Plane crash. Mysterious island. Smoke monster. Life. Death. Survival.
That’s what season one of Lost boils down to. I’ve been loving the show so much this season that I decided to rewatch from the beginning. So over the past two weeks, I made my way through all 24 episodes of season one. If only there were eight more episodes this season – I’m sad that there are only two left! Season one was far less complicated than this season has been. There was only one known camp of people on the island – our Oceanic Flight 815 survivors – plus that crazy lady Rousseau and creepy Ethan. Time travel hadn’t even crossed most fans’ minds yet, the Others were only mentioned in passing, and the fateful connections among the survivors had only been hinted at. All the elements I just listed have become integral to the show over the past two seasons, so in their absence, what was season one all about? Well, the characters. To borrow from Rodgers and Hammerstein, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.” So what were our favorite (and not so favorite) characters all about in the beginning of this fantastic show?
- Jack – Jack had a lot of screen time, and more flashbacks than anyone else, as far as I can tell, with Kate running a close second. (I always find myself feeling disappointed when I learn that it’s a Kate or Jack episode, even though some of those are really good.) We learned about Jack’s troubled relationship with his father, about his hero complex (which led him to marry the girl he managed to “fix” after her car accident), and about his refusal to accept failure as an option.
- Kate – We quickly learned that Kate was being transported by a U.S. marshall and that she had been a fugitive. We had to wait awhile longer to learn exactly why she was in trouble with the law. The writers portrayed Kate as someone who fears commitment, preferring a nomadic existence over settling down and dealing with sometimes difficult circumstances (she wandered back and forth between the beach and the caves, and flirted with both Jack and Sawyer). She also appeared somewhat devious and untrustworthy, traits that the writers have put on the back burner since season one. You’d hardly know now that she was a fugitive and a murderer.
- Sawyer – He has probably changed more than any other character on the show. The first several episodes he was the stereotypical bad boy, hoarding food, stealing stuff off of dead bodies, and using his stash as bargaining tools to get more things that he wanted. But before long, we saw the softer side of Sawyer, and he has continued to transform over the past five seasons. He was plagued by guilt over becoming a con man, when his original goal had simply been to exact revenge on the con man who destroyed his family. The episode in which Kate discovered and read the letter he had written to Mr. Sawyer was heartbreaking. Once we learned why Sawyer was the way he was, we cared much more about him. One of the stand-out moments of the entire series for me is from the episode”Exodus: Part I,” where Sawyer finally tells Jack about his encounter with his dad in Sydney. That’s the moment that Sawyer really started to become a good guy. He had nothing to gain from telling Jack that his father was proud of him and loved him, but he did it anyway. In addition to giving us insight into both characters, and developing their relationship into something more than a rivalry, it was simply a very well done, powerful scene.
- Locke – I think Locke has the best back story on the show. We had to wait so long to find out the whole story! His first flashback episode revealed that he had been paralyzed before the plane crashed, which explained why he was so excited about being there. The contrast between his job at a box company and his adventureous spirit on the island was so drastic. It was as if the island not only took away his physical paralysis, but also his emotional/psychological paralysis. On the island, his tendency to be passive and ineffective was replaced by an almost super human ability to solve any problem, hunt any animal, and face any fear. He was also kooky sometimes, with all his talk about “the island will tell us what to do” and “it’s a sacrifice that the island demands.” In season two the writers would develop Locke as a man of faith even more, in contrast to Jack’s man of science. The back story about his father conning him into giving him a kidney was so horrible (horrible for him, but fascinating to watch). No wonder this man has issues.
- Sun – It’s weird how mysterious the writers made Sun and Jin out to be in the early episodes. I guess that’s how the others would have perceived them, since they couldn’t communicate with them. What a surprising twist it was that she could speak near perfect English! Sun and Jin’s imperfect, yet loving relationship was one of my favorite things about season one. Seeing the flashbacks about their courtship, followed by the struggles that came along with Jin’s job for her father, and finally their separation and reunion on the island, were all so emotionally engaging.
- Jin – Like Sawyer, Jin has come a long way since the first season. In the beginning, he came across as a stern, insensitive man who ruled over Sun with an iron fist. Over time, though, the experiences on the island softened him, and he loosened up a lot. The episode where he pummels Michael over the misunderstanding about the watch was effective in revealing what made him tick (pun intended – sorry). We’ve had to wonder about his fate several times over the seasons, and the first time came in the season one finale, when he went overboard from the raft during our survivors’ first encounter with the creepy Others. Thank goodness he is still with us, not to mention speaking perfect English now!
- Charlie – Of all the people who have died or disappeared, it is saddest to see Charlie, knowing what eventually happens to him. He was so laid back and fun loving, a breath of fresh air in a group of so many Debbie Downers. It was hard to watch him go through the ups and downs of his heroin addiction, but was sweet to see his relationship with Claire and Aaron develop. He always tried his hardest to protect them, but didn’t always succeed. One of the most heart wrenching scenes of the series was when Jack and Kate discovered Charlie hanging from a tree, and it seemed that all efforts to revive him would fail. We really thought he was dead that time, and just when we were starting to mourn the loss of this great character, Jack beat on his chest one more time, and with a great gasp, Charlie breathed again! Those pesky writers, playing with our emotions!
- Hurley – I was surprised during my rewatch that Hurley only had one flashback episode in season one. In that episode, we learned that he won the lottery using numbers that he heard a guy repeat over and over again at the mental institution he stayed in for awhile. We didn’t know why he was there, though. Hurley was mostly comic relief, and still is, but his discman also provided a great soundtrack during most of the first season. I guess ipods weren’t popular yet.
- Sayid – Sayid’s season one flashback episodes weren’t my favorite, even though I really like his character. I always had trouble believing that he would be attracted to, much less get involved with, Shannon, especially since at the time of the plane crash he was so focused on reunited with his true love, Nadia. The writers played up the tortured soul angle in season one. Here was a man who strived to do what was right and good, and to play by the rules, but whose training as an interrogation specialist would lead him down dark paths from time to time. I am still hoping Sayid can have something go his way before the show ends, because so far he always seems to get the bad end of the deal.
- Claire – Claire was a sweet character – probably the only female character that I would describe as such. Here she was, a young woman, on the brink of becoming a mom to a baby she was about to give up for adoption, and now she was stuck on an island, with a recovering heroin addict as her new closest friend, and with plenty of time to sit and ponder the warnings that the psychic gave her that it was imperative that only she raise her child. I miss her presence on the show now (although I’m sure she will resurface at some point), because I think her kind, softer personality would balance out some of the more abrasive, dominating female personalities that still remain.
- Michael and Walt – I haven’t missed these two very much, but their season one back story was sad. I felt sorry for Michael, over how Walt’s mom manipulated him into giving up his parental rights. It was ridiculous how controlling she was, and I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want Walt to know his father. We got some hints that Walt had some psychic abilities, and Michael’s temper led to some run-ins between him and other survivors. It was sad to see these two again, knowing what Michael was willing to do later on to get his son back.
- Shannon and Boone – I’ll lump these two together, since that’s what the writers always did with their flashback episodes. They always kind of grossed me out. Boone was in love with his step sister, and Shannon used this to her advantage time and time again. Neither of them was as annoying after they developed a healthy distance from each other, when Shannon started hanging out with Sayid and Boone became Locke’s apprentice. As much as these characters didn’t interest me, Boone’s death was so tragic and sudden, that those episodes left their mark. Watching them for a second time, they were just as devastating. I always liked Shannon more after Boone died.
- Rose – As held true in the following seasons, Rose only made an appearance a handful of times in season one. This has always been a frustrating aspect of the show, but I always enjoy seeing her. In the early episodes, we thought she was in denial about Bernard’s fate. Surely he died in the crash! But then we started getting clues that maybe he and some others in the tail section had managed to survive, clues that turned into huge revelations in season two. We didn’t have a Rose-centric episode until season two, so we didn’t know much about her until then. But one particular episode, Rose reached out to Charlie, who was hurting over his failure to protect Claire from Ethan. This came across as a “pay it forward” gesture, since Jack had approached her in a similar way shortly after the plane crash.
Wow. There are a lot of characters on this show! Thank goodness the writers chose to devote individual episodes to developing each person, rather than try to cram information about everyone into every episode. That would have gotten way out of hand. Like I said before, the primary focus of the first season was on developing the characters’ back stories and their role on the island. But we did get a taste of the island mythology that we know and love. It’s hard to believe that we didn’t meet Ben until well into season two, and that Juliet and Richard didn’t appear until season three. It was a totally different show back in season one!
- The Smoke Monster – I had forgotten that Rousseau referred to it as the island’s “security system” later in the season. Thinking of it as something designed to patrol the island takes away some of the creepiness of it, but there’s still something unsettling about the humming, clicking, and crashing noises that it makes.
- The Black Rock – This ship supplied the gang with the dynamite they needed to blow open the Hatch. But it also suggested that it wasn’t a coincidence that planes were crashing on the island. First this slave ship wrecked there, then Rousseau’s crew met the same fate, and finally Flight 815 crashed on the beach. Something must have been drawing these vessels to the island. We would get confirmation of this in season two.
- Strange Visions – Our first hint that this island was inhabited by a supernatural force is when Jack’s father (who was supposed to be dead and in a coffin) started appearing and leading him into the jungle. By the way, I’m not clear on one thing. When Jack discovered his father’s coffin at the caves, his body wasn’t in it. Are we to believe that he actually came back to life, or was the absence of his body just meant to frustrate Jack – since if his father’s body had been in there, he could have shrugged off his visions as just “seeing things”? The next time I recall someone having a vision is when Shannon saw Walt appear in the jungle, shaking, wet, and telling her to be quiet, when the audience knew that he had just been taken by the Others from the raft. As I recall, I think that vision foreshadowed Shannon’s tragic fate in season two.
- The Others – We had no clue that these people had an organized civilization with book clubs, full kitchens, and indoor plumbing! Our first glimpse of them was via Ethan, when we learned that he wasn’t on the flight manifest, and he tried to abduct pregnant Claire (presumably because he wanted the baby). And then came the big introduction to the Others, in the season finale: “the thing is, we’re gonna have to take the boy.” What?! That has to be the most famous line from this show. I was so creeped out the first time I heard it. One moment Walt, Michael, Sawyer, and Jin were celebrating, thinking they had been rescued, and the next, they were encountering these strange people, dressed in tattered clothing, and speaking so matter-of-factly about abducting a child. At the time we also associated them with the plume of black smoke. They seemed very primitive, violent, and super creepy! And they always went around whispering in the jungle.
- The Hatch – For most of the season, the hatch was little more than a mysterious door in the ground. The only question we had was what, or who, is in there?! We had to wait an entire summer break to find out, but it was totally worth the wait. (The opening of season two is the best opening sequence of the series!) Our heads were spinning as season one came to a close, with Locke staring down into the freshly opened hatch. Were the Others down there? Was there really a reason that it didn’t have a door on the outside? Would it provide safety or danger? By climbing into the hatch, Kate, Locke, and Jack ushered the show into its first of many shifts in direction.
- Glimpses of things to come – In the episode “The Numbers,” Sawyer was reading Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is a book about travel through time and space. I had forgotten about this little hint of things to come, if I ever noticed it in the first place. Another major clue came when Boone made contact with someone on the Nigerian plane’s communication system just before it fell down the cliff. When he said “We’re survivors of Oceanic Flight 815,” the voice on the other end answered, “We’re survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.” Between that exchange, Rose’s belief that Bernard was alive, and Jack’s airport bar encounter with Ana Lucia, we had some pretty big indications that there were other survivors on the island.
- “Pilot” – I was blown away by the pilot the first time, and I’ve enjoyed it just as much every time I’ve watched it. I’d never seen anything like it on tv, and its recurring use of flashbacks added so much insight into the characters. We didn’t have any idea where the show was going, and it’s hard to believe it has taken us so far now (Dharma Initiative? 1970s?…)
- “All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” – Jack’s daddy issues made for good tv in this episode. He sets out with a search party looking for Charlies and Claire, who had been abducted by Ethan. Jack’s discovery of Charlie’s seemingly lifeless body, and his subsequent refusal to give up on saving Charlie, is brutal to watch. (At least it ended well.) Meanwhile, we were also introduced to the hatch.
- “Do No Harm” – This episode, where Boone dies and Aaron is born, is one of the best of season one in terms of drama and emotion. It still made me cry all this time later. The contrast between Boone’s life draining away, and Claire’s struggle to give birth to Aaron, followed by the celebration of the survivors over Aaron’s arrival, while in the background Jack broke the bad news to Shannon that Boone had died, was all so well done and moving.
- “Exodus” – The season finale brought us full circle, showing us flashbacks of all the survivors on the fateful day they boarded Flight 815. The plot also progressed quickly, as one group set sail on the raft in hope of rescue, while another group sought a place to hide from the Others, and while Locke and his gang worked to finally open the hatch. The only unnecessary part of this episode was Dr. Arzt’s ramblings about dynamite, followed by his explosive death, and Hurley’s off the cuff remark to Jack, “You have some Arzt on you.” I suppose this was all meant to provide comic relief, but I found it distracting from the otherwise intense happenings.
It was hard to compose all my thoughts on season one into one post. Did I skip over any of your favorite moments or forget to mention a key character or plot point?