LOST took some major risks this season. It is a testament to the strength of the writing on the show that almost all of those risks succeeded.
To begin with, they answered the question that dominated last season and the following summer: what's in the hatch. Well, Desmond's in the hatch. But who is Desmond and why is he there? That question lingered until the finale, which set the stage for a whole new show next season. We know the world is still out there, but will Penny find her man? And will he still be alive for her?
This was a deeper,richer season than the first. The writers played with show constructs like the flashbacks and redemption story lines. The Dharma Initiative is a fun addition, an all-powerful corporation with unknown agendas. Having Dharma at once grounds the show further in reality, and allows for more sci-fi foolishness.
We had the saga of the fake 'Henry Gale', Ana-Lucia and Shannon lived up to the horror movie tradition of dying after sex, and we got just a little more of the Monster that eviscerated the pilot last season. But what a scene.
That's the thing about this show: it takes a long time for story threads to be fleshed out but, man, when they are...
Let's take a look at where we are now, two seasons into the best show on television.
JACKJack is the guy that got on everyone's nerves this season. His main problem seems to be that whereas last season he was the go-to-guy on the island, this year he wasn't so much. Everyone seemed to be contradicting him, and with good reason. The good doctor is clearly losing it: running off half cocked into the woods after Desmond and then Michael isn't going to help his rep in the camp any. Though he made peace with John towards the end of the year, I'm certain that if Locke survives the hatch explosion, the old rivalry will flare up again. What do The Others want with jack? Why is he on the list? Is it merely another good people, bad people list? Jack seems to be a saint, even in his 'hey honey I just made out with a smokin' hot Italian chick, what do you mean you're leaving me?' flashbacks. But there's still a lot we don't know about Jack's past. Is he one of the 'bad' people after all?
I like Jack, and I like Matthew Fox as Jack. He's a centering presence on the show, he's our main character and our eyes on the island, from the very beginning. But his profile needs to be restored in Season Three.
LOCKE"I was wrong."
Locke is always wrong. John's ''pathetic struggle through life" (as he called it) just keeps on getting more pathetic. If last season was about his renewed confidence, this season was about that confidence shattering. John was not quite the mysterious jungle man he was a year ago, either. Part of that is the flashbacks. The more we know of Johnny Locke, the more he seems like some schmo from a box company playing a real-life version of Pitfall. If John survives in Season Three (and he has to: if LOST stopped right now, John Locke would be its greatest contribution to pop culture), he will have lost his stature and will be even more desperate that this year. Or he could be embittered. Locke's arc is to go evil, I guarantee it. Season Three is the start of that, I hope.
SAWYERAfter the cuddly, lovable Sawyer we'd been saddled with since the raft explosion, the bad-ass wild card's return in The Long Con was a breath of fresh air. We saw just how his mind works, and what he's capable of getting people to do. Aside from holding the guns and drilling Ana-Lucia, though, Sawyer was relegated mostly to one-liner dispenser for the bulk of the season, even though he invited himself along on most of the expeditions. He'll be in the thick of things next year, though.
Put money on it: big reveal in Season Three or Four: Zeke is the "real Sawyer".
SAYIDTalk about disappearing. Sayid, aside from torturing Henry Gale, did jack -all this year. He lost Shannon, but that was never a believable romance. Had Ana-Lucia survived, that would have been more intriguing a pair.
Naveen Andrews is a magnetic presence, and Sayid is a good character, but he needs more screen time; with Jack taken away does he become the leader of the castaways now?
MICHAELThe defining moment of the series so far. The biggest shocker, no kidding. The moment where the writers stepped forward and said: no one is safe.
Yes, Michael was heading down a desperate path all year. But this? If anything, I thought he'd get himself and his boy both killed by the Others. But the Others aren't so mysterious after all. They kept their bargain, and Michael and Walt are gone...but forever? Walt, sure. But Lando will be back to save his friends (it was significant that he called them "friends", by the way, and thinking of them in that way will make it all the harder for Mike to stay away).
That would be the ultimate test of the redemption storylines: if they can redeem Michael, they can redeem anyone.
