Introducing new characters into Lost is always a gamble – just ask Paulo and Nikki, a pair of Season 3 cast additions who were literally buried alive for daring to take time away from the Losties we already knew and loved. With that in mind, the four new characters that leave the “rescue” boat and touch ground on the Lost island in this episode definitely face an uphill struggle for our affections – especially because we pretty much know that despite their attempts to act all innocent and friendly, they’re only here to cause trouble.
Perhaps the best thing about Lost’s flashback structure is the ways they find to twist the format. In this episode, rather than a parallel plot set in the past, we get a clutch of single-scene flashbacks, each introducing one of the newbies. There’s nervous physicist Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies) who finds himself mysteriously moved to tears when the remains of Oceanic Flight 815 are reported found. There’s a pissed-off psychic by the name of Miles Straume (Ken Leung) who almost inexplicably has the genuine ability to contact the dead. There’s Charlotte Lewis (Rebecca Mader), a British action-excavator and anthropologist who just about manages to be legally distinct from Lara Croft, and lastly Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) a pilot who should’ve been flying Oceanic 815 the day it crashed, and who you will come to know only as The Guy Who Played Jobe in The Lawnmower Man.
It’s definitely a strong introduction, echoing Season 2 episode The Other 48 Days in how it piques our intrigue about these previously-unknown characters, simultaneously introducing them to the cast and audience, giving them all their own mysteries and personalities that you can’t help but care about. So here they are, with their helicopter and satellite phones and a whole bunch of new guns, though, unfortunately not enough of the latter. There’s a frankly glorious scene where Jack, held at gunpoint, attempts to convince the newbies that the other survivors are hiding in the bushes with a whole bunch of rifles pointed in their direction. Miles calls his bluff, and finds himself narrowly missed by some well-placed warning shots from Sayid. It’s a brilliant reversal of the Losties’ early encounters with The Others, and shows that after a few months (local time…) of living the life, they’re really starting to get the hang of this island thing.
This situation is actually something of a rarity – it seems that after three season’s worth of confusion and manipulation, Jack, Locke et al are actually fairly on top of things, whether it’s Locke leading the rebellious survivors to alleged safety, or Jack’s squad successfully turning the tables on the newbies, putting themselves back in control and shockingly getting a few answers out of them regarding their mysterious agenda. Turns out, they’re not here to rescue the survivors of Flight 815 – they’re here for Ben.
This is lucky, because Ben’s status as an antagonist is becoming increasingly untenable, and hopefully when the squabble is over he’ll at least be firmly aligned with someone other than himself. After attempting to kill Locke last season, and new arrival Charlotte in this episode, it’s increasingly unclear why no-one has yet dealt with him in a more permanent way, enigmatic promises be damned. He’s starting to suffer from Spike-in-Buffy-Season-5 syndrome – the cast’s continued tolerance of his verbal sniping and remorseless backstabbing is utterly preposterous, and yet when you’re watching him be repeatedly punched in the face by Sawyer, his special weasely brand of charisma leaves you sympathising not with the puncher, but the punchee. It’s dangerous territory for a character who’s supposed to be the villain to be allowed to occupy.
Now, because it’s season 4, we’re not supposed to be getting new villains and shady organisations crammed into the mythology – we’re supposed to be getting some actual answers! This episode does, to its credit, contain a fairly major shocker which you might have noticed me gloss over earlier in the review. It turns out that someone – possibly whatever organisation sent the evil rescue boat – has attempted to cover up the crash of Oceanic 815 by planting fake remains of the plane and passengers in the sea. No small feat, that’s for sure, and in itself it’s a massive piece of the Lost puzzle.
Overall, episode 2 manages to surpass season 4’s decent opener, turning in one of the series’ most memorable episodes to date – though would you expect any less from an episode written by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Buffy) and Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Buffy: Season 8) – the answer is no, you would not.