Lost in Retrospect: All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

Much like its main narrative thrust, this episode starts with an incredibly intensity, loses steam as it goes on and then picks up at the end with a brilliant finish. Mythology-wise, the episode doesn’t contribute more than the twist at the end of “Raised by Another”, but does a lot to advance one of the show’s main character dynamics.

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

Here is the episode where Jack and Locke’s relationship really starts to slide into the adversarial thing that’d define a lot of the series. And sure enough, it’s Jack’s impulsiveness that get in the way. This is pretty much Jack’s defining trait through most of Lost, leaping without looking, going for whatever thing he thought was best without stopping to think for even a few minutes. Up ’till now, his decisions had been pretty sensible and level-headed, possibly with the exception of trying to save the Marshal with so many of the medical supplies, but here… In retrospect, this is really the moment where Jack began to morph into an unlikable protagonist. Deliberately unlikable, mind you, because his metamorphosis in season 6 wouldn’t have resulted in such an awesome character otherwise.

We also get the beginning of the Locke and Boone relationship in this episode. I’ll most definitely go into greater detail when I get to “Hearts and Minds”, but I think it’s important to note the comparisons with Jack in this episode. Jack blows off Locke’s plan in favour of impulsive action, while Boone is more than willing to follow Locke, listen, hang on his every word. It’s almost Padawan-ish, and it takes Locke further down the road of self-superiority that’ll lead him to a bad end.

The dynamic between Michael and Walt is very interesting to watch. Here’s a guy who’s used to thinking of himself as “a guy” and not as “a dad”. He doesn’t have that empathy that you see with most parents (I mean parents in general, not parents on this show, ’cause by the standards of this show Michael is a friggin’ parenting god) and way too often he just blows off whatever his son is trying to say without even stopping to listen or consider. It was great to see Michael himself get similar treatment in this episode–well, similar-ish, because I think Locke was actually being practical when he told Michael not to come along on the search party.

I’ve heard some theories that the Others are a little bit superhuman, and that’s why, in situations like this, they can completely trounce the Losties in a fight despite being no bigger or heavier. I disagree. Jack is pretty tired and worn out by the time he catches up to Ethan, who has spent most of his life living semi-rough and being pretty active. And how about that fight? Brutal. And Ethan is again coming across as super-creepy in the way he looms over Jack in the rain and talks in that harsh monotone. It’s no wonder that Lost kept bringing back William Mapother, he’s brilliant at embodying exactly what the Others are all about: people who can turn on a dime from ordinary domestics to hardened fanatics.

And speaking of brutal, the scene when Jack and Kate find Charlie. On paper, it comes across like a classic TV copout, the main character who revives at the last second. But between the raw emotion coming from the actors (you can fault Kate as a character, but not Evangeline Lilly as an actress), the rain-and-mud-soaked jungle setting, the directing and Michael Giacchino’s always epic score, it was a powerful scene. Even this time around, I felt like we’d lost Charlie, like Jack was a desperate fool for trying to save him. Scenes like this, with the brilliant work from everyone involved and the weight of ten episodes behind it, are why television is an incredibly storytelling medium.

And finally, the discovery of the Hatch. Or more accurately, the discovery of a piece of metal in the jungle. When I first saw this episode, my reaction wasn’t “Wow!” so much as “huh?” It’s obviously the beginning of a larger piece of the Lost mythology, but right now, it’s just a piece of metal in the jungle, and as unusual as that is, it’s nothing I could really get excited about at this point in the story.

I feel like I’ve spent most of this entry just pointing out the obvious, and I guess that’s what I feel like the episode was doing, for the most part: just giving us more of what we had already. Despite the beginning of Jack and Locke’s rivalry, Locke and Boone’s friendship, Charlie’s rescue and the discovery of the Hatch, I come out of the episode feeling as though not much has happened. What we have here are seeds, tiny and innocuous seeds that are unremarkable here except in hindsight, once we know what they’ll grow into… and even knowing that, they’re still just seeds.

(POST-POSTING NOTE: I just realised that I didn’t touch on Jack’s flashbacks at all. I guess that, again, I feel like we didn’t get much new/important info. We already knew Christian was an alcoholic, and we already knew that Jack did something that made him lose his job and flee to Australia. What the actual thing was feels kinda pointless.)

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