Regular readers will know that my enjoyment of a Lost episode is often inversely proportional to the amount of time we have to spend it following the dull adventures of Matthew “Speed Racer” Fox’s character, Jack. You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was by this episode.
The opening scene, showing several members of the Oceanic Six back on the island, was a classic Lost rug-pull opener, right down to the appearance of the ‘close up of an eye’ motif. Since we last saw two of these characters disappearing off into the night, swearing never to return to the island, it’s a moment designed to confuse us – but only for a moment, before the dull bit begins. Having contrived a situation, we now get to see how things ended up that way. Writers love this technique because it means you start with the exciting bit, then jump to the boring lead-up, confident that you’ve got your audience hooked. As a viewer, I find it both a little patronising, and a bit self-defeating. We already know the ending, so where’s the tension supposed to come from now?
Well, in the following scene, most of the tension for me came from asking, “Will that giant pendulum smack into Desmond?” Lost’s newfound penchant for throwing exposition at the viewer is a welcome relief from the wry hinting of previous seasons, but conversation upon conversation doesn’t make for a particularly interesting episode, especially when Jack’s the one having the conversations.
Ironically, after slightly complaining that Lost was starting to lack structure, it seems the concept has returned in spades. Chances are that the next several episodes will detail exactly how characters A, B and C ended up getting on the plane, together with token island-based plot. I hope I’m wrong to be that cynical about it, but only time will tell.
That’s not to say there weren’t interesting bits in this episode – it’s just that most of them involved Ben. He got all the best lines (“My mother taught me.” – sarcastic, and a lie!) and delivered the only properly interesting side-plot with his brief appearance on the phone at the marina. It’s fairly clear what he was there to do and – because they didn’t show us the ending first – there’s genuine tension in how things turned out. One thing’s for certain: only a main character would be allowed to rough up Ben that badly, and that’s an episode I can’t wait to see.
Elsewhere, a sub-plot about Locke’s suicide note was a particularly poor misfire, with Jack declaring that the letter seems to be “following” him, despite the fact he only actually tried to get rid of it once. Evidence of cut scenes, or poor writing? You decide. It’s just a pity the note didn’t actually say anything even remotely interesting. I was hoping it’d say something a bit more shocking, along the lines of “Dear Jack, don’t get on the plane! Love John.” That would’ve at least elicited some truly classic Matthew Fox gurnage.
The episode’s ending twist appears to pay off the idea the Locke repairing the wheel in the previous episode might’ve ended the time-skips, stranded the characters in the past, before the Dharma Initiative uncovered the wheel. That explains Daniel’s appearance in Episode 5×01. The new plane crash caused in this episode explains who was inhabiting the ‘new’ camp that appeared in the ‘future’ a few episodes back. It seems that the time flashes pulled the familiar characters into the past with the other Losties, while the plane crashed in the ‘future’ (now ‘present’) time. And if that makes as much sense to you as it does to me, then the writers must be doing something right, I suppose. Next week: The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham. So, more guaranteed Jack appearances then. Wonderful.
Check out a review of episode 5 here.