I usually don't find myself writing reviews that start with "In Defense of...," but here, I needed to.
This episode of the, let's be honest, unstable TV show, "Lost," which I have recently been sucked into the void of, has one of the lowest IMDb ratings of all the episodes. It deserves to have one of the highest. People's main problem with this episode is that they consider it to be filler. But "Lost" is a show that has more filler than plot most of the time, or at least real plot. The writers of Lost have filler down to a science, and they've gotten damn good at it. This episode is proof. Looking past that, this episode is a brilliant stand-alone episode of television, and it is what makes Lost so good.
The first (and highest) praise I have to give is to Sam Anderson, who played Bernard this episode, who absolutely knocked it out of the park. When Rose uttered "I'm dying," my smile disintegrated. But Bernard's reaction to that same sentence had me weeping buckets. I hope in the future the show brings Bernard into the central characters, because Sam Anderson is currently the best actor on the show and he deserves to be challenged by it.
Normally, the show's biggest weakness is the very thing it's about: the characters. The show tries so hard to be a character study, and yet it seems to often fail on a fundamental level. There are very strong characters in the show, of course (Rose, Sawyer, Bernard, Locke, Ana Lucia, Jin, Sun, etc.), but there are also characters who just aren't consistently written (Jack, Kate, Hurley, Charlie, Claire, etc.). This episode features two of each - only with a caveat. Jack and Kate, who are normally weakly written, are all of a sudden great, flawed, well- rounded, layered characters, rather than talking devices. So from a character perspective, this episode is miles above most.
Then there's the writing. I'm a fan of a lot of the writing from this episode. First of all, the flashback in this episode is, hands down, the best flashback of the show yet. Every line uttered in that flashback is worth mentioning in this review. In addition to that, there were a lot of great lines thrown in here and there, such as "I'm trying to get people saved," to which Eko replies, "People are saved in different ways," and Kate's (who almost never gets a good line) "I'm sorry I kissed you," and Jack's "I'm not."
Finally, the directing of this episode is something to be proud of. The moments are almost to many to name. There's Rose walking into Isaac's main room, there's Locke rolling up to her in the airport, there's Locke demanding from Henry if he pushed the button and Henry's smirk, there's Bernard and Rose dancing on the beach.
Of course, the best moment in directing in this episode was the camera spinning wildly around Jack, calling for the Others to come and get him. Although they cut to Kate at one point (a decision I personally would not have made), the chunk of time devoted to spinning is a rare moment of absolute directorial brilliance in the show: it makes you think, truly believe that during the next rotation, the Others will be standing there, and the soundtrack will pounce on us like a lion. And the brilliant thing is, the show does something it almost never does: The Others don't show up. All that suspense, and we're left hanging, in this case, exactly where we should be.
The defense rests.
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