Lost in Retrospect: Man of Science, Man of Faith

While the season 2 premiere is not a bad episode by a long shot, it loses a lot of the brownie points, the goodwill and the tension built up by the previous story though it’s incredibly slow pace and near-complete failure to build on the mysteries and cliffhangers.

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

Season 2 was the one that came the closest to losing me as a viewer, and I think this episode perfectly encapsulates why. Sure, there were a lot of good things about season 2, from it’s incredibly physiological bent to the introduction of characters like “Henry Gale” and Mr. Eko, but it was constantly wrestling with the problem of having to make 22 episodes of television ¬†despite only having 10 episodes worth of story to tell. I had no objection to the idea of bringing in new characters, but the majority of them felt like distractions from the myth arc rather than contributions to it — later seasons would do a far better job at this task.

The dynamics within the Losties are stretched — not in a dramatic sense, but rather, we get more of what we were getting at the end of “Exodus”, with no resolution, no changes, nothing new. Jack and Locke continue to spar, with the latter bucking what little authority the former has managed to create, and despite how cracking their scenes are, there’s only so many times that these two alpha males can butt heads over the same issue before it gets boring. Thankfully, they’ll get a new issue soon. For a moment, it seemed like we’d get movement with Hurley and the Numbers, as he told Jack about the his time in the psych ward and winning the lottery, but the only return we got was Jack’s shrug and continued assurance that nothing weird is going on whatsoever. This isn’t to say there weren’t some good moments: Jack continued to have some good leader moments, which seem almost tragic in light of what goes down in latter seasons, and there’s something really disturbing about the way Locke completely shrugged off the concerns of Jack, Hurley and Kate and only paid lipservice to the A-Team’s goal being the safety of the rest of the Losties and not the satisfaction of John Locke’s curiosity.

Easily the best part of the episode were the all-too-brief scenes in the Hatch itself. The teaser is still an absolutely phenomenal sequence as it sucks us into thinking we’re in some strange 1970s flashback before whamming us with the reveal. Even better is the scene when Jack first descends into the Hatch and begins exploring. Mostly dialogue-free, it’s shot in such a deliberately dark, claustrophobic way that would define much of how we saw the Hatch for the rest of the season, a place that seems designed to drive people completely insane. I still twitched and jumped when the mirror moved to get a better look at Jack, when the music started playing, when the light came on… All fantastic. Desmond’s introduction was incredibly brief, but memorable: I quite liked how the reveal of him being in the Hatch came after a whole episode of Jack refuting anything particularly weird or overly coincidental going on.

I don’t really have much to say about the flashbacks: they provided some nice counterpoints to things going on in the Island storyline, such as Hurley’s comment on poor bedside manner going to Christian making the same comment, followed by Jack making a very optimistic speech to the Losties. I also really don’t have much to say on ghost!Walt that appeared in the jungle, because even now, I don’t have much of an idea of it was and why it was important. Perhaps Shannon was actually sensitive to spirits, ala Hurley, but that plotline was never expanded upon? But then why would Walt be showing up? Was this a psychic distress signal that he was broadcasting from the Others’ boat, using his special powers? We don’t know, do we? And we’re not likely to find out, and it has no real bearing on the myth arc, and for that reason I’ve never devoted much brainpower to puzzling it out.

The funny thing about this episode is that it’s very skippable, despite being a season premiere. Episode 3 is the one that really gets down to brass tacks, plotwise. And while the atmospheric introduction to the Swan Station is something to behold, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to watch through this episode again unless I was doing another completist rewatch.

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