Thursday, November 10, 2005

TV REVIEW: Lost: "Abandoned"

Lost is officially back on track.

Last night's story, "Abandoned" was one of the creepiest and most suspenseful of the season, and it boasted a knockout of a climax. Best of all, the dreaded flashbacks were shorter (which I've been advocating for weeks now...), and most of the tale stayed confined to the present on the island and the ongoing crises there. This is a good thing, because - let's face it - we're all tuning in to find out what the hell is happening on the island, not about the minutiae of every back story of every single one of the characters. I'm still waiting for the dog's flashback.

The point is simply that we know these characters well enough now to go without any further back story, so the flashbacks serve only as torturous time-wasters this season (except maybe for Locke's tale a few weeks back...)

In "Abandoned," Shannon (Maggie Grace) gets busy with Sayid (Naveen Andrews) in a little beachfront love nest, but then the afterglow gets spoiled when she has a terrifying (and jolting!) vision of the missing Walt. He whispers something unintelligible, and terrifies Shannon, but nobody - not even Sayid - believes her story. So Shannon heads off into the jungle to find Walt, at the same time that Sawyer, Mike and Jin attempt -- with their new friends -- to make it back to their enclave of survivors. Along the way, Shannon relives memories of being dismissed and disbelieved in the past, but in this case her inner demons lead only to a terrible reckoning. Also, the mysterious "Others" take another crash survivor this week, though they are invisible and stealthy in this installment, their presence heralded only by creepy whispers.

When Lost is good (as it is in "Abandoned") it is very good indeed, and when it's not good, it's simply infuriating. The serial format and interesting premise of the series keeps us coming back week after week with anticipation. When the right alchemy is forged - and the story moves forward - this show is riveting television. When we focus on a character's inner "trauma," we're just treading water. Imagine, if you will, a Star Trek episode wherein Captain Kirk is about to beam down to a planet to engage the Klingons over their interference in a primitive society. He clips on his phaser, steps onto the transporter pad...and then we get a five minute flashback about the time his parents hurt his feelings as a teenager, while he was living on a farm in Iowa. It just wouldn't wash there, and I don't think it works well on Lost either. I could buy the conceit last season, when the flashbacks introduced the characters and the manner in which they found themselves in this predicament. But enough is enough.

So I hope the trend of reducing and shortening the bloody flashbacks continues. This week was the most riveting episode since the season opener, and I'm still hooked on the damn thing. It looks like there will be some real fireworks next week given the gory ending we got in this installment. Sayid appears ready to go ballistic. Also, it was great to see Ian Somerhalder (Boone) again.

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