"LOST" RETROSPECT: (4.01) "The Beginning of the End"
Looking back on six seasons of "LOST", it occurred to me that my opinion of the series' season premieres have been decidedly mixed. I have enjoyed at least two of them. I have found two of them mildly entertaining. And the last two have struck me as somewhat unmemorable.
The Season Four season premiere, (4.01) "The Beginning of the End", served as a follow-up to the superb Season Three finale, (3.22-3.23) "Through the Looking Glass". In that episode, the Oceanic 815 castaways had managed to contact a freighter called the Kahana that recently appeared offshore the island. Its first passenger, one Naomi Dorrit, was killed by castaway John Locke in an effort to prevent her from making that contact. His actions proved to be in vain, thanks to the determination of castaways' leader Jack Shephard and the efforts of Charlie Pace, who died after switching off a device that blocked the island's communication transmissions inside an old underwater station. The finale also featured the Others' failure to kidnap some of the female castaways for fertility tests. Their failure ended in death by the hands of Sayid Jarrah, Jin Kwon, Bernard Nadler, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes and James "Sawyer" Ford.
More importantly, "Through the Looking Glass" established the use of flash forwards to allow viewers glimpses into the lives of those castaways who would end up leaving the island by the end of Season Four. Jack's future off-island life - one of substance abuse, a suicide attempt and despair - was featured in that episode. It also established that fellow castaway Kate Austen also made it off the island. "The Beginning of the End" featured scenes of Hurley's post-island life.
When he experienced a vision of the now dead Charlie at a Los Angeles convenience store, Hurley flipped out and found himself being pursued by the Los Angeles Police in a car chase. The police detective who interrogated him following his arrest proved to be Mike Walton, the former partner of the late castaway Ana-Lucia Cortez. Upset over the idea of another connection to the island, Hurley pretended he never knew Ana-Lucia. He also immediately accepted Detective Walton's suggestion that he be placed inside a mental home. There, Hurley receives another visit from Charlie's ghost, who reminds him that he has to return to the island. Hurley later receives a visit from Jack, informing the latter about Charlie's ghost. He also apologizes to Jack for abandoning his leadership in favor of Locke . . . and points out the latter had been right about the threat from the freighter.
Hurley's words to Jack in the flash forward not only set the tone of how "The Beginning of the End" and the rest of Season Four unfolded. Before any of the castaways met with other passengers from the Kahana, they dealt with the news of Charlie's death, his discovery of Naomi's lies about the freighter and their rescue; and more importantly, the on-going conflict between Jack and Locke. All three crises resulted in a break-up of the Oceanic 815 survivors. Those determined to believe that the freighter's crew and other passengers will rescue them, stayed with Jack on the beach. And those who took Charlie's last message to heart, joined Locke on a trek to the Others' abandoned compound . . . including the Others' leader, Ben Linus.
"The Beginning of the End" ranks as one of my favorite "LOST" premieres. Thanks to Jack Bender's direction and a first-rate script written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse; the episode did a great job in setting the tone for the rest of Season Four and the second half of the series. It also marked the first of many times that the castaways would be divided - a situation that last will last until late Season Six. The title struck me as very relevant and an apt description of the beginning of the series' second half.
The ugliness conveyed by some of the characters in "Through the Looking Glass" continued in this episode. The groups from the beach and near the tower reunited near the Oceanic 815 cockpit section. And another ugly conflict flared up. The moment Jack clapped eyes on Locke, he lost his temper and attacked. Even worse, he tried to murder the older man, but his revolver lacked the bullets to complete the job. I suspect that Jack and some of the castaways believed he was justified in his attempt to kill Locke. After all, the latter had murdered Naomi Dorrit with a machete in the back. I suspect that Jack was simply angry at Locke for nearly preventing any kind of rescue from those aboard the Kahana. Hell, Jack had been angry at Locke for a long time and for many things. Naomi's death proved to be the last straw. I suspect that Jack's attempt to murder Locke had been sprung from his own selfishness and desire for revenge . . . the very same emotions that led Sawyer to murder Tom Friendly in cold blood in "Through the Looking Glass".
Most of the castaways may have shared Jack's feelings. Before Naomi died, Kate informed her that Locke was crazy and that all of the castaways hated him. Her comments about Locke struck me as slightly infantile, if I must be honest. It occurred to me that Kate may have harbored a strong dislike or hatred toward Locke longer than anyone - including Jack. And Sayid continued to question Locke about the latter's destruction of the Others' submarine in (3.13) "The Man From Tallahassee". Even Rose Nadler, who wanted to remain on the island to maintain her health, expressed disgust at Locke's murder of Naomi . . . after witnessing Jack's own murder attempt. I found Rose's judgment of Locke rather ugly and even worse, hypocritical.
Unfortunately for Jack, Hurley turned out to be the one who pulled the rug from underneath him. Recalling Charlie's sacrifice and dire warning, he loudly declared his decision to follow Locke. Claire, Ben, Sawyer (much to Kate's distress), Danielle Rousseau, her daughter Alex, a young Other named Karl and several other Oceanic 815 castaways did the same. I found this scene brimming with first-rate performances and great drama that still impresses me after nearly four years. The episode ended with another dramatic moment - Jack and Kate's meeting with Daniel Farraday, the first of four new main characters introduced to the series.
I believe that Jorge Garcia is a first-rate actor who has always managed to handle both comedy and drama with great ease. This seemed especially apparent in scenes that featured Desmond Hume's revelation about Charlie's death and Hurley's decision to join Locke to Otherville. Mind you, I have never been a major fan of the Hurley Reyes character. I found his man-child persona a little difficult to stomach at times. But I cannot deny that I found Garcia's performance to be outstanding. I can also say the same about Matthew Fox and Terry O'Quinn, who both continued their superb work in a tense-filled scene between Jack and Locke. The episode also featured brief, yet memorable moments from Michael Emerson, L. Scott Caldwell, Emilie de Ravin and Lance Reddick, who made his introduction as the wonderfully creepy Matthew Abbadon. I was also impressed by Michael Cudlitz, who gave a poignant performance as Ana-Lucia's former partner. And Marsha Thomason, who has never impressed me in the past, certainly did as the dying Naomi Dorrit.
The quality of the season premieres for "LOST" has always been a mixed bag for me. I could say the same about the series, overall. But I cannot deny that Jack Bender's direction, along with Lindelof and Cuse's script and a great performance by Jorge Garcia; "The Beginning of the End" struck me as one of the better season premieres.