Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Biggest ‘Lost’ Surprise Yet

It had to happen sometime, but I never, never expected it to happen this soon.
Wow, did tonight’s episode of “Lost” suck or what? This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst of this very Emmy-worthy show’s 26 episodes.
No show is perfect, mind you, especially any series on broadcast TV that has to come up with 24 hours of television a season. It’s impossible to keep a high level of quality each and every time out when you don’t have the HBO luxury of half as many shows produced in, what, twice the time or more (hello 18 month layoff for “The Sopranos”). Frankly, it’s amazing what the producers behind “Lost” were able to accomplish last year, with not a blemish to their record.
In broadcast TV, though, the lull usually hits somewhere in the teens—you know, after the initial rush of creativity that launches a season, but before the final ramp-up to the season finale. Somewhere around February, writers will be scrambling around in the dark scrounging for any sort of way to fill 42 minutes of air time.
But after such a blistering start in 2004-05, I’m a little worried that “Lost” misfired so quickly in its sophomore campaign—they had an entire summer to work on this! Really, tonight’s show wouldn’t even qualify as “well, it was bad by ‘Lost’ standards but it was still pretty good compared to all the other junk on TV.” No, ladies and gentlemen, this one just tanked.
First off, it focused heavily on Michael, played by the series’ weakest regular actor, Harold Perrineau. After making us wait an entire episode to find out what happened to Michael’s raft and son after the former was attacked in last year’s season finale, we really didn’t learn anything more tonight. Michael and Sawyer spent nearly the entire episode floating around on bamboo being harassed (and not very convincingly) by what we were led to believe was a shark. The squabbling scenes between Michael and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) were so poorly written, even Holloway’s innate spark couldn’t save them.
Back on the island, the action in The Hatch moved not an inch. At the end of tonight’s episode, we’re right back where we started, only now we know the little, itsy-bitsy details of what happened in the time between Kate’s capture and Jack’s arrival. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to it; why we were forced to sit through an entire episode for what seemingly could have been shortened to one or two scenes, I’ll never know. The only little nugget we got for our time was Desmond’s disbelief that healthy people were out on the island—apparently he was led to believe the world was coming to an end … or something like that.
Even the “Lost” trademark flashback was lackluster this time around, with a rather formulaic, no intensity look back at how Michael decided to let his son Walt go way back when, which of course is supposed to make us realize how painful it is for him to lose him again now to The Others. I kinda assumed that from last season’s Michael/Walt episode. I really didn’t need any more help, thank you.
And now the whole ill-conceived raft storyline is over after it barely got off the island. Everybody’s back “home” and The Others are bearing down on Michael, Sawyer and Jin, while Desmond still has a gun to Locke’s head back in The Hatch. Wow, that actually took them an hour?
Look, I’m not about to jump raft and give up on “Lost.” If there’s anything I’ve learned about the show’s co-creator J.J. Abrams, it’s that he seems to always have a plan and it all works out in the end. (Take last season’s “Alias” run, for example, which seemed off its game to start but finished with a big, big bang in a spectacular return to form. More on that show to come, I’m sure (crossing his fingers that the fifth (and probably last) season doesn’t destroy the entire series).)
But if there are a few more episodes like this before Christmas … well, let's not jump to any conclusions just yet.

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