The first time an episode of Lost began with someone placing a needle on a record was in season 2’s opening episode – the one that introduced Desmond, showed us what was inside the hatch and, established Lost’s now-frequent tendency to subvert the audience’s expectation that we were seeing a flashback.
Three seconds into this episode, when I saw a hand reach into shot and place a needle on a record, I knew this was going to make up for last week’s snore-fest.
How could it not? Locke-centric episodes have never failed to deliver in the past. An immediate fan-favourite, Locke himself was actually one of Lost’s earliest mysteries. Now, he’s the man who’s trying to solve them, and he takes the viewers along for the ride. As one of the few characters around who has faith in the island, Locke represents all those of us who keep watching Lost, picking over every detail, hopeful that a reward will come eventually.
After last week’s episode appeared to tread water and tell a Jack story of little consequence, I’m starting to wonder if it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to placate the many viewers of Lost who simply aren’t interested in the sci-fi shamanic mysticism of the ongoing plot. The show’s approach to reality is part-X-Files, part-Alias, part-Twin Peaks, starting in a world that closely resembled our own and ending up in one that has, episode by episode, become completely fantastical. Good for people like me, bad for the people that, god help them, want to see more of Jack attempting to operate on himself again.
Still, I’m going to assume that if you’ve stuck with Lost this long and come to read about it on the Internet, you’re the kind of person who likes their Lost episodes deeply involved and mythos-heavy. Boy, is this episode mythos heavy.
Ghosts, the Dharma initiative, prophetic dreams, time-travel, sickness and mysterious figures who don’t age – it’s all here. Back in gear, season 4 continues its relentless march towards the finale, spilling out mysteries and never under-estimating the viewer. While that might make it inaccessible to the general public, it’s hard to complain about. That’s what DVDs are for, right?
In any case, the details of Locke’s life growing up are compelling in their own right. Turns out, his hunter persona isn’t how he always was. As a child, he was a highly-intelligent science-whiz, who only avoided being drawn into the Lost conspiracy much earlier by developing his Wildman attitude and the immortally-phrased ethos: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”
The most surprising part of this episode was seeing Claire turn up in a far creepier manner than she ever has before. Playing her lines like a drug-fuelled cultist, Emilie de Raven suddenly goes from being an actress indistinguishable from her annoyingly whiny character to a range powerhouse, demonstrating that if anyone’s really at fault for how uninteresting Claire is, it’s the writers.
Meanwhile, on the boat, things are turning gritty. It’s like an episode of The Wire, except on a big cargo freighter. Characters get shot, alliances are fractured, and the marines are plotting to take revenge on the island that killed one of them in the only way they know how – with a lot of guns. Even as Sayid escapes, Desmond declines to go back to the island with him, declaring that he’ll “never step foot on that place again” – well congratulations on signing your own death warrant there, Des. It was fun while it lasted.
Next week: Jeff Fahey lands the helicopter and Jack, mercifully absent from the majority of this episode, might just end up leading the beach crew into a massacre. Something – and not just the whole “Oceanic Six” thing – tells me that we’re in for yet more major casualties before the season’s out…