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Lost

Lost is a drama about a group of plane crash survivors. They land on an unknown Pacific island and have to learn to live together. ABC 2004-2010

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Episode 3 - Orientation

30 March 2012

Present: Kate grabs a gun and knocks down Desmond and he accidentally shoots the computer. While he tries to repair it Locke and Jack watch an orientation film for the crew who work in the hatch by the Dharma Initiative. Desmond can’t fix the computer and in a panic he runs away. Kate fetches Sayid to fix the computer while Jack runs after Desmond. Sayid fixes it and Jack returns to help Locke by pushing the button. Meanwhile a mysterious black man and company knock Michael, Jin and Sawyer out and drop them in a huge hole in the ground. Ana Lucia (from 123) pretends to be a prisoner too but soon takes Sawyer’s gun and is lifted out of the hole.

Flashback: Locke is at a group therapy session for those with anger issues. He shouts down everyone with his bitterness about what his father did to him. Helen, one of the group, sympathises and asks him out. But when they sleep together he often slips out and goes to sit in his car by his father’s house. One day he comes to see John and tells him he isn’t wanted here. Helen offers John a key to her apartment on the condition that he stops going to see his father. John agrees but soon goes anyway. She confronts him and says that he helped her to stop being angry and now he has to trust her to help him.

The Good: The Dharma Initiative orientation film is an amazing piece of television. It manages to tell us so much without revealing much relevant information. It’s a clever idea to have it be an old film, with crackles and missing words. Not only does it fit the old equipment in the hatch but it makes the viewer concentrate and scoop out fragments which could be relevant. The idea that a group of scientists were on the island explains the existence of the hatch but also implies that there are more manmade structures on the island which could be a massive potential source of new plots. The electromagnetic element of the hatch could go a long way to explaining why planes and ships crashed on the island and indeed how people survived those wrecks. And the sight of polar bears when the film talks about zoology offers a rational explanation for why such arctic creatures would be present on a tropical island.

It’s all intriguing stuff and offers the viewers a satisfying explanation for why the hatch is there and once more offers a new twist on what the show Lost will really be about. The island is clearly not an uninhabited magical place, but one that has been explored and lived on before.

I was even more intrigued by Locke when I thought he might be entirely socially awkward (see 104) but his story with Helen is pleasant and logical. The makeup department do a good job of showing a younger looking Locke and he plays his bitterness very well. We know that he and Helen are destined for some kind of unfortunate ending as Locke seemed to have “named” a sex worker after her (again 104). But for now, she offers him nice support in his struggles and encourages him to make a leap of faith.

In the present that mirrors quite nicely Jack and Locke’s situation. Jack is now angry that Locke seems to have been right about something. The sight of Desmond has shaken Jack and reminded him of the last time a miracle took place (201). He can’t bring himself to believe that something outside of his control is making all this happen and Locke has to show suitable doubt and fear to convince him to let his guard down and press the button. There is some really strong acting in the various confrontations between Desmond, Jack and Locke.

Again Lost should be commended for moving the show in this quasi-religious direction. It is bold to examine the issue of faith and how sometimes we don’t have control over our own lives. Lost also seems to be delving into interesting and clever science fiction concepts too. The mention of B F Skinner on the Dharma video points to the obvious trap of the button. One of Skinner’s better known pieces of research involved rats pushing buttons in order to receive food. Eventually the rats would just repeatedly push the button despite no food appearing. Locke and Jack are facing the prospect that maybe they are on a fools errand, despite the miraculous circumstances which imply this is where they are supposed to be.

It’s all such a head game for viewers to keep track of that the writers deserve credit for not pandering to the masses and presenting a story with so many intriguing and stimulating possibilities.

On the other side of the island we discover why we got to see Jack flirting with Ana Lucia in Sydney (123). It looks like she survived the crash along with other people from the back of the plane. It isn’t too hard to suppose Rose’s husband (who she was adamant was still alive in 104) will be among them. It’s another interesting story and another bold choice from the producers to introduce new characters, especially when the established cast are so strong.

The Bad: There is almost too much going on here. For the third episode in a row we see Jack and Desmond in their standoff in the hatch and that is a demonstration of how big a story this was to tell. It would seem that the writers have set up season two to revolve around the hatch and so we have spent three episodes getting to the point where the survivors take over the task of manning the button. But so much else is going on in this episode that it can be difficult to take it all in.

The Dharma video in itself raises so many questions and possibilities that to cram it into Locke’s flashbacks, Jack’s emotions, Desmond leaving, the button and Ana Lucia’s arrival is probably a couple of stories too many. Considering how slow the previous episode was, it feels like the story could have been more spread out.

In a way the placement of Michael and Sawyer’s story in between Locke and Jack flashbacks also weakens their impact. Throughout this episode the focus is on Locke. His flashback points toward his need for encouragement in taking this leap of faith. With no Boone around to believe anymore, Locke needs Jack to help him fulfil his “destiny.” Which is all fine except that Jack is still angry and dealing with issues which surfaced all through the season one finale and the season two premiere. When he begins grilling Desmond about the hatch and later cries over his memories of his failed marriage, you almost feel like they are in the wrong episode. This is Locke’s story and yet Jack steals those scenes with his intensity. His story is of course equally important but it almost feels out of place here.

In the scene where Kate comes running to the beach to find Sayid, Hurley is acting far too flippantly. Hurley travelled to Australia because of his belief in a curse. He then saw the dreaded numbers on the hatch and his friends have all been gone for hours. Surely he should be preoccupied with that? He chased Rousseau down, risking death crossing bridges and dodging traps (118) just to talk to someone about the numbers. Yet now he is chatting away about things returning to normal.

Lost is usually good about not scripting stupid lines. But here when Ana Lucia drops in front of him, Michael sounds like a moron exclaiming “It’s a girl.” Well duh. And come to think of it why is one-armed Sawyer the one trying to climb out of the ditch?

The Unknown: Where is the rest of the Dharma Initiative? Are they still on the island? Does the button really do anything? What was the incident mentioned in the film? Are the polar bears from a Dharma project? Are the Others connected to Dharma somehow?

One thing the film mentions briefly is the concept of social utopian experiments. Could that have gone horribly wrong somehow? Could that be connected to the whispers or the Others or the “monster” or security system?

Best Moment: The Dharma orientation film. Once more Lost manages to change our perception of what the show is about. Cleverly filmed, suitably detailed but obviously vague in certain ways. There is so much one can draw from it and speculate about the show. That is the type of television that can energise a fan base and demand that viewers come back for the answers.

The Bottom Line: This is like a great list of ingredients which don’t quite make the perfect meal. I imagine viewers may feel too full, have trouble digesting it and suggest that there was so much to eat, that some of it went to waste.

Analogies aside, the confrontations and questions of faith are enjoyable to watch. The Ana Lucia twist is intriguing. The orientation film could change the whole show. The Locke flashback is entertaining. But there is just too much here to fit in. The last episode was too slow and this is too fast. Hopefully Lost will find a good pace again soon.

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