Thursday, February 11, 2010
Lost 6.2: "What Kate Does"
Okay. It's only the second episode. And this is a show that I have L-O-V-E-D for the past two full seasons. But there were more than a few times while I watched Tuesday night's episode when I actively felt my enthusiasm for the series down-shifting, as I realized that when Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse promised a return to Season 1 form, they really meant it.
Because here's the thing: I didn't totally love Season 1. I mean, I liked it a lot. It was bright and shiny and new and I had great fun with it, as the canvass of the show expanded and new and fun questions were raised. But even back then, I had two significant problems with the show. And no, they weren't "too many questions, not enough answers" / "there doesn't seem to be a plan." Those problems arose in seasons 2 and 3. My Season 1 problems were that the flashbacks grew exponentially less enlightening and/or interesting as the season wore on and began to feel like time-filler so as best to stretch out the series' story. That problem finally got solved at the end of Season 3. The shift to flash-forwards doubled the forward momentum of the show, when before it had been halved, and the time-traveling structure of last season all felt like it was working towards the same end, even when it was confusing.
My second problem was one that never really got solved: I really don't like most of these people. I've watched shows with frustrating protagonists (Buffy) or morally compromised ones (The Sopranos), but I don't think I've ever watched -- and loved, if we're talking the last two years -- a show where I hated the majority of major characters. In fact, up until last year's LaFleur twist, I probably hated or didn't care about all the major characters but for Ben. I really grew to root for Sawyer last season, both because he was paired with Juliet (the one character I loved) and because he actually grew during those glossed-over Dharma years. But Jack? HATE. Kate? Ugh. Locke? Dead (and while he was alive? Overly credulous, Boone-killing jerkface). Hurley? Sayid? Desmond/Penny? Meh.
On Twitter last week, C.H.U.D.'s Devin Faraci was complaining about the Jacob/Smoky focus in the season premiere by saying he didn't care about "plot" concerns (what is the island? Who is Jacob? et cetera) because for him, the show comes down to the characters. And 90% of the time, that's how it is, and should be with TV. Great characters -- or at least ones you're attached to -- keep you hooked even when the plot is murky/shaky. But for me and Lost, it's almost completely opposite. Here's who I like: Ben, Jin, Sun, Miles, Frank Lapidus, and Sawyer, so long as he doesn't regress into the bitchy nickname-generator he was pre-LaFleur. And since 2/3s of those people are minor characters, you can see how what I'm left with, what's kept me hanging with the show, is a fascination with the plot and how it's going to work itself out.
So now, cut to Season 6, and at this point, we seem to have regained the problem of the flashbacks (yes, they flash-sideways now but they feel just as inconsequential at the moment), and my problem with the characters (which never really went away) has been amplified by the focus on Jake and Kate stories. "What Kate Does" didn't bother me simply because it was a Kate story (on the spectrum of characters I don't care for, I hate her less than Jack and care about what happens to her more than Sayid), but that didn't help.
And so without that crutch of likeable characters, I was left with the annoyance that we're seriously retreading with this new faction of Others. Once again, there are prisoners and butts of rifled being brought down on heads and communication breakdowns and cryptic hints. Yes, we finally got Ghengis Khan from Bill & Ted to tell Jack what was up with Sayid (more or less; ...he's a Dybbuk now?). And I won't lie, when Claire ("CLEEEEYAH!") wandered out from the jungle at the end, I was mucho intrigued. But that's pure Season 1 too: 55 minutes of running in place, plus a corker of a plot development at the end to get you primed for next week.
It's not that I don't have faith that the show is going somewhere and will be getting there sooner than I think. Seasons 4 and 5 bought Lindeloff and Cuse that much slack at least. But it'd be nice if I could have an hour of compelling television now to go with my faith in what's to come.