Lost – “House of the Rising Sun”

losttitle3“House of the Rising Sun”

Aired: October 27, 2004

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

Whereas Jack’s flashback in “White Rabbit” leaves out huge swaths of his life, narrowing in on one part of his identity in his relationship with his father and not even offering insight into decades of that relationship, Jin and Sun’s flashback in “House of the Rising Sun” is a fairly complete narrative. We don’t see the moment they meet, sure, and there are large narrative gaps (captured with elegant efficiency by the age of the dog) that pose questions, but there is a clear certainty to this story that makes it among the most effective flashbacks in the series’ run.

I particularly enjoy how it plays with uncertainty and inevitability. On the one hand, when the episode introduces Sun’s plan to leave Jin and escape during their layover in Australia, we know it doesn’t happen. We know she gets on that plane, and so it’s no shock when a simple gesture of kindness from Jin leads Sun to stay with her husband. It’s still a beautiful scene, portrayed with subtle emotion by Yunjin Kim, but there’s no suspense. On the other hand, however, the reveal that Sun speaks English—while foreshadowed by the way her perspective is foregrounded on the opening scene in the episode—is a surprise, a piece of information that brings the climax of the flashback into conversation with the action on the island. It’s deftly handled, and keeps the lack of “mystery” in the flashback’s likely ending from rendering it uneventful.

On the island, I was mainly struck by how this is really the first episode to feel the weight of the rest of the series. I don’t mean this in a bad way, necessarily, but it’s hard not to see the introduction of Adam and Eve, and the black and white rocks, and not view it in light of the mythology that would emerge from those items. It’s an episode that bears that burden in other ways, as in the will-they-won’t-they material with Jack and Kate, or the “Everyone’s let’s move to the caves because we need to establishing some standing sets to keep from having to film on location all of the time” of it all. You see a lot of the show in “House of the Rising Sun,” in other words, more than just the story in and of itself.

But it still works because of how strong Jin and Sun’s story works as a contained narrative, and how the split between the two groups happens fairly organically. It isn’t built on a substantial rift: some people don’t want to give up hope of rescue, others are willing to dig in, and that’s just the way it is. I appreciated that Kate’s reasons are not so much about hope, and more about her unwillingness to settle anywhere in particular—life as an island nomad suits her, given what she was doing in the months prior to getting on this flight, and so the idea of putting down roots and trusting someone else’s plan is just not going to fly. As much as the episode is in a position to make this about her relationship with Jack, it’s not about that at the end of the day, which is important to that development and to the show’s efforts to move forward.

Cultural Observations

  • Can we talk about the fact that not a single woman among Lost’s cast was nominated for an acting Emmy? I’d argue Elizabeth Mitchell was deserving in later seasons, but at this stage Yunjin Kim’s work is easily worthy, and her performance here deserved to be in contention.
  • Locke’s keen eye for Charlie’s drug addiction: A product of the island opening his eyes, or an inherent part of his personality that emerged in full focus in light of his miracle?
  • I really had forgotten about Hurley’s discman being an excuse to do musical montages, so to see it pop up again here was startling. I appreciate any and all diegetic musical efforts, but I’m not sure if fits the tone of the show as I most basically understand it.
  • Flashback Tag: Charlie wants nothing more than his guitar (which he played…on a few tracks), and the show wants nothing more than to show him using it.

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