The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

LOST Rewatch: “Orientation”, “Everybody Hates Hugo”, “…And Found” & “Abandoned”

Posted by therebelprince on July 26, 2009

Candle

“I would’ve left you behind. I did leave you behind.”

“Yeah, well, good thing I’m not you.”

– Sawyer and Michael

This week in the LOST Rewatch, we take the first steps in exploring the island’s mythology. (For plot recaps and details, see Lostpedia)

The world seems to have frozen this week in Lost Rewatch land, so I’ll update with any links to other good reviews when and if they materialise.

(Above: Dr. Marvin Candle)

We pick up where we left off, with Jack, Locke, Kate and Desmond in the hatch. Once tensions subside, Desmond gives us some information about his situation: he was taking part in a round-the-world boating race when he crashed and ended up here. Finding a man named Kelvin, he lived with him in the safety of the hatch. All he has is the information from one bizarre Orientation video, in which Dr. Marvin Candle (Francois Chau) explains that the island is a base for the scientific DHARMA Initiative, concieved by philanthropist Alvar Hanso and a couple named the “DeGroots”. In this hatch, named The Swan, the team of two must enter the numbers every 108 minutes. The video is patchy, and does not explain what will happen if the numbers are not entered. What happened to Kelvin is not explained, but it is clear from the couple of months of rations left, that whoever was meant to replace him never showed up.

While Desmond flees – relieved, at last, of his intolerable burden – our A-Team set up in the hatch, rationing the food and taking shifts to enter the numbers.

It’s the first real information about the nature of the island, and begins to examine some of the mysterious elements (we see two polar bears in the DHARMA video, implying that the ones on the island have come from) and all in all, it’s great fun. Locke’s intensity for knowledge, clashing with Jack’s innate stubborness, creates a great chemistry. Jack, however, acts unforgivably stupid here: his refusal to accept any of the facts about the island, and his lack of interest in their situation, just strikes me as dumb given the overwhelming evidence that this isn’t a normal situation. I know that they needed him to retain his place as “man of science” but Jack’s actions in “Orientation” seem overwritten.

On the other hand, it’s nice to see him show some general remorse over losing Sarah, finally, when he finally confronts Desmond about their pre-Island meeting. Their recognition of their previous connection, to be honest, feels a bit over-hyped since nothing comes from their awareness, even though we’ve been waiting for the moment for three episodes now.

Locke gets the first flashback, in “Orientation”, where we examine his post-kidney relationship with his father (Kevin Tighe) and his meeting with Helen (Katey Sagal). Sagal and Terry O’Quinn have a nice chemistry, and the flashback is emotionally effective, but it’s also the first that really is in no way related to the events happening on the island. (The tenuous link of Locke “taking a leap of faith” seems like it was forced into the flashback to ensure some continuity.) I’ll get into my feelings about flashbacks later in the review.

In “Everybody Hates Hugo”, we get an enjoyable flashback for Hurley – featuring a fun guest turn from DJ Qualls as his best friend, and the always reliable Lillian Hurst as his mother – but again, it serves to show us only character and not relevant plot.

I know I should complain less about the flashbacks – and I did like the ones here, particularly “…And Found” – but sometimes it seems as if the show could have benefited from fewer episodes overall and tighter control on the Island side of the plots. These four episodes are strong, tense and well-crafted, but in many cases (“Everybody Hates Hugo” particularly) serve to show us the information that we were already told or (like “Adrift” earlier this season) serve to “prove” a point about a character (Michael loves Walt, Jack has father issues) which we know already. Given how many of the main cast are ignored in this batch of episodes, and how little we still know about their life on the island (for instance, why have they still not organised a navigational party around the entire perimeter?) it seems ridiculous to give us a few hours of storyline on the island, separated at any tense moments by some cute and disarming but completely tangential facts about the characters.

Again, I don’t want to sound like I’m all mythology and no plot. I’ve found most of the flashbacks so far to be effective and enjoyable. It’s only right that with such a talented overall ensemble, we get to see them flex their acting muscles. And the time flash technique is obviously an important thematic aspect overall. It would just be nice if sometimes the flashbacks weren’t so clearly easy excuses to notch up the island tension.

Overall, the hatch business – which comprises one of three storylines running through this set of episodes – is well done, even if some of Hurley’s business with trying to blow up the rations to avoid being hated feels a bit trite. Sure, we understand this is an aspect of the guy but Lost’s absolute worst trait is the formulaic “this week you’ll learn something about a character – and then he’ll learn it too!” philosophy.

But it’s nice to see several practical questions asked and answered here. I tend to believe that JJ Abrams loves posing questions – as he did for five years on Alias – whereas Damon Lindelof is more interested in actually seeking answers to these. A few of the nicest moments involve the practical nature of the hatch (Sayid and Jack explore the power structure that supports it, for instance). Perhaps this should be evident, given Lindelof cites Twin Peaks as an inspiration wheres Abrams cites The Prisoner.

Anyway, on to the rest of our Losties. “…And Found” explores the genesis of the Sun/Jin relationship, focussing mostly on Sun’s life as a debutante. Yunjin Kim is at her most radiant in these flashbacks, as she falls for Jae Lee (Tony Lee, above) and subsequently has her hopes dashed, before meeting Jin. Daniel Dae Kim (also above) gets to finally show a charismatic, handsome side of his character here and he plays it to full effect. I must say, Dae Kim is one of my utter favourite Lost actors. I’m amazed at how convincing he can portray someone who doesn’t understand what others are saying, without even speaking, and also still be utterly moving.

On the island, Sun is stuck in a rather uninteresting subplot about losing her wedding ring, but Kim makes the most of it, as she also deals with the finding of the raft’s message bottle – and its implications that her husband is not safe. Kim has effortless chemistry with most of the Losties, particularly with Jorge Garcia as Sun and Hurley hunt for the ring, and end up waiting around for Vincent to do his business…

And Shannon and Sayid make their relationship official, when Sayid – a bit sickly sweet in love after what has only been a couple of weeks, methinks – goes all out and sets up a tent for her, in what is a very romantic sequence. I really adore Maggie Grace, even if the poor thing gets about two scenes outside of her central episode, “Abandoned”. I know some people heavily disliked Shannon, and were happy to see her go. I certainly think her death was warranted, and that of all the characters she was the least connected to the mythology, but I think any dislike was unnecessary. I think Grace did a very good job of taking a character who was initially deliberately unlikeable, and showing us who she is. I’m sick and tired of a television landscape where all characters are either amusing and kind (the Jacks) or bitchy and bland (the perceived Shannon). On my part, I found the portrayal and writing of Shannon to be more interesting than, say, Claire or Charlie, because we weren’t simply expected to excuse all of her flaws simply because she found some peanut butter for a friend. Anyway, it’s a moot point now. I really enjoyed Shannon’s flashbacks, as for once she is a character whose past we don’t know about. (It’s a pity about the godawful wig Ian Somerhalder got stuck with, though). After she starts seeing incredibly creepy visions of Walt, Shannon is led further and further into the jungle hoping to prove that he exists. Again, the show teeters on the edge of formulaic television when they feel the need to force Shannon’s determination back to a lifelong feeling of being seen as useless. But overall it works, and Grace and Naveen Andrews give it their all.

I do have to wonder: in the moments before she is fatally shot, Sayid promises Shannon that he will never leave her. He seems sincere, but it just seems… too fast? I realised, thanks to Lostpedia, that it has only been 7 days since Boone died, and only about twenty since she and Sayid had even their first romantic moment together. I’ll be interested to track the progress of the timeline over the next few seasons, because I think its easy for the writers and audience members to forget that we’re in fact still only in the second month. (One of the factors that tore apart Twin Peaks)

One of the nicest aspects about Lost is the willingness to flit from character to character without paying too much attention to the actor’s contract. Kate and Jack are non-entities in “…And Found” and “Abandoned”, allowing us to really explore others. It’s a bold and intelligent move, which I hope to see more of. The downside of this is the feeling by some actors that they were underwritten: I can understand Dominic Monaghan‘s disdain after this 6-episode run of nothing, but I think that the writers have been pretty fair to everyone throughout the series as a whole, and I can’t understand how anyone who went in to this heavily-cast series from the beginning could think they were getting into anything but an ensemble show. Here, when Charlie is used he tends to be overwritten: either being pathetically protective of Claire, or getting some of the stupidest lines. For instance:

LOCKE: Desmond left once he found his replacements.

CHARLIE: Meaning us?

(Gee, ya think?)

Across the island, meanwhile, we get the meatiest of the three storylines: that of the tailies. Sawyer, Jin and Michael are released and meet the five survivors of the tail section: Ana-Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), Libby (Cynthia Watros), Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), flight attendant Cindy (Kimberley Joseph) and Bernard (Sam Anderson), Rose’s husband.

It’s nice to see each of our three stranded Losties explore their own facets: Sawyer takes an aggressive attitude and is in charge whilst the three of them are in the pit, until his arm wound becomes crippling. As a result pf this, he is the catalyst for a trek through the Island to the beach. It’s really nice to see other areas of the island, particularly a gorgeous rocky plateau.

