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Lostwatch: Flashback to the Future

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SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses last night’s episode of Lost; if you Tivoed or taped it, you may want to watch it first — and, you know, stop clicking on links with the title Lost in them in the meantime.

It was a slow night at Lostwatch headquarters, as the show devoted an episode to the character we care least about on the island: Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), the bassist/junkie (not necessarily in that order). Still, the hour did capture the show’s talent for inversions: all this time we thought Charlie was obsessed with new mom Claire (Emilie de Ravin), and it turns out that he’s actually obsessed with her baby, Aaron, whom he feels a compulsion to protect. He has quasi religious dreams telling him that he needs to save the baby and baptize it, all stemming apparently from his dysfunctional relationship with his bandmate and brother Liam.

This has turned out to be the beauty of Lost’s flashback device. Where other shows have their characters evolve and change through experiences they have in the present, Lost changes its characters by revealing more about their past. Thus Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) went from ruthless thug to sweethearted hick gone wrong, when we learned how he became entangled with his wife’s corrupt father.  Conversely, Charlie — who ended the episode a pariah, having started a fire as a diversion to snatch Aaron and baptize him — went from being a lovestruck screw-up to a possibly crazy (or possibly prophetic — hey, this is Lost) babysnatcher. Which, I must admit, makes him suddenly interesting.

On Lost, the past becomes the prism through which we understand characters and their motives— once you learn more about a character, it changes your reading of them entirely when you go back  watch an earlier episode again. The flashbacks also add ironic layers  to scenes, as when Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the resident  priest, baptizes Claire and Aaron. A simple touching scene— except  it’s not so simple when you remember that we learned, in Eