YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN?
The Pilot, Parts I and II
The Pilot, Parts I and II
"All he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again."
Trying to reset yourself to rewatch Lost as for the first time is like trying to unring a bell. It's impossible. As Sawyer repeatedly reminded us last season, what's done is done. We know who the man in the black suit laying on the floor of the bamboo forest is. We know how he got there and what will happen to him next .....Or do we? When last we saw our long Lost friend, he had this great big plan where he was going to blast time off its axis and reset it all back to the beginning.
Or at least, back before the place that has always felt like the beginning to us.
The first thing that occurred to me, as I Reset-Rewatched the iconic opening scene of Lost, was this: How did Jack land so far from the beach, virtually unharmed, except for one conveniently placed rib wound? For that matter, how did so many of the plane crash surivivors come through their ordeal looking so healthy? Not to mention, so pretty? On the first go round there was no time to analyze these things. We were too caught up in trying to figure out what was up with the skinhead dude in the suit.
With the eye.
And the dog.
And the running.
The magnificent opening sequence flows with eery smoothness into the even more extraordinary crash scene. There is a beautiful dichotomy in the way Jack first surveys the peaceful side of the beautiful beach,
then turns to confront the smoking, shrieking carnage.
This one incredible scene surrounds us like a symphony, an overture during which we are swept into an hypnotic new world. We learn that the anonymous Man in Black is the victim of a plane crash.
We see death and suffering and chaos all over the Guernican montage, set against a soundtrack of pounding, insistent percussion.
We learn that the nameless one is a born HERO!, who leaps into the abyss to save as many lives as he can lay his healing hands on.
Before the haunting, shattering sequence is over, we learn his name, a name we know not yet how sick we will become of. JAAACK! And so, we are handed the first fixed and immutable fact of Lost: It is a story about Jaaack.
We will not be permitted to ever forget this thing, no matter how much we may one day wish we could.
What makes the opening sequence most powerful, however, is not watching Jack leap from one heroic workstation to another. It is what happens while we are watching Jack, still curious as to who he is, and the other characters appear one by one, like instruments sounding their entrance within the orchestra.
These characters come to us in a group, like a box marked "Seconds." Other characters, the ones marked "Firsts", make a different kind of entrance. Locke is never introduced to us. He runs into the frame without any focus, no shot of his face. He's there to help Jack.
He's a nobody, as ordinary as any ordinary middle aged passenger on any ordinary plane would be. But there is this one quick shot of him running past Jack, something that struck my Reset-Rewatcher's eye.
The two men cross midframe. A whiteshirt and a blackshirt.
Our first sight of Kate is no such passing glance. Kate wafts in from ... someplace... all blowdried and airbrushed, rubbing her wrists. We know now (but didn't back then) that Kate is rubbing her wrists because she just hanked off her government issued bracelets.
So Kate, we can guess, reacted to the plane crash by running as hard as she could up into the hills to get herself dolled up to make a good, innocent first impression. Which she does.
In the third famous scene from this famous episode, Kate famously sews up Jack's side while he famously teaches her about counting to five. I think I'll get into all that a bit more later, but for now, I draw your attention to this little factoid: She lets Jack choose from every color of the sewing kit rainbow, and what color does he pick? Standard BLACK.
OK? Just sayin'.
Sawyer is introduced wordlessly, simply, but not as anonymously as Locke. We get to see his face. He looks like the Marlboro Man.
Then he hops off the wing of the plane and merges into the disaster scene that is now calming into a tableau of human stamina.
When we meet Sayid, he is building a fire. From the start, he makes himself useful.
Later we meet, almost as an afterthought, Sun. Looking whipped.
And finally, Walt.
Having brought all the characters onstage, the story begins to be told. No time is wasted in laying out the central theme.
