The Lost Rewatch: Notes on Season One

Spoilers for all of Lost

A particular bugbear of mine is unrealistically-evil bad guys. I want more dimensions to my antagonists, don’t just have him be evil for the sake of it. If an enemy is bad, why is he bad? Sawyer is a nuanced villain–he had a horrific experience as a child and uses his supposed selfishness as a defence mechanism. But there’s no way he would claim to have Shannon’s inhaler but refuse to hand it over. He’s bad early in season one, but not that bad.

Similarly, Randy Nations, Locke’s brilliantly-named boss, is a turd. An unrealistically turdish turd. Even a really shitty boss probably wouldn’t make fun of a guy for being in a wheelchair.

Lost probably explained more of its mysteries than it’s given credit for, but yeah, there were a lot of plot points that didn’t go anywhere. An example of the latter is Aaron being essentially the Antichrist. While the words come from an unhinged psychic, the show gives a lot of dramatic weight to the unspecified but awful things that’ll happen if anyone but Claire raises him. Cut to a few seasons later, Kate is raising Aaron and everything seems fine, no mention of that whole Aaron-as-Damien thing. Sure, you could explain this away as Aaron has to grow up before it all goes wrong. But then you’d realise how hard you were trying to justify a plot point the writers gave up on.

Hurley works so, so well to lighten the show’s tone. An episode literally goes straight from Sawyer being tortured by Sayid, to Hurley going “Dude”, and it works, we’re emotionally reset and getting back to the rest of the story.

Speaking of which, season one is darker than I remembered. A pregnant woman dies in Jack’s flashback, while on the island, pregnant Claire is abducted. Without the foresight of repeat viewing, who knows what horrible things could happen to her? Charlie is found with a noose around his neck. The Jack vs Ethan fights are brutal, filmed in some weird way that makes them look higher framerate and gives a visceral feel to the battle. This effect also makes both look huge, like the Godzilla-esque fight of Crank 2.

On rewatch, a surprising amount of time passes from discovery of the hatch until opening it. It’s found in episode 11 but isn’t accessed until episode 24. Almost as if the writers thought having it was a cool idea, then decided to keep opening it until the finale. I’m not judging.

Boone is the island whipping boy. He’s beaten up by Sawyer, Locke, Shannon’s boyfriend in a flashback, and punched by Michael. His half-sister who he loves (in a halfcestuous way) falls for someone else. And then he dies. In agony. Not a good run for Boone.

I thought I’d find the flashbacks annoying on re-watch, and be only concerned with events on the island. But most of them were enjoyable, though there were many clunky moments of exposition (a fake example: “Don’t you remember that, when your first came here four months ago, there was a ferret on your face and you hadn’t seen your father for years”). Those flashbacks have a lot of work to do in little time, so I can’t be too harsh on them.

With an ensemble cast there are always long runs where characters have little to do. But for the first half of season one, all Michael’s lines are variations on “Walt, Walt” and “Have you seen my boy?”. And Jin has to find a new way to tell his wife to put on more clothes.

Outlaws (episode 16) is a welcome change of tempo. It has a slow, Western feel driven by Sawyer’s flashback revenge narrative. Sawyer and Kate’s drinking game seems to last forever, there’s a long scene with Sawyer and Christian Shepard. The unhurried pace is a nice change from the episodes around it.

John Locke is my second-favourite TV character ever (after The Wire’s Stringer Bell). But there are two Johns — the confused, unsure Locke of season three who I’m not a fan of, and this magnificent Locke. This John is confident, inspired, spiritual, peaceful; he’s accepting whatever the island provides and just thankful to be here and walking again. I love this guy. I also love that he can answer a question with an anecdote, much like one of my other favourite characters, The West Wing’s President Bartlett.

John is presented in such an odd way early in the season, as if the show wanted to keep a cloud of mystery around him, or they simply couldn’t decide what to do with him. He’s a part-time hero over the show’s full run, but here he’s sometimes portrayed as untrustworthy. In one moment particularly jarring in hindsight, he stares at Walt is a creepy, practically sexual way.

I love that Lost was demented enough to have a plane carrying a drug-dealing Nigerian priest crash on the island.

Lost was so good with ambiguous dialogue and letting you figure things out for yourself. A good example of this is Rousseau being confused that The Others never came to take Aaron, despite overhearing them say they were “coming for the boy”.  Cut to Walt on the boat. Many other shows wouldn’t even have let the viewer piece those fairly obvious pieces together. They’d have Clare say “Oh god, they mean Walt” or something else intellectually offensive.

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