Down the Hatch

Illustration by Wes DuvallPhoto: Mario Perez/Courtesy of ABC

When we last saw Jack, Kate, and Sawyer, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, they were prisoners of the Others. I am not going to explain the Others, any more than I am going to explain the imploded hatch, the black horse, the Dharma Initiative, or the Virgin Mary statuettes full of heroin. I wasted too much time in season two wondering what I was supposed to construe about the Enlightenment from the conjunction of such resonant names as Locke and Rousseau. Of course, it turned out that season two had less to do with the Enlightenment than it had to do with the flop-sweat desperation of its writers. Sayid is probably not a metaphor for civil war in Iraq. If you are one of those fans who insist on caring more about the characters in Lost than Lost’s producers do—sayonara, Shannon; arrivederci, Ana Lucia!—you can concoct your own explanations.

So where were we? Stranded among the heavy-breathing Others, who turn out to have their own hospital, bioresearch lab, and computer network. What they don’t have is a surgeon as skillful as Jack to remove the tumor that will otherwise kill their unpleasant leader, Ben (Michael Emerson). Jack refuses to perform the operation unless Kate and Sawyer are released from bondage. Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) refuses to take Jack seriously; he is, she thinks, far too scrupulous to allow a man to die whom he could save.

Juliet? She is the blonde scientist with the beautiful bones who belongs to the Others but would rather not. Headhunters from a competing research facility want to hire her away for her ability to fertilize everybody from her own sick sister to a male field mouse. But Ben will never let her leave the island, and her ex-husband, Edmund (Zeljko Ivanek), has his hooks in, too. Never mind how Juliet got hold of the gun she turned on a surprising target. Just be grateful that we see her briefly on the beach with Kate.

Why does all this remind me of Twin Peaks—so originally intriguing with the homecoming queen, the creepy shrink, the dancing dwarf, and the saddle-shoe fetish; so ultimately trivial, a vulgarized Freudianism of Daddy did it! David Lynch and Mark Frost probably didn’t expect Twin Peaks to last a first season, much less get a second. So they started throwing things at the screen to see if something would stick. Lost has similar liabilities. First, it suffers from the same attention-span problem afflicting all the copycat serial dramas trying to cash in a year later on Lost’s own early success. (Turns out that, except when watching American Idol, many people do have a life.) And second, besides being a serial and in spite of its intellectual pretensions, Lost is essentially a creep show. As in all horror flicks, explanations will never live up to mystifications. Which is why we must be so busily distracted, and also why, in such creep shows, evil so often wriggles off the hook. The mutant reptile slithers away in the city sewer. The alien spore is lurking in the window box. The corpse of the Halloween psycho that Jamie Lee Curtis left for dead suddenly sits up as the credits roll. Freddy the slasher remains alive, elsewhere than Elm Street. The hills still have eyes. Before Lost finds itself, my guess is that everybody who has so far perished will come back from the dead—shot up out of an Über-hatch, with parachutes, umbilical cords, and red herrings in hand.

ABC. Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

Down the Hatch