Just block letters written on a junky's dirty fingers, but a word we'll learn to respect. We will be diverted in the midseasons into the story of Desmond Hume, namesake to the great philosopher of free will, who concluded free will was an illusion, but one we had no choice but to believe in. The word FATE - and more often,Destiny! - will be thrown in our faces throughout the story. As difficult as the writers have made this puzzle, they've also hidden certain plum answers right out in plain sight. When the story resumes in 2010, whatever it is we see, it will be an ending that has been predetermined by forces beyond any of the characters' control.
And here is a clue that, in Season One at least, seemed to be extremely critical.
The gameboard. The playing pieces. BLACK and WHITE.
They wanted to drum this into our heads, the opposites, the duality that is the basis of all Western philosophy. We tend to think, mechanically, that black is evil and white is good. The storytellers rely on us making that assumption. But we have learned from Lost, in a story where almost no one has ever been totally good or totally bad, totally wrong or totally right, that such an assumption may have been our first misread. Or who knows? Maybe that's exactly how it will turn out. A stark story of good and evil, with everyone falling on one side or the other. I doubt it, but we'll find out eventually, since it seems this black/white duality was deliberately reemphasized in the final episode of Season Five.
It has to mean something, otherwise, it's an annoying frakking fakeout.
Just as important as the bicoloration, though, is the concept of GAMES. Lost is a game, after all, and we will be seeing many more games played over the years, both on boards and off them. But the first game we see played is Backgammon. Locke, inhabiting his first deceptive shell as an avuncular old schlub, teaches Walt that Backgammon is the oldest game known to man. It is 5000 years old and was played in Mesopotamia, where civilization was first cradled. It is, in other words, a game as old as mankind.
What Locke doesn't tell Walt is that the game of Backgammon, in its original form when it was known as Senet, was found in archaeological ruins in Egypt. And what we don't know yet is that Egypt is going to be a place we are going to learn a lot more about.
Watching Season One for the first time, we didn't yet know how completely this story would become unchained from time and space. We didn't realize yet that the characters we were watching might be part of a story that is older than we could possibly imagine.
I was struck on my Reset-Rewatch with how mysteriously Locke is introduced. Unlike Jack, who is thrust into our faces as almost a cartoon version of TEH HERO!, Locke at first appears to be a Nowhere Man. We see him sitting on the beach, looking out to sea,
as we will see him do in the future.
We see him enjoying the rain,
as we know he likes to do.
He bears silent witness as Kate robs shoes from the feet of the dead.
Locke doesn't speak until late in the second hour of the Pilot, and when he finally speaks, he speaks to Walt, another character of mystical mien. He says "It's a much better game than checkers."
I have wondered before if the final scenes of Lost will be something like this,
but watching and remembering how much games meant to Locke, I'm beginning to wonder if we might not someday see some twist on this classic scene instead.
LIFE and DEATH are in the balance throughout the Pilot episodes. The Pilot himself is alive one minute
and becomes The Original Redshirt the next.
Jack performs his first resurrection, wrenching Rose back from the dead to the living.
When Jack is running through the jungle, he passes a spectral white shoe,
a shoe whose ghost we will come to know so very, very well in years to come.
Death is everywhere in these first episodes, but it's not just because it's about a plane crash. Death will always be a major player in this story.
From the beginning, it is a story that proves it's not enslaved by time or space. Stories and people from the past, and even those from the future, exist as much in present time as in memory. We learn, for instance, in the very first scene, that Jack has a friend in vodka,
and we see that he especially likes to guzzle his poison on airplanes,
but we don't realize yet that we'll eventually come to know Jack as a Friend of Bill's as well.
We may have thought at the time that the vodka bottle was merely a prop to give Jack something to use to disinfect his side. We didn't realize that we had been introduced to one of the primary characteristics of the character, or of his elaborate, jackbacked life story.
How many other clues like that were there in these Pilot episodes? Much of the foreshadowing has already been fulfilled. Kate's description of the plane crash has since been graphically illustrated for us.
We see Sawyer's letter very early on, and our attention is drawn to it,
but none of us could have suspected what it would ultimately mean,
or how well we would come to know the frightened boy inside the heart of the badass.
The first human being that Jack makes physical contact with is Claire.
