Did we like it?
As an absorbing drama that wilfully shrouds itself in swathes of mystery and intrigue with a plotline that looks as interminably impenetrable as a Kafka novel, it’s peerless. However, we reckon the writers have been taking tips from Kate Thornton on how to needlessly string out plotlines and drive viewers into a frenzied distraction, only with the consolation that we won’t be told the MacDonald Brothers will be going through to the next episode.
What was good about it?
• The prologue that began on the close-up of an eye (yep, they’re still using it) that belonged to what appeared to be a normal suburban housewife cooking muffins, plumping up the sofa cushions as she prepared to host the local bookclub in a cunning parody of Desperate Houswives. It looked for all the world like one of the innumerable flashbacks that Lost has become renowned for.
• Perhaps we should have known there was something more going on. Bookclubs, after all, are only organised and attended by people for whom a persistent vegetative state is the next rung up the ladder of spiritual fulfilment. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the bookclub rushed out to the street. And then walking out purposefully from his abode was ‘Henry Gale’ (or ‘Ben’ as we later learned was his real name) the apparent leader of The Others. The bang was the plane that brought Jack, Sawyer, Kate et al to the island and it was in trouble as a leaving a suspiciously large trail of black smoke across the sky, the sort of black smoke you might otherwise see mutilating pilots or pulling Locke into holes in the ground.
• The characters continue to be well drawn and consistent; and correspond especially well in those episodes in which they are the ‘focuses’ of the flashback. It works in an original way as the plot already seems hollowed out moulded and the characters just flow into the space. In the first episode it was Jack, the second Sun.
• Waking up what seemed to be a bunker, Jack showed off his usual inflexible pragmatism and absence of imagination. First he tried to kick in the Perspex window of his cell before pointlessly pulling on some chains. This was complemented in his flashback when he met his estranged wife Sarah to discuss their imminent divorce – he paid her an empty compliment before launching into a rant about knowing with whom she was conducting an affair.
• After his father, from whose shadow he has always tried to escape from, received a call from Sarah, Jack imagines he has been cuckolded by his own father and ultimately they exchange blows at his AA meeting.
• Similarly, Sawyer seems to be branded little better than an animal by The Others, and is kept captive in a cage once used for bears. In the cage, Sawyer learns to satiate his primal, sensual needs by working out how to get food; briefly has his freedom after he is released by a young Other who was in the cage opposite; and has his libido stimulated when Kate replaces the Other in the opposite cage wearing a dress given to her by the Others. And, of course, like any animal being trained when he indulges any his primal urges he is instructed to refrain from doing so by the threat and infliction of pain.
• Jack (Matthew Fox) has the most emotionally expressive stubble on TV. The depth of his dark brooding or maudlin self-pity can be gauged by the thickness of hair on his chin.
• Of the new characters, the Other Juliette has a Florence Nightingale aura about her as she softly tries to get Jack to eat and drink, but we’re sure she is far more sinister and evil than the openly cruel Ben. She offers sympathy when she learns Jack was in Australia to bring back the body of his dead father, but later appears with a thick dossier in which she claims to have collated every last detail of Jack’s life, including his father’s death.
• And working out how she got this dossier is one of the intriguing mysteries that you can have endless hours pondering. Perhaps they either used a truth drug, explaining the needle marks on Jack and Kate’s arms, or the flashbacks each character has is the monster/island probing their memories and communicating what it finds to the Others.
• A unifying episodic theme runs skilfully through the disparate plot strands. The first episode concentrated on Jack’s obsession on finding out the identity of Sarah’s lover and his unwillingness to cooperate with his captors, both of which were broken, or at least thawed, when Juliette told Jack that Sarah was “happy”.
• The second episode, meanwhile, looked at how the characters were coerced into acting against their wills – Jin was coerced into working with Sayid and Sun to ambush the Others; Jin, again, was coerced to assassinate a hotel manager by his father-in-law because of the shame he had brought upon them both (but Jin couldn’t go through with it); while Kate was coerced into working on a chain gang by an Other inflicting pain on Sawyer, and this was mirrored when Sawyer overpowered his captors only to give up when Juliette threatened Kate with a gun. And finally, when Sun shot one of the Others after they had trapped her on the boat.
What was bad about it?
• Of all the mysteries of Lost, the one that perplexed us most is “What is a supervising producer? Why does Lost need five of these shadowy agents? And why were we still being told about them 10 minutes into the first episode?” If the answer to part three of this query is that the credits are encroaching on the second quarter of the programme because many TV companies these days crush end credits into a space on the screen which only a fashion model could squeeze into in order to make space to advertise what’s up next, then that’s fine.
• The joke at the end of episode two about how Jack disbelieves Ben’s contact with the outside world when he tells him the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series doesn’t translate very well. Perhaps they could have specially recorded a tall tale more recognisable for international editions of the show. And also using the news of Christopher Reeve’s death to help convince Jack wasn’t in the best of taste.
• There is a conceit about some elements of the dialogue and plot that the writers know will send the more obsessive viewers into spiralling spasms of speculation such as when Juliette made Jack some soup and Ben sneered obliquely: “You never made soup for me.”