The Lost season 4 premiere opens with L.A.’s favorite pastime, a high-speed chase. A nattily dressed man whose face is unseen returns home from work to watch a red Camaro outrun the po-po live on TV. He mixes himself a screwdriver.
We know this teaser is a flash-forward because the season 3 finale, “Through the Looking Glass,” dumped Lost‘s increasingly tiresome format of flashing back to one character’s past each week—to the delight of the show’s fans—and flashed forward to reveal that the Oceanic 815 survivors finally left the island. But not everyone left. Only a few reached home. One of these escapees—a guilt-ridden, alcoholic Jack—is obsessed with returning to the island and rescuing the ones he left behind.
(Spoilers after the jump)
So who’s the guy who’s drinking the screwdriver and watching the chase? Is he Jin, back to working as an enforcer? Or is he Jack? It can’t be the doctor because he was a mess the last time we saw him. Then the camera pans up to reveal it is Jack, a lot less unkempt and in some sort of calmer state before his “Through the Looking Glass” meltdown. The doc utters “dammit.” He’s familiar with the Camaro and its driver.
The unseen fugitive crashes his Camaro into an inventory of dressing mirrors on an electronics store parking lot. The fugitive’s flabby hands are a dead giveaway that he’s Hugo Reyes—better known as Hurley—who gets out of the car and appears to be surrendering to the police. Then he tries to flee the scene, but the cops grab him and cuff him. Hurley shouts, “Don’t you know who I am?! I’m one of the Oceanic Six!” End of awesome teaser.
So now we know that Jack, Kate and Hurley are three of the six Oceanic 815 survivors who escaped the island. Who are the other three?
And have Lost showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof learned from the mistakes of the tedious, poorly received first half of season 3 and sustained the forward momentum of that season’s rejuvenated second half?
Judging from this thrilling teaser and the fast-moving Hurley-centric episode that followed it, hell yes.
The flashbacks of “The Beginning of the End” pick up where “Through the Looking Glass” left off in the past, right after Jack made contact via satphone with the freighter that Naomi the mysterious parachuter claimed would come to the lostaways’ rescue. After hurling a knife into Naomi’s back as part of his latest attempt to prevent the other castaways from leaving the island, Locke ran away. Jack wants to kill Locke the next time he sees him.
Hurley (still beaming from his Han Solo-style rescue of Sayid, Jin, Bernard and Sawyer in the beat-up Dharma Initiative VW van) is thrilled to learn from Jack via walkie that the rescuers are on the way. Hugo celebrates the good news by making a Ron Burgundy-style cannonball into the beachwater, something he’s never done before on the island. It’ll be Hurley’s last moment of happiness for a while because Desmond returns from the sea to tell Hurley, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin and Sayid that Charlie perished after disabling the communications jammer and that before he drowned, he warned him that Naomi’s claims of rescue are a trap (“Not Penny [Widmore]‘s boat”).
A freighter crewman who identifies himself as George rings Jack on the satphone and tells him the crew is having trouble locking on to the lostaways’ signal. George asks to speak with Naomi, but her body has disappeared and left behind a trail of blood. Kate, an ex-con who’s had plenty of experience playing hide and seek, discovers a second trail of blood that hints Naomi is moving west and tells Jack that the first trail is most likely a fake one to throw them off. Jack, being his usual stubborn self, finds the dummy trail idea to be absurd and doesn’t listen to Kate’s suggestion that they follow both trails. He persuades Kate to go lead the other lostaways to the beach to rendezvous with the “rescuers.” Before Jack and Danielle take Others leader Ben Linus (who’s now Jack’s prisoner) with them to track down Naomi, the doc hugs Kate. Ben notices something suspicious going on during their embrace but keeps this bit of information to himself.
Sawyer wants to call Jack and warn him about the trap, but Sayid argues that they shouldn’t call him because he believes Naomi’s fellow conspirators are monitoring their communications. A grieving Hurley, who’s irritated by all the bickering, grabs Sawyer’s walkie before he can speak into it and tosses it into the sea. He suggests they stop waiting around and go directly to Jack to warn him.
While searching the jungle for Naomi, Jack realizes that Kate stole the phone from him. She’s gone off to find Naomi herself. Ben admits he saw the ex-con pickpocket the phone while Jack hugged her earlier, but he didn’t tell Jack about the missing phone and left it to him to find out.
Kate responds to a call from the increasingly suspicious-sounding George. Then Naomi, who takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’, leaps from a tree and attacks Kate with her knife for possession of the phone. After Locke stabbed her, Naomi doesn’t trust anyone on the island anymore. The phone rings again, and Naomi tells George she’s badly wounded. She adjusts the phone’s tracking frequency to help George locate the lostaways’ fading signal but is unable to mention that Locke killed her because that’s when Naomi finally stops tickin’.
While on the nighttime trek through the jungle to warn Jack, Hurley, who’s distracted because of his grief over his best friend’s death, winds up separated from the rest of the party. He wanders into a rickety old cabin and through a hole in a broken window, he glimpses Jacob, the mysterious Others member in the rocking chair from “The Man Behind the Curtain.” A creepy-looking pair of eyes pop up from below the hole to scare
Shaggy Hurley away.
Locke finds Hurley and leads him back to the party. Hurley tells Locke he was right about not trusting Naomi and the freighter crew. Claire, Sun, Rose and the rest of the lostaways reunite with Hurley, Sawyer, Juliet, Sayid, Jin and Bernard. Hurley tears up and tells Claire about her boyfriend’s sacrifice.
Jack, Danielle and Ben stumble upon the party. The doc punches Locke, then grabs Locke’s gun and pulls the trigger on him, but the gat contains no bullets. Kate arrives and informs everyone of Naomi’s death. Jack and Locke argue over what the castaways should do next. Locke suggests hiding in the Others’ abandoned barracks from Naomi’s people. Hurley interrupts the latest Jack vs. Locke debate to tell the doc, “I’m not listening to you! I’m listening to my friend. I’m listening to Charlie.” He joins Locke and follows him to the barracks, along with Claire, Sawyer, Ben, Danielle and Alex. Kate, Juliet, Sayid, Desmond, Rose and Bernard stick with Jack.
“The Beginning of the End” concludes with Jack and Kate witnessing the arrival of another parachuter. He reveals himself to be one of this season’s new cast additions, Jeremy Davies, who’s rocking a beard that recalls his turn as Charles Manson in the 2004 Helter Skelter remake.
Over in the future, the uniformed officers hand Hurley over to a detective who’s the same cop who partnered with Ana-Lucia in “Collision.” The detective plays a convenience store’s security camera video of Hurley, shortly before he climbed into his Camaro and attracted the attention of the LAPD. Hurley became disturbed by something he saw in the store. It’s definitely not overpriced Ho-Hos.
The interrogator, whose brain is as thick as his mustache, thinks Hurley is using his celebrity status to break the law. Then he tells Hugo about his connection to Ana-Lucia and asks if he ever met her on Oceanic 815 before it took off. Hurley lies and says he never knew her. Like Hurley, I pretend AnaL never existed too. Michelle Rodriguez’s one-note performance as the much-maligned AnaL was the low point of season 2.
AnaL’s ex-partner gives Hurley a few moments alone to come up with a proper explanation for why he flipped out in line at the store and drove away like a madman. The former mental patient appears to be off his nut, like Future Jack in “Through the Looking Glass.” He has a vision of the deceased Charlie swimming around behind the interrogation room mirror and panics again when he thinks water is bursting through the mirror to drown him.
Hurley requests to be sent back to his old mental hospital, where he’s visited by a man who claims to be Oceanic Airlines’ attorney (Lance Reddick, a.k.a. Cedric Daniels from The Wire). He offers to move Hurley to a nicer institution, but Hugo is suspicious of the stranger, who shows up without a business card and sinisterly asks, “Are they still alive?” Hurley screams for the orderlies to protect him from Cedric the Intimidator, who walks away before they can stop him.
Later, Hurley gets a second visitor at the nuthouse: Charlie, who says “I am dead, but I’m also here.” (Huh?) The ex-rock star—his appearance was what caused Hurley to flip out at the convenience store—proves to Hugo he’s not a hallucination by slapping his old friend. He tells Hurley that his destiny was to sacrifice himself to save the castaways, and then he says, “They need you, Hugo. You know they need you!” before honoring the upset and confused Hurley’s request that he make himself disappear.
In the ep’s final flash-forward, Hurley receives another visitor: Jack. Over a game of horse in the hospital’s gym, Jack tells Hugo that he’s been handling quite well his newfound celebrity as one of the Oceanic Six and is thinking of growing a beard. Hurley speaks for the audience when he says, “You’d look weird with a beard, dude.”
Still on edge after the visits from the “attorney” and Charlie, Hurley wonders about Jack’s real motives for coming to the hospital: “You’re checking to see if I went nuts? If I was gonna tell?”
Jack asks, “Are you?”
Hurley doesn’t answer. He apologizes to Jack about siding with Locke that night at the island, and the doc says it’s all water under the bridge, but then Hurley adds, “I don’t think we did the right thing, Jack! I think he wants us to come back.”
This pre-”Through the Looking Glass” Jack refuses to return to the island. The final flash-forward concludes with Hurley responding to an angry Jack with “Never say never, dude!”
This is the first time I’ve ever written a recap of a first-run TV series ep, so it may be a lot more detailed than it needs to be. But to borrow a catchphrase from special guest star Lance Reddick’s signature work, all the pieces matter, especially when discussing a complicated mythology show like Lost.
What elevates Lost above other mythology shows is that its characters grow and change. (The Heroes season 2 staff writers’ way of “going green” is to recycle character arcs from the previous year.) The slightly cowardly Hurley has been hardened by the deaths of fellow survivors like Libby (remember her?) and Charlie and evolved into one of the island’s bravest and most sensible castaways. Though the cowardliness hasn’t completely left him (as we see from his Shaggy moment outside Jacob’s cabin), Hugo’s take-charge attitude during the Sawyer/Sayid argument, plus his willingness to stand up to Jack and tell him he’s wrong, show that Hugo has grown a pair. (Hurley does an awful lot of running and screaming in “The Beginning of the End”—my one beef with this ep. The running and screaming get kind of repetitive.)
The Sawyer of “The Beginning of the End” is different from the Sawyer of three seasons ago. The self-centered, introverted grifter has become more compassionate, because of the hell he’s gone through with the other survivors to protect their side of the island from the Others. Sawyer has stopped calling Hurley “Lardo” and “Stay-Puft” and even offers Hugo a figurative shoulder to cry on after Charlie’s death. But as Sawyer tells Kate when he sides with Locke and joins him in the barracks, his instinct to survive remains.
As Hurley and Sawyer evolve, Jack—once Lost‘s most heroic character—grows more unlikable, an interesting approach to the lead character of a prime-time show with clearly drawn heroes and villains. Is Jack’s stubbornness the reason why only six of the Oceanic 815 survivors make it out of the island?
Some last thoughts:
-The credits listed Fisher Stevens as one of the guest stars. Johnny Five not alive? Did Stevens’ scene wind up on the cutting room floor?
-How awesome was it to see Wire cast member Reddick outside of a BPD office building for a change? Is his shady character an Other or one of Naomi’s conspirators?
-Speaking of Naomi’s people, Ben’s unfamiliarity with them hints that there could be a new adversary on the show in addition to the Others. Could this second adversary be the increasingly sinister-looking Oceanic Airlines? Or is Naomi connected to Penny’s mysterious industrialist father, Charles Widmore, who used his power to prevent Desmond from marrying Penny?
-Another mystery about the Oceanic Six: What exactly is it that Future Hurley and Future Jack are referring to in the nuthouse gym when the doc asks Hugo, “Are you [going to tell]?”
-”The Beginning of the End,” a satisfying start to the season, shows that Jorge Garcia—now the series’ most beloved cast member—has more range than Matthew Fox, who seems to have only two modes on this series: stalwart and shrill.
On a scale consisting of Lost‘s cursed numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 (4 being the lowest, 42 being the highest)…
“The Beginning of the End”: 23