Who we now know is his half sister, related through their dead white shoe wearing father.
When we first meet poor junky Charlie, he is pulling his drugs out of his black and white checkerboard shoe. We will see that shoe again someday, a long time later, on the day Charlie dies.
It may not have made much of an impression when Sawyer held up the five pointed star he stole from the Marshall,
but we have since come to learn that very little in this story has been left up to chance.
Though I still want an explanation for that "LaFleur" shit, because...Gah!
We hear the Frenchwoman's message in the second hour of the Pilot.
Her crudely translated recording, on its endless loop, is chock full of fleeting phrases that will later mean much more to us. She was trying to get back to the Black Rock.
"It killed them all", and she has been all alone....
for sixteen years.
Who killed the Frenchwoman's crew? In the first episode, we are introduced to one of the great questions of Lost to which we still have no sign of an answer. The Monster.
We hear his mechanical growling subway sounds and witness his fearsome treecrushing power on the very first night the survivors spend on the beach. We have since learned a little bit more about The Monster,
but not much.
Truth be told, we don't even know for sure that the Monster and the Smoke are one and the same. There are many awesome theories about the Monster, including my favorite - that it's the equivalent of a video game obstacle that can be changed at will in order to keep the game challenging. Lost is a game, after all, and not just a board game.
But clearly, this is one of the BIG ANSWERS that they are saving for the bitter end.
Walt is seen reading a comic book,
which we'll find out later belongs to Hurley,
who really likes reading comic books on planes.
Hurley's love of comic books has provided an opening for an orgy of apophenia, but in the end it probably means nothing more than that the writers of Lost really, really like comic books.....Although, that preference of the writers may be a clue in itself, as to how this all will eventually come down. You never know.
We will later find out that the comic book Walt is reading has a city under a snowglobe, which is exactly how Desmond will someday describe the Island, when he tries and fails to escape from it by boat.
It will also have a polar bear in it.
And polar bears will matter in this story.
We learn about polar bears in the second hour of the Pilot episode, when Sawyer guns down the bear that comes charging at him out of the jungle. How the frak they figure into this story is still completely unexplained. Yes, I have read the theories but none of them satisfy me. This is another BIG ANSWER that will have to be done right, because it's going to take a whole lotta 'splainin' to justify big ole polar bears roaming around a tropical Pacific island.
The first episodes were densely packed with almost all of the powerful images and mysteries that this story would come to be about. Just as importantly, and as deftly, the first episode limned the characters and their relationships with simple, bold brushstrokes. In Season One, characters were the story.
We learned that Michael was an insecure father of an unusual son.
That Jin was not just a paranoid isolationist, but also a kind, skillful provider.
And that his wife hated his guts.
We met the monkey on Charlie's back
and, even though we didn't realize it, we met Bernard.
We found out that Hurley's job in the story was to be fat.
(This is my favorite Jack scene from the Pilot, by the way, as he tries to operate on the dying Marshall as Hurley faints dead away right onto his patient's face.)
We entered the bizarre, and slightly sick, world of helpful Boone
and selfish Shannon,
who didn't let a little thing like a massive catastrophe get in the way of her regularly scheduled pedicure.
The Redneck's racially charged fight with the Revolutionary Guardsman
reminded us that the passions of 9/11 were still on the writers' minds in September of 2004.
Sawyer was initially camoflauged as a shallow, self absorbed prick,
but we later learned he was anything but.
Unexpectedly, and without fanfare, Sawyer was exposed as an undercover hero early on. Without the histrionics of Jack's klieg-lit heroics, Sawyer calmly faced down the polar bear in another of the Pilot's most famous scenes.
And that scene segued effortlessly into the first physical encounter between Lost's sexiest lovers.
Kate and Sawyer are positioned as antagonists with the hots for each other, immediately. The moment is quick. And sizzling. It has an almost Rhett and Scarlett feel to it.
He knows girls like her?
Is that because in fact, he already does know her?
Jack and Kate's first meeting is considerably less crisp. The endless rib sewing scene takes up two damp, limp segments and feels almost like a parody of a badly written scene in a cloying chick flick.
They talk endlessly about fear and angel hair pasta and Jack's awesome resume.
Maybe it only feels endless because, y'know, I don't care. Later they talk some more. About something.
And later, I think, there's more.
It just goes on and on. It's a prelude to the way this relationship will devour countless hours of moist, awkward screentime for years to come. Can't say they didn't give us fair warning.
There remains however the issue of the rib. Jack's one wound is on his side, above his ribs. Could this mean that Kate is the Eve that was made from Adam's rib?
Given that even in the Pilot episodes, a big part of Kate's job was to provide the sexalicious sideshow,
maybe the writers only ever intended for her to represent Eve's permanently subservient status. I hope not, because we did see that Kate was capable of more.
Just as long as she was nowhere near Jack.
Sadly, this does not seem like a lesson that the writers have managed to learn.
I can think of an alternate interpretation for Jack's side wound. Maybe it's like the wound that the Centurian put in the side of Jesus before they took him down off the cross,
the one that Doubting Thomas insisted on feeling with his own finger.
They don't call him Jacksus for nothing you know.
What did it mean that Jack had taken a "few flying lessons"? That's a pretty random factoid. Will it ever mean anything more?
Do these cool face markings on Jack and Locke mean anything?
I don't know. I've looked up the I Ching, warrior face painting and Cub Scout initiation rites and so far, I've come up with nada.
But you can't keep a good apophenic down. I'm still looking.
Where did Kate come from anyway? Why did it seem like she knew exactly what to do the second she realized she was about to be in a plane crash? Was she walking around the Island while Jack was still out cold? We know from the final Mobisode before Season Four, "So it Begins", that Christian himself sent Vincent to go wake Jack.
Specifically because Jack "had work to do." What I wonder now is: Was this the first time Jack had been to the Island? It's hard to think how he managed to fall down through that bamboo grove and end up with only one bite out of his side.
What was Jack doing at the cockpit when he left Charlie and Kate alone? Was that just an opportunity to have the little woman scream for TEH HERO to come save her?
Or did Jack have work to do there also?
Who actually killed The Pilot anyway? Conventional wisdom has always held that it was The Monster, but we have not often seen The Monster be so bloody minded. Mostly he just growls and slinks away back into his hiding place. Could this be another obvious, but wrong, assumption we've failed to question all these years? And no, I'm not suggesting that Jack himself killed the Pilot, just realizing that there may well be implications we haven't thought of, if Jack does indeed succeed in resetting time and returning them all to that fateful day.
I was impressed and inspired by Reset-Rewatching the Pilot episodes. An incredible amount of exposition, foreshadowing and Easter Egg hiding was packed into two hours of drama that unfolded for the most part effortlessly, magically. As we consider the possible return to this set of circumstances next season, I can imagine that many of these famous moments may take on a different cast if we happen to revisit them again.
Most intriguing for me, in light of what we now know of him, is the way Locke is introduced in this episode. He appears to be a dazed and slightly loopy old man, preternaturally calm. We think it is because he was reacting to the miracle of having his spine restored to him. But there is something more to this creature called Locke, even back then. WHY was he restored? It's not as if those blessings were given to all the others. Shannon still has asthma. Charlie is still hooked on heroin. Sawyer still has murder on his conscience. None off their burdens are lifted. With all we know about Locke now, or whoever Locke has since become, the question is more intriguing than ever:
Why is Locke so special? And what is really on his mind as he drifts into the story, from the edges, giving no clue as to why he finds this whole process so amusing?
" I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks."
- Daniel Boone
There are many weeks of confusion left for us, but one way or another, we're finally going to stop being Lost this year. I am more curious than ever to see how much of these two Pilot episodes play into the story when it picks back up. With all the time-play we have witnessed in recent years, I am almost wondering if we even have the sequence of events right, if this plane crash indeed happened in the beginning the way we always thought it did. All bets are off and I'm looking forward to the rest of a season that I almost feel like I'm watching now for the very first time.