Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not In Portland

"Not in Portland", as a single episode, had quite a lot to do. Considering we've had no Lost for something like three months, which left us fans to mull over the iffy six-episode mini-season, "Not in Portland" really had to deliver, if only to allay fears about the show's creative direction. Mostly, it was a hit--smoldering and suspenseful, with a good amount of action and a flashback story that for once, felt really worthwhile.

That's not to say it will dispel all the criticism that has been thrown at the show during its hiatus. Like many of season 3's episodes so far, "Not in Portland" focused only on the Others' Alcatraz mini-island and only on the characters Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Ben and Juliet (and other assorted Others). I'm sure we'll be back to the main island soon, as show-runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have promised, but withholding Locke, Charlie, Hurley et al was a ballsy move by the writers. I can see why they did it (episode 6 "I Do" left Jack/Kate/Sawyer on a big cliffhanger that had to be resolved), but it may not have satisfied everyone. I myself like the Others stuff just fine, but I think the writers need to start balancing stories out rather than having different mini-arcs with just a handful of characters in each spaced out among the episodes. Basically, everyone needs to meet up again. "Not in Portland"'s ending suggested that Kate and Sawyer were on their way back, but that still leaves Locke & Sayid in the jungle and Jack on the mini-island.

In season 2, things were actually rather similar to this situation, but it didn't feel so bad because there was no miniseries, no long break. Not to say that many fans and critics didn't complain about the heavy devotion of attention to new characters, or the fact that the Losties were spread out all over the island, but it just didn't take so damn long to reunite them all and integrate the new characters. One of this episode's main strengths, I felt, was in its flashbacks, which is unusual for Lost these days. Juliet has already been a truly compelling figure but her past was unfolded carefully and with the right amount of mystery and shock, revealing that the Others clearly have ties to the mainland and a great interest in fertility. As well as running over Ċ½eljko Ivanek with a bus. Elizabeth Mitchell has definitely been Emmy-worthy so far, and this was a real showcase for her. Probably only the second truly successful new character Lost has ever had.

The whole Jack/Kate/Sawyer drama is of a little less interest to me but I think Lilly sold the walkie-talkie scene pretty well, and all three actors basically did a bang-up job. I think the writers have addressed the whole 'love triangle' issue a little TOO much after playing it in the background for so long, and I sadly have a feeling that it's not going away anytime soon. Their promises of more action and romance this season are all very well and good, but I'm sure some more revelations would also be much appreciated by fans. For example, the whole brainwash video/Clockwork Orange thing that we saw in this episode had me wincing slightly because it was obviously really just for the Tivo freaks to dissect, but it also had me grinning cause it was really cool. I personally love the whole Others thing, I find them rather fascinating, so anything totally crazy like that really gets my nerd-juice flowing. Probably the most wide-eyed I've been since the door that held back all the water opened in the season 3 premiere.

I've been quite tangential this whole review, but overall I was personally pretty pleased with "Not in Portland". I still think the writers need to consolidate a little, and the 13-week break was undoubtedly a misfire for everyone, but there was some great material here and some barnstorming action/suspense. Really, I'm just happy that we finally have a long slate of Lost ahead of us where the show can really prove itself again, so let's hope it delivers like we know it can.


Moses McCluer said...

Who was the first successful Lost character?

David Sims said...

I'd say Eko. Even though they killed him, he had a real big fanbase, people clamored about Emmy consideration for him, etc.