? Has she started to bond with this family, or did she simply weigh her options and decide that gunning the engines was more likely to end in her survival than flying up through the crevasse and hoping to land safely outside… with no supplies or means to live? Probably the latter, but it’s the not knowing that makes her character enigmatic.
More subtext comes in her interactions with Maureen (“You remind me of my sister,” subtext: “Hello, alpha female”) and Will (“It’s okay to be afraid, to want to save yourself,” subtext: “…like me”), and while the Robinsons tolerate her presence with politeness and grace, we sense their uneasiness, and Will flat out disagrees with her self preservation philosophy. His attitude in turn reflects others’ stance towards the robot’s over-protectiveness: it’s not okay to lock the boy up for safe-keeping, especially when John needs his torque wrench.
And speaking of John, he should be applauded for being the only one to see through Judy’s stubborn denial of her post-traumatic stress symptoms. Lost in Space has done an admirable job of letting John play the role of a typical “me-strong-me-kill-alien-eel” man but also transcend his caveman dominance when offering a truly sympathetic response to Judy’s insistence that she’s fine: “I believe you, I do. I just want you to believe it, too.” He even plays the foil to Maureen when she realizes the eels are eating the shuttle’s fuel by saying, “Any ideas how we get out of this one?” allowing her to offer the quip that illustrates one of her fun quirks, “I’m going to need a bigger whiteboard.”
Not that her humor could stand up against that of Penny, who is emerging as an unlikely but effective comic relief character. Whether she’s commenting on Maureen’s dissection of the eel with, “Aaannd I’m never having unagi again,” lightening the mood after escaping the collapsing glacier with, “Anybody have a mop? I may have barfed a little bit back here,” or just dousing herself in salt to keep the slugs away, Penny is in rare form this week and distinguishes herself nicely from the other characters.
But then again, pretty much every character shows growth in this episode; that’s probably why the eel plot feels mundane by comparison: to leave space for character building. Even the robot displays some personality as he clumsily polishes machine parts with Will and Penny, not to mention his moment as the stoic, all-powerful guardian during the crisis. Dr. Smith makes the perceptive observation that the robot might be listening to Will’s inner voice, and when she spies Will putting the gun the robot printed under his bed, you can see the wheels turning in her head. And, of course, the gun explains the mysterious “unknown” item that was blamed on both John and Dr. Smith in a clever bit of misdirection.
So although this wasn’t the most compelling episode so far of Lost in Space, it had plenty of merit in areas other than plot. With a change in setting and the re-establishment of communications with the Resolute, it becomes abundantly clear that “Infestation” was designed to fill in the exposition gaps left over from the first two episodes while providing a filler story that will doubtlessly explain why no one has any fuel to leave the planet. The story has unfolded in a well-constructed manner with varying levels of excitement, but the hints of what’s to come keep us coming back for more.