Lost - Season 2 (2005-2006)
'Lost' had an absolutely brilliant first season that blew me away. The whole premise, the characters, the mystery, the style... all fantastic. It was almost inevitable that the second season wouldn't quite live up to the first after that start. It comes reasonably close in terms of overall quality; the only weakness is in the pacing of the first two-thirds of the season, which seems to drag its feet and give a lot of characters who featured prominently in Season 1 the short-shrift.
Season 2 begins right where 1 left off, with Michael's (Harrold Perrineau) son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley) kidnapped by the mysterious 'Others' and he, Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) stranded at sea. They manage to make it to shore, where they're captured by a group led by Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). This group turns out to be survivors of the tail section of Oceanic Flight 815, and they're a little paranoid because their group has been attacked several times by the 'Others'. There's a lot of friction between the 'Tailies' and the three of them, but they guide them towards the main camp on the other side of the island nonetheless.
Meanwhile Jack (Matthew Fox), John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), and Hurley (Jorge Garcia) had just blown open the door to the hatch. Inside the hatch they find a complex where a man named Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) has been entering the mysterious numbers into a computer and pushing a button every 108 minutes to supposedly prevent a major catastrophe. This situation once again brings to a head the theme of science versus faith, as Jack believes the whole thing to be meaningless while John believes it to be their destiny to keep pushing the button. Desmond promptly runs off when the hatch computer breaks down; Sayid (Naveen Andrews) manages to fix it in time to press the button, and Jack and John reach an agreement to continue to push the button. The hatch turns out to be a facility built by an organization called the 'Dharma Initiative', and it exists solely to prevent this supposed catastrophe from taking place.
That's roughly the first few episodes. The major storylines that play out in this season are the mystery of the hatch and what its purpose truly is, and the threat of the Others, with whom the survivors clash on several occasions. Major subplots include the capture of one of the Others, Michael's quest to get back his son, the integration of the Tailies into the group, and the power struggle between Jack and John. And of course the myriad relationships and character interactions that elevate Lost from just a mystery show to a mystery show with considerable dramatic depth. The flashbacks detailing the character's lives before the crash are still there, complete with the mysterious crossing of paths that implies that their presence together on the island is no mere coincidence.
For the most part, these stories play out satisfactorily, with each episode adding new details, sometimes explaining a few things while raising new questions. The overall storyline is addictive stuff, and the characters are always interesting. The last third of the season is outstanding and ends yet again on an excellent cliffhanger. The new characters are welcome additions, with each one being distinctive and adding to the web of relationships. And yet there are problems that peg back the show - the first two-thirds feel dragged out at times, and there are some weak filler episodes (Charlie's one in particular comes to mind) that really kill the show's momentum. Some of the flashbacks this time around feel irrelevant to the main storylines. This is mainly because in the first season the supporting characters like Claire (Emilie de Ravin), Sun (Yunjin Kim), Charlie (Dominic Monahan), Sayed, and Shannon (Maggie Grace) had more to do and were part of major events, whereas in this season they only register on occasion, sometimes all but completely disappearing for episodes at a stretch. This results in their flashbacks and current actions feeling tacked on.
Another annoyance is the inconsistency of characters, which was present to an extent in season 1 as well; this time around, Locke and Eko seemed to have perfected swinging wildly from serene and assured in one episode to manic in another and back again as part of their routine. Also, the characters seem to have fractured too much. I find it hard to believe that - given the situation they're in - they wouldn't form more alliances and cliques. There's a strange tendency for characters to keep major information to themselves on a regular basis. Don't they ever hold group discussions at all? The social order established shortly after the crash has quietly disappeared, and while it may be true that they've all settled into a routine and don't need leadership or roles, the weird goings on on the island ought to be enough to get these people to be a little more proactive and concerned about their situation. And is no one interested in the hatch except for a handful of the elite who get to live in relative luxury with beds, bathrooms, and a kitchen?
Phew! So much negativity, but I love the show! Everything else about it is terrific - the acting, writing, directing, production values - which is why the flaws stand out so much more starkly, especially after the near perfect first season. It's still a great show, with the last third or so redeeming the season, and the recent news of 16 episode seasons and a definitive ending have given me confidence that the show will have a satisfactory run and won't peter out like, say, The X-Files. I can't wait to watch season 3.
[One final note of negativity - the music isn't as good as the first season, in fact it's barely there. In season one it had so much presence. Ah well...]