Few words are as polarizing to Losties as the words “Kate episode.” As we will see later, Kate tends to get short shrift with her flashbacks. Happily, “Tabula Rasa” is one of the best. It tends to be underrated by most (including, it turns out, by me), since it sits between two of the best episodes in the entire series (“Pilot” on one side and “Walkabout” on the other). But in actuality, it presents some of the key themes of the show, in a way that is very character-focused and organic. It’s not as intense as the it’s predecessor, but sometimes a quieter episode is necessary to deepen the show.
Lost is a show of second chances. Of all of the survivors, Kate has one of the darkest pasts. She’s a criminal, but she rarely acts like one. She’s quite noble, and has a firm sense of justice. But in a world where we are defined by our actions, Kate is outside the law, and needs to be punished. That past haunts her in the form of Edward Mars, the US Marshal who has pursued her around the world. He is now dying, and he spills Kate’s secret to Jack. As plots go, this isn’t an amazing one, but it does serve to give weight to the idea that Kate gets a completely fresh start. In a way, the death of Mars illustrates that; with his passing, Kate has, in a way, escaped. This theme of second chances will get more pervasive as the show continues. For now though, it’s given it’s most obvious moment, in the somewhat on-the-nose talk that Jack and Kate have at the end of the episode.
There’s also a little subplot going on between Sawyer and Jack, and the ideals they represent now that they are on the island. Sawyer, ever the opportunist, is very conscious of the fact that the rules have changed now that they are fighting for survival. Jack seems to still have faith in civilization, but it’s obvious that in this episode, Sawyer seems a little more correct. No longer do the survivors have the luxury of letting someone recover slowly, draining all the resources. It’s one of the many hard choices the survivors will have to make, but as Sawyer says, they’re in the wild now. Both this theme and the nature of new beginnings really intrigued me in this episode, and it made the whole thing feel better than I remembered it.
If there’s any downside to the episode at all, it’s ultimately feels a little modest, especially when we know what is coming up. It’s not like there will be far-reaching consequences of Mars’s death, and the revelation of Kate’s past only really is known to Jack and Hurley. Even then, not much comes of it. But it’s filled with really great character moments, like Jack and Sawyer’s encounter in the fuselage, and Charlie and Claire’s first interaction. That and the thematic power of the episode definitely kicked it up a notch in my estimation.
- Interesting that we never see Ray again, given Lost’s obsession with crossing every character’s path with everyone else’s.
- It was never completely clear to me why Michael feels any animosity towards Locke, especially since Locke is always pretty decent to Michael. I guess it’s some kind of jealousy that Walt likes Locke more. Any thoughts?
- I like Hurley’s encounter with Kate. It takes a little while before Hurley is much beyond comic relief, but he’s good comic relief.
- It took me a while to warm up to Sawyer, and I think part of the problem is Josh Holloway’s early performance. He doesn’t quite feel at ease with the character yet, particularly in the scene around the campfire with Sayid, Kate, and the others. He grows into it, even in a matter of episodes, but it’s not quite there yet.
- The first hint that the writers were toying around with a relationship between Michael and Sun is in this episode. Let’s be grateful that never panned out.
- I think that I’ll move to Fridays instead of Saturdays for my next episode, so read about “Walkabout” then!