“The Little Prince”
February 4th, 2009
“It is the time you have spent with your rose that makes your rose so important…”
The last time we spent a great deal of time with Kate off the island, we were in the midst of her legal battles. It was quite literally a loose end: they needed to deal with her pending trial, no question, but in doing so they were forced to dredge up parts of her past back stories which felt overplayed, and to play with Jack’s lies in a way that couldn’t be investigated within that narrow time frame. The episode, “Eggtown,” was amongst the most frustrating of Season Four primarily because it never felt like there was something bigger at stake: here was Kate with this gap of time we don’t understand and with a future ahead of her, and we’re diddling around in her past and eventually, only eventually, putting together that Aaron was one of the Oceanic Six.
There was reason to be concerned that “The Little Prince” would be much the same, but it was actually quite the opposite. Working within this new broadly drawn character-focused episode structure, this is not just an episode about Kate: yes we spent a lot of time with the show’s female lead, but we spend an equal amount of time with the man who is back on the island, still in love with her to this day. The episode draws a line between Sawyer and Kate that is able to transcend time, dropping each of them into the other’s story when it feels like their connection could be severed.
This, more definitively than the other episodes of the season, is the one that shows just how beneficial this new format is. Not only do we avoid being too one-dimensional in our focus, extending it to other characters like Sawyer, but the episode delves into a substantial amount of island mythology, flashing around in time on multiple occasions and never letting those left behind to catch their breath. The urgency of the island is palpable, which keeps the momentum going from an action perspective, whereas what’s happening off the island is both emotionally resonant and questionably manipulative to the point where it maintains that momentum even without the same sense of urgency.
To draw on the above line from The Little Prince, the story on which the episode’s title is based, we can draw numerous conclusions: not only is it a key phrase for the island’s newest mystery (where time spent is an important variable), but it’s also a reminder that all the time spent building these characters has made episodes like this one operate on a shorthand that can’t be beat right now. Combine that with the episode-ending shocker of sorts, and there is no question that this episode shows the continued promise for the season ahead.