While interconnected flashbacks have always been a staple of Lost, one thing that the series has avoided doing is reminding viewers about the interconnections. There are two schools of Lost viewer – the people who remembered Ms. Hawking from her episode with Desmond, and the people who were utterly confused when she showed up again, and wondered whether they were supposed to know who she was. While normally in the former, I have to admit that this time – not unlike certain members of the cast this episode – I found myself in the wrong camp.
Although the brief “Previously on Lost” segments are usually enough to bring me up to speed, I spent parts of this episode wondering who Cassidy was, and why she knew Kate, and how she had Sawyer’s daughter. Given that the two episodes which answer those questions are a solid two years old, it’s fair to say that the writers should’ve brought us up to speed a little quicker than they did. When even a seasoned viewer such as I finds himself turning to Lostpedia to get answers, poor writing has to be the culprit.
That glitch aside, the episode was as satisfying as any Kate episode can be. Focusing on Kate’s motherly instincts gives us a credible reason for why she’d care about young Ben, and presents the kind of strong thematic link between the flashbacks and the ‘current’ events that make the best episodes. It’s cleverly put together, but all that counts for naught when the last 30 seconds of the episode are far superior to the rest of it.
Yes, for all the cleverly-constructed interleaved plotting, those last few moments with an adult Ben waking up to find TV’s favourite walking resurrection, John Locke, staring him in the face outshone the previous 40 minutes rather too noticeably. It makes it rather hard to care for the fate of young Aaron or Clementine or the possible repercussions of Kate’s decision to tell at least two other people the truth about the Oceanic Six, or all the other mildly startling scenes in this episode – all because we know that John Locke and Benjamin Linus are about to have A Conversation.
Hilariously, Kate doesn’t even manage to be the second most interesting character in her own episode – instead, Jack put in an unlikely character-developing appearance, as he finally proves that he gets what Locke always said, refusing to intervene and save Young Ben from death, instead trusting “the Island” to sort things out – although quite whether he’d be so blasé about the issue in other circumstances is debatable. We’re left with the question: Has Jack turned ‘man of faith’ or is he just going along with the most convenient explanation?
Despite having being tightly written, the resulting episode is weak overall – and nowhere is that more evident than in Miles and Hurley’s time-travel conversations, intended as comic relief but failing to hit the mark quite as well as they should. The interactions felt out of character, and seemed little more than a wry wink at viewers who might themselves be struggling with the time-travel mechanics Lost has introduced. As recent episodes of Heroes have taught us, openly mocking your audience is never going to result in good reviews, but the problems with this episode run deeper – thankfully, this would appear to wrap things up for Kate this season, and at least there’s the promise of a better episode next week.
Check out our review of episode 10 here.