Lost – ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – 3.1

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As strong as this new television season has begun – with some promising starts put forth by the stud rookies (including Friday Night Lights, Heroes and Kidnapped (pause for a moment of silence) – there’s something so comforting about being reacquainted with old friends. In the days preceding the third season premiere of Lost (Weds October 4th), I felt that charge that I only get for those rare shows that nestle within my heart. It’s a select list – beginning in the mid-90’s with my discovery of The X-Files, the mantle then grabbed by Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and finally, the baton tossed to Lost. While I’ve enjoyed a number of quality programming over the past decade (which I truly believe to be a renaissance for televised programming) – there’s only been three hour-long dramas that have caused me to cease all existence in a bid to catch them first run, the night they air.

Lost begins its third season on a very strong note with the first teleplay JJ Abrams has contributed since the first season’s season finale, ‘Man of Science – Man of Faith’. Abrams took a sabbatical to film Mission Impossible III and left the reins to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse to sketch the mythology. While I initially feared the quality would weaken without Abrams’ guiding light, I’ve found that Lindelof, Cuse and their ‘think tank’ of genre vets (Paul Dini, Jeph Loeb, David Fury among others) – found ways to deepen the mythology while consistently maintaining the focus on characters. Hey, these are the guys who really developed ‘The Others’ – in whose camp Season 3 begins.

As I’ve done in past posts, I’ll hit these observations in bullet point format.

1.   I thought the opening sequence did a great job of – once again – throwing the viewer’s bearings off. It began with Lost’s trademark shot of an eye – followed by newcomer Elizabeth Mitchell’s Juliet preparing for a book club social – culminating in a sudden earthquake and ultimately, the surprise reveal of yet a 3rd perspective of the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. In a lot of ways – it bore strong parallels to Season 2’s beginning – which introduced us to the mysterious hatch denizen Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick). Like that intro, I was immediately hit with the following questions – “Who is that and where the hell are we?” Questions backed by a retro beat – Desmond followed Mama Cass’s advice to Make Your Own Kind of Music while Juliet fought off tears and summoned strength to head Downtown. Both songs – jaunty little ditties – play wonderfully off-kilter to the visual menace and mystery being painted in 5 brief minutes.

As Juliet and her book club burst from the confines of ideal suburbia – we’re greeted with a familiar, menacing face – last season’s nefarious Henry Gale (Michael Emerson). Suddenly Season One heavy Ethan appears on the scene – followed by the Tailies’ menace Goodwin. So these are the “good people” Goodwin mentioned to Ana Lucia last season. Henry and “the others” watch in awe as Flight 815 streaks overhead – it’s tail ripping from the fuselage and the two pieces plummeting to separate sides of the island. As the camera pulls back, we get a sense of the massive size of the island – as ‘The Others’ quaint little hamlet becomes a tiny dot on the landscape.

2.   As many times as I’ve seen that crash, it still hits me seeing from a new perspective. That shot of the plane breaking apart – set against a brilliant blue backdrop – remains as chilling as the first time we saw it from Jack’s eyes inside the cabin.

3.   As Desmond did last year, Elizabeth Mitchell’s Juliet really impressed me. Right off the bat, I wanted to learn more about the character. She seems like such a complete opposite from Henry Gale – her kindness and compassion working in direct opposition to his cool, creepy detachment. Although she is sent in to break Jack down – to tame the stubborn tiger – she doesn’t seem happy about it. I’m interested to get into her flashbacks and find out how she became an Other. Also – what’s the nature of her relationship with Henry? There’s something there. My guess: ex-wife!!!

4.   Wait, Henry??? Nope, we finally learned his true identity. The Artist Formerly Known As Henry Gale (as Sawyer once put it) is actually named Ben. So, Benry it is.

5.   The episode divided its time dropping in on the early incarcerations of Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Jack’s being kept in an undersea aquatic research station (The Hydra) while Kate is having a little breakfast on the beach with Benry and Sawyer is caged like a wild animal.

6.   With Sawyer, we learn that the polar bears were caged by ‘The Others’ and at some point escaped or were set free. That should come as no surprise as one of the concerns of the Dharma Initiative was ‘zoological’ – meaning that polar bear in Walt’s comic was nothing but a red herring. (Which I think Abrams’ teleplay had a little fun with in rewarding Sawyer with a red Fish Biscuit.) I’ve got no problems with that. We know Walt has psychic abilities – but what real world applications does conjuring polar bears really offer. This ain’t the Wonder Twins.

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7.   In a cool little homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Kate gets forced to wear a pretty little dress and is brought to Benry to enjoy a fine breakfast (just as Marion Ravenwood once noshed with Belloq). Kate’s engagement seemed a lot less frivolous – with Benry insisting Kate reacquaint herself with hand cuffs and then suggesting that he offered her these nice clothes and this big breakfast and the fine ocean view so she’d have something to hold onto. He leaves her with the ominous message that “the next two weeks are going to be decidedly unpleasant.” When we see her later – finding real estate at the His and Hers bear cages – her wrists are raw and she looks shell-shocked. Still – I think the worst has yet to come as two weeks had not yet passed. My take: I think the hand cuffs and dress are meant to demean her, as the Others certainly have enough manpower to take her down. I think the hand cuffs are meant to remind her of her past and send a message that they know all about her.