KATEWhat did Kate do this season?
She hallucinated a horse, but no wait: that was real. Umm, let's see...she got captured at the end. That's something, right?
Didn't give Evangeline Lilly a whole lot this season, that's for sure (we didn't even get any gratuitous Kate cheesecake, what gives?), she tagged along on a few missions, got "caught in a net" with the good doctor, and we found out who she killed and why. But again she, like Sawyer, needs to have a bit more to do next year.
CHARLIECharlie went evil, and back again, in and out of crush with Claire. He knocked out Sun on Sawyer's behalf to get back at Locke, who pounded him into the surf the episode before. We saw the depths of Charlie's addiction, and the heights of his promise: he finally got rid of those Mary statues.
Dom Monaghan has always struck me as a actor who over thinks his roles. His Charlie is no exception: the creepy sith voice, the twitchy withdrawals. But it''s to Dom's credit that Charlie, as annoying as he can be, remains likeable. Charlie is one of the many characters that slipped in and out of our focus this season. He basically just hung out in the background until Eko forced him into jungle adventuring, and he was the only witness to Eko's stare down of Smokey Smoke Monster.
But here's one big problem with the finale: Charlie and Claire's kiss was nice, but shouldn't he be more concerned about Eko and the hatch?
CLAIRELost that baby weight super fast, huh? They may not give Emilie de Ravin a lot on this show, and that's usually a good thing. Claire's adorable, but Season One's flashback episode was boring, and so I was surprised that they had fun with her flashback this time around; giving Claire the first on-island flashback was brilliant. Making her a doped up mess, therefore throwing that flashback into doubt for the first time, was even better.
I also loved Rousseau's warning, that Claire should be prepared to kill her baby if it comes to that.
SUN & JINSeason Two was bookended by the exclamations: "UDDERS!", and "BOAT!" When Jin manages the former, we're two hours into the second season, when Sun yells the latter, we've only got two left.
I don't think the writers knew what to do with these guys this season. Once Jin and Sun were reunited, we didn't hear much from them. They became camp scenery, getting an occasional thumbs-up from Hurley but otherwise just fishing and doing laundry.
We did learn Sun is pregnant, and it may not (probably is not) Jin's kid. Did the island heal Jin? I guess that's a possibility; but clearly Sun had an affair with the dapper bald gentleman from Korea, or she wouldn't be so nervous.
Here's a big question for season three: will Jin ever find out that, besides bugging him with Kinks songs, Charlie's been beating his wife and dragging her through the jungle?
EKOEveryone's favorite new bad-ass. Eko could straddle that line of the stereotypical 'mystical black man' figure, but as with the other stereotypes on the island (redneck, brit rocker, noble arab) they've fleshed him out very well in his flashbacks. Eko was a bad, bad man. Now he's trying to be good, but some of his former life bleeds through (for instance, head butting John to get him to lead him to the question mark).
Eko will survive. You can't set up a character that brilliantly then walk away from him in Season Three. And besides, the way that he plays off of Locke seemed, and is important in the grand scheme of the show. Plus, Eko shows the kind of bold, faithful leadership that the panicky Jack and the shaky Locke have none of. The island residents need him more than they know.
HURLEYPoor, poor Hurley.
At times irrational, at times insane, at times violent (just ask Sawyer), but more than anything, life gave Hurley one great reward, and then took her away from him.
What I love about Hurley is that they keep him consistent. He didn't charge Michael after he confessed: he looked destroyed, weakened. His voice cracked on Libby's name. Hurley is our innocent, but Season Three could be the time he's forced to grow up.
ROSE & BERNARDOh, these guys killed me. What's wrong with me that I almost cried when we found out that the schlubby white dude in the other hatch was indeed the husband that Rose just knew was alive somewhere on the island.
Ok, so they didn't have much to do in the larger scheme (they're not even 'official' cast members yet), but they make me smile, and that's enough.
DESMONDMaybe it's the Scottish accent, but Desmond cracks me up. My favorite moment of the finale was his exasperated "dammit" after his gun runs out of ammo on the boat, at the very beginning.
