Re-Lost: The Moth

Charlie at confession

Charlie has something on his mind.

I know a lot of Losties who remember the first season very fondly, usually automatically giving it the spot of “best season.” I’ve just never gotten that. It’s great TV, no doubt. There are some amazing runs in season 1, notably right at the beginning. I mean, has any show started as strongly as this one has? But even the best show sometimes hits the doldrums, and then you get episodes like “The Moth.”

It’s strange, because I remember liking this episode a lot. Really, my earliest memory of Lost, way back in 2004, was that it starred a hobbit. Dominic Monaghan did a great job of breaking out of his Lord of the Rings debut when he was on Lost. But the truth is, “The Moth” just isn’t that good. It feels like the story is spinning its wheels, and the flashback feels a little squandered. There are some good moments here, but it feels like the first real misstep for the show.

The worst aspect of this outing is it’s frustrating metaphor of Charlie as a the titular insect. His drug addiction now coming to an end, Charlie is getting the shakes real bad, and when he asks Locke for his stash, Locke tells Charlie about how the moth needs to work its own way out of the cocoon. It’s like, Charlie IS the moth, man. It’s not like Lost hasn’t already made broad statements about characters and their tendencies, but it usually does so with some nuance. This is the first time though that it feels really overdone, like Locke is giving a sermon illustration or something. The imagery of the moth, which appears at a couple key moments, only makes the whole thing feel more on-the-nose.

Early on, I think that Charlie was basically defined by being marginalized. He’s a washed-up rock star, trying to live on past glories, hoping that they will impress people around him. I like him a lot, but I think he only really comes into his own when he grows out of this mopey “Don’t people remember me?” phase. That happens soon enough, but right now it’s a little excessive. Of course, Charlie does get the opportunity to grow up when a cave-in traps Jack underground, and Charlie is the only one who can fit down the hole. I do get some gratification from seeing him grow up, and it’s hard not to cheer inwardly when Charlie finally chucks his stash into the campfire. Still, the whole thing is pretty eye-rolling up to that point, and it would have been served well if the screen-writers had treated it with a lighter touch. Also, as re-watchers know, this isn’t the last we see of Charlie’s struggle with heroin. So the whole thing rings a little hollow.

The whole cave-in story doesn’t do much for me either. It doesn’t really connect to anything else in the broader story of the survivors, aside from giving Charlie a way to grow up. Much more interesting is the subplot of Sayid’s attempt to triangulate the position of the French signal. I sort of wish the episode focused more on this, because it’s way more interesting. It’s the first indication we get that Shannon might be more than just a screw-up. It’s also a good time to start seeing Sawyer develop as a character. We’ll see more of him next time.

Really, none of my complaints are enough to move “The Moth” into the realm of truly bad episodes. But it’s held back by its lack of subtlety, and by a central plot that never feels like it advances anyone in a meaningful way, besides of course Charlie. I know that Charlie gets some better moments later on (including some of my favorite episodes ever) but his first episode feels pretty wobbly.

Grade: C+

Wreckage:

  • I understand that the writers based Charlie off of the character of Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. I definitely see the similarity.
  • For the first time in this entire show, Michael knows what to do. That’s kind of nice.
  • The coolest thing about Sawyer is that he is genuinely unpredictable, without ever feeling out-of-character. We’ll probably hit on that more next episode, but for now, you can just see Josh Holloway getting more comfortable with every scene.
  • Charlie’s brother is named Liam. Perhaps a reference to Liam Gallagher from Oasis? Charlie sings an Oasis song in a later flashback. That would explain why the two of them fight so much, and why they do so much heroin.
  • We see that Charlie is a lapsed Catholic. Lost has a slight obsession with religious people who are slightly askew.
  • Tune in on Friday, for “Confidence Man.”
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