Almost anything was bound to be a let down after last week’s awesome episode of Lost. Even still, when you’re bumping along feeling resolved to the premise of the season, and then something comes and blows you away, and then you have to go back to that original humdrum sort of episode, it’s extra disappointing. Last night’s “The Package” just made it all the more clear that the flash-sideways lack meaningful stakes, and that the usual delay tactics have stopped being suspenseful and instead are just frustrating.
The Jin/Sun sideways timeline had a few nice moments, particularly a little jolt of “wait, what?” when we realize that they’re not married, and the pleasure of ever-so-briefly seeing them together and happy, even if it did involve an unlikely cardigan-based striptease. (Seriously, no one wears sweaters like that without a shirt underneath. No one.) Keamy returns as an incredibly creepy dude with the surprising compassion to patch up Jin’s head wound before admitting he’s going to kill him. Russian guy gets shot in the eye again. Yes, we get it. Parallels. And then back on the island, things were just as drawn out and unnecessarily vague as usual, featuring Evil Tina Fey asking Jin about pockets of electromagnetism and Smokey literally knocking the English language out of poor Sun. At the end we get the barest glimpse of some promising developments. Jin looking at those photos of his daughter was really a lovely little moment, and then the titular Package turns out to be Desmond, which is hardly a surprising development, but at least means he’s finally back on the show.
But there was just so much silliness… The worst of it was probably the bit with Sun’s new language problems. Amnesia is such a classic soap opera-y trope, and it’s essentially a magical self-generating plot device that allows you to scrap any requirement of plausibility with a simple veneer of inexplicable brain trauma. Sun’s head wound isn’t being used in quite the same was as your usual soap opera set-up, but the tool and its results are just as clumsy and unnecessary. When they landed, Sun knew English and Jin didn’t, and then she had to translate for him. When they finally (finally) reunite, he’ll have to translate for her! I’ll say it again: parallels. But in this case, it’s even more obvious and ham-handed than usual, and seems to serve little purpose other than too-perfect symmetry.
The other enormous piece of silliness in last night’s episode was something outside of the Lost creators’ control, but it nevertheless seemed to highlight what’s been so frustrating about this season. For nearly the entire episode, ABC put a seriously distracting logo for V in the lower right-hand corner, accompanied by a clock counting down to the show’s “highly-anticipated” return. The gimmick was especially obnoxious because last night’s episode involved a fair amount of subtitling and/or writing on note cards, and in a few instances, the V logo actually blocked part of the text. (For more on how absurd it was, Linda Holmes has a nice suggestion that networks hire a couch-based “No Way” consultant, and Alan Sepinwall rants a little bit.) Even worse, the countdown lock was not just a reminder of how long until V would be airing, but how also of little Lost we have left. Every time I glanced down at that stupid clock, its swiftly moving seconds were a depressing indicator of how little time was left for the episode to move on to meaningful developments. Or, even more depressing, it was a little stopwatch for when the show would actually move ahead with some major events: wait until there are ten minutes left, and then exciting things will start to happen.
I know it seems like I’m unreasonably negative about last night’s episode, and it’s a misrepresentation of what I felt while actually watching the show. I came away from it with the same resounding “eh” that I’ve had for several episodes this season, and it’s only in retrospect that I’m starting to feel like “eh” is actually quite infuriating. As I said at the beginning, it’s because “Ab Aeterno” was so good that “The Package” felt so mediocre. C’mon, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Let’s move it along.