”Lost” recap: Michael’s return
It would certainly be fitting to pay homage to the central figure in tonight’s mostly first-rate, slightly frustrating, and definitely revelation-packed episode of Lost by claiming that I am in fact Jeff Jensen writing under the dubiously initialed pseudonym Adam B. Vary. But alas, I am, in fact, just Adam B. Vary. Your regular fearless leader/soothsayer/crackpot genius is currently in transit from his multiday visit to the Hawaiian set of his and our favorite pop-culture obsession, and he promises to bring back all kinds of insidery goodness — and with a surprise twist, to boot. That is, of course, unless he somehow encounters some kind of massive electromagnetic disturbance somewhere over the Pacific. In which case, our beloved Doc Jensen may return experiencing flashes of the entire series endgame. Or wondering why there’s all this hubbub over a clear Survivor rip-off. Or a victim of some nasty static cling. But I digress.
And I digress because I’m nervous, dear readers. This wasn’t your average Lost episode. That much was clear from the start, when the ”previously on Lost” recap began by reaching allllll the way back to Michael’s season-1-capping scream for his son (i.e., ”Waaaalt!”). For another, we spent almost the entire episode within Michael’s how-I-came-to-be-on-the-boat flashback, bookended by some Linus-Rousseau family psychodrama. And there’s the whole no-more-Lost-for-five-weeks thing. So although ”Meet Kevin Johnson” is unquestionably the kind of episode I would spend an hour dissecting with Doc Jensen while leaning in his office doorway, I’m not nearly as skilled at teasing out the series’ secrets, literary references, old episode callbacks, and nods to theoretical physics for your morning-after consumption as my esteemed colleague. Which he’ll do next week in his regular Doc Jensen column anyway. So, you know, try not to be too cruel in the comments section, is all I’m saying.
All right. For the most part, I dug this episode, and most of the credit for its success should go directly to Harold Perrineau. For the two seasons he was on the show, my feelings for his character varied from minimal interest to outright dislike. That was less Perrineau’s fault than the writers’; they never figured out how to make Michael Dawson interesting beyond his rather mild alienation from his son, Waaaalt! — sorry, Walt — and his understandable-if-monotonous determination to get him back from the Others. But unrelenting guilt over murdering two innocent women and betraying your friends and fellow survivors, guilt that drives you to confess your sins to your son and profoundly, perhaps irrevocably, alienate him from you? Now that is a gangbusters character motivation, and Perrineau made the most of it, layering in despair, grief, shock, outrage, and resignation, often all at once. For the first time, I truly, deeply cared about what was going to happen to the guy, and early, too: When Michael intentionally crashed his car just as the opening credits had finished, I felt relieved knowing he still had to be alive, or else, you know, there’d be no episode. (Doc Jensen stand-in extracurricular reference No. 1: My neighbor Doug tells me this scene was almost exactly the same as one in the 1993 Jeff Bridges movie Fearless, which I haven’t so much seen, though I do know it’s about airline crash survivors dealing with guilt and remorse. Anyhoo, food for thought.)
Perrineau’s performance was so strong, in fact, that it almost distracted me from a few glaring plot holes in his extended flashback — almost. First, of course, is the fact that we still don’t know what happened to Michael and Walt between when they left the Island — which, according to various Lost time lines, occurred somewhere around Thanksgiving 2004 — and when they reached New York City. The freshness of Michael’s mother’s anger at him (not to mention Michael’s anger at himself) would suggest he’d only recently dropped Walt off at her doorstep, which makes sense given all the Christmas decorations around her house. But it also means that Doc Jensen’s theory that Michael and Walt traveled back in time when they left the Island now looks unlikely. So how could father and son go from a dinky boat in the South Pacific to whatever ”rescue” Ben promised them to Manhattan in what could be as little as ten days? And if Michael and Walt are keeping their real, Oceanic 815-surviving identities a secret, wouldn’t it be a bit difficult reentering the U.S. without proper ID? And for that matter, wouldn’t Michael know his suicide-by-car-crash note to Walt would never reach his son if he wasn’t wearing any ID? For these questions alone, I hope Michael doesn’t fulfill his death wish anytime soon, because I suspect some of the answers have to do with the evidently bottomless resources of the participants in the Others-Widmore war. If it really is a war.
NEXT: The return of Mr. Friendly