Did we like it?
The use of yet another ‘flash forward’ has injected some momentum into a series that was in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own self-inflicted portentousness, but the myriad plot threads still resemble a game of chess with only one move permitted at a time while everything else dumbly looks on. We’re still watching though.
What was good about it?
• The wedding together of the past, future and present plot threads still marks Lost out as a remarkable piece of television. With so many spooked dramas scurrying for the staid, sterile burrows of murder-mystery and period drama Lost remains a distinctive, often gripping narrative.
• However, it’s this uniqueness that can blind you and indeed contribute to its failings. One of Lost’s major pluses is the way in which it strings the viewer out yielding its many secrets slowly like a fragment of gold in a prospector’s pan. In the throes of the middle of the series such drip-drip elicitation becomes addictive, but at the start of a new series you’ve forgotten much of what went on before and so the flaws that you previously overlooked bleed through, and it’s probably going to take a few episodes before you’re fully smothered by its mythology once again.
• The episode focused on Hurley, who is by some distance the most likeable character and the everyman with whom most viewers identify (the sporadically seen Rose and Bernard the others). While it was good to see that he apparently makes it off the island, it was sad that the curse he believes was placed on him by the numbers still lingers as his mental illness recurred when he saw Charlie in a grocery store and crashed his car trying to flee.
• Also dealt with was his grief over Charlie’s drowning. As Desmond paddled ashore, he frantically tried to tell Sawyer and Sayid that the people who had contacted Jack were not who they said they were. It was only when Hurley raised his voice to enquire the whereabouts of Charlie that any of the others noticed he was absent.
• Naomi’s cryptic last words, “Tell my sister that I love her”, that are, rather than being some dying pledge of devotion, perhaps a code to her colleagues on the boat about the nature of her demise and that they should be wary.
• When Hurley becomes detached from Sawyer and the rest as they go to meet up with Jack, he stumbles upon the cottage that we learned was the abode of the mysterious – even by Lost’s standards – Jacob. He peeked inside and saw – what Lostpedia claims – was Jack’s dead father, and then another face rushed up to the window scaring Hurley away.
What was bad about it?
• The ‘flash forwards’ have stymied the relationship between viewer and the characters, as it is now they who are keeping secrets from the viewers rather than discovering and sharing the mysteries of the island. The three members of the Oceanic Six (who, we presume, have made it off the island) have taken to talking or acting in abstruse half-formed riddles designed solely to inhibit the enlightenment of the viewer, such as the funeral Jack attended in his ‘flash forward’ at the end of the last series, or why Hurley wants to go back, and is the dead Charlie just a figment of his imagination, like Dave, or has the island resurrected him?
• Of course, using Hurley’s apparent hallucinations of Charlie, the ‘flash forwards’ might not really be the future but simply an imagined future concocted by the monster, as it has wrought similar phantasms in the past. And it might be better if they are illusions of the future else Lost risks plummeting into that same pit as Torchwood by making their characters for all intents and purposes immortal as they survive the island, placing their death, whenever it may be, outside the scope of this series at least.
• One of Lost’s towering strengths was its unrestrained sadism at killing off characters, and it reached the point last series when you truly believed Sawyer was about to be shot dead. With the advent of the Oceanic Six all this tension is stripped away. At the end of this episode, a parachutist arrives on the island and is met by Jack and Kate – where once there might have been some tension that he would pull out a gun and shoot them, this has now evaporated.
• One of the corniest moments was because the viewers, for once, knew more than the characters as Rose teased the sheepish Claire that she should treat the heroic Charlie “real well”, when we all were aware of his fate. This was exploited further when the two groups met up again and Claire was left bereft with Aaron as Jin and Sun and Rose and Bernard embraced.
• While the coincidences used to be chilling they now seem to be tossed onto the script like scrapie-infected sheep on to a roaring pyre. This time the cop who questioned Hurley after he went loopy was a former colleague of the late Ana Lucia, and this came across as simply filling in time, pandering the loyal audience’s assumed thirst for more Lostesque twists while in fact it’s impact was to sully the gleaming burnish of previous coincidences.
• The death of Naomi, who seemed to die at the end of the last series after Locke threw a dagger into her back. On the verge of death, within the space of about ten minutes not only did she have the strength to crawl deep into the jungle to create a false trail for Jack and Danielle to follow, but she also doubled back and was deep enough into the jungle the other way for it to be dark before Kate finally caught up with her.
• The use of slow motion during real time action. Why do programme-makers persist with this fatuous device that rips you straight out of the narrative no matter how absorbed you are? It’s the TV equivalent of a masturbatory guitar solo, fracturing the flow.
• Desmond’s accent is still squatting browbeaten and unloved marooned aboard the Belfast-Stranraer ferry