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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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/100

Episode 1 - Because You Left

28 March 2012

Present: Jack cleans up and Ben learns that Sayid broke Hurley out of Santa Rosa. Sayid tells Hurley not to trust Ben and kills two men waiting for him. Two lawyers come to Kate’s house with a court order to take blood samples from her and Aaron to determine their biological relationship. She packs their bags and runs. Charles Widmore meets with Sun and she tells him she wants to kill Ben. Desmond wakes up on a boat with Penny suddenly remembering the conversation he had with Daniel in the past.

Flashback: Marvin Candle tells Dharma engineers not to drill any further while building the Orchid station. He says they risk disrupting an infinite energy source which they plan to use to explore time travel. Daniel Faraday is one of the workmen, presumably having travelled through time.

On the island the camp and the Others disappear. Daniel explains to Sawyer and company that the island has been displaced in time and is jumping like a skipping record. Locke sees Yemi’s plane crash and goes to investigate. He is shot in the leg by Ethan before time jumps again. Now Richard comes to find him and patch up his leg. He tells him that to save the island he has to bring the Oceanic 6 back and to convince them to come he will have to die. Daniel goes to find Desmond in the hatch and tells him that he is special and can change time. He asks him to find his mother in Oxford.

The Good: This is one of the most breathless pieces of television I have ever seen. Unlike some maddening episodes of Heroes, everything that happens connects to the ongoing story and its continuity. The sheer scope of what the producers try to cram in is amazing. If they need to set this sort of break-neck pace one would hope they have quite the epic story still to tell.

The realisation that the island is moving through time is a typically earthquake-like plot development to kick the season off. Immediately as a viewer your imagination runs wild. Are they about to jump to a future where the island is a tourist destination or the past where wild Neanderthals are going to descend upon them? Each flash is another jolt to remind the viewer to stay gripped to their seat for the next development. Instead the writers play with the show’s mythology as Yemi’s plane and Ethan appear along with the delightful idea of Sawyer raiding the hatch for supplies. Just the idea that he could interact with Desmond in the past will be enough to engage all Lost fans in the imaginary possibilities.

Time travel is a tricky story to tell. As soon as you take the science behind time travel seriously you leave yourself open to every plot point being questioned. The produces of Lost are keen to avoid this and so Marvin Candle barks angrily “There are rules! Rules that can’t be broken” to the suggestion that he might go back in time and alter the past. Daniel follows up by saying “you can not change anything…even if you tried to wouldn’t work…whatever happened, happened.” We already know from Desmond’s travels (308, 405) that time will course correct, so that what is supposed to happen will. It’s definitely wise to keep things simple like this. Except of course like all good time travel stories, Daniel immediately breaks his own rule. Wisely again the only way that is possible is through Desmond who Daniel claims is special (see The Unknown). As the only person who we have seen time travel (apart from Daniel we assume) we can at least buy into that more easily.

Back in the “present” we have a new suspicion about Ben unravelling. We had assumed Sayid was collecting Hurley at Ben’s request but now it would seem their business relationship did not end well. Sun seems to be directing her anger at Ben rather than Jack (see The Unknown) which is interesting. As is the identity of whoever is looking into Aaron’s biology. The producers clearly decided to try and include all the regular characters in the first episode, so as not to disappoint casual viewers and despite the sheer amount of information we are asked to take onboard, that may well have been a wise idea.

Finally there are a number of other references made which will please long time fans. “Marvin Candle’s” first first-person appearance on the show (having appeared in orientation videos in 203, 221, 320 and 413) sets the tone for the theme of time travel. The revelation that “The Arrow” station was designed to fight the hostiles is interesting (first discovered abandoned in 207). The appearance of a bloody nose on one of the Dharma engineers and then later on Charlotte indicates the continuation of the sickness which Desmond encountered (405) and which may have killed off Rousseau’s crew (109). The claim that Widmore has been looking for the island for twenty years gives us an interesting timeline on him (if true).

It seems like Desmond and Penny got married which makes sense. As does Sawyer’s anger and grief when he begins to come to terms with the likelihood of the death of his friends. Richard’s appearance to tell Locke what is going on and what he needs to adds more layers to the question of who Richard is and how he knows all this. But like Daniel and Desmond, we know Richard is special (see 320 and 411), so this seems like consistent behaviour.

The Bad: The weakness of this episode is of course the sheer amount of information crammed in and the lack of focus. I suspect this is smart thinking in some ways by the producers. Many casual viewers will tune in to the first episode of a season but then don’t carry on watching. It would be a risk to alienate them by leaving one of their favourite characters out of the story. Of course the producers have a difficult task because the story is so complicated that a casual viewer would have been hopelessly lost with the pace of developments here and the need for a good knowledge of the mythology of the show. Meanwhile regular Lost viewers were probably thrilled at the exciting barrage of new developments.

Of course a great episode of television should be able to cater to all spectrums of fan and this episode can’t do that. It is a true fans episode and doesn’t leave much for a casual viewer to cling onto bar the relentless pace. That pace and the number of developments mean the show lacked an obvious emotional core and so felt a bit numbing by the end.

Within the story there was not enough time for Sawyer and others to show real grief at the presumed death of Jack and all those on the freighter. Locke taking yet another injury to his leg almost felt comical and felt inconsequential. It also seemed slightly odd that Sun would be flying a commercial jet alone if she is the head of a huge corporation. Even if they don’t have private jets shouldn’t she have a p.a. or a bodyguard or some other lackey?

The Unknown: Here we go again…If the survivors are moving through time why aren’t the Others? For that matter if they are moving through time where or when is the island? We saw it disappear so it must be in another location on Earth right? How or why is Desmond is special? Is it just a case of his exposure to the hatch explosion (224)? What did Ben do to make Sayid not trust him? Is that just due to manipulating him after Nadia’s death (409)? Why is Sun trying to kill Ben? We know that he was partly responsible for Jin’s death (414), but how could she know that? She was on the helicopter and had no way of knowing that Ben stabbed Keamy to death without trying to save the freighter. Did Locke tell her? Why do the Oceanic six have to return to save the island? Why does Locke have to die to convince them? Does that mean he faked his death or by time travel or island magic he won’t really be dead? Why was Richard able to know what was happening and how to stop it? How did Faraday travel through time? Assuming he did. Why is Charlotte’s nose bleeding? Has Widmore really been looking for the island for twenty years? Does anyone wonder what happened to Claire? Who is looking into Aaron’s biology? How can Daniel’s mother help Desmond?

Best Moment: You really are spoilt for choice. But I will go with the opening scene for the sheer brazenness of it. Marvin Candle who many viewers may only vaguely recognise tells a bewildered engineer not to drill any further and risk his time travel experiments. The engineer scoffs and turns to Daniel Faraday (another character many won’t remember that well and who from our point of view must have travelled through time to get here) and says “Time travel! How stupid does that guy think we are?” You can’t argue the producers didn’t lay all their cards on the table right there.

The Bottom Line: It’s a measure of how good the producers of Lost are that this episode lived up to my expectations. I’m not even referring to quality. I didn’t know where or when the first episode would be set. I just knew I would be surprised. And surprised I duly was. The producers have excelled at reinventing the show each season and challenging the viewers perception of what is really going on. Ultimately Lost is about blending loveable characters into the most bizarre science fiction and this continues in that fine tradition. As an episode this probably makes the hardcore happy and confuses the casual. Which at this stage of the show’s age and popularity may not be a big problem. The big success is that I can’t wait to see the next episode and begin unravelling more mysteries. Mission accomplished.

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