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“We have to go back, Kate!” — The Great Lost Rewatch Project: Season 3!

March 1st, 2010

Click here for my thoughts on Lost season 1, and here for my thoughts on Lost season 2!  Remember, there are LOTS OF SPOILERS ahead, so be warned.  OK, let’s dive into Lost season 3!

“The man from Tallahassee?  What is that, some kind of code?”   “No, John, unfortunately we don’t have a code for ‘there’s a man in my closet with a gun to my daughter’s head’.  Although we obviously should.”

Whereas season 2 broadened the canvass of Lost to include the characters of the Tailies and their stories, season 3 expands the focus even further to begin shedding light on the heretofore enigmatic figures of the Others.

In many ways, season 3 represents a mid-series turning point for Lost.  Towards the end of the original airing of this season, it was announced that the show’s producers had come to an agreement with the network on an end-date for the show.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that this announcement (quite unprecedented for a successful network TV series), literally saved the series.  There were points in season 2 that felt like treading water, and I got that same sensation more than once in the early going of season 3.  But the announcement that the series had a definite end date restored narrative thrust and energy to the show, and allowed the writers to begin parcelling out answers to long-held questions and moving forward on the storylines and plot-twists that they had intended for the end-game of the show.

“Pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do.”

Season 3 began with a “pod” of six episodes.  When watching these episodes originally I found them to be excruciating, as all sorts of weird things seemed to be happening with no explanation whatsoever.  At this point in the run of the show I was long-since ready for some answers, and I had hoped that this batch of episodes — in which Jack, Kate and Sawyer found themselves held captive by the Others and so we were at last taken inside the Others’ community — would give us some insight into just what the heck had been going on for the first two years of the show, but that was not to be.  To say that this was frustrating would be putting it mildly.  In addition, over the course of these 6 episodes we continued to have to suffer through watching our beloved characters treated incredibly cruelly (something that I mentioned that I found bothersome during season 2 as well), abused mentally and physically by the Others.  This is tough to watch, and as I commented in my write-up of season 2, the Others’ continued cruelty towards our castaways continues to perplex me, particularly if there is some nobility to be found in their attempts to protect the island.

On the rewatch, though, I enjoyed those early season 3 episodes a lot more.  Knowing where the story was going, I had a lot more patience now to watch things unfold, and I gained a lot more enjoyment from noticing all the intriguing little clues that the writers worked into those early episodes about the Others and the way their little society was run.  I’m also a lot more patient with the flashbacks now, and find myself able to enjoy the subtle textures these pieces of back-story add to our characters.  (When season 3 originally aired, I found myself often thinking of the flashbacks as wasted time that could have been better spent giving us some straight answers about the Others.)

What did bother me during the rewatch every bit as much as it did when these episodes originally aired was the ludicrous lack of follow-up to the momentous events of the season 2 finale by the characters on the show.  Why is Charlie so unconcerned about what went down at the hatch when he returns to the beach? Why is no one on the beach at all curious about what happened to Locke or Eko? Why aren’t there search parties out combing the jungle? Why does no one seem at all to care that the entire hatch has IMPLODED?? If the failsafe device was powerful enough to somehow “detonate” or seal the electromagnetic force unleashed by the incident, how did Locke, Eko, and Desmond survive unscathed? What the hell happened to Desmond’s clothes??? None of this makes a lick of sense, and it undermines the stories being told.

Then there is the sad story of Nikki & Paulo.  It’s funny, when season 3 first aired on TV I was every bit as annoyed by Nikki & Paulo as most fans were. I thought it was awkward how they were introduced out of nowhere, and I resented the time taken away from the other characters’ stories.  As a result I, like most fans, was THRILLED when the writers got rid of them in “Expose”.  But rewatching the show on DVD it’s stunning to me just how little screen time these two characters actually had before their demise in this episode.  As a result, watching this season again, I really didn’t mind Nikki & Paulo’s presence as much.  It feelt like they had barely been introduced before getting killed off.  It’s an interesting example of the difference between waiting painfully from week to week when the show aired on network TV versus experiencing Lost on DVD.

“You sure its an Island?”  “Well what else is it?”  “Little hot for heaven isn’t it?  They found your plane on the bottom of the ocean. One minute I’m in a car wreck and the next minute I’m in a pirate ship in the middle of the jungle.  If this isn’t hell, friend, then where are we?”

In the second half of the season (as was the case with season 2), things really pick up steam and we get a tremendously compelling run of episodes that lead us into season 4.  Naomi parachutes onto the island with a photograph of Desmond & Penny, and the possibility of rescue by the “freighter-folk” is tantalizingly raised.  Locke begins his journey towards becoming one of (and eventually, possibly the leader of) the Others.  Sawyer (and the audience) are struck by the astounding revelation that the original Sawyer who ruined his life is the same con-man who was Locke’s father, leading to an astoundingly powerful confrontation in the brig of the Black Rock that packs an enormous emotional punch.  We pay our first visit to Jacob’s cabin.

The season finale represents a total game-change for the show, and is probably my single favorite episode of the series.  There are all sorts of dramatic events on the island, as Jack and the gang set their trap for the Others, and then attempt to find the radio antennae on the island in order to deactivate Danielle’s repeating message so they can contact the freighter; Charlie heroically attempts to deactivate the jamming signal in the underwater Looking Glass station; Ben begs Jack not to leave the island and threatens to murder Sayid, Sun and Bernard if he won’t relent; and Locke and Jack have a showdown as rescue appears imminent.  But, of course, the center-piece of the episode is in what we think is a flashback (and the show is put together fiendishly well, so that on a first viewing one could never guess the switch-ending), as we see Jack at his lowest point.  He’s a drunken mess, and only happenstance stops him from committing suicide.  It’s only at the end, of course, that we learn that this isn’t a flashback but a flash-FORWARD.  Jack has been off of the island for THREE YEARS.  It is a devastating gut-punch to see how completely destroyed Jack’s life has become back home – this is far from the happy ending that he (and we!) had been hoping for.  But the real clincher is the final scene, in which Jack finally regains some of the passion that he used to have, declaring to Kate: “WE HAVE TO GO BACK!!”  Brilliant.

“I did not ask for the life that I was given. But it was given, nonetheless. And with it… I did my best.”

See you back here tomorrow for my favorite and least-favorite moments from Lost season 3!

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