Thanks to Kansasgal71 for the heads up.
How many times have you watched a science fiction TV show and rolled your eyes at the time-travel plot? So frequently, the show starts with a writer’s clear, good intention — a moral quandary entangled in the still fairly new concepts of quantum physics and that favorite buzz phrase of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”: the time-space continuum. But just as frequently the teleplay devolves into hackneyed gimmickry, pretzel logic and hokey split-screen scenes of characters meeting (or, as Shatner did, fighting) themselves.
“Lost” is precariously poised to stumble down that same path. Lucky for us, however, the series had several seasons to dose us with narrative Dramamine for the inevitable time travel. The baby steps were the flashbacks, a narrative device we’re quite used to. Then we started dabbling in a few simple quantum concepts, a few hints of what’s to come (surely we’ll get back to the Black Rock soon). But as the fifth season opens this week, the time-travel training wheels are coming off — and the path thus far seems blissfully free of the usual stumbling blocks.
Score one for all the viewers who called it at the end of last season: The island did, indeed, disappear in time, not space. And time travel is now the chief means of telling this strange and exciting story.
That includes a little déjà vu. The opening of Wednesday night’s fifth-season premiere looks eerily familiar to the second-season premiere. We’re on the island, soft morning light illuminates the house, and someone puts a record on the turntable. (Gotta love that Dharma Initiative: they keeps their peeps stocked with platters.) By the end of the episode, though, there’s no need for a flashback to revisit Desmond and his 108 minutes of fame in the hatch — just wait a few minutes for the blinding flash and … we’re there.
And then we’re someplace (er, sometime) else. As one of the castaways asks, summing up this premiere and possibly the whole new season: “When are we now?”
After Ben’s turning of the big icy wheel, season five now alternates between the islanders and the off-islanders. Sawyer, Juliet and the freighter people are still on the island, trying to figure out why their camp and food just disappeared. Daniel, the secretive physicist, tells us the island has become “untethered” in time, and it’s just hopscotching back and forth, back and forth. The camp’s there, the camp’s gone. The hatch is there, the hatch is a crater. This could become dizzying — or, it becomes apparent, possibly lethal for some characters.
Meanwhile, three years in the future — calling it a “flash forward” now seems a little moot — Ben and Jack set out to gather up the other Oceanic Six and drag them back to the island, per the urgent request of the late John Locke/Jeremy Bentham. It’s not going to be easy, particularly since heavily armed superagents are out to kill Sayid and his new fugitive pal, Hurley.
What it begins to boil down to seems to be a kind of race against, well, time between two men on the island and two men off. On the island, it’s Daniel vs. Richard, who both seem to know the score about the time travel and who may or may not be on the same side. Richard, at least, appears in the past to tell Locke that the only way to save the island is to get the Six back. Off the island, it’s still Ben vs. Charles Widmore in an escalating battle to off each other in the name of the island — and Widmore now has the help of the widow Sun.
Regardless of what is about to transpire, the butterfly effect won’t be a problem. Daniel goes to great lengths to explain that in this time-travel scenario, even though the characters can move through time they can’t change anything — even if they try. Whatever happens will happen, no matter what. And given that everyone on the island (and off) has pasts they’d prefer to polish or blot out altogether, that’s clearly going to be the pivot point of tragedy.
Thanks to Kansasgal71 for the heads up.