Lost: The Day After

After first watching Episode One, Final Season of you-know-what, my initial reaction was cautious pessimism. After a decent night’s sleep, I’m upgrading that to cautious optimism.

Don’t click if you haven’t watched.

See you in an alternate-reality universe no one really understands, brotha

Lost’s season premiere had some answers, a few new questions, a whole Dharma vanload of what-the-fuck moments, and a new guy who doesn’t like the taste of English on his tongue.

While I trust that this is going to be an entertaining season, I do have one overriding concern: that the emotional resonance of Lost is being depleted. The show’s creators have insisted repeatedly that  this is primarily a character-based show, not a mythology-based show. Our primary interest as viewers then should be the fate of the main characters, and their evolution as people.

But, by introducing first time travel, and now (apparently) parallel universes, the show has taken away some of the importance of what happens to the characters we’re supposed to care about. When Boone died in Season One, it was a big deal at the time. There was a music montage and everything. Charlie’s death in Season Three was an even bigger deal. Now, in at least one version of reality, they’re both alive and fine (along with, presumably, Ana Lucia, Libby, Eko, Shannon, Michael, etc.)

The alternate universe tact is interesting from a storytelling standpoint, but it cheapens the impact of everything that’s come before. If, as Jack says, “nothing is irreversible,” then why should we care about anything that happens, other than in the context of interesting story beats? Yes, fictional characters are mere storytelling tools, vessels in which writers imbue themes and ideas, but in great drama those characters become people we invest in.

At the very least, we should care whether the characters live or die. But when death becomes just another plot twist to be undone, when anyone can be brought back to life, the impact is severely lessened. Death becomes defanged. And the stakes of the show itself decrease.

When Sayid died last night, did anyone think for a second he wouldn’t somehow be brought back to life? And even if he stayed dead, there’s alterna-Sayid gallivanting around in LAX. Juliet, one of my favorite characters, died last night. But I didn’t feel much, because a) she already pretty much died in the Season Five finale, and b) she’ll be back, in some iteration or other. Her death is just a catalyst to bring back Angry Sawyer.

So I’m a little worried, but I remain hopeful. Last night’s episode, even though packed with action, still had one very resonant scene — when Smoke Locke told Ben what Real Locke’s last thought was: “I don’t understand.” Lost is obviously still capable of tugging at the Dilemma’s hardened heartstrings.

A few more quick points about “LA X”

-What does the title of the episode mean? When I first learned the title, I assumed that meant 10 of the original 815 survivors would be on the plane that lands safely in Los Angeles. Last night, I counted: Jack, Rose, Bernard, Hurley, Sawyer, Boone, Locke, Charlie, Claire, Sayid, Kate, Sun, and Jin. So much for my theory.

-I love the new leader of the Others, with his bonsai trees and distaste for our language, but the temple itself? Pretty disappointing. As Videogum said, “Can we all agree that we share the communal hope that future episodes of Lost will have less papier mache temples that look like they were built for a Junior High science fair? I love this show, but I also don’t eat at the Rainforest Cafe in the mall for a reason.”

-Who seems better off in alterna-2004 than they would have been in regular 2004? Hurley, Boone (not dead), Desmond (not pushing the button), Sayid (Nadia’s presumably still alive). Who seems worse off? Kate, Jin and Sun, for sure. Charlie and Locke aren’t in great shape, but at least they’re not dead. The jury’s out on Sawyer, Jack and Claire.

-I’ve seen people theorizing that Resurrected Sayid is actually Jacob, in the same way that Locke is now the Man in Black. But I’m not buying it for two reasons: 1) Actual Locke still had a corpse, and there’s still only one Sayid; and 2) It was apparent that Miles knew Sayid wasn’t really dead.

-Rose and Bernard Annoyance Level: 7. They didn’t get a ton of air time, but what they did get was brutal. “Next time remind me to hold it.” HA HA HA, Bernard! Next time, I’ll remind you to fuck off.

-Gun Butt Count: 1 (Jack, who has been hit in the head with guns or rifles more than anyone in the history of entertainment)

For full recaps of the episode, I recommend Alan Sepinwall, Noel Murray and Mo Ryan.

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Filed under Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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