No one knows as much about the weight of choice as the repentant sinner. Sayid’s defining characteristic is the very dark past that he never seems to be able to escape. His pursuit of Nadia is a pursuit of an unattainable peace from the horrible things he has done. Sayid’s life is a long list of moments of compromise, where “the greater good” justifies a momentary deception or an act of violence. That’s the really interesting discussion that this episode seeks to start.
Does it pull it off? For the most part, yes. “The Greater Good” has some terrific stuff. I especially liked the way in which Sayid tries to navigate that slippery slope of whether or not his past really dictates who he is. People trust him, and because of that, they always try to get him to compromise what he promised he would never do. Unlike in “Confidence Man,” Sayid does not give into his unfortunate gifts this time around. Instead, at the behest of Shannon, he goes to question Locke about Boone’s death. What follows is the best part of the episode, the back-and-forth between Locke and Sayid. It’s a great moment with two characters who are both great at getting the information they need. I love that Locke is fully aware that he is being interrogated, and I like that Sayid sees right though Locke’s lies and half-lies. Both O’Quinn and Andrews do a great job, and that’s where “The Greater Good” really shines.
Also good is the mourning process that the rest of the survivors go through, although its isolated to a couple of characters. Obviously, Shannon takes a dark turn, even trying to shoot Locke. Makes for a nice little climax, and Maggie Grace is better when she’s more intense. Jack is also grieving, but more about his failure than Boone’s death. He’s angry at Locke for the lie that he was told about Boone’s accident, and he looks like he’s about ready to kill too. However, the most interesting response is Walt’s. He no longer sees Locke as a man to confide in. The death has clearly shaken him, and he now regards Locke with fear and apprehension. The moment where he asks his dad about the safety of the raft is really well-acted and well-written. It has that roundabout way that kids try to ask difficult questions. Once again, we see that Malcolm David Kelly might be one of the best actors in all of season one.
What doesn’t work for me? Well, after the intensity of the previous two episodes, it feels trite to go after the subplot of Sawyer’s baby-whispering capabilities. I like when Lost goes for the light humor (like they did in “Numbers”), but this one mostly feels like a way to pad out the hour. And while I like the thematic logic behind Sayid’s relationship with Shannon, the fact remains that the fundamental chemsitry between the two actors just isn’t there. They both are good at their roles in other cases, but their scenes together have a very scripted feel. To me, that’s the big reason that the couple was never well-accepted.
But those aren’t really major complaints. The meat of the episode is very good. It feels like a breather after the one-two punch of the last two episodes, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I also really liked some of the thematic content here. So as we hit the home stretch of season one, it’s nice to get some of those good solid episodes that keep the series functioning between highlights.
- Sayid’s scene in the mosque makes me wish that the writers had incorporated his Islam into the character a little more. It seems like a wasted opportunity. Of course I imagine that they felt the need to tread very lightly on the topic, since you never know what will get you a fatwa.
- “Dude, that’s all I got.”
- One nice point about the Sawyer-Aaron-Charlie subplot is the way that Charlie is now finding his niche as father figure for Aaron. The character has felt a little lost in the weeds up until this point. Nice to give him a little more purpose.
- Watching the episode, I thought that this might be one of the few times that Locke is forthcoming about his own mistakes. Of course, he leaves out a ton of details. Not so forthcoming as I thought, is it?
- Sawyer’s glasses just look so goofy.
- Coming up on Friday: “Born to Run.” Bruce Springsteen not included.