Lost – “Walkabout”

losttitle3“Walkabout”

Aired: October 13, 2004

[I’m going to be taking over The A.V. Club’s TV Club Classic reviews of Lost next Wednesday—in preparation, I’m offering some short thoughts on each of the episodes Todd VanDerWerff already covered at the site.]

There is no more iconic flashback than “Walkabout.” It was the flashback that showed what the flashbacks could do, the first sign that something supernatural didn’t need to mean something destructive, and a tour de force performance from Terry O’Quinn.

In taking a few quick notes on my phone about the episode, some were about the flashback. I had always noticed the conspicuousness of the wheelchair, but I had never looked closely enough at Locke’s shoes to notice that they were almost entirely unworn. Sure, it’s possible they were new, but it’s a little detail that either shows up better in Netflix’s “Super HD” or that I completely missed the previous times I’ve watched the episode (which I’ve probably revisited more often than the rest of the season).

However, most of my notes were about the rest of the episode. Indeed, the flashback structure often makes the standalone components of the episode more memorable: I could tell you what happens in most of Locke’s flashbacks for example, but I couldn’t tell you what happens in the episodes around them with as much clarity. The flashbacks are meant to be memorable, but the way they’ve resonated means I had comparatively forgotten the memorial, or Shannon’s “Flirt with a man to fish, prove a point to your brother” lesson. The memories came back once the episode got started, but there’s an element of surprise to rewatching even episodes where the flashback is so memorable.

I had forgotten that “Walkabout” was so quiet. The memorial is a beautiful moment in and of itself, but the moments leading up to it are moments of resignation. They don’t have the capacity to have a proper burial, and so they go about excavating evidence of who those people are, in the process uncovering little pieces of themselves (like Sayid’s photos, for instance). It’s an effective structuring device that way, a reminder that all of the people on the plane had backstories that could have been explored, and a foreshadowing of the idea that everyone has a story, which would be at least part of the logic behind the introduction of Nikki and Paulo.

There’s more action in Locke’s confrontation with the mystery and the first in many stall methods with Kate’s failed installation of the transceiver, but that’s very much about Locke himself. Whereas he needs to prove that he can do what people said he can’t, characters like Rose are just trying to confront the world in front of them. The reason Lost worked as a show is that not all of its characters were focused on the mystery: Locke has his own mystery, and Kate and Sayid remain invested in the recording, but Jack is more focused on safety, and the memorial showcases the basic humanity the castaways largely hold onto during these early episodes (and, in selective cases, as the series progresses).

Cultural Observations

  • Returning to a similar well, I’m wondering how I would have read this in terms of the larger plan of the show. For example, would I have bought Rose’s theory that the tail section of the plane was possibly elsewhere on the island? Or would I have—like Jack—dismissed it as wishful thinking? I obviously know which it is now, but there’s part of me that thinks I would have been with Jack on this one.
  • I had forgotten the foreshadowing of the next episode’s flashback in each episode—the final shot of Locke in “Tabula Rasa” is less subtle than the introduction of Ghost Christian, but each serves to lay the groundwork for a foreshadow to immediately follow.
  • The show can only get so much mileage out of showing us different perspectives on previous events, but it never got better than understanding Locke’s reactions to the plane crash in the pilot. It almost set an unfair expectation for every subsequent flashback in this regard.
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