On the ''Lost'' season premiere, Jack goes down the tunnel and gets a blast from his past; plus, Kate disappears, and Walt reappears
Matthew Fox, Lost
Credit: Matthew Fox: Art Streiber

The ”Lost” season premiere: Entering the Hatch

Getting reacquainted can sometimes be challenging. Take this column, for example. How exactly should I welcome you to a new season of recapitulating each new episode of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning drama Lost? Should I assume we all know each other and cut to the jokey shorthand (”Ethan” = ”Tom Cruise’s cousin”; ”Hatch” = ”septic tank”) and windy analysis (”Lost is an allegory for spiritual anxiety in our post-catastrophe culture”; ”Lost isn’t about knowing the answers — it’s about our profound discomfort with mystery”)? Or should I assume we are actually meeting for the first time and therefore restate, for the record, my particulars (Jeff Jensen; senior writer; slow typist) and reason for being here (I dig Lost, and, uh, I was asked)? Tough choice, especially for someone as uncertain and awkward as me.

Fortunately, our common bond — Lost — had no such difficulty last night. It picked up right where it left off last season without much of a reminder of who the Others were or why Jack felt the castaways needed to hide from them in the Hatch. (Then again, maybe the preceding hour’s Destination: Lost served that function. I didn’t watch all of it, but I did see the part where they blurred out the cover of Walt’s comic book — what was up with that?) One of the things I loved about the bold, baffling, and brilliant season premiere was its sense of self-confidence. In fact, was that a little attitude I detected in the subtext? Not for nothing, I think, did Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof choose a blinking computer cursor and the song ”Make Your Own Kind of Music” to open the show. Methinks the tune has multiple meanings, and perhaps one of them is aimed squarely at those who spent the summer clacking on their keyboards about last season’s allegedly dissatisfying season finale and demanding hard and fast answers to the mysteries of the Hatch, the Monster, the Others, et. al. The rejoinder from Lost: We make the music, you listen; please, dance with us — but we’ll do the leading, thank you very much.

My hunch is that many of you may disagree with my raves about the season premiere. My hunch is you’re kinda ticked that we didn’t get any resolution about the fate of rafters Michael, Jin, and Sawyer. Heck, we didn’t even get a scene with them. We only caught a fleeting glimpse of Walt, dripping wet and mouthing…something. But he could have been just a hallucination, too. (And with that, Shannon joins Jack, Sawyer, and Boone in the show’s People Who Go Into the Jungle and See Weird Things Club.) And then, there’s that wacky Hatch, a bunker-cum-time capsule tricked out with outdated technology. A Jules Verne periscope. A 1960s hi-fi. Some 1980s PCs. And a couple of those reel-to-reel fridge-box-shaped data processors presumably on loan from Adam West’s Batcave. (Maybe they can spit out a punch card that could answer all of the show’s riddle-me-this mysteries.) There was also a mural (TiVo heads, begin geeking out…now), a supermagnetic wall, a geodesic dome, and, most important, a guy named Desmond who injects strange serum into his arm with an ouchy-looking air-pressured thingy.

In a nutshell, Lost‘s season premiere was a parade of teasing tidbits and selective storytelling choices that no doubt could be deemed manipulative and mean by a cynic. My faith in the show, however, wasn’t thrown into crisis but renewed and affirmed. I am convinced that nothing in Lost is arbitrary, everything will be revealed in time, and when it is, it’s gonna knock us on our ass.

But even better, the whole enigmatic enterprise seemed grounded in rich layers of meaning, thanks in large part to the backstory that revealed how Jack met his ex-wife (Ed‘s Julie Bowen, whose car-crash makeup made her look like Charlize Theron in Monster for most of the show). For me, the beauty of Lost‘s artistry lies in the interplay between character backstories and island dramas, and the way they commingle to precipitate larger meanings. And so, Jack’s Saul-to-Paul journey from cold, jaded pragmatist to hopeful, crusading humanist in his flashback (aided by the stranger-angel figure of Hatch-dweller Desmond) (what the heck?) adds depth to his rejection of Locke’s assertion that we are all destiny’s puppets. But those elements also combine to offer an explanation for the desperate edge to Jack’s messiah complex: He’s driven to producing miracles to prop up himself up with meaning. Jack may be the show’s avatar for reason, but he’s also the embodiment of reason’s shortcomings.

I could go on, but I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Did the premiere meet your expectations, or did it let you down? What did you make of the Hatch? What’s Desmond doing there? And what images (and numbers) did you spot in Desmond’s mural?

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