The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

LOST Rewatch: Season One Review

Posted by therebelprince on July 12, 2009

A prelude: I plan to do regular reviews for the http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Lostpedia:Rewatch Lost Rewatch as it goes along from now through January, but as this season functions primarily as a prologue, I’m going to do it all in one.

A prelude: I plan to do regular reviews for the Lost Rewatch as it goes along from now through January, but as this season functions primarily as a prologue, I’m going to do it all in one.

Jack (Matthew Fox) surveys the wreckage of Flight 815

When “LOST” began in late 2004, I was a regular viewer but with a doubtful glance. My issues with the show were many, but stemmed primarily from: an over-reliance on creator JJ Abram’s trademark act-outs and last minute plot twists; slow, plodding plot development; the convenient ignorance and stupid actions just as plot development could have been made; and the statements from the producers themselves that they had changed key plot details even in the pilot. To my (largely mistaken) mind at the time, it seemed that they were claiming to be crafting a lengthy narrative, but were in fact just making it up as they went along – and barely covering for that fact.
Five years on, and I concede that I was wrong… mostly. So below, as well as discussing the first season of LOST as a whole, I’ll be seeking to rectify some of those errors.

(Above) Jack (Matthew Fox) surveys the wreckage of Oceanic Flight 815 in the LOST Pilot.


When LOST began in late 2004, I was a regular viewer but with a doubtful glance. My issues with the show were many, but stemmed primarily from: an over-reliance on creator JJ Abrams‘ trademark act-outs and last minute plot twists; slow, plodding plot development; the convenient ignorance and stupid actions just as plot development could have been made; and the statements from the producers themselves that they had changed key plot details even in the pilot. To my (largely mistaken) mind at the time, it seemed that they were claiming to be crafting a lengthy narrative, but were in fact just making it up as they went along – and barely covering for that fact.

Five years on, and I concede that I was wrong… mostly. So below, as well as discussing the first season of LOST as a whole, I’ll be seeking to rectify some of those errors.

Flight 815 Down

In a nutshell, the story tells of the crash of Oceanic Air Flight 815 into an isolated South Pacific island, as it journeys from Sydney to LA. The 48 survivors from the midsection of the plane band together – led by Dr. Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), fugitive Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) and former Iraqi soldier Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews). Factions begin to develop, primarily with adventurer and sage John Locke (Terry O’Quinn) who seeks a spiritual answer to the island’s mysteries, and Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau), a man who realises quickly that something is wrong, that they will not be rescued, and that he must plan his own escape off of the island. As the season progresses, flashbacks detail the pre-crash lives of our motley crew of survivors.

What Works

The cast are really very solid, and sometimes have to be to sell the insane plot twists awaiting them. Andrews, Fox, Maggie Grace as spoilt Shannon Rutherford, Josh Holloway as the outlaw Sawyer, and Yunjin Kim as tortured Korean housewife Sun as the standouts. (As is Terry O’Quinn, but that will go without saying). At the other extreme, Ian Somerhalder and Emilie de Ravin are forgettable but in Somerhalder’s case, he’s pretty enough to ignore it, and Claire’s somewhat stilted manner actually becomes part of her character.

Season episode highlights probably belong to: “The Pilot“, which still retains its sense of awe and “you can’t do that on television” nature. “Walkabout” remains the best flashback episode of all time, giving us the tragic ending to John Locke’s story (well, the first ending), which we will see play out in episodes to come. And Daniel Dae Kim really sells his scenes marvellously in “…In Translation“, proving that language isn’t a barrier to a good actor with emotional material. The finale, “Exodus” holds the creepiest moment of the season, when the pirates tell Michael: “We’re gonna have to take the boy”.

This season, Swoosie Kurtz (as Locke’s mentally ill mother) and L. Scott Caldwell (as Rose, one of the Flight 815 survivors who steadfastly believes her husband – from the plane’s tail section – is still alive) are the standout guest actors here, each imbuing their scenes with a sense of dignity that is seen all too rarely on television.

The best mystery placed in this season probably remains: who are the two skeletons dubbed “Adam & Eve” by fans and producers alike? And the best mystery that pops up on a repeated viewing is: are any of the various visions or odd moments experienced by characters actually related to Jacob or his rival? There are several Locke scenes, for instance his rescue of Jack off a cliff face, that make us wonder if he was being used much earlier on than we could have guessed.

Key Concepts


Rousseau

(Above): The “Crazy French chick”, Danielle Rousseau (Mira Furlan)
Like many, I certainly took this show the wrong way back when it began. I remember people around me being utterly amazed that this highly conceputal show was going for a second season, and a third, and a fourth… It just seemed to scream “limited run” so badly. Even though I pride myself on being ahead of the television curve, I refused to treat this as a TV novel akin to The Wire – where a restrained opening season continues to expand in the future – possibly because it already seemed so broad that I had no idea how they could widen things. As it would turn out, this season explores only a fraction of the world of LOST, and is one of my many initial qualms which have since come back to bite me.

