Lost in Retrospect: Solitary

A return to the mythology and to the sense of danger and terror that’s been missing for several episodes, in addition to an exploration of one of Lost’s darker characters, make for a meaty and enjoyable episode.

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

I didn’t really notice until this episode, but the Island had lost its sense of terror, that “Forbidden Planet” vibe it had established so well in the pilot that’s been absent for the past few episodes. Which wasn’t to say it’d been all picnics and roses, but all the danger and tension of the last few eps has come from either natural sources or human–the conflict brewed up by Sawyer, the cave-in, etch. In “Solitary”, the Island stands up and roars again, between the tale of Rousseau, the off-screen appearance of the Monster and those creepy bloody Whispers in the jungle. As much as they may distrust each other, the Island itself is a far more dangerous, terrifying and unknowable foe. (as an aside, I don’t understand why people thought the eventual reveal of the Whispers was a letdown, as it’s entirely in-keeping with their appearances)

Sayid’s flashback story in incredibly short and simple. He’s a torturer, he’s in love with a captive, he lets the captive go. We already know that Sayid is capable of violence yet very repentant, and we know that Nadia is dear to him, so in the grand scheme of things these flashbacks aren’t very important. Their value lies in the excellent performances of Naveen Andrews and Andrea Gabriel, who both elicit sympathy and sell this strange relationship to the audience with their limited flashback screentime. Those scenes are paced very slowly, but like all the actors on this show, they do a lot in these scenes with no dialogue.

Sayid’s scenes with Rousseau are similarly intense, though in a different way. He never gets a handle on Rousseau, and neither did did the audience–I never wrote her off as simply insane, despite the obvious quirks, but more as someone whose become an entirely different person as a result of these traumatic experiences she’s been though, experiences that no one person can fathom. And between having Sayid tied to a bed and being the only person with any (seemingly) real, concrete knowledge about this crazy place, she’s the first person we’ve ever seen Sayid really pander to on the Island, the first person who’s lorded superiority over him (so to speak). Even in the Losties’ camp, he was more an equal to Jack than a mook.

Hurley again cements himself as one of the most important Losties, the one who cares about people’s feelings and their emotional well-being, by creating this makeshift golf course to take everyone’s mind off things. And it works! People have fun, for the first time in Frith-knows how long. And for the longest time, we never really see anyone on this show have fun without Hurley’s presence or input.

I love the tiny little hints towards the show’s larger mythology. It’s so easy to focus on Rousseau’s story and the Whispers, but then Ethan shows up onscreen, helpful Ethan, nice Ethan, Ethan who’s conveniently able to help Locke hunt for boar. Oh, Darlton, you magnificent bastards… Plus, that cable in the jungle. I never would have guessed how that would play into things. And there’s the beginnings of the strange friendship between Locke and Walt. It’s been there since the first episode, the seeds of this. A father who has no clue what he’s doing, compared to this wise old bloke who takes an interest. Oh, how I would’ve loved to have seen the larger Walt storyline come to fruition, especially how he grew under Locke’s tutelage.

All in all, this is a much stronger episode than the last few, in the sense that it hits all the beats you want a Lost episode to hit. Mythology. Character drama. Lighter beats. Advancement of the myth-arc. And I’m back to being afraid of the Island, and when a television show is making me afraid of a fictional location, it’s doing something right.

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