(2004, Adventure/Drama/Television, color)
Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy
I hear that if you die in First Class, you go straight to hell.
In a nutshell:
A plane crash deposits a disparate group of survivors on a supernatural beach.
Pilot Episode, Part I: Jack wakes up in a field of bamboo, covered in scratches. He gets up and staggers to a nearby tropical beach, littered with airplane parts and the still-quivering remains of his fellow passengers. As a doctor, he is well-versed in the art of impromptu surgery; he patches up everyone who needs patching, and then flags down wandering fellow survivor named Kate to stitch an open wound on his back.
Further exposition introduces us to the rest of the cast, which includes, but is not limited to: Drug-addled rocker Charlie (former hobbit Dominic Monaghan, and I bet he’s really, really sick of being called that), Iraqi ex-soldier Sayid, rebellious loner Sawyer, air-headed blond step-siblings Boone and Shannon... The list goes on, but those are the important ones for the pilot episodes.
All of the above wait through the night for rescue. Something enormous but unseen crashes through the trees in the darkness. By morning, rescuers have failed to arrive, so Jack and Kate decide to hike into the jungle to look for the plane’s cockpit, which broke away during the crash. Charlie tags along despite their best efforts to discourage him.
They find the cockpit tilted upwards in the jungle foliage, and climb past the corpses of the first class passengers to find the pilot still alive and strapped to his chair. He directs them to the object of their search—a transceiver that Jack hopes to use for distress signal purposes. Something enormous but unseen returns to stomp around the cockpit. The pilot puts his head out a broken window to see what it is, and is pulled screaming into the jungle.
They get separated as they run for the beach. The huge crashing thing wanders off, allowing them to regroup. They find the pilot’s partially chewed remains in a tree. To be continued...
Pilot Episode, Part II: Jack, Kate, and Charlie return to the beach just in time to break up a fight between Sawyer and Sayid, the argument being that Sawyer thinks Sayid is a terrorist (and, by extension, that he blew up the plane) and Sayid thinks that Sawyer is an ignorant bigot. Sayid is also a former communications officer with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Jack asks him to fix the transceiver.
Jack is occupied with a medical emergency when the transceiver is finally repaired, so Sayid goes to Kate instead. Sayid explains that they have a working transmitter, but no signal; in order to find a signal, they must climb to higher ground. Kate leads a group consisting of Sayid, Sawyer, Charlie, Boone, and Shannon to seek higher ground.
Something crashes towards them through the underbrush. Everyone flees, except for Sawyer, who pulls a gun and fires it repeatedly at the attacker. It falls nearby. The others gather round to inspect the polar bear’s corpse, and determine that this was not the enormous unseen creature responsible for mangling the pilot. Wonder at the presence of a polar bear on a tropical island quickly gives way to concern about where Sawyer got the gun. He claims he got it off the corpse of a dead Sky Marshall, and produces a badge to prove it. Sayid says that Sawyer was probably the prisoner the Sky Marshall was escorting. Kate steals the gun during the argument. Following Sayid’s instructions, she takes it apart. She gives the gun to Sayid, and the ammunition clip to Sawyer. (Or the other way round, I can’t remember for sure.) A flashback reveals that she, in fact, is the prisoner in question.
They make it to higher ground, and Sayid picks up a signal. It’s a recording of a voice in French, constantly looping, with a counter to say how many times it has repeated. Shannon translates it as a distress signal, begging for someone to come and rescue the speaker from the island. Sayid does some rough calculations based on the length of the recording and how many times it’s repeated to determine that it has been playing for more than sixteen years. To be continued...
Saying that Lost has a plot is like saying the Earth is round. Both statements are irrefutably true, but without study and special equipment, neither can be proven from ground level. The narrative stretches infinitely onward, with mountains, rocks, and trees (flashbacks, spooky events, character quirks) obscuring any reasonable guess at what the future may hold. And even if there weren’t all these distractions in the way, any curve in the story arc is probably so gradual as to appear flat all the way to the horizon.
Fortunately, the distractions are what make the show interesting. The episodes depicted have been constructed from jumbled pieces of story in a way that would be frustrating if each individual moment wasn’t so perfectly pitched, and the overall episode wasn’t so well paced. The show works because it each scene is fascinating on its own, not because they make sense strung together. If my television was still capable of network reception, I might actually have been watching this show all along.
Mike and Kevin have fun on the commentary track. When something enormous crashes through the trees, Mike cries, “It’s Grendel,” and then tries his best to convince Kevin that this whole show is just a complicated modernization of Beowulf. Likewise, Mike spends much of the time on the cockpit adventure working out his envy of people who fly first class. Back on the beach, when the spiritualist old guy teaches the young black kid to play backgammon, Mike says, “Backgammon: when you’re too dumb for chess but too smart for Hungry, Hungry Hippos.” It’s an interesting show and a funny track.
(2004, Adventure/Drama/Television, color)