The only problem is since Desmond represents hope and meaning and connection (for Jack, and Locke, and all the survivors in the form of Penny and rescue), he is a symbol. And symbolic characters have a way of being the only characters to not survive things like giant electromagnetic explosions.
I'm just saying.
'HENRY GALE'Love that Michael Emerson: but is Henry truly evil? He seems to be playing him that way. There are shades of doubt, though. My guess is Season Three will be a lot about the Others and Dharma, and we'll probably get a Henry flashback by the end of the season.
ANA LUCIA: R.I.P.I'll miss Ana, and not just for her low-riding jeans and devastating swagger. She was the female Sawyer, so it made sense that for all the puppy dog eyes she was making towards Jack, she jumped James Ford at the first opportunity.
Ana had two flashback episodes, both were brilliant and changed the direction of the show. Michelle Rodriguez has one hell of an agent, let's say that. Too bad she can't stay out of county lock-up long enough to enjoy it.
LIBBY: R.I.P.Libby did nothing but die and not tell anyone who shot her. Lucky for her, Michael was dying to tell them.
Really: what did Libby do, besides be crazy and get shot? I guess she gave Desmond a boat as well. Anyway, kids, the Disney corporation would like you to know: their employees do not drink and drive.
SHANNON: R.I.P.The best thing Shannon ever did for the show was to take one in the chest.
Shannon was universally abhorred, and now she's gone. But she gave Season Two the kick start it needed, and it made Sayid into the first of Season Two's wild cards.
Now that she's gone, do we miss anything about Shannon? No, except the way that she played off of Boone, and without Boone she had little to do.
Shannon was a sacrifice that the island (or ABC anyway) demanded.
Man of Science, Man of FaithIntroduced Desmond and the hatch. It was disorienting, but brilliantly done.
AdriftOverlong stretches with Michael and Sawyer on the raft slow down an otherwise fine episode. One hell of a cliffhanger, though.
OrientationThe button and Dharma are introduced. Desmond runs off into the jungle, and Terry O'Quinn excels.
Everybody Hates HugoA hard shift down to a Hurley flashback. Awkwardly written and directed.
...And FoundThe least engorssing of the Sun & Jin flashbacks, essentially their meet-cute.
AbandonedShannon gets a wretchedly boring flashback, and whines in Sayid's arms, but at least she dies. Also, Walt is back and creepy.
The Other 48 DaysThe crash of flight 815 from the other side of the island. The first time that Ana-Lucia and Eko stepped up to be characters with real depth.
CollisionThe best episode of LOST so far, Ana-Lucia and Jack's meeting in the jungle with its haunting memories of a life lost forever, made me a Javi fan for life.
What Kate DidRushed and silly. Seemed to need to find a place to fit in a Kate flashback in a season that she did very little in.
The 23rd PsalmEko stares down the smoke monster. Truly, he is the shit. By the way: Charlie really, really likes heroin.
The Hunting PartyJack makes pointless threats in the woods. 'Light 'em up!'
Fire + WaterCharlie still likes heroin, Locke beats the shit out of him. Diaper commercial the stupidest thing ever on the show.
The Long ConSawyer gets evil again, Charlie goes to the dark side.
One of ThemHenry Gale is introduced, but the Sayid flashback does not advance the story much. Also, Naveen's performance falls flat.
Maternity LeaveThe flashbacks are thrown forever into doubt with Claire's' drug-addled memories of Ethan and the other hatch.
The Whole TruthSun is a slut, Henry is a liar.
LockdownWe see the map, and John gains a new obsession.
DaveIt's all a dreeeaaam.
S.O.S.Rose is healed by the island, Michael returns.
Two for the RoadMichael shoots Ana-Lucia and Libby.
?Eko and John find the viewing station, and Libby's final word is "Michael."
Three MinutesMichael and Walt are reunited
Live Together,Die AloneDesmond blows the hatch, the big three are kidnapped, the world still exists outside of the island!
LOST Season Two: B+