Lost in Retrospect: Orientation

Season 2 of Lost kicks off properly, in my humble opinion, as the first story of the season comes to its actual conclusion and the paradigm of episodes to come is established.

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

This is the episode that really tied together the plot threads of the previous two and kicked off the season proper. I probably sound like a broken record, but honestly, the stories of these three episodes would’ve worked best as just the one jam-packed episode, and at the very least, I’d recommend–nay, insist!–that anyone watching the series for the first time make sure to watch all three in the one sitting. As it is, seeing this one story strung out over three sittings, let alone three weeks, almost completely kills the momentum of the previous season’s finale, takes too long to built up its own momentum and really runs the risk of making viewers throw their hands in the air and declare “Screw this! I’m outta here.” And when I say “runs the risk”, I say it actually knowing people who were so infuriated by these first few episodes of season 2 that they really did give up on the show.

Despite it’s first appearance being in the previous episode, this was the big introduction of the computer, and the button, and the central plot device that would drive the second season — not just the plot, but the drama of these 24 episodes. Henry Ian Cusick delivers that huge infodump with such manic intensity that when we’re told this button is preventing the destruction of the world, we’re half-inclined to believe him right off the bat. But of course, we only have the word of this slightly-crazy Scotsman, which ultimately leaves the audience at exactly halfway between Jack and Locke’s perspectives. A good place to be in a mystery show, surely. The scene at the end was an absolute cracker (I seem to be reusing this phrase, don’t I?) that brought out the best in what this plot device contributed to the show, turning the “man of science, man of faith” debate into a concrete, physical object. It’s also the best way of really bringing the two qualities to the fore: Jack does nothing but question the button, compared to Locke, who just assumes off the cuff that pushing the pushing the button is the right thing to do. I wanna give kudos to one particular bit of the final scene, where Jack has just pushed the button, and he has this look of utter hatred and disgust on his face. It really speaks volumes about just how much Jack has been soured on the whole “man of faith” concept and how much he hates himself to giving into it.

Which, I suppose, starts to justify the flashbacks from the season 2 premiere, which were touched on by Jack and Desmond in the jungle in this episode. Jack couldn’t fix Sarah — her recovery was absolutely, unequivocally a miracle. And Jack seized onto that, eventually marrying Sarah, only for the whole thing to fall apart. So in Jack’s head, the miraculous, the thing you have to take on faith, they’re a completely negative thing. Hence, Jack rails so much against Locke. (in case you can’t tell, this is a pretty ‘stream of consciousness’ line of thought)

This episode’s flashbacks were very good, a sequel of sorts to the previous Locke-centric stories. Katey Sagal was great as Helen, and in the space of these few flashbacks, we can really understand why she’d have become to important to Locke. Anthony Cooper continues to be one of the most absolutely smugly evil bastards on the show. But most importantly (and as usual) the climax of the flashbacks winds up being a brilliant counterpoint to the main storyline, as Locke takes a leap of faith with Helen as Jack takes one in the Hatch. And Locke says “it’s never been easy” to do it–something that, over the course of his flashbacks throughout the show, we can understand. He took one with Anthony Cooper and lost a kidney. He takes one more reluctantly in this episode, with Helen, and it eventually all goes south. So here and now, I’ll give John Locke his props, because after how much his life has gone wrong because of it, he can still take those leaps and trust that things will be better for it. Jack was completely crushed after one failure. It eventually lead to Locke’s downfall, and it was symptomatic of his major flaws, but I guess I admire Locke’s persistence and his willingness to believe.

The DHAMRA film is still one of the most mind-bending things. It was fantastic for delivering such a concentrated, packed-to-the-gills infodump in a way that was fantastically compelling — aside from that fact that at this point in the series, it was the biggest mythological infodump in the series to date, so of course everyone would be hanging onto every second and echoing Locke’s sentiments once it was over: “We’re gonna need to watch that again.” Unfortunately, it’s part of the double-edged sword that is these early season 2 episodes, because all the info we’re getting either raises more questions or is not relevant to anything people had been asking about (though it would be later on — I’ll confess, I never gave thought to the Incident mentioned in the film until it came up in season 5). It wouldn’t be until season 4 that Team Darlton got adept at the delivery of mythology elements and information, which partially led to the major upswing in quality of that and the following seasons. Does that make sense? At this point in the series, we’re getting information we need to know about DHARMA, but frustration arises from the fact that unless we’ve already gone through the whole series, we don’t know that we need to know about DHARMA.

This episode was great. Much better than the previous two, building to a very satisfying conclusion, packed with great scenes and setting up the season to come. It suffered for being the third part of an incredibly stretched-out story, it was guilty of the bad pacing and seemingly-unimportant mythology and I was possibly more grateful than anything to finish it, but of these eps that opened season 2, this is the one that cannot be skipped, both for myth-arc importance and quality.

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