I don’t think I’d call “Do No Harm” the best episode of Lost, but it’s one of the most important. In the context of the story, it’s a game-changer. Boone was the first of the Oceanic 815 survivors to succumb to the deadly game between Jacob and his rival. Characters in Lost frequently talk about the “rules,” particularly in later seasons. This feels like a situation where the rules change, not just for the characters and the “game” of the show, but for the program itself. It reminds me most of Edward Mars, the US Marshall who escorted Kate from Sydney. Like that situation, Boone is unlikely to survive from the get-go. But Jack can’t give up. He can’t let someone go. He has to fix them.
This need to fix ends up being one of the key aspects of Jack’s character, and it certainly shows here, both on-island and in the flashback, where Jack readies his vows to marry Sarah, a woman whom he saved on the operating table. Jack relates to everyone around them through how he can help them. Matthew Fox even plays Jack this way, as a man of few words. He’s all business, not much for small talk or thinking. He has to know right now, so that he can act accordingly. That same single-mindedness will make Jack a frustrating character later on, but its pretty basic to our understanding of who he is.
Like Jack, “Do No Harm” is very single-minded. It doesn’t dress up the show with pointless subplots and b-stories. It doesn’t even really complicate Boone’s slide to death. It’s simply Jack trying to save Boone, juxtaposed with the birth of Claire’s baby. There’s an interesting symmetry there, and I think it makes for a richer episode. It’s another one of those moments where Lost finds the right tone, and sticks with it. Claire’s fear of being a mother is pretty touching, and I really love the way that Charlie gets to be there for the birth. Even better is the moments he shares with Jin while Kate helps birth the baby.
But the meat of the episode is about the death of Boone, a major character that we have grown to care about. Or at least we should have. Boone’s death is so touching and so gritty, it’s a little disappointing that his character was never fleshed out more. I regret some of the vitriol I’ve directed towards him in my writings, because the truth is he never really stayed around long enough to be more than a sideshow. Maybe that was partially intentional, to help us feel more a sense of loss. Certainly he dies with grace and dignity. It’s very easy to tear up when he tells Jack to let him go, and it’s also very sad to see Shannon’s response and obvious guilt for not being by his side.
But in the end, Jack seems to take it the hardest. Even though Boone “lets him off the hook,” Jack still feels like someone needs to pay for this death. And that someone will have to be John Locke.
- In the commentary for “Pilot,” Lindelof talks about how the show didn’t go super-violent, so that it would be more effective and shocking when they actually needed to gore someone up. I guess they were saving up for this episode, because there are a lot of moments that made me wince.
- Part of Jack’s anger is that he didn’t know what caused Boone’s accident, and treated it the wrong way. Do you think Boone would have survived if Locke had been more forthcoming? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
- A lot of interesting character moments in this episode. I’ve already mentioned Jin and Charlie, but Sun as Jack’s nurse also makes a certain amount of sense.
- Never made the connection that Kate’s delivery of Aaron really foreshadows how her relationship with the boy will look by the fourth or fifth season.
- There’s also the first appearance of the death theme, perhaps the most iconic melody from Michael Giachinno’s score.
- Alrighty, next Tuesday is “The Greater Good.” Be there!