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“See You in Another Life, Brother!” — The Great Lost Rewatch Project: Season 2!

February 22nd, 2010

Last week I began my look back at Lost with my thoughts on Season 1.  Time now to move on to season 2!

“This is not your island.  This is OUR island.”

There’s a whole heck of a lot to enjoy in season 2 of Lost.  I had a great time revisiting this season during my rewatch project, but I strongly remember how tough this season was to watch, at times, when I first saw it week-to-week on TV.  There are a number of reasons for this, I think.

Season 2 of Lost goes to some dark places.  Many of the characters find themselves regressing and forced to continue struggling with the demons that we might have thought they’d conquered in season 1.  This is realistic storytelling, in which one’s issues can’t necessarily be put to bed so easily, but it also lent season 2 a feeling that we were treading water, narratively.

The same held true for the flashbacks.  This innovative storytelling device (that is so easy, looking back now, to take for granted), is a big part of what gave season 1 its narrative power.  But in many of the season 2 flashbacks, I didn’t feel that we learned much new about our castaways.  (For example, what did we learn in “Adrift” about Michael and his wife that we hadn’t already learned in “Special” from season 1?  What did we learn in “Everybody Hates Hugo” about Hurley that we hadn’t already learned in “Numbers” from season 1?)

Also, in this season the writers expanded on the fractured story-telling style they had played with at times during season 1, in which often they would only give us one piece of what was happening, making us wait to get the rest of the pieces until later episodes.  This is in evidence right from the start of the season, in which, for instance, in each of the first 3 episodes we get a different character’s perspective on what happened down in the hatch after Locke and the gang went down.  Re-watching the show now on DVD, this splitting up of the narrative makes a certain amount of sense, as it enables each episode to have a focus, as opposed to feeling the need to jam updates on every single character into every single episode.  However, I clearly remember watching these episodes when they aired weekly on TV, and this storytelling style was TORTUROUS.  I was desperate throughout the season premiere, “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” to learn what happened to the folks on the raft, and I was desperate throughout the second episode, “Adrift” (and, frankly, throughout the entire rest of the season) to learn more about just how the heck Desmond wound up pushing that button in the hatch!  In both cases, I was out of luck.

I must also comment, here, that I was disappointed that the misbegotten Sayid/Shannon pairing continued into season 2.  I just don’t buy that Sayid’s tough, pragmatic character would fall for vapid, selfish Shannon. (Yes, we learn in her final flashback that she has more depth than that, but nothing in her behavior on the island would have demonstrated that to Sayid.) Plus, Sayid’s two flashbacks to this point have been all about his devotion to his love Nadia. When he declares his love to Shannon in episode 2.6, “Abandoned,” and swears to her that “I’ll never leave you,” I just had to laugh.  Luckily this storyline came to a gruesome end pretty early in the season.  Bravo, brave (and bloodthirsty) writers for your fearlessness in continuing to off main characters, showing us that the death of Boone wasn’t a fluke.

Finally, what makes this season tough to watch in places is the way the castaways (who we have grown to know and love over the course of season 1) are continually stymied — in their efforts to get any concrete answers to anything that is happening on the island, in their efforts to rescue Walt, etc. etc.  Episode 2.11, “The Hunting Party,” is a particularly brutal example, when Tom Friendly refuses to release Walt and insists that there’s a line in the jungle that our people cannot cross.  It’s hard watching our characters continually running into proverbial brick walls — and of course we, the audience, are every bit as disappointed each time that the answers to our questions remain out of reach.

But enough about the negatives!  This is still a terrific season of television, ambitious and challenging, with so much to enjoy.

“Do you not hear me, brother?  I crashed your bloody plane!”

I loved the introduction of the “Tailies” in the beginning of the season, and the way that their stories were slowly integrated with those of the original castaways over the course of the season.  This was a great way in which the writers broadened the canvass of the show, and it allowed us to get to know some phenomenal new characters: Mr. Eko, Libby, Ana Lucia, and Bernard.  There was some dislike, amongst Lost‘s fans, of Ana Lucia when she was first introduced (perhaps because of the way that she seemed to be positioned as a new love interest for Jack, in place of Kate), but I always enjoyed her character and did so even more upon the rewatch, when all of her appearances were colored by her tragic end.  (Same goes for Libby, times ten.)

When “Henry Gale” (Benjamin Linus) is introduced in 2.14, “One of Them,” things really kick into high gear, and the show has a great run of episodes leading up to the finale.  Benjamin Linus is one of the great television creations of all time, and he is creepily wonderful right from his first appearance, playing head games with Locke & co. while being locked inside the armory in the hatch.

As the season draws to a close, we get a lot of intriguing morsels of information about the island and what sorts of strangeness has apparently been going down there for decades.  In “Lockdown,” we see the invisible map.  In “?” we discover The Pearl, a Dharma station designed to monitor the goings-on in the Swan station.  In “Live Together, Die Alone,” we get a glimpse of the ruins of an enormous, four-toed statue.  I love that the season begins and ends with Desmond.  His flashback in the season finale, “Live Together, Die Alone,” is one of the most interesting and perplexing of the show’s run.  As we watch scenes of Desmond’s three years on the island, we are given an overload of hints and references to things we don’t yet understand — mentions of vaccines, infections, Radzinsky, etc, — many of which are a lot clearer upon rewatching, while some remain unexplained.

This is a complex season of television storytelling, and I must applaud the writers and craftspeople behind Lost for their towering ambitions, even if I feel that they occasionally missed the mark in this sophomore year.  It’s fascinating, while rewatching these episodes, to see how brave the writers were to pepper these episodes with story-points that wouldn’t become clear until well into the future of the show.  (If I have an overall complaint about Lost as a series, it’s how many of these questions remain unanswered.  Hopefully by the time we get to the end of season 6 we’ll have a lot more clarity on some of these issues.)

Case in point: I am still bothered, somewhat, by something I mentioned in my lengthy list of Lost‘s unanswered questions: I feel like we never really got the true story behind the button in the Swan Station. I suspect the Lost writers think they have adequately explained this, but I’m still left scratching my head.  Was the button-pushing really necessary in order to stop the electromagnetic whatever, originally tapped/unleashed in “The Incident”, from getting out of control and destroying the world?  If so, why such a bizarre method of containment (with the weird numerical code and the Egyptian symbols)?  Or was it just a twisted psychological experiment?  The button was such a major part of this season, I’d really like to see some stronger resolution to these questions.  If we’d gotten those answers, I think I’d have more positive feelings overall about season 2.

C’mon back tomorrow for more of my favorite and least favorite moments from Lost season 2!

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