This Lost in Space review contains spoilers.
Lost in Space Episode 6
Through five episodes of Lost in Space (representing half of its 10-episode first season), the show has done a wonderful job developing the Robinson family into sympathetic, interesting characters.
John, Maureen, Judy, Penny, and Will are not necessarily complex nor do they frequently transcend past the science fiction adventure archetypes they inhabit. John is the strong dad, Maureen is the smart mom, Judy is the smart daughter, Penny’s the funny one, and Will is the wide-eyed innocent and therefore the closest the audience has to a representative on the show.
And that limited characterization is perfectly fine. Maybe the Robinsons will become more complicated and recognizable human one day as the show begins to grow and the characters become more lived in. For now though, they’re perfect, easily idenitifiable character cogs in Lost in Space’s problem-solving plot machine.
The two other non-Robinson main characters, however, need some help. Like the Robinsons, Dr. Smith and Don West also are intended to fill out certain storytelling archetypes. Dr. Smith is the devious schemer, designed to impede our characters path and Don West is a roguish interloper who exists to keep the proceedings light and fun and provide a contrast to the organized and harmonious Robinsons.
Those are the roles Smith and West are supposed to fill. The problem is that through five episodes they’ve been unable to do so properly. “Eulogy” seeks to rectify that by presenting big plot lines for each that is intended to clarify their goals and reveal their personalities.
In “Eulogy,” Don West still comes across as a vestigial, less cool John Robinson but at least the show begins to develop his sense of humor and adventure. If you introduce a scruffy-looking nerf herder, you gotta have him eventually do some scruffy-looking nerf herder shit.
The colonists needs gas if they’re ever going to get off of this planet, something that unbeknownst to everyone but John, Maureen, and Penny will be pretty important very soon. Thankfully, Don knows where his Jupiter crashed with a full reserve of fuel.
Victor, Don, Judy, and some red shirts’ journey to the Jupiter is probably the most appealing Don has been on the show yet, give or take a chicken interaction here and there. Don expresses an interest in ‘80s hair metal and driving cars very fast. That’s obviously not the most original characterization for a scruffy ruffian (a scruff-ruff, if you will) but at least Lost in Space is doing something with him now.
Plus, the shot of Don encouraging Judy to stand up through the “sun roof” while pockets of gas explode on an alien planet all around her is surprisingly gorgeous filmmaking.
Don reverts back to the smuggler starter kit by episode’s end though. They reach the ship and discover that it is buried under a layer of soot. Don volunteers to go into the engine room while Judy and the others tether the ship upright so it doesn’t fall down the cliff. The results here are predictable and perfunctory. Don’s moment of fake self-sacrifice is neither interesting nor surprising and the moment doesn’t reach the aesthetic heights of he and Judy’s joyride.
Thankfully, however, Don does emerge from the wreckage with evidence that Smith is no who she says she is.
Speaking of Smith, the episode is more is more successful in developing her. Smith’s motivations for being a massive pain in the ass are still unclear. Perhaps this is just her personality and all she knows how to do is to pit people against one another. If so, that’s actually a fairly interesting path for the character. As of now, it seems as though Smith has no other goal than to ruin other’s lives. Where “Eulogy” really succeeds though is showing her tactics in doing so.
Smith has previously shown an aptitude for latching onto any dangling thread that may be advantageous to her. The second she realized that there were two weapons aboard the Jupiter 2, the gun and the Robot, she made immediate moves to secure both. Now she has been presented with another potential weapon: Angela.
At episode’s beginning, the survivors are gathered on the deck of the Jupiter 2 discussing what to do with Robot. When the conversation devolves into bickering, Victor asks that Angela step forwards and tell the story of her violent encounter with the Robot.
Angela’s husband was a cellist and one of the few musicians marked for passage to the new world. He liked football. He was a good man. And the Robot turned him into bloody mess of meat right in front of Angela’s eyes. John tries to intervene on the Robot’s behalf but the damage of Angela’s testimony has already been done. There is no official decision regarding the Robot yet but the tide is certainly turning.
Smith jumps in to make sure it continues to turn. Smith sees Angela’s pain and understands it presents an opportunity. She offers Angela help in the guise of therapy but in reality she just wants to inflame Angela’s emotions and her pain so that she commits to doing something rash. One of the episode’s best moments is Smith forcing Angela to relive her traumatic memories and then immediately cutting the therapy session short and stepping outside, knowing that Angela’s anguished sobs are soon to arrive, then nodded confidently once they do. Angela’s husband may have been a cellist but Smith is a god damn composer.
One of the more interesting deviations from the original Lost in Space, is the fact that “Smith” is a psychologist and not a medical doctor.
Maureen could use one of those. She has discovered from her trip up into the stars that their sun and their planet is orbiting a black hole. They have weeks, maybe months before the planet is sucked in and obliterated.
“I was wondering how you deal with it?” she asks Smith about doctor-patient confidentiality. “Being the keeper of all those secrets?”
“It’s just part of the job,” Smith says. “You have to find a place inside. A little box. A place you put things you don’t want others to know. That box has to be airtight. When something goes in there, it stays in there. Where it can’t hurt you or anyone else. It’s the only way to survive.”
Why do you ask? Is there something you’d like me to help put in your box?”
Smith’s gambit works and Angela does indeed do something rash, and approaches the Jupiter 2 with gun in hand. Before that though, John and Will have taken the day to spend some quality time with Robot. The sweet, mechanical lad charmingly has no idea just how much grief he’s caused the Robinson family. He’s mostly just excited that he’s learning how to high-five. John, however, has a darker and more important lesson for Will.
John has gone to bat for Robot now and he really does believe his son can control the beast. But that doesn’t mean that Will doesn’t need to understand the unimaginable grief his friend has caused. John instructs Will to find 27 of the heaviest rocks he can lift and arrange them on top of one another to create a monument to the 27 souls Robot killed aboard the Resolute.
At the end of “Eulogy” the Robinson family is in a safer, more secure spot than they’ve been since the crash. The fuel has been secured and everyone is together finishing that game of Go Fish from the Pilot. Hell, Penny even has herself a a boyfriend, a boyfriend who writes shitty poetry maybe but a boyfriend all the same.
Then as Angela approaches, Smith sees her and suggests that Will go get his mom so see can play Go Fish too. In reality, Smith is just trying to get Will out of the way so there is nothing stopping Robot from going berserk. And go berserk he does. Angela approaches him with a gun and he goes from “Blue” to “Red” fairly quickly. As John steps forward to defuse the situation, Robot throws him aside like a rag doll. Will arrives just in time to tell Robot to calm down but the damage has already been done.
Previously John told the Colonists that Will had a firm control of the Robot and everything would be fine because of it. Smith has successfully created a demonstration in which she’s revealed that should anything happen to Will or if he’s separated from the Robot for a moment’s notice, everything can go sour very, very fast.
Will understands this by episode’s end and takes Robot to a cliff. He instructs Robot to walk forward off the cliff, which Robot does dutifully, smashing into several pieces on his way down. The Robot will undoubtedly be back. Those pieces he broke into look suspiciously rearrangeable . Still, the damage to Will’s psyche and innocence is believable and likely irreversible.
Don and Smith make some strides in “Eulogy,” but Lost in Space is still not in a fully confident and secure place with its two biggest non-Robinson characters. At the same time, however, the Robinson’s only get stronger. Based on Will’s surprising decision-making, the Robinsons may transcend those science fiction archetypes sooner rather than later.