Lost’s structure may be what sets it apart from any series that’s come before, but its characters have always been the true strength of the show. The first season, still generally regarded as the best, struck this balance perfectly, keeping us guessing about what the hell was going on while simultaneously dolling out satisfying character moments. This season is NOT a return to form; not that it’s bad (this was another strong episode) but where the flashes once offered new insight into the characters, they’re now firmly in the “what does it mean?” column. We don’t know what the connection is between LA X-Jack and Island-Jack, and must simply struggle with the show’s assurances that there is one.
“Lighthouse” presents an LA X universe with the same perplexing character non-development as “The Substitute.” Jack starts off still wrestling with the Daddy issues he’s always had, though here he’s transferring them to his son (Son? what the?/holy crap!). Where before we’d seen Jack become a drunken wreck (just like Christian), here he’s become a source of intimidation and discouragement for his son (just like Christian). However, this Jack has a capacity for growth and change that the old Jack may not. He realizes his mistake and makes a connection with his son by, y’know, talking to him, the one thing Christian never had the guts to do. He fixes is their relationship and, more importantly, himself, the one thing that’s he couldn’t do in the “real” timeline. It’s no coincidence that Island-Jack says he came back because he was “broken” and thought the island could “fix” him.
But what does it mean!?! Does the fact that LA X-Jack is able to find peace have any bearing on how we see Island-Jack? I raised the same question for Locke last week, but this episode brings it into sharper focus. With nothing to connect the two it feels like Jack’s development is unearned. “Our” Jack hasn’t broken his father’s cycle, that was some other guy. But there ARE connections (as we’re reminded over and over). New-Jack bears the scars Old-Jack received on the island and winds up musing on fatherhood (aka leadership) with Dogan. Jack’s character is now what the island has always been, a collection of puzzle pieces that we’re assured will fit together without being given any clue about how.
Once again, I’ve given the on-Island events short-shrift. That’s partly because I really do find the narrative questions more fascinating and partly because I need to differentiate this blog from the thousands of Lost blogs out there.
Hurley was once again outstanding in this episode. Some choice moments, “He just shows up whenever he wants, like Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “I’m a big fan of temples… and history… Indiana Jones stuff,” and “I’m a candidate… I can do what I want.”
The Lost creators know exactly who their fans are. Hurley reflecting on some internet theories about Adam and Eve was priceless.
The fact that Lost has extended its narrative daring to character building is either incredibly brilliant or incredibly stupid. It all depends on what kind of payoff we get by season’s end.