I suppose it’s pretty hypocritical of me to say so, but I get annoyed really quickly when series go overboard on the meta-commentary. Just a little bit, and you’ve got a clever callback. A little more, and you’ve got a nice “see, we get how silly this is” repartee going with the audience. But too much, and it just comes across as lazy or a fey “look how clever we are!”
This week’s episode of “Lost” (“316”) didn’t plunge completely over the abyss, but it was just barely hanging on with the back wheels, all the cast members and plot points desperately huddled in the back seat waiting for a bird to land comically on the hood and send them over.
Of course there was the shot of Jack’s eye as he lies in the jungle at the beginning of the episode, a callback to the pilot (and several other episodes following), but that was probably the most innocuous of them. Ms Faraday delivers the “Oh, stop thinking how ridiculous it is!” line at the end of 20 minutes worth of exposition. Jack looks back on the plane and asks about all the people in the tail section; Ben replies, “who cares?” Plus dozens of smaller moments: Dharma logos, number boards flipping over, binders full of print outs, dead Dad anguish, people reading books whose titles are just a little bit too visible.
And it’s not just that so much of this stuff has been done earlier in the series, it’s that it was done so much better. As far as poking-fun-at-ourselves meta-commentary goes, I don’t think the series will ever be able to top the episode called “Expose”. Back in season 1, they made each character’s story getting on Flight 815 compelling on its own; here’s it’s just “oh, you’re here.” And wouldn’t the big cliffhanger reveal have worked better if we hadn’t already seen that he’s still alive, two episodes ago?
I think the biggest problem I had with the whole episode is the big information dump at the beginning. It’s probably unfair that I’ll stick with “Lost” through its tedious exposition, but fault “Battlestar Galactica” for the same thing, but there’s no denying: you can make any amount of dialogue more compelling by putting a giant pendulum in the middle of the room and making every shot look like someone is just about to get whacked by it. And it’s probably unfair that I’ve been complaining that the stories of the people in L.A. are uninteresting, but am now complaining that they shuttled them all out of L.A. too quickly and undramatically.
But it all felt to me as if they had a bunch of burgeoning plot lines that they had to abandon quickly, and then somewhat clumsily introduce new intrigue instead of tying those up satisfactorily: what happened to Aaron? How’d Hurley get out of jail? Who’s the woman with Sayid? Did Lapidus just happen to be on the same flight? The show tends to be reluctant to give out information, but the answer to that isn’t just to give out any information. Of all the questions I’d like to be answered explicitly, “why does Locke need to be on the plane?” wasn’t one of them.
Still, they’ve got everything set up to have everybody back on the island, traveling through time and also with flashbacks to explain the loose ends left over from L.A. They’re in a fine position for the rest of the season; I just wish they’d gotten there a little bit less goofily.