8.   Jack gets the evening’s flashback and the lion’s share of scenes. While Jack’s flashback doesn’t reveal more than what we already knew (Daddy’s a drunk, Jack’s obsessive, Julie Bowen is purty) they do drop one staggering piece of intel. Because of Jack’s obsessive desire to prove his Dad was boffing his wife (he wasn’t) – Jack ends up sending the 50-day sober Christian Shepard off the wagon and on an Aussie bender – where we know he meets his demise. So, Jack essentially killed his Dad.

9.   Where did ‘The Others’ get that fully comprehensive file on Jack? At first, I thought we were going to learn that ‘The Others’ have more in common with M. Night Shyamalan’s Village denizens. After all, Juliet says “It doesn’t matter what we were. It only matters what we are” when addressing Jack’s inquiry into the nature of the Dharma Initiative. So, I thought, maybe this is the remnants of a group that unplugged, checked out and dropped off the grid. But, the airdropped supply shipments and mysterious intel on Jack and co. lead one to believe that Dharma is still going strong.

10.  Did you catch the book that Juliet chose for her book club party? Stephen King’s Carrie. The title – while only seen for a split second – was the subject of a raucous debate before all went to hell. One member called it “religious hokum” and complained that “he” (Ben!) wouldn’t approve – to which Juliet grew fiercely defensive and declared that she is glad that he would disprove and that this was her favorite book. While it may have just been a quick shout-out to one of Lost’s more vocal celebrity fans (King often raves about the show in his EW columnist gig) – I think the book choice was intentional. It illustrated ‘The Others’ views of science over religion (giving credence to the ‘Man of Science – Man of Faith’ conflict that remains the crux of this show.) Interesting that John Locke is following a spiritual journey to get to the heart of a mystery that may be more scientific and clinical in origin.

And that’s what I love about this show. We spent one hour with only four main characters and have yet to learn the outcome of my three favorite characters (Locke, Ecko and Desmond) who were last seen engulfed in blinding electromagnetic discharge – and I didn’t care a bit – as I was too interested in seeing things from ‘The Others’ perspective. That’s the strength of this show.

Its central mystery and characters hold equal pull. It’s off to a great start.

[tv 4.5]  

Comments now closed (3)

  • Ed,
    I agree. They kicked the season off strong. I think I had a feeling the others were more civilzed as Walt had hinted at this last season when he was first reunited with Micheal. He said they were not what they seemed. Plus the Kate finding the fake beard and clothes last season. But with that being said I wasn’t expecting a nice suburban community in a plateu in the middle of the island either. I also liked the fact that give the island some scale. The never really showed a long shot of the island. Now you can really see how big it really is. I also agree that you at the end of episode you say to yourself, gee I forgot about Desmond, Eko and Locke. That is good story telling. Right now I think I am going to like the 6 episode “on” arc then 10 week hiatus followed by consecutive episodes on through the end of the season. But i know when the mini arc ends, I will waiting for the second part to start.

  • I agree with you on just about everything here. My initial reaction to the first five minutes was tempered as the rest of the episode move along though. The critics that were raving about this being the best episode of Lost were overstating their glee IMHO, but that may be just because we are all so excited it is back.

    Let me address your points by number:

    1:: Now, these first five minutes were excellent. I think they really do top last season’s open with Desmond, and I thought that was brilliant. Seeing the plane breaking apart after Desmond causes the seismic event by not pushing the button and how it also impacted the Others was well done. Watching Ben quickly bark out orders and assign Ethan and Goodwin their quarry reaffirms he’s the man in charge and it would seem he’s done this before.

    2:: Ditto. The effects were almost surreal.

    3:: Juliet is some kind of cat. Beautiful to look at and sweet when she wants to be, but don’t forget she’s got claws and will use them when necessary. She quickly gets the flood under control by getting Jack to safety, but then reminds him who’s in charge. An excellent introduction.

    4:: I’d say the ice between Juliet and Ben indicates a romantic break of some sort. He basically abandoned her when Jack popped the door, although he might have known she’d be able to do something and save Jack while he saved the rest of the Hydra.

    7:: It was hard to tell how much time had really passed, but I’m guessing a couple days at most.

    8:: Jack definitely pushed Daddy off the wagon, but it was ultimately his ratting him out about being drunk on the job to the board that sent him packing for Australia. Hard to tell how close together those two events are. You could also further argue then that Jack also killed Ana Lucia since it was Daddy that convinced her to tag along (a fact that Jack will never know now that she is dead).

    9:: I believe Dharma is most definitely still going strong, even if their original experiments are all mostly in disrepair now. I’d say they continue to follow the events on the island as their experiment has been evolving on its own. Whether The Others are part of that monitoring or not remains to be seen. Juliet’s intel would seem to suggest they are.

    10:: Agreed and I can’t wait to see what happens to Locke when he finds out all this stuff. I also can’t wait to see what happened to he, Eko and Desmond as well. I did think of them quickly, but like you, I didn’t mind not seeing them and leaving their fate until this week (we hope!). What are the odds that Eko is deaf?

  • @ CK – We’ve got five more eps (bringing us through November 8th) and then the hiatus starts. The show returns in February and runs straight through to May with no interruption. I think that’s a genius move (half the reason I rediscovered 24 and followed it through a full season is Fox’s decision to start in January and run it straight through – no downtime, no repeats.) With Lost, they knew from the beginning that they would get to tell their tale in two acts – and thus they apparently constructed the mini-arc to end on a cliffhanger. Can’t wait for it all to unfold.

    @ Sean – I don’t think Locke, Ecko and Desmond drop back in until next week as the schedule shows tonight is focused on Hurley’s return to camp and the camp’s reaction to events (and rescue attempt) and then next week is based around Locke.