TV REVIEW: LOST: "Because You Left"

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The amazing thing, for me, is that Lost always manages to hit the ground running. On the face of it, the show would seem to have a lot of strikes against it - massive cast and plot erosion, an incomprehensible storyline, deliberately fractured storytelling, a sprawling cast that changes at a whim, shrinking season episode orders, not to mention the fact that after four years, we still don't really know what the heck is going on. So you'd think that the show would bleed audiences faster than a Republican Science Fiction site does when it posts ill-advised comedy pieces that make fun of Jimmy Carter.

And yet it never does. The show is brilliant, and it wastes no time in jumping right back in to it's twisted narative. In these days of lowered viewing figures and even lower expectations, it's hard not to like a show that isn't worried about the audience not being able to keep up. "They'll figure it out from watching the DVDs" they seem to be saying.

Tonight's 5th season premier was no exception. Though it's not my intention to give a play-by-play of the episodes, it picks up exactly where last season's finale left off, with the island leaping. From then on, the episode is roughly divided in half between shenanegins on the island in 2005, and stuff in the 'real world' in the more-or-less present (three years later)

on the island in the past, Locke - last seen with the Others - is suddenly on the island all by himself. He sees Mister Eko's brother's plane crash, and goes to investigate, whereupon he's shot by Ethan, who just happened to be investigating the crash himself. Suddenly everything flashes white, and Locke's at the wreckage of the plane in the present, on the ground. Bleeding to death, Nestor Carbonel shows up to patch him up. "How did you know you'd find me here?" "You told me." "No I didn't." "Not yet, but you will. I'm sorry, John, this is a lot to take in all at once, but t he next time you see me I won't know you. Give me this" - he hands John a compass, and tells him he needs to get those who left to come back, "And you need to die." John figures he's unstuck in time.

At the beach the camp is gone. Faraday explains that it hasn't been built yet, and that he needs to get to a man made object. They take him to the Hatch, but another bright shiny light gets them there after it's blown up. Another bright shiny light puts them there before it was discovered by Locke, and pushes a very confused Sawyer to the brink. He tries to contact desmond, but Faraday explains that time is determinist, and can't be changed. You can't change the past. The rest of the team heads back to the beach while Faraday actually gets Desmond to open the door.

Desmond, it seems, is still rather unstuck in time, and functions as a conduit between the past and present. Faraday tells Desmond - who has no idea who he is - to go to Oxord and look up his mother.

Back in the present, Desmond wakes up on a sailboat with Penny and says they're goin' to Oxford.

Stateside, as you'll recall, Sayi'd killed a spy and broke Hurly out of the nuthatch. He takes him to a safehouse, and is attacked by two goons who manage to sedate the Iraqi, but not before he dispatches them. Hurley gets him to a car before Sayi'd passes out, and they two are on the lam. Hurley, of course, gets blamed in the media for the three murders.

Some lawyers show up at Kate's door asking for a blood test to prove Aaron is her kid, which of course he isn't. She cuts and runs.

In London, Sun tries to fly back to LA, but is intercepted by Penny's dad. The two of them want to kill Ben Linus.

Stateside, Ben is still in the funeral parlor with Jack and Locke's body. He tells Jack that they all - including Locke - need to get back to the island, and Jack agrees. They steal Locke's body and leave.

On the whole, this is a damn fine episode. All the balls are in the air, and the show is brilliantly making place of it's rather unique structure, telling two ends of the same story from two different points in time. The "Deterministic" aspect of the show is brilliant and complex, as we know that they won't be pulling a Star Trekian "Cosmic Reboot" to save Locke, so all his scenes in the past are heroic and tragic. We know his fate, and he's becoming aware of it.

It's nice to see all of our 'main' characters utilized so well, and as ever it's interesting to see that not everyone has the same agenda. Also nice to see the newbies like Faraday and the Ghosbuster dude so front and center. Sun's alliance with Penny's dad will not go down well with anyone, and Ben's alliance with Jack is surprisingly heartfelt. They don't like each other, they don't even respect each other, but I think they kind of feel sorry for each other. Both of them are full of daddy issues and completely blocked off emotionally from the outside world. Despite Jack's whiney victimhood and Ben's sociopathy, they are to some extent the sides of the same coin. Desmond's longstanding messiahood seems to be continuing apace. And have he and Pen been hiding out from her dad on that boat for three years? I suspect they have.

The island definitely moved, but evidently it's unstuck in space as well as time, and the time travel conceit will probably go a long way towards explaining the vague forces that manipulated everyone to come to the island in the first place, as we saw repeatedly in the first 3 years of the show.

Who was it that called for the blood test? I suspect it was Penny's dad, but it just as likely could have been another one of Ben's manipulation games.

The most interesting aspect of the show to me, though, isn't on the show, it's in the audience: For most of three years Lost managed to hide it's obvious SF nature from most of it's fans. Now that it's fully embraced time travel and teleportation, will the average fan continue to watch it, or will they be alienated now that it's cards are being overtly laid on the table, and it's greek cred becomes apparent to guys who beat up guys who like SF?

That's a mystery even the writers probably don't have an answer for.

[EDIT: If you missed the episode, you can watch it online here http://abc.go.com/player/index?pn=index ]

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