Jin proves his worth with his fishing skills, and Michael goes wandering once he learns that the Others live inland. (There are many clues to what has happened to the Tailies – there used to be 23 of them, we learn – which will pay off next week in “The Other 48 Days”.). Michael’s willingness to temporarily give up on Walt irks me a little bit. Eko does make a good point that the Others will be brutal toward Michael if he finds them, but in the end this is his kid! His raison d’etre of the series thus far! I think, for me, a desire to plan a good attack would almost be outweighed by the fear of what they’re doing to him. Anyway, difference between Michael and myself, I suppose!

Things come to a climax as they near the beach. Sawyer has collapsed and is carted on a makeshift stretcher. During one intense climb, Cindy goes missing. It’s sudden and terrifying, but it’s also incredibly telling that the Tailies are quick to accept this (they’ve lost 18 before her, after all) and force Michael and Jin to continue on. Ana-Lucia’s forcefulness comes back to haunt her though: as they travel through some trees, she shoots at a person in the distance. It’s Shannon…

Beyond the island mythology itself, we also get the first clarification that supernatural (or at least unexplainable) things are going on. Sayid also witnesses Shannon’s vision of Walt, and all of the Tailies hear the whispers in the forest. Slowly, the series is growing bolder in admitting that not everything is as rational and explainable as ABC would’ve had us believe in 2004.

It was a move that would ultimately distance the less hardball fans. While I’m one who champions the kind of television where you actually have to, god forbid, remember what happened last week, I accept that for many people TV is an unwinding practice: something to have on in the background so that you can laugh at whatever pathetic thing Charlie Sheen is doing this week with his arrogant little kid. Thankfully, the viewer numbers convinced ABC that they could take a few more risks with the story structure, and so we jump off the cliff and into the unknown with season two. Although we can’t know it yet, the relationships and plot development we had from the Pilot through to Adrift are the first act in a much wider, epic story. From now on, we’ll have a lot more questions – and a few more answers – to discuss.

If there’s one concern I have about the show here, it is when does immediate plot or atmosphere creation have an adverse effect on a show’s longevity? Some of the melodramatic act-outs (for instance, it is apparently supposed to shock us into the commercial break that Ana-Lucia chooses to take her team to our Losties’ beach) seem just that – melodramatic – in retrospect. As far as I’m concerned, these aspects are really annoying on DVD, and detract considerably from the rewatch satisfaction.

A similar, but more excusable, qualm are those episodes which are question heavy. The plot and mystery surrounding the Tailies is of course well-acted and well-crafted, and to their credit its still enjoyable. But at the same time, that mystery aspect is inevitably going to be less interesting on a repeat viewing. But those are minor issues in this very solid four episodes which feel a lot more continuous than anything attempted in season one.

Diverse Observations:

* Sawyer’s nickname power is falling a little bit (his best for Ana-Lucia is “Ponce de Leon”).

* More to the point, if Jin is Chewbacca – does that make Michael Princess Leia?

* In the pit, Sawyer complains about his wound and growls that Jin should pee on it. This is the second time somebody has asked Jin to do that: a weird fetishistic running theme, perhaps?

* Rose (L. Scott Caldwell) is cool as always, but sometimes I can’t tell if her sage wisdom is an aspect of this woman’s strength after adversity, or – and I don’t want to sound like Harold Perrineau, but – if she’s just being written like a Magic Negro.

* The closing of “Everybody Hates Hugo”, where everyone is genuinely happy (even Locke) is a beautiful moment, and one we’ll get very few of.

* We get the return of backgammon here, which is the embodiment of the light-vs-dark theme of the show.

* One of “those moments” of the series is the small child with a teddy bear whom we briefly see walk past with the Others. It’s a cool image, but I suspsect that was its primary intent: “A cool image!” cries Lindelof.



We’ll continue this story next week when we see “The Other 48 Days”, and stories from the lives of Ana-Lucia, Kate and Eko.

And since all is pretty quiet on the Lost Rewatch front this week, we have but one shout-out goes to the always reliable TLE Lost Blog. For a little non-Lost action, check out The Film Brief.

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One Response to “LOST Rewatch: “Orientation”, “Everybody Hates Hugo”, “…And Found” & “Abandoned””

  1. […]  I’ve said it before , but I’m not alone in criticising the overuse of flashbacks filled with redundant information, just to give the impression of storytelling while the island story moves along at a glacial pace. Certainly all four of the flashbacks this week are important, but they leave the events on the Island to feel almost like subplots when they should be, if nothing else, be the series’ reason for being. […]

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