You know, in about 120 episodes of TV, one or two episodes are bound to escape your memory, just as others are bound to stand out. “All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” is one of those episodes that faded into my memory. I remember the big plots of the season, many of which are front and center here, but this particular one was, for whatever reason, distant in my head. The truth is, it’s quite a good episode, but I feel like it could have been one of the all-time greats of the series.
For the first time, Lost went back to the well to give a character a second episode. If they were going to do that, Jack was the right character to pick. He’s more completely sketched than many of the other Losties, and many of the moments in “White Rabbit,” his first episode, where more hints than revelations. But here, Jack is in full-on Jack mode, impetuous and obsessive. A lot of people hate that about him, and I can understand that. For me though, Jack is one of the big reasons this show works in the first place. He’s relatable, particularly to those skeptics for whom Lost can be a hard sell. He can’t accept certain truths of the Island, no matter how obvious they are. But he still feels compelled to pursue them. It’s a weird seductive relationship. Jack can’t accept something at face value, but neither can he dismiss it. Instead, he has to push forward until the truth is discovered. I wonder if a lot of people’s disappointment about the ending of the show was that Jack found peace in the ambiguity of the show. After he lost that edge, he became less relatable to skeptical fans.
This is the first time that Jack and Locke begin to butt heads, and we get some good hints at Locke as well. While Jack is impetuous and doesn’t think clearly, Locke steps back, analyzes the situation, then moves subtly. However, they share the same drive to get to the truth. It eventually becomes clear that Locke isn’t just in the jungle to find Charlie, but almost just to be in the jungle, waiting for the Island to speak to him. And lo and behold, a sign comes in the form of the hatch, something that will dominate Locke for at least two seasons.
So there’s some good stuff there. What of the rest? Well, “Cowboys” feels like it should be one of the most gripping episodes of the show. The pursuit of Ethan is an exciting story, and in a few cases it really brings that forward. Jack’s fight with Ethan is genuinely wince-inducing, and is there any moment as tense as the resuscitation of Charlie? But this is one case where I think that the flashbacks are actually working against the rest of the episode. The chase has a hard time building momentum when it always has to stop to talk about Jack and his father. The flashback itself is a good one, and the episode really works well as it is. But I can’t help but feel that this one needed to be a little more focused, and that it could have been one of the legendary top-shelf hours of Lost.
But it’s hard to argue with results. It’s pretty exciting as it is, and even if it could have gone further, it’s very good anyway. Again, there’s a great ending that signals some major stuff, and the character moments are all really well-done. It’s another good piece in the very consistent first season.
- I wonder if Walt ever got his $20,000.
- Michael again feels inferior to Locke. Don’t worry Michael, it only feels that way because it’s true.
- I like to think that after the show ends, Hurley and Walt still play backgammon. Shades of some other moments far in the Island’s past.
- I’ve mentioned it already, but the scene where Jack resuscitates Charlie is pretty harrowing. Lost is rarely as violent or dark as it threatens to be, but when it goes there it doesn’t pull punches.
- Ethan is more menacing than I remember.
- This Friday, we’ll hit “Whatever The Case May Be.”