Back to the Island
TV Review: 'Lost' Season Four
We can't say much, but we can tell you it's good
On screener copies of the season's first two episodes, ABC asks critics not to discuss anything at all about the character whose off-island story is featured in the premiere, the people from the boat or a rift among the survivors of Oceanic 815. In other words, pretty much every major plot point in the premiere or next week's episode.
And that's fine; we're not really in the spoiler business here, and given the level of anticipation for the show's return, it just wouldn't be fair to detail what happens over the first two episodes.
Here's what I can talk about, though: At least through these first two episodes, "Lost" is working at a very high level. Toward the end of last season, the show shook off its narrative sluggishness, and May's finale served up a mind-bending twist -- some of the crash survivors, or at least Jack ( Matthew Fox) and Kate (Evangeline Lilly), had actually made it off the island.
It's tough to overestimate just what that turn of events does for the show. By going forward in time as well as back, showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof and the "Lost" writers have opened up an entire new storytelling front and broken free from the character flashback-as-meaningful companion to present events structure that was, after 70 episodes, becoming more than a little tired.
Knowing at least some people get off the island takes the mystery of "Lost" in another direction. There are still dozens (and that may be a low estimate) of questions about the nature of the island and why the people who survived the plane crash ended up on it. By moving ahead in time as well as back, though, the show now brings up a whole new set of: Who else got back to the mainland, and why? What's happened to them since they got home? Why did some people go but not others?
Even if you're not as deeply invested in the mythology of the island, with its four-toed statues and Dharma Initiative facilities and polar bears and smoke monsters, it's hard not to be compelled by the human-size stories the flash-forward conceit makes possible.
All that said, the core of the first two episodes is still the island and the people who inhabit it. Picking up pretty much right where last season ended, the premiere finds the survivors preparing to leave on the freighter that contacted them in last spring's finale. Most of them, anyway -- Locke (Terry O'Quinn) doesn't want anything to do with the would-be rescuers, once again putting him at odds with Jack. And as the season opens, Charlie's dying message, "Not Penny's boat," hasn't yet made it back to the island.
Fans can also take heart in knowing that we'll find out at least a little bit about who the people on the boat are, and why they've come to the island, by the end of next week. The show's biggest question this season, in fact, is probably one outside its control. The writers' strike halted production halfway through the 16-episode run. Even if a settlement comes in the next few weeks, it would likely be impossible to crank out eight more episodes for this TV season.
If the remaining six finished episodes are as good as the first two, it's going to be an excruciating wait for new episodes, whenever they come.