Lost in Retrospect: Tabula Rasa

Ah, the good old days when Kate was a smart, proactive action chick. Lost‘s first proper episode is a straight-up, well-done character piece that illuminates the dynamics we’ll be seeing for the next 22 episodes and the show’s main storytelling device.

For a refresh on this episode, I suggest you check out Lostpedia’s excellent Wiki page.

We get the first inklings of the love triangle, that grotesque beast, the plot tumour that threatened to derail the show for so long. But at least in these early days it was subtle and handled much better. She clearly has the same “heroic” disposition as Jack, but lnowing that Kate is a fugitive, a criminal and a hardened liar (albeit one with a heart of gold), it makes sense that she’d connect with Sawyer on some level, since he’s a similarly amoral pragmatic figure, albeit one who revels in it. It also stops her from simply being Jack’s yes-woman and having a real part to play in the Losties’ heirachy. Before they became the show’s worst running subplot, Sawyer, Kate and Jack were a great power trio, the id, ego and superego (repsectively) of the survivors. *sigh* Where did it all go wrong…?

John Locke is SO FRIGGIN’ CREEPY in these early episodes! The next episode, “Walkabout”, did oodles to soften his character, but here and in the pilot he’s just the bald guy with the badass scar who hangs around the 10 year old kid. Plus, the way he sits and watches Walt, Micheal and Vincent at the end, it’s just bloody wrong. At this point in my initial viewing, I had an inkling that perhaps Locke might become a villain…

Season 1 of Lost was pretty damn brutal. We had the Marshal’s “surgery” in this and the previous episode, Boone’s grand exit in “Do No Harm” and probably some stuff inbetween that I’m forgetting. It might’ve turned off the squeamish, but it did a lot to establish that the show wasn’t Gilligan’s Island and the characters wouldn’t be in for a peaceful ride. I can’t decide what makes me feel more queasy: the Marshal’s gurgled screams, or when they suddenly stop and Jack exits the tent.

It’s interesting to note the differences between this episode’s flashbacks and those in later episodes. For one thing, the last three flashbacks were just the one short scene spread out over a longer period of time. It lack the regular sound effects, there was something odd about the timing… but it’s kinda consistant with the pace of the episode. Not a lot happens: it’s specifically about sitting around and waiting, and making us feel how uncomfortable that is (but in a way that’s still dramatically interesting). And I feel like I should make a note of Lost‘s first proper flashback episode, with it becoming a huge thing for this show and the slew of serials that followed after, but what can I say you don’t already know?

…well, I suppose I can comment on what they say about the Lost universe once the audience realises that there is a Lost universe and a grand overarching narrative. Because the story doesn’t begin with the plane crash–technically it begins with the events of “Across the Sea”, or with the flashbacks of the Losties as kids. But it’d just be boring if the story started there. Tonnes and tonnes of seemingly random and uninteresting fluff until we got to the meat of the story, the plane crash, and begin to realise how everything ties together and how it’s all important. The flashbacks are good. They let us have our cake and eat it too. We get the potentially boring backstory as we need it, in a way that gives both the past and present stories a new context.

The Sun and Jin scenes and the Michael and Sun scenes are a small but brilliant reminder of why this show is awesome. From the beginning of the series to the end, those three become almost completely different characters, but with all three it feels organic, a natural reaction to the circimstances they’re faced with. And who’d have predicted how it’d all turn out between them? Hell, by the end of season 1, all my guesses about where their relationships would go had been proven completely wrong. It’s two of the show’s biggest strengths: its commitment to character, and its ability to take the story in directions that I didn’t expect.

But none of that touches on what I thought of the episode. It was good. It was a step back from the pilot. It was focused on character rather than mythology or myth-arc, resulting in an episode that was very slow but not boring. It gave us a lot of depth to Kate, a character who got the short end of the stick from the writers, and we got to see a bit of a different side to Jack and Sawyer; the wordless scene outside the tent still spoke volumes, and is just one of the many examples of how well cast this show was. This episode is an introspection, it’s a breather, and it’s not bad, but it’s not one that I particualarly look forward to on the next rewatch.


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