Let’s come right out and say it: some things in Lost just never get tied up. They give us plenty of answers (sometimes too many), but it’s a pretty messy narrative. That doesn’t matter as much when you watch it for the first time, since you can enjoy the foreshadowing and not know any better. But when you are writing on every episode and trying to see how everything hangs together, an episode like “Special” is kind of sticky. How does one judge an episode where the hints and threats will remain largely unresolved?
The truth is, Walt’s “special-ness” is handled with a very light touch in this episode. It focuses more on Michael, and his struggle to be a father. And this is one flashback that really delivers. It fills in much of the conflict between Walt and Michael, and it provides little crumbs of mystery. Even if those crumbs ultimately remain dead ends, it makes for a very compelling story. It’s quite touching as well. Perhaps its because I have my own young son, but the scene where Michael’s girlfriend says she is leaving with Walt was particularly gut-wrenching. There’s also a sad irony when Michael is finally allowed to be the father he always wanted to be, and it is in the worst possible circumstances. It’s one of the finest flashbacks that the series has done so far, and it was the highlight of the episode for me.
The dealings on the Island are a little more average, but good overall. The nicest thing is some genuine plot advancement. Michael begins construction of the raft, the most important plot point in the second half of season one. Not only that, but the episode ends once again with a good stinger, when Locke and Boone discover Claire in the jungle. Season One is filled with lots of great character moments, but I was longing for some forward momentum, so this was very welcome.
It’s not all perfect. I’ve mentioned it before, but Michael’s jealousy of Locke is overplayed in the first season, and it comes to a head here. It may be that Locke is finding allies for the conflict that her perceives on the horizon, but here he seems genuinely to respect Michael’s wishes. So when Michael threatens to kill Locke if he sees him again with Walt, it just feels overwrought and silly. And I’m not a huge fan of the climax, where Walt runs away and is threatened by the polar bear. The polar bear looks pretty goofy in long shot, and the whole thing just feels a little generic for me. (Aside from the polar bear in the jungle, anyway)
But really, “Special” was better than I remember. Even knowing that a lot of what it promises never pans out, it’s a solid hour of TV. And when you get to the end, and see Michael give that stack of letters to Walt, it’s hard to not feel a pang of emotion. I was touched, anyway.
- Did anyone else notice that Michael seems to be the only person who doesn’t notice Walt’s “power?” He clearly thinks he’s special, but in a very different way from everyone else.
- Funny bit of acting from Dominic Monaghan, when Charlie is struggling as to whether he should read Claire’s diary. It’s the highlight of that subplot, which feels curiously slight for something that was so important not three episodes ago.
- So do Locke and Boone just hang around throwing knives all day? Can’t stare at a hatch 24/7, I guess.
- There’s that Spanish comic book again. (Green Lantern and Flash!) I wonder if it says something about the nature of Walt, and his “super powers?”
- Am I the only one who always jumps when Michael is hit by the car? That’s one of the more shocking moments in Lost right there.
- Up next, “Homecoming.” Have a great weekend.