Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lost Season Four Premiere: "The Beginning of the End" Review

In some ways, I feel like a bit of a crack addict who has been clean for 8 months and has suddenly found himself back in the midst of the world of delicious, glorious crack.

I have always been a huge fan of Lost since Day 1. What has differentiated me from many fans is the way that I have allowed patience to come over me, to help me stay steadfast through the times that may have been somewhat iffy. The reason being is that I always felt like we were on the same track. Some shows, like "Heroes", seem to jump between tracks, never allowing you to fully understand where they are going or things happen that defy the internal logic of the show already set forth.

So, while Lost may have had some relatively boring episodes, they never contradicted their prior nature, never seemed to stray too far from their course. The train was moving slow, but it was still moving.

Then, in season 3, after a stall that probably left quite a few people pissed off at a railroad crossing, Lost picked up steam on its return in February 2007 and continued moving faster and faster until its lighting speed finale "Through the Looking Glass." This two hour event, which, in my mind is the best two hours of television I had ever witnessed caused me an immeasurable amount of brain functioning trying to process the glorious finale. Critics and audiences alike were crying out that Lost had returned to form. The only problem now is that the new shortened season schedule meant that there were 8 months between the season finale and the season premiere.

In that time I would have to say that I was learning to live without Lost. No longer did it dominate my thoughts. I distantly longed for its return but was at peace with myself without it. And returns.

But on to tonight's episode.

"The Beginning of the End" picks up on the island immediately where it left off. They had just contacted Naomi's freighter and were awaiting rescue. Except not everyone will be rescued. Hurley reveals in a flash-forward that only 6 people were saved from the island. We know three: Jack, Kate, and Hurley. The other three? Still unknown. And this episode doesn't really give us any clues as to who the other three will be.

The repercussions of Charlie's death are felt in very poignant ways that absolutely are not expected. It almost feels like the island is able to contact people after they remove themselves from the island, because how else would it be possible for an obviously dead Charlie to reveal himself to Hurley in an attempt to convince him to return to the island he left behind. Back on the island, Charlie's death moves Hurley to respect Charlie's final warning: that these people who are supposedly everyone's saviors are not who they say they are. Claire, also not wanting Charlie to have died in vain, listens to these pleas and other members of the camp begin to separate into Jack's rescue group and Locke's survival group.

Jorge Garcia as Hurley delivers an incredible performance that runs the gamut from complete despair to possibly insanity to utter joy in an intense 43 minute period. Given that this was his flash-forward this week, a lot was riding on him to maintain the momentum and he certainly delivered.

Ben, in the short screen time that he has, delivers some of the most hilarious moments of the entire episode. Despite his creepy and manipulative nature, seems more and more to be the only one who really knows what is going on with the island. Why he doesn't just share his wealth of knowledge with everyone, I can't really say. But it is obviously up there.

And there was a quick flash of Christian Shephard sitting in what appeared to be Jacob's chair as Hurley was losing his mind in the jungle. Whether or not this was actually Jacob remains to be seen, but it was definitely a nice TiVo moment that people will be speculating about for weeks to come? Me, I think it shows that Christian Shephard has something to do very involved with this island (especially after viewing the final "Missing Pieces" mobisode on, but I think it would be too obvious for him to be Jacob.

The biggest problem with the episode is that it does not match the same pace and intensity that "Through the Looking Glass" had. But how could one expect it to since the season 3 finale was such a game-changer in a way the very next episode could not possibly be?

Yet, the way this episode lays itself out offers a promising look at the way the rest of the season will play out. I liken this episode to Chapter One of a (supposed-to-be) 16 chapter book. It lays down the guidelines as to what to expect for the duration of the season. There are a few excellent moments and some rather humdrum ones as well, but almost all of the information is valuable. Looking back, season 1 began with the survivors surviving. You could almost subtitle season 1 "Survival" or "Exploration". Season 2 was obviously "The Hatch". Season 3, since it started out in the barracks with Juliette listening to "Downtown" was the season of "The Others". This seems to be the season of "The Freighter" or possibly "The Rescue." I think the latter will ultimately turn out to be the more accurate of the two, but regardless, both are obviously going to be the focus of this new season.

And on top of all that, there is so much more riding on the writers than there was before. Now, things in flash-forwards and present day island stuff needs to be able to be connected in more intricate ways than was necessary in flashbacks. Yet, I see this as an opportunity to prove to the audience that the tiles are falling into place, that the show is inexorably moving towards a conclusion that will surprise us all. And there is no more fitting title for that momentum than "The Beginning of the End."

There was a lot to like in this episode and little to dislike. Yet, I wouldn't necessarily call it one of the best episodes of Lost ever, but a solid opening episode, a peek through the door of the house of this new season. Next week will hopefully be the week where we finally step inside and experience the overall situation in a much more dramatic way, but I definitely cannot do too much complaining about this episode.


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