I will say that I am not a JJ Abrams fan. Alias was packed full of meaningless prophecies which, generally written only as a question without an accompanying answer in mind, were often simply linked into the next in the long line so as to keep things going. Every season or so, Abrams and co would rejig the series – notably the astonishing collapse of SD6 midway through the show’s second season – only to pull up three episodes later, and place all the pieces back on the board in a slightly different configuration. (For a rip-roaring spy drama, it’s astonishing that a vast majority of the players in season one make it to the final season in one form or another!) And the less said about the clone storyline the better.

But with Damon Lindelof, I accept that the show was in better hands than I perhaps realised. Perhaps what made LOST work was Abrams‘ peripatetic mind to start things off with a broad canvas and a wide range of colours, and then Lindelof was necessary to actually paint the canvas well.
Among these concepts, we get hints about the future relationship between Locke and Jack, of a great battle (in Locke and Walt (Malcolm David Kelley)’‘s marvellous backgammon scene), of the existence of the “Tailies”,  and the institution which Hurley (Jorge Garcia) attended, which will come to house so many of our characters.

Perhaps my favourite are Charlie’s constant brushes with death. There are at least four in this season: a near fall from a rope bridge, a devestating cave-in, a jungle trap in the finale, and the big moment where Ethan attempts to take his life. At the time, I vehemently disliked this blatant manipulation of the worldwide love of Dominic Monaghan just to gain a few minutes of cheap suspense. Since then, however, Charlie’s relationship with death has obviously proven itself to be a vital element of his life, and so again I must begrudgingly tip my hat to the Lost co.


Charlie
(Above): Dead Again? Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) hanging from the rafters.

What Doesn’t Work

I will admit that there is only one thing that peeved me then, which still peeves me now. I simply dislike that classic standby of a character giving just enough information to tease the viewer, and then going quiet. Most notably, of course, is the scene from “White Rabbit“. When quizzed on his recent encounter with the monster by Jack, Locke replies that what he saw “…was beautiful”. Okay, Johnny, that’s great: but what did you see? Of course Jack decides that that’s plenty of information and doesn’t probe the matter further. It’s much better to just leave the moment imbued with dramatic tension. Yeah, right. It’s an utterly out-of-character moment for Jack (although admittedly in character for his opponent) which feels like a blatant tease to the audience.

Other such moments include Rousseau (Mira Furlan) disappearing into the woods after telling Sayid that Alex was her daughter, and Charlie’s obligatory gunning down of Ethan (William Mapother) just as the gang are in a position to finally get some answers. (And I know that you can’t get all the answers early on, but don’t go writing checks you can’t cash, writers!)
The only other things that may not work remain to be seen. The flashbacks for Claire and Walt, while interesting, still wait to have their prophecies come to fruition. I hope the answers appear next year, and I hope they’re satisfactory, because so far – as that bastion of information Lostpedia shows – most every other major question from the first 48 days has been answered sastisfactorily.

And Other Thoughts…

I must admit, I love the moments where the show blatantly fanwanks itself. Frederic Lehne does a very good job selling the scene where the Marshal “explains” why he needs four guns. Of course we all know that – after presenting a case with four guns into a highly-charged environment – the producers felt they needed to throw us a bone and explain why such a thing would exist. And while the answer wasn’t entirely realistic, it’s nice to know they care.

I remember seeing in the DVD extras how the initial pilot followed several weeks on the island, ending with them already set up as a society. I must confess my biggest disappointment the first around was how the show didn’t tackle the society angle. Aside from a few moments such as Hurley’s census and the “first crime” (in Jin’s attack of Michael), most social aspects were  handled rather lightly. Arzt made a really good point in “Exodus” about how the other 30-something survivors have been doing things as well, but it would have been nice to witness a bit of this. Of course, it becomes a moot point after this season once terror and other forces come into play, but I was still sad this wasn’t a part of the series.

(Incidentally, my favourite part of the DVD? Hearing the natural voices of Daniel Dae Kim and Naveen Andrews! Gold!)


The raft

(Above) Jin, Walt, Michael and Sawyer set course for home on the ill-fated raft.

I really liked the raft plot, but was surprised by how negative some of the characters were to Michael’s plans. On occasion, it feels like they forget they’ve only been there for a little over a month. I understand that Locke and Claire want to stay, but the prime motivation for the majority should still be escaping, right? Ah well, I guess some of them had read the script and realised that this wasn’t the end of the life, but the beginning of a TV show.

Also, I appreciate how Jack is a natural leader. It never feels like he’s leading because Matthew Fox has a contract. Jack, Kate, Charlie and Hurley are the ones who step up and take the intiative, while Michael, Locke, Sun and Sayid are valued for their particular skills.

In closing, LOST season one neatly encapsulates most of the primary themes and relationships that will run throughout the series. It doesn’t give much indication of the vast sci-fi epic it was to become (reportedly at the behest of the network, who didn’t want discussion of time travel or such other ilk to distract its amazingly successful fanbase from watching), but it captures the imagination and is genuinely enjoyable. I look forward to watching the following seasons with a retrospective eye.

(Below) The shape of things to come.

What's in the hatch?

Coming Soon: The first seasons of  Gilmore Girls, Dallas and Frasier will be getting the review treatment, as well as season-long reviews of  summer series Kings and Better Off Ted, and my episode reviews of  Twin Peaks.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: