[Andy Bentley takes a look at the first season of LOST. I make a brief comment at the bottom.]
“Its comin' back around again” - R.A.T.M. People of the Sun
In the summer of 2004, I obtained the screener copy of the first two episodes of LOST. I was intrigued by the concept, particularly the sci-fi aspect to the show. But it also had a lot of hollywood gloss to it and I doubted the show would ever move beyond the island. When I saw the creepy title sequence had survived the summer and made it to broadcast, my respect for the show grew. By the time I saw Walkabout, the episode which cleverly reveals Locke’s paralysis in the final moments, I was completely hooked. I’ve watched all the episodes in real time week-to-week which is something I now rarely do. Many of my friends have blown through a season or three and then felt helpless to be at the mercy of ABC’s scheduling. With all of us losties now eagerly awaiting February 2010, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the show: 1 season a month.
First seasons feels a little incongruent to a show as a whole and Lost is no exception. The actors feel a bit less genuine in the 1st 12 episodes or so but soon settle into their characters. Many of the people we follow from the crash try desperately to rid themselves of their past lives but all end up back where they started. Let’s go over the principal players:
We open on Jack’s eyes and follow him on his mad dash to help the survivors from the crash. This perspective anoints Jack the lead character in this ensemble, even if he isn’t always the 815ers leader or even a good one. Jack puts on a confident and strong persona post crash, but as the season progresses we begin to see cracks in the facade. He becomes frustrated quickly, he loses his temper, and is stubborn in his beliefs. Most of his anxiety stems from his deceased father, who was a surgeon like him.
Locke sees the crash as a blessing from the island for he believes it has repaired his broken legs. He takes on the persona of a hunter and a guru who is confident and has answers. However his insecurities from his past life resurface in the final 3rd of the season with the discovery of the mysterious hatch. He becomes frustrated with a lack of answers becomes reckless and skittish. Jack calls him out on this and in the last 2 episodes, we begin to see the science/faith conflict that will factor heavily into the second season and the series as a whole.
James “Sawyer” Ford
Sawyer is racked with guilt for killing an innocent man in Australia and feels the need to be punished or even to die. He provokes the other survivors ruthlessly and he endures a lot of pain. His evolution throughout the series is an interesting one. I once thought his character operated on the Fonzie principle (or Spike from Buffy) where if you defanged him, he lost all relevance. But after the last season, I believe he has more dimensions than that. He begins to help people for free and work towards survival. But mainly he just makes eyes at.....
Upon re watching, I was struck by how unlikeable Kate’s character is. She is a liar, a manipulator, and often goes behind people’s backs to get what she wants which is to run away from her miserable life. She has become a fugitive for robbery, accessory to murder and other charges. Despite all this, she has the two alpha males on the island vying for her attention. Jack wants to redeem her where Sawyer sees her as a kindred spirit.
Take out the the “y” and “i” in his name and you have the character. He’s also the most competent and respectful character in the first season and probably would’ve been a stronger leader than Jack. Watching his early appearances made me even sadder about his fate in the past season.
Charlie comes off as the most cliche of the characters in the first season, being a washed up rock star with a heroin addiction who hits on every principal female in the first three episodes. He soon develops beyond this but his relationship with Claire is a bit off. She turns down his romantic advances, she’s abducted and has amnesia, and so he befriends her again under the guise of caring for the baby.
Michael & Walt.
Michael was a whiny jerk in ’04 and still is a second time around. He is full of self pity, and wrongly accuses several survivors of deeds they did not commit. Watching his life off island spiral downwards does give the character some empathy, but not enough to where I respect him. Walt only goes spooky near the end of this season, giving us little insight into the phantom he becomes for the remainder of the show.
Jin & Sun
Jin’s masochistic and violent behavior seems a little off after seeing his character for 5 years, but it’s this change in character which earns those emotions when he tearfully apologizes to Sun before leaving on the raft. Of all the married couples, they are the ones that have the most exposure and their bond is a backbone of the show. Even Jacob says their love is special *wink*.
Hugo “Hurley” Reyes
Wow, Hurley used to be happy and funny! A bit of an exaggeration, but a sad Hugo is not a fun Hugo. I hope he will find some peace in this final season.
Boone and Shannon
Don’t belong on this show and the writers knew it.
Much of the first season is spent fleshing out the main characters and surviving in the wilderness. The metaphysical elements are seen here and there, most can be chalked up to interpretation, coincidence, or heat exhaustion. It isn’t until the last 4 or 5 episodes (#19 is the first Cuse/Lindelof script) that the show pushes further into the sci-fi/drama genre. The smoke monster is the recurring threat and is first heard 20 minutes into the pilot episode. Most of the excitement of the first season is the reveal of the 815ers past lives before the crash.
The cyclic nature of the show lends itself well to repeated viewings. Rousseau’s ramblings at a captured Sayid make a lot more sense now, as does the numbers and Claire’s psychic reading/abduction. Claire’s dream before her abduction seems to relate heavily to the shows current status. She sees Lock flipping Tarot cards with one eye black and the other white. He chastises her for giving up the baby and says that they all will pay the price. The baby is not the cause of all the heartache on the show, but after this second viewing, I can’t help going back to one of my older theories that the Shepard family must have some greater connection to the island.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing score by Michael Giacchino which fuels the emotions felt from the show. Twin Peaks is the only other example I’ve seen where music has such a heavy influence. Two particular examples are the death of Boone and the raft setting sail towards rescue. The swelling string, the quiet piano, and the throbbing low dulcet tones all give the show a pedigree and a style unto itself. Can you image what the show would feel like if they had inserted popular music into the soundtrack?
By then end of the season, our characters have been revealed, and a variety of unexplainable events have been laid out. Access of the island has been denied by the newly revealed “other” people, and the characters and the show are left with no other option. The must travel down the proverbial rabbit hole that is the hatch and explore these mysteries if they ever want to return to their lives after the crash.
-Jacks awakening in season one is amazingly similar to his return in season 5.
-Knowing what we know now, what would have happened if Locke was taken underground by the smoke monster?
-The next three episodes after Charlie gives up Heroin should have had him sweating, curled up in a ball and green in the face. I understand it’s TV, but still.
-When asked why she named the baby Aaron, Claire doesn’t have an answer. The biblical Aaron is a descendant of Jacob. I’m keeping that Shepard-bloodline theory!
[The fundamental genius of the first season of LOST is how well it tapped into the fantasy that animates so many really good movies and TV shows: the idea that you can start over. This is why Locke is really the central character for me -- because of all of them he is the one who embraces this idea: everyone wants to get back, but as someone says to Kate in a much later season What exactly are you trying to get back TO? The fact that you can be reborn in this mysterious and exciting background all the better, but it is the chance to be made new, and not the monster, that is the central thing. Later seasons got farther and farther away from this concept of rebirth, partly because of the structure: the more you found out about each character the more that past would come back to haunt them. John Locke managed to blow up that sub and dispatch his dad but other characters were not so lucky. The show seems heading for a space where we will learn how everyone is connected to the island, which is to say it will end with this sense that this rebirth has somehow failed. I will keep thinking about this in future posts.]