Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Let's look death in the face and say, 'Whatever, man!'": Lost

Man, there are a lot of things to not like about Lost, but episodes like this one aren't among them. This is the sort of thing the show did so well at various intervals in its first two seasons before the first episodes of this year were an unrelenting parade of doom and gloom. This one, which could almost deserve the moniker "joyful romp," almost didn't feel like a Lost episode at times, aside from dogs going off into the jungle and finding human arms and such. Rather, it felt like one of those strained indie film comedies that you end up loving anyway because the performers are really into it and the script's got some good jokes. It's almost enough to make me forgiving of last week's go-nowhere, do-nothing Jack hour.

What pushed the episode beyond that strained indie film feel was that it was centered around Jorge Garcia's Hurley. Most of the characters on Lost have been written inconsistently in the past, often just given a few lines of dialogue per episode or wandering around in barely connected plotlines. Somehow, Garcia and the Lost writers have made Hurley a palpable presence, and he's been the one character who hasn't wandered all over the map in service of the overarching story. He's always been sort of archly mordant, a glum presence amidst all the sunshine, sure that death is around every corner. Despite this, he's one of the most loyal people on the island, and everyone seems to be his friend. A lot of this is due to Garcia's performance, to be honest, but the writers seem to enjoy writing for Hurley and giving him wisecracks.

The episode centered around Hurley's discovery of an old van in the middle of the jungle (he was led to it by Vincent the dog, who had retrieved the arm off a corpse in the van) and his attempts to get it running again. It was all a little stupid, but Hurley's rationale (the islanders need to have fun) at least wasn't completely insane, as rationales on this show can be. The conclusion, involving Sawyer and Jin pushing the van down a hill and Hurley and Charlie (the two cursed characters) sitting in the van to try to get it to start before dashing against some rocks was charming, in its sort-of-stupid way. That final series of shots of the guys having fun driving the van around that verdantly green field verged on the truly great. Linking Hurley with Charlie (who's recently learned that death is imminent) was a smart choice, as was opening the episode in the little graveyard. Monologues delivered to graves are cliched, but Garcia's a good enough actor to make it work, and the final shot, showing the small collection of graves and the fence the castaways built around them was a haunting one.

It wasn't just Garcia. The other actors were good in this too, as though not having to glower all the time freed them. In particular, Josh Holloway's Sawyer popped, though Dominic Monaghan had a lot of fun as Charlie too (and, honestly, when was the last time you could say the word "fun" in a sentence about THAT character?). Even the dog turned in a fine performance. The only big disappointments were Naveen Andrews and Terry O'Quinn who seem sadly wasted this season.

Not to say that this was a perfect episode. The flashbacks, with Cheech Marin as Hurley's dad, were a little repetitive (even if the meteor destroying Mr. Cluck's was awesome -- one of the best effects the show has had in a while), as the flashbacks on this show so often are. And Kate's big secret was completely predictable (and why would she keep that she was going to Rousseau a secret from Sayid, who's best pals with the jungle lady?), but, all in all, I was happy with this one.

Still, I can see where others would be angered. Wishing you got more answers? Take it to the comments!


Alper said...

Yeah I have to say that I thought this episode was mildly entertaining but altogether worthless. Once again nothing happened and we are left having to wait yet another week to get any kind of plot development. Lost needs to pick up the pace or risk losing the remaining audience members it has. This season has been horribly mismanaged and lost cannot afford to keep airing episodes with no substance.

David Sims said...

IMO, the second-best episode of the season (behind Flashes). I don't have a problem with non-mystery eps as long as they're good. Last week sucked, this week was just...great. Just perfect. Great to see Jin and Sawyer having fun again after so much moodiness.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I've never complained about Lost "giving out answers," because I'm convinced those answers are going to disappoint me. After all the buildup and fan speculation, how COULDN'T they? I don't get the insistence that the show become MORE plot-driven, because the move to become plot-driven is what has hobbled the show. In the first season (and parts of the second) when the show was (nominally) character-driven, you got most of the classic episodes. So why the need for plot-plot-plot now?

Anyway, I agree with you, David, though I might rank it as fourth- or fifth-best.


Todd VanDerWerff said...

Also, I meant to post this in my post about the show, but the preview for next week with Locke playing chess against Alvar Hanso (I think?) makes it look as though the castaways have been on the Island of Dr. Brain all along.