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Thursday, September 22, 2005
TV Round-Up
Lost: Man of Science, Man of Faith
It's a new season of Lost, so let me warn everyone now--if you've not seen the season premiere of Lost, you definitely need to skip this post for now. I am going to give away everything we found out in the course of the episode.

Yesterday, I talked about how there was a lot of debate among Lost fans about whether or not the producers should have or could have given us more definitive answers to some of the mysteries unfolding on the island last year. Specifically, I know a lot of fans were speculating on just what could be inside the hatch and would the reveal be worth the half-season of build-up when we did find out what was in there. For now, I have to admit the results are mixed. I loved that the show went for the jugular early and revealed what is down the hatch before the teaser. (I assumed for a good bit that we were seeing some kind of flashback from one of the castaways in the group that is supposed to be lurking out there this year on the other side of the island). But then we find out that it's some kind of elaborate, underground layer with someone living in it for....what purpose? Well, we don't really find out. In good X-Files fashion, one solid answers yields three more questions. Add into that that the guy living down there, when revealed, has a connection to Jack in the past and it suddenly gets all the more muddled.

Now, I have to admit as the episode unfolded, I felt some of the suspense of what was going on was taken by the big reveal to start the season. I wonder how much better or more sustainable the tension might have been had we not found out what was down the hatch before the Jack, Locke and Kate did. In a lot of ways, from a dramatic/suspense standpoint, it rendered some of the scenes mute since we, the audience, know what is down there. Instead of being on the edge of our seats to find out what's down there, we are saying, "OK, let's get down there and start exploring this thing" instead. Really, it's a no-win situation...reveal too early and you lose some of the storytelling momentum, reveal too late and you have the audience go, "Gee, is that it?" Lost has been particularily good at juggling that particular storytelling element, though I'm not sure they did such a great job here.

Now, before you start thinking I didn't like the season premiere, let me assure you I did. It's just that after four months of waiting, it's hard for any premiere to live up to expectations. Also, it's not like a season finale in which huge things must happen before the final credits roll. I have to remind myself we have a long season ahead and if we get all the answers at once, why would I bother to tune in next week (I mean other than the potential of standing in the surf in her frilly unmentionables Kate). But I digress.

I will also admit I pretty much called that the guy Jack met at the stadium while running would turn up later. I figured he'd somehow be part of the other group of castaways we've heard so much about in the press coverage of Lost, but the fact that he showed up down the hatch was also interesting. I have to wonder if Jack now "owes" him for saving Sarah? (And let me give credit to the make-up people....it took me a few minutes to recognize the normally cute as a button Julie Bowen in the hospital flashback scenes). It's also of interest that both times Jack has encountered him, it's been related to trying to save a woman he cares about--the first time, Sarah and now he's gone to find and help Kate. Is Jack's "angel" showing up at these times to take advantage of Jack in an emotional moment? Or is he like Babylon Five's Mr. Morden who had the uncanny ability to show up at just the right moment with exactly what Londo needed to further his own agenda.

Because let's face it--Jack is losing some face on the island. Locke defies him, choosing to go down the hatch whether Jack likes it or not and Hurley questions his bedside manner. Jack was thrust into the role as reluctant leader last year but now we're starting to see it slip away a bit. I think a lot of it comes back to what his father told him in the flashback--his bedside manner. We do see Jack trying to rally the troops as it were, who are all afraid the Others are coming in the night. (Shannon's seeing Walt in the jungle doesn't help things at all). But is it too little, too late? Jack is the calm voice of sanity and reason, but is he shouting out in wilderness of panic and insanity? And then his running off to find Kate after saying everyone else should stay put will probably not go over well once that news gets out.

And Jack's rift with Locke is getting deeper. And that could set up a power struggle between the two as the season progresses. Locke is a man of faith, Jack a man of the real world. They need each other but Jack seems less accepting of Locke's role in the tribe and island than Locke does of Jack's. Also, as a doctor who is a lead surgeon, I have to wonder if Jack is not used to having his orders or dicates questioned or defied and that's what he's getting from Locke. And how will all that play itself out.

However it happens, I am definitely along for the ride this year. And I can't wait for next week to see what's happening to the survivors out in the water.

Invasion: Pilot
Since Veronica Mars doesn't start up until next week, I decided I've give Invasion a try--basically to see if it would be worth catching or if I should go for my tape of Vernonica Mars instead. After one episode, I have a feeling I'm going to be going to the videotape...

It's not that it wasn't good, it just wasn't quite instantly addictive in the way Lost was last year. Part of this may be that a lot of the premise has been revealed in the commericals leading up to it (and that aired during every Lost commerical break), so that suspense was gone. Yes, there is something weird going on out there and it might be aliens. OK, so tell me something I don't know already, I kept thinking. Also the scene of the little girl saying, "Mommy, you smell different" was ruined because it was in every promo I saw or heard yesterday.

Invasion comes to us from creator Shaun Cassidy, who also gave us the underrated American Gothic. Interesting the parallels between Gothic and Invasion. For one things, we have a small town where more is going on that meets the eye. And in both cases, the town sheriff is at the center of it all. Oh yeah, and there's a cute, precious kid in the story too. So far, the cute kid hasn't exhibited any special or interesting powers, but give it time. And that may be what has led to my sense of "been there, done that" with this show. It's wanting to be fresh and original, but instead we've got many of the elements that made American Gothic work transplanted here. Maybe my insane, I watch too much TV lifestyle is slowly starting to destroy the fun.

For now, I'm not sure how Invasion will shakeout on my viewing calendar. It has some interesting stuff--such as the questions of who and what the sheriff is. But it doesn't have as many long term questions as Lost does. There aren't a mulitude of questions out there just yet...and maybe that's what was meant to happen since it's only a pilot. But for now, I'm going to have to think I'll be rewinding and watching Veronica Mars instead of going out of my way for Invasion.

Battlestar Galactica: Flight of the Phoenix
Last season began with "33", an episode that addressed what would happen to the Galactica crew and fleet in the wake of an unrelenting series of attacks by the Cylons. It was a fascinating episode and a great way to kick off the regular series. It was also one of those types of episodes, along with "Water" that really looked at the dire straights the fleet finds themselves in.

And now, after a string of episodes dealing with huge, long term, sweeping events and changes, we've had a couple of breather episodes that look at what the effect is on the crew now that reality is slowly sinking in. Last week, we got an episode that went for the "rah, rah let's build up the morale" piece and this week, we get an examination of just how bleak and desparate the situation really is. Tempers are short and the crew is slowly coming to terms with the fact that when you get exhausted and burned out, there is no one coming to relieve you so you have a few days off. There is no vacation from the day to day reality of surviving the pursuit of the Cylon fleet. Instead, it's just a keep on solidering up and keep on going, despite wanting to drop or just give up.

But in all of this, Tyrol comes up with a rallying cry...an attempt to infuse some sense of normal into the lives of the crew and maybe, just maybe distract people in their off hours. He decides to build a new viper. At first, he's scoffed, but even the most ardent detractors (such as Tigh) all come around to see that Tyrol and company are doing more than just building a ship--they're trying to rebuild some sense of hope that not only will they just survive, but they might also thrive under the worst of conditions. It's hard to not feel a bit of hope and be moved just a bit when the ship does fly and flies successfully. I will admit I was holding my breath along with the crew that the new ship would work. I mean, this is the new BSG where hope can be dashed on the rocks at any moment and it could have gone either way. I think we all assume it will all work out in the end, but you can't be quite sure.

Meanwhile, with the limited number of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, the fleet has become like junior high school in a way. Hormones are running wild and attractions come and go quickly--as we see in the scene with Duala and Lee. Nice touch that Billy shows up just as things are getting tense between Lee and Duala, but you have to wonder where this all might go. It does make Starbuck's hooking up with the rebel guy on Caprica that much more plausbile simply becuase he's a new guy she may not know that well so there may be some new sense of mystery to him instead of just being a guy she's been with day after day for months on end who happens to be a convient bed-mate.

And to wrap it up, let me remind all you BSG fans that this week's summer finale runs two minutes long. So, if you are taping it or TiVOing it, set it two minutes later or else you might miss the mid-season cliffhanger (and you know there will be one). And let me also say now--it's gonna be a long time until January and not getting any new episodes, despite all the other great distractions that are back in full force now.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 9/22/2005 07:25:00 AM | |
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