(Note: I haven’t had time to write up the first three episodes yet, but I couldn’t resist watching the next one anyway. I should have the earlier ones up within a week or two)

Well, I guess Locke isn’t thousands of years old after all.

That was my fiancee’s theory after the first couple episodes. The main clue was his declarative statement that backgammon is older than Jesus Christ. But Locke had a kind of gravity to him, mysterious authority. He seemed serene and wise. Really, given Lost‘s atmosphere and reputation, it seemed more than possible he’d turn out to be some weird immortal, and the backgammon line would be the first of many sly hints.

Nope. Turns out before the crash, Locke was a factory-working loser, tormented by his much younger boss and delusionally in love with a woman on some kind of customer service line (or possibly a phone sex worker, but I think they charge more than the woman quoted here). And that before the crash, Locke was–

Wait, let’s rewind. Cover the plot first. On the island, we have two main threads, both of which have to do with dead bodies: 1) what to do with the ones in the fuselage, and 2) how not to become them, because they just ran out of food.

For 1), Jack insists on burning the bodies, a course of action that mildly horrifies some of the others. They don’t have a choice, though, because Jack is too convincing, too pragmatic, but in a humanistic way that makes it hard to argue. It’s interesting just how pragmatic he is to this point–that also seems to be one of the defining traits of Sawyer, but coming in from the opposite direction of Sawyer’s Darwinian, dog-eat-dog philosophy. I’m guessing that’ll be a continued point of conflict over the series, and one I’m looking forward to.

Then Jack gets cooler yet: when Claire asks Jack, quite naturally, to head the funeral proceedings, he flat-out refuses. He’s not the ultimate do-gooder, which is nice, because when a dude just wants to do good all the time, you just want to trip him when he walks by or shoot spitballs at him when his back is turned. Instead, Jack goes off to comfort the woman whose husband was lost in the crash, drawing her out of her grief and back into the group.

For 2), an invasion of wild hogs inspires Locke to organize a hunting party. Disturbingly, his luggage is full of extremely large knives, and a flashback in which he’s referred to as “colonel” had me thinking his factory job was a cover for his real job of jaunting around the world assassinating any fool who dares cross him.

I was wrong. Wronger than six wrongs in a wrongboat. Though Locke seems wildly competent, facing down the Monster and dragging back a big ol’ pig to camp, it turns out he really was a desperate old man. A desperate old man who, it’s revealed, used to be paralyzed, until the plane crash healed him.

Now that’s a reversal. That’s a reveal. Already, Lost is anticipating its audience’s reactions and expectations and subverting them almost immediately. That “almost immediately” thing is huge: a short time before this, I’d been watching Jericho, a show Netflix promised I’d like but instead turned out to be an endless string of episodes about mysterious badasses whose mysterious pasts still weren’t well-revealed a good 15 episodes into the mysterious, mysterious show. Showrunners: that isn’t enticing. It’s annoying. It makes people want to boo loudly, then change the channel, maybe to something with some of those cops who solve the crimes.

So far, Lost has a firm handle on its exposition. There are several overarching mysteries–the Monster, the island, what caused the crash, and who those guys in suits are near the end of “Walkabout”–but it’s not playing games with its characters. If a question arises about them, that question is answered in the same episode, often the very next scene. That’s how you keep a show moving. That’s how you keep us demanding to see the next episode. The last two episodes have hardly been disappointments, but “Walkabout” lived right up to the pilot’s potential.

Where do I think it will go from here? No idea, really. I expect there’ll be a Sawyer-centric episode soon, maybe even the very next episode, because right now they seem to be exploring one character per ep and you need the ongoing source of internal group tension Sawyer provides. Now that they’ve got a source of food and water, the logical next step is to build permanent shelter. Locating the French woman’s signal seems like it’s going to be a big deal, too. I think they’ll resolve that over the next few episodes, but right now I have no damn clue how the details of that will play out.

But I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

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