6.1-2 LA X: Parts 1 and 2
More than most TV shows, Lost has been defined by its structure, dedicating itself to telling parallel, intertwined stories. First, we had three seasons where each episode contained flashbacks. Then, a season’s worth of flash-forwards. Then one which had flashbacks, forwards, and on at least one occasion, we had both in the same episode. For Season 6, one of the burning questions was related to exactly this matter. Where was there left to go?
Well… how about flash-sideways?
Yes, apparently the gimmick for this season is a dual-timeline setup, exploring what the lives of the Losties might have been like had 815 not crashed. Of course, we all know that things won’t be that simple, and from Juliet’s death came the suggestion that the two timelines aren’t quite as separate as they’re being presented, and there’s a fair chance that Jack’s missing father is a major symptom of that. And was Charlie’s “I’m supposed to be dead” a statement with a knowing double-meaning? One thing is certain – it’s not a matter of if these two timelines interact, simply a matter of when and how.
Traditionally, Lost likes to use its significant episodes – openers, season breaks, season finales – to treat its viewers to a rug-pulling, eye-popping twist that makes it seem as though the room has just depressurised and everything’s suddenly being sucked out the door. However, this time, there was none of that. Despite being a two-parter, the events of the episode were strangely muted, favouring a rhythmic, building sense of disorientation and confusion to a single moment of brain-exploding clarity. Indeed, although the twists came thick and fast, many were delivered with an almost pedestrian air – Desmond on the plane, ‘Locke’ being the Smoke Monster – they were so understated they almost slipped past unnoticed.
As a season opener, it wasn’t perfect. The lack of any big single game-changing twist left it feeling a little too much like simply the next episode in the saga, rather than the start of the sprint towards the finish line. It was the CGI that fell majorly short, though. It’s almost hard to believe that a show offering such poor ‘sunken island’ CGI and dodgy smoke monster effects is the same one whose pilot was touted for being the most expensive ever.
Certain elements of the flash-sideways were also hard to believe. Shannon’s absence, although explained, still seems conspicuous, like it was motivated more by contract wrangling than story reasons. Why didn’t Jack remember Desmond, given how quickly the realisation came when they were on the island together? And try as they might, all the makeup in the world isn’t going to make the cast look like they did in Season 1, particularly in Claire’s case.
On the plus side, we were introduced to a new bunch of enigmatic and compelling characters. A haughty Japanese man named Dogen and his interpreter, John Lennon. Well, apparently he’s not called that. He’s just “Lennon”. Will either be the next Eko/Daniel/Desmond in terms of going from antagonist to fan favourite over the course of a season? Time will tell on that one.
At least the old stalwart, John Locke, was able to bring the goods, as Terry O’Quinn gave the kind of subtle, nuanced performance that shows why he’s been placed at the heart of Lost. Deeply threatening and malevolent in one scene, genial and meek in the next.
However, as good as the big, sweeping elements were, it was the small details that made this episode great. For Lost obsessives (and, let’s face it, aren’t we all at this point?) there were tonnes of easter eggs: the return of Frogurt, Arzt, and Hurley’s Chicken Advert, for example. The subtle indications that the alternate timeline might not be quite as similar to the original as it seems (Was Locke lying? Or did he really manage to go on his ‘walkabout’ in this timeline?) As usual, the details are what make even the most pedestrian scene into something worth obsessing over.
So, if I had to review this episode in one line, it’d be, “There’s a lot to process.” To tell the truth, it seems as though there are more questions than ever that need answering, but at the same time, we’re tantalisingly close to finding out the secrets of Ol’ Smokey. Let’s just hope the Lost writers have learnt from the reaction to Battlestar Galactica‘s ending…