In a couple of weeks LOST will make its highly anticipated return to the airwaves, the question is, does LOST still have what it takes to call its return an event? Refusing to succumb to accessibility, LOST’s writers have famously twisted the simple concept of survivors marooned on an island into a densely plotted piece of science-fiction fantasy that effortlessly balances heady excursions into existentialism, spirituality, and reason with an unmistakable authenticity that is – at times – intimidating even for the die hard viewers. The result is an audience that has been distilled into an intellectual acid bath. Love it or hate it, understanding Lost automatically gets you labeled as some sort of egg-head. LOST has transcended the pop-culture eco-system and become a sort of geek-chic milestone for its generation. As many will point out, LOST’s ‘programming for smart people’ is merely a part of the modern marketing landscape – nonetheless, LOST has become the thesis where others have tried, unsuccessfully, to ride the gimmick.
All it would take for any of this to become mere hyperbole is a bad fifth – or worse, sixth – season. Even a bad premiere would be enough to turn the momentum against LOST at this point. The problem with building such a sprawling narrative over so many detailed and vested characters is that there is never an opportunity to let up on the gas and just cruise for a while. Tension is always high, mystery is at maximum, and revelation is necessary to repay the rabid attention of the viewers.
The great news is that LOST’s fifth season starts out with a hellacious onslaught of story telling perfection. “Because You Left” is the first of the two part premiere ABC has planned for January 21st, with both episodes being preceded by a clip show. The episode, written by show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, begins with a familiar scene to LOST fans: a faceless ‘somebody’ getting up, going about his morning routine, with no immediate indication as to where he is. A common symbol amongst the last four seasons of LOST, save for season 4, is the playing of music – twice on record players, once on a CD. Soon we find out we are back on the island, during the hey day of the Dharma Initiative, and when we learn who the mysterious figure is we’re washed over with a feeling that will become the mark of this episode: payoff.
“Because You Left” answers the call of picking up where last season left off, and exceeds its task with a barrage of not so subtle winks to the fans that will have die hard LOSTIES giddy. The episode reads like a love letter to the fans, written into the subtext of a great adventure. Just as season 4’s premiere took on the task – successfully – of servicing all of the characters and all of the plot lines, “Because You Left” succeeds in touching on the plights of all of the characters and situations from last season, and quickly sets about creating new tensions and uncovering new mysteries. It’s an hour of TV that exemplifies perfection.
The second part of LOST’s return, “The Lie,” is very different from the high octane formula of “Because You Left.” Episode 2 of LOST’s fifth season, “The Lie” is in no way a second part to the first episode in style, theory, or narrative. Written by Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, “The Lie” is a far more reflective episode for the characters – a trademark of this writing team. It seems when LOST needs some well drawn emoting, Kitsis and Horowitz are given the gig. The problem is, “The Lie” is represented as a second part to the premiere by virtue of its scheduling. Watching the two back to back, you get the sense that the show is winding down during this second hour, which is not exactly the ideal effect. With a weeks worth of anticipation between them, both episodes would have stood their own ground – one after the other they beg comparison and “The Lie” comes up on the short end of the stick. Although, with Cuse and Lindelof working their Jedi story moves, it is a classic case of Padawan vs. Master, so no-one should mourn “The Lie,” it’s merely a good episode that could have benefited from not being shoved into the shadow of its big brother.
The ending of “The Lie,” on the other hand, packs the biggest reveal so far of the two episodes – introducing a character association that would go toe to toe with any synchronicity LOST has thrown at us so far.
Overall, the package presents a combo that LOST fans will savor with enough entendre to keep the message boards melting in the time before the third episode of LOST’s fifth season airs the week after. Yes, LOST is back, and better than ever.