Lost's producers promised that season six would feel like season one all over again. Last night, I finally realized why that can never be true. We also discovered, yet again, that Lost hates love stories with happy endings. Spoilers ahead...
So before Lost season six started, producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talked up the idea that this season would "mirror" the first season — and it's easy to see why. The "flash-sideways" to a world where Oceanic Flight 815 landed safely — and a whole lot of other stuff is different too — are like season one's flashbacks, showing us many the same situations, except different. We're getting to know the characters all over again. And the focus is once again on our core characters from the first season: Jack, Locke, Sawyer, Sayid, Kate, Hurley, Sun and Jin.
But especially after last night's episode, I just don't see it. This doesn't feel the same as the first season, in the ways that matter. For one thing, too many people have died — I think those flaming arrows at the start of season five represent the end of the society of castaways. Back in season one, the survivors of Oceanic 815 were a sprawling community on the beach, and this let the show tell many stories about the nature of community. These were all people who had exactly one thing in common — that they were all on that plane (except Ethan) — and they had to live together. Now, to the extent that we have crowd scenes, they're full of Temple Others, Freighter Folk, and Ajira survivors. It can't be the same thing.
But also, this season of the show seems — maybe necessarily — much more plot-driven than the first season. Take last night's episode — we spend a lot of time focusing on Sun and her problems, but she spends a lot of time discussing whether she's a "Candidate" and whether she cares about that. And then her big dilemmas are whether to go with the Smoke Monster when he comes to recruit her, and then whether to help Jack stop the Smoke Monster from getting off the Island. But there's never all that much doubt that Sun's going to be along for the ride, whatever happens. Meanwhile, Jin gets kidnapped by Widmore's geophysicist-turned-merc, Zoe, who wants to ask him about the Dharma Initiative's maps.
There are some great character moments along the way — like Sun's tomato and Jin's first look at Ji Yeon (which we'll talk more about in a moment) — but this is not a character-based story. It's not even much of a story at all, as a standalone episode. It's just more chess pieces being moved into position, with Sun and Jin clearly in the roles of "pawn," despite being "candidates."
On the plus side, Smokey confronts Charles Widmore, in a cracking good scene in which neither man is as stupid as Sawyer had hoped.
Oh, and the bit where Sun gets knocked on the head and forgets how to speak English? What was that about? It just seemed like a way of slowing the episode down.
This might actually have been the first episode of season six where the flash-sideways was more interesting than the on-island story, apart from a few notable moments on the island. In the flash-sideways, Jin and Sun travel to L.A. together — but Jin is not Sun's husband, he's her bodyguard. And they're having an illicit affair that has gotten Sun pregnant, so Sun's dad decides to pay Keamy to bump Jin off. Having Jin deliver his own hit money to Keamy is a nice touch. Mostly, I liked this subplot because the dynamic between Sun and Jin was believably thorny-but-sexy, and it was great getting to see Daniel Dae Kim be all studly again. And Keamy quotes Woody Allen! That was my favorite line of the night.
Seriously, I almost made the headline of this recap, "Nobody On Lost Is Happy In Love Except For Woody Allen." Or maybe some kind of joke about how Woody Allen relates to the show's famous daddy issues. I feel like we discovered new depths to Keamy, just before he died a second time. And it was nice to see shifty old Mikhail one more time, too.
So the above clip, where Jin gets to see his daughter for the first time, is really the main moment when the island storyline actually hums into life and I start to care what's going on. A big crux of this final season seems to be that Aaron and Ji Yeon are both growing up without knowing their real parents, and Jin's reaction to seeing his daughter for the first time really did underscore how tragic this is. Ji Yeon will grow up thinking that her parents were evil jerks who abandoned her. When in fact, all they wanted was to reunite and get back to her.
I have a feeling the Sun/Jin storyline is going to be one of Lost's most unsatisfying — but I hope I'm proved wrong. It's looking like they're going to keep just missing each other, over and over, until finally they get reunited in the backdrop of some climactic scene where The Ghost Of Jacob and the Man In Black discuss the nature of faith and fate vs. free will. (This isn't based on spoilers, just on how the show's been going so far.) I feel like last night's episode was our very last opportunity to give us some Sun/Jin closure, and instead we got wheel-spinning and plot-hammering.
Maybe the scene where Jin sees his baby daughter should have been the episode's first scene instead of towards the end, and we should have seen something interesting happen as a result — like Jin makes a pivotal decision because he saw his baby daughter for the first time. Instead, Jin does nothing, and that's our only payoff the whole episode. (/Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking)
But at least the theme of children growing up without their parents got advanced a bit — Claire reveals the heart of why she's been such a crazy tangle-head lately: She knows that Aaron won't even know who she is when she gets back to him, and he probably thinks Kate is his mum. And that revelation leads to the best news of all — Smokey gives Claire tacit permission to kill Kate (nice twist on Daniel Faraday's maxim) as soon as Kate has lured the other "candidates" to Locke's Army. Let's hope Claire gets to follow through.
And then, of course, we discover there's a third baby who might grow up without knowing his father: Charlie, the son of Desmond and Penny, who presumably is left in the lurch after Desmond is kidnapped, drugged and taken back to the island by Penny's dad. Is the Desmond-and-Penny story doomed to end tragically? The promo for next week's episode, with the "Love LOST" tag, certainly seems to imply that's the case.
One other thing occurs to me about the differences between seasons one and six of Lost: The biggest characters are now routinely kept apart for huge stretches of time. Jack and Locke have barely shared any screen time in the past few years. (Once at the start of season four, once at the end of season four, and briefly during season five, plus a brief L.A.-verse scene.) Jack and Sawyer don't talk any more, except for Sawyer kicking Jack in the face. Hurley and Sawyer haven't had a conversation in ages either. And of course, Jin and Sun are tragically separated. It's hard to evoke the show's first season, when everybody was all together, when the characters never meet each other these days.
So what did you think?