Peyser: Reviewing 'Lost's' Weird Premiere

I'm reluctant to question the way that "Lost" unlocks its secrets. The show has changed directions countless times in its first two seasons, and each of the zigzags—discovering the hatches, the second set of survivors, the "Others" and of course the whole mysterious "Dharma" initiative—has only deepened the story and fed fans' obsession with this most willfully inscrutable show. In other words, the producers know how to tell a story. But last night's premiere was an exercise in extreme frustration.

Jack, Kate and Sawyer—who at the end of last season were being held captive by the evil Others—have been spirited away to yet another undiscovered part of the island. Jack is now being held in some kind of huge metal vat. Kate is in a locker room. And Sawyer is outside in a metal cage. Weird? Of course, but you expect "Lost" to be exotic. What you don't expect, after waiting four months to find out the fate of the survivors, is that the episode ignores the rest of the cast. Sayyid, Sun, Hurley, Eko, Locke, Charlie and the others—how are they? Some of them were in serious danger at the end of last season. And what about Hanso's daughter, Penelope, who seemed to somehow control the entire island? No one really expects an episode of "Lost" to tie up all its loose ends, but would it kill the show's producers to throw us a bone or two? The premiere ignored almost all the questions left hanging at the end of last season while piling on about 100 more.

The show started on familiar enough ground, with Petula Clark's "Downtown" playing in the background, just as season 2 opened with another feel-good '60s song, Mama Cass's "Make Your Own Kind of Music." A blond woman is making muffins. Her lovely living room is full of people in a book club; this week's selection is something by Stephen King (which is a little bit of an inside joke/shoutout, since King has been such a vociferous fan of the show). The room suddenly starts to shake in what at first seems like an echo of the electromagnetic weirdness we saw at the end of last season. Or perhaps it's an earthquake. Everyone runs outside and looks in the sky to see an airplane breaking apart in midflight. The plane, the plane! And then we see him: Henry Gale, the ringleader of the Others. He quickly instructs two men—including Ethan, the first bad guy we ever met on the island—to get to the crash site and pretend to be survivors. "I want lists," Henry says.

This seems to be the ultimate flashback—we see Oceanic Flight 815 crash, and it's an eerie yet somehow thrilling sight. So, too, is the moment when the camera pulls back from Henry's house to show us that it's in a compound nestled in a clearing, and it's not far from where the plane came apart. It's amazing to think that the survivors have always been within sight of something that looks like civilization but didn't know it. So, too, is the idea that the Others had infiltrated the survivors from the beginning. Will we find out that others, who we believe to be good guys, have been playing for the other team all along?

But it was all downhill after the first five minutes or so, and especially after we find out that this week's real flashback belonged to Jack. It focused on how he was once convinced that his drunken father was having an affair with his wife. The flashbacks are, in my opinion, the soul of "Lost." Each week, they are like short stories that develop the characters in succinct yet often moving ways, especially when they echo the themes of the story of the island. But this week's Jack story didn't go anyplace. We've seen more than enough about his drunken father already, and the flashback seemed exist solely to lead up to the scene where Juliet—the woman who baked the muffins and who is apparently Henry's sidekick—reveals that she has a dossier on Jack that tells everything about his life, including the fact that his ex-wife is now happy. How did she get this dossier? Who prepared it?

We learn even less about Kate and Sawyer. There's a creepy scene where she has breakfast on the beach with Henry (whose real name is apparently Ben) where he promises Kate that the next two weeks are going to be "very unpleasant." Sawyer actually escapes from his cage, with the help of a young man held in another cage across the way, but he doesn't get far. The young man disappears (my guess is that the whole escape thing was a put-on to break Sawyer down) and is replaced by Kate, who is supposed to be relieved to see her friend, but instead appears so overwhelmed by the sexual tension between them that she looks like she has the vapors.

Which is basically where we were last season. Three of our heroes in danger in a place they haven't been, their future uncertain. Sure the new locales look interesting, especially Jack's tank, which is apparently part of an underwater aquarium, and you do have to marvel at how "Lost" introduces new settings and characters so effortlessly. But what about the other folks we've come to know and love? Frankly, spending too much time alone with Jack can be annoying. Henry/Ben is getting old, too—now that we know who he is, his bad-guy routine feels one-note. Of course, "Lost" being "Lost," we'll likely discover that Henry/Ben isn't who he seems now either. But for the moment, the show feels too static, too intent on dropping yet another endless path of breadcrumbs, to be satisfying. The rhythms of "Lost" are starting to feel familiar, which is the last thing you expect from TV's most inventive show.

Peyser: Reviewing 'Lost's' Weird Premiere | News