In the season 4 premiere, Jack faces a rebellion as he plans the evacuation to the freighter; back home, Hurley, who was one of six castaways to escape, wants to go back

By Jeff Jensen
Updated April 06, 2015 at 06:46 PM EDT
S4 E1
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”Lost” recap: Who else escaped?

Watching ”The Beginning of the End,” the season premiere of Lost, made me sick — sick in ways that my wife, my friends, and my court-appointed psychiatrist insist are bad for me and harmful to others. But with each passing minute of the episode, the old sickness that had lain dormant within me began to reawaken like a polar bear roused from hibernation by the advent of spring or a bald man with a torch and a can of hairspray. (Please tell me you got that.) Christian Shephard rocking in Jacob’s chair gave me the chills. The vaguely sinister corporate suit named Abbaddon (”abaddon” being a Hebrew ”place of destruction,” or hell, according to Wikipedia) got me all sweaty. And when Charlie-grieving flash-forward Hurley started raging at not-yet-bearded flash-forward Jack about some ominous ”it” (”I don’t think we did the right thing, Jack! I think it wants us to come back! And it’s going to do everything it can…”), I felt the searing fever consume me, and my mind was blown. Again. At freakin’ last! After eight months of waiting, our mutual friend (and bad influence on my mental health) is back. Sickness, I am yours!

We usually get a premiere that begins with one of Lost‘s most frequent recurring motifs: an eyeball popping open. But that was old Lost, the Lost of flashbacks and Island despair and castaways waking up and orientating themselves to a new reality, one marked by sandy beaches, whispering jungles, and buried laboratories stocked with books, records, and candy bars. (Man, I want my own Hatch!) This is the new Lost, the Lost of flash-forwards and Island hope and six castaways in particular grappling with the disorientation of old lives that don’t feel quite right and old ghosts that won’t let them go. So, appropriately, we began with a discombobulating fake-out: an image of fruits set against an ocean-blue sky, the sound of seagulls cawing in the distance. We must have been on the beach, right? Nope! We were in the freight yard of a produce-shipping company in…where? And when? What the hell? Exactly. Exactly! (Huh?)

But quickly, we got our bearings. The city: Los Angeles. The time: the flash-forward off-Island future (or present, if you’re now prone to think of Lost‘s on-Island action as happening in the past). (Tricky stuff, these time-toggling dramatics, ain’t they?) The star of the show: lotto-winning, mentally shaky, food-challenged Hugo ”Hurley” Reyes. As the episode opened, Hurley was leading the coppers on a high-speed chase in his daddy’s old Camaro, blowing through that stack of fruit and crashing into the parking lot of a store in the midst of an everything-must-go fire sale. (Some winky subtext here? Remember, the producers of Lost successfully negotiated an end date — 2010 — for the series during the off-season.) Hurley tried to run, but the big man has no stride. As the policemen carted him off, he yelled, ”Don’t you know who I am? I’m one of the Oceanic 6!” And with that, the premiere gave us Season 4 Burning Question No. 1: If the Oceanic 6 are six survivors of Oceanic 815 who made it off the Island (and became famous for doing so), and we know that three of the six are Jack, Kate, and Hurley, then who are the other three? (This is why God invented message boards. Post your bets below.)

The car-chase teaser sequence was altogether fitting for a brisk overture episode that cut to the chase in a number of ways. In addition to providing an immediate answer to the ”How many people made it off the Island?” question posed by the season 3 finale, the episode picked up right where we left off on the Island, with the castaways awaiting rescue from the folks on Naomi’s freighter. The last two seasons gave us premieres that focused on small groupings of castaways (Jack in the Hatch; Jack, Kate, and Sawyer at the Hydra Station), which made for rich stories but also got their years off to slow starts because it took about two more episodes to wrap up all the other cliff-hanger loose ends. But ”The Beginning of the End” peeked in on everyone, and was almost all the better for it. I really liked the check-ins with Sawyer (bitterly loading his gun; trying to engage Hurley about Charlie’s death) and all things Ben-on-a-leash. But Jin and Sun seemed to get short shrift. And that Rose and Claire moment, in which Bernard’s wife told Aaron’s mommy that she’d better reward Hero Charlie with some beach-blanket action — umm, yuck?

NEXT: Jack pulls the trigger

To be fair, it makes sense for the castaways to be gripped by intense emotions, and I blame the show’s long layoff for dulling my sensitivity. And for the record, I appreciate very, very much the whole concept of getting some somethin’somethin’ from the ladies ifyouknowwhatI’msayin’. If I had one significant quibble with the premiere, it was Jack’s self-righteous homicidal rage toward Locke for throwing the knife into Naomi’s back. Doc Messiah Complex just found out he was going to get rescued. His primary emotional state should be off-his-rocker euphoria. Would there really be any available bandwidth on his grid for the kind of eye-for-an-eye rancor it takes to want to shoot someone in the face? I could understand if Jack wanted to pass the downtime waiting for the choppers by tracking Locke down and hauling him back to civilization to stand trial for murder and general rescue-jeopardizing nutbaggery. But that moment when Jack got his chance and attempted a point-blank execution with Locke’s unloaded gun? Sure, it was hardcore cool, and kudos to Matthew Fox for selling it, but talk about overkill.

Like I said, just a quibble. And anyway, the episode wasn’t really about Jack; it was about Hurley. And so, while Jack and Kate separately searched the jungle for a she-ain’t-dead-yet Naomi (Wake up, Naomi — there’s plot-contrivance work to be done…), and the French Lady dragged a hilariously snarky Ben around the jungle, Hurley got the news from Desmond that Charlie had died in the Looking Glass, effectively killing his happy, cannonball-splashing buzz. The despair that quietly drooped off his grizzled face was heartbreaking. With the spotlight of a premiere shining intensely upon him, Jorge Garcia totally delivered.

Through Hurley’s L.A. and Island story arcs, ”The Beginning of the End” delivered its most watercooler-worthy moments. Perhaps none was more momentous than his discovery of Jacob’s cabin during his wayward trek through the jungle. (Or did Jacob’s cabin find him? Apparently, the ghost shack is mobile.) Peeking inside a cracked window, our frazzle-haired hero saw a freaky sight: a shadowy figure kicking it in a rocking chair. I asked the instant-replay officials in my head to analyze the sequence, and they are convinced that the spectral entity was none other than Christian Shephard, Jack’s corpse-MIA father, doing his best Whistler’s Mother impression. And who am I to argue with the voices in my head? Season 4 Burning Question No. 2: Is Christian Shephard actually Jacob, or was Ghost Dad just keeping the chair warm while the Ben-directing Ghost Other was taking a wicked ghost whiz?

A perplexing poltergeist of a different stripe — and accent — haunted Hurley’s flash-forward. One day while buying some snacks at a convenience store, Hurley spotted Charlie’s spirit by the Ho Hos — the terrifying catalyst for his Camaro cannonball run. Of course, he kept this info from the detective assigned to his case, none other than Big Mike Walton, Ana Lucia’s old patrol partner, who wins my award for Flashback Character Least Likely to Be Ever Seen Again. Admit it: When he called her ”gorgeous,” you chuckled, right? Because I know how all of you just loooooooved old Dirty Harriet. But he was affecting — and an effective reminder of the provocatively wired interconnectedness of the larger Lost world. Might Big Mike become some kind of season 4 Sherlock Holmes, obsessed with cracking the secrets of the Oceanic Six? Season 4 Burning Question No. 3: Why can’t the Oceanic Six tell the truth about their Island past?

NEXT: Touched by an angel

Someone else desperate to know more about Hurley’s Twilight Zone daze: the immediately arresting, sharply attired, cryptically named Matthew Abbaddon, played with quiet relish by The Wire‘s Lance Reddick. He tracked down Hurley at a sanitarium — dude thought he’d be safer if he just dismissed the Charlie visitations as crazy visions — and offered him an upgrade to a first-class loony bin with better views and more leg room. He presented himself as an employee of Oceanic Airlines, but when Hurley grew suspicious, Mr. Creepy cut to the chase: ”Are they still alive?” Hurley freaked; Abbaddon walked out. Season 4 Burning Question No. 4: Who is Matthew Abbaddon really? And what are to make of that name? Matthew means ”gift of the Lord.” By contrast, there’s the hellish allusion of ”Abbaddon.” My trusty TV Watch editor, Tom Conroy, pointed out to me that in the book of Revelation, Abaddon is ”the angel of the abyss” and even the personification of death. I have theories — but they are best saved for next week, when we will encounter Matthew Abbaddon once again in an equally provocative scene.

Still, if I were to apply any Bible story to the premiere, it would be Jonah and the whale. Why? Because of the episode’s curious fixation with fish, of course! Did you catch the chalkboard in background of that Hurley-Abbaddon scene? Sketched on it was a picture of a desert island and a big, toothy fish. There were also fish in Hurley’s watercolor painting of an Eskimo. And there was another finny creature (partially obscured) printed on Charlie’s T-shirt when the dead hobbit rocker — played by Dominic Monaghan, looking ethereally clean, like an airbrushed model — dropped in on Hurley for a (ghostly? hallucinatory?) visit. The self-sacrificing castaway had come to egg his old friend out of his hideaway hole and, more, to cajole him to do the right thing, which was to…what? Go back to the Island and save those left behind? It was unclear. ”They need you, Hugo,” Charlie said. Of course, this is also the story of Jonah and the whale, which is never actually referred to as a whale but as a fish. Some scholars even suggest it was actually a shark. Jonah was given a calling to save damned souls from God’s divine wrath. But instead of heeding the call, Jonah ran away. Bad Jonah! He got swallowed up by a fish, repented, and then, after being spit up (”hurled” in some translations), finally fulfilled God’s request. Season 4 Burning Question No. 5: Will the Oceanic Six answer Charlie’s call and save the remaining castaways left behind on Hell Island?

Of course they will. But not yet. As he did with Jacob’s haunted house, Hurley wished Charlie away — shades of ”Tricia Tanaka Is Dead,” when Hurley used the power of positive thinking (and Island magic?) to restart the dead Dharma bus. In Hurley’s final flash-forward scene, Jack (not yet sporting the beard; not yet screaming, ”We have to go back!”) stopped by the funny farm to shoot some hoops. Hurley told him that business about not doing the right thing, about being convinced that ”it” wants them to go back — but Jack was having none of ”it,” whatever ”it” is. Season 4 Burning Question No. 6: What the hell do you think they were talking about?

These were the ideas and mysteries that captured my imagination. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that I was moved by Hurley’s attempts, both on the Island and in the future, to grieve and make sense of Charlie’s death, and more, to honor his sacrifice by trusting his warning that the freighter isn’t Penny’s boat, that it might be really, really bad news. Which leads me to Season 4 Burning Question No. 7: Why does flash-forward Hurley now regret trusting Charlie and wish he had stuck with Jack instead of siding with freighter fraidy cat Locke? But enough of my questions — I want to hear your answers, plus your takes on all the stuff we didn’t cover here, including the tribal split over the freighter-people issue and the arrival in the episode’s last scene of Daniel Faraday, a fellow who brings with him to the Island even more burning questions — and a few truly curious friends, too. That’s next week. Now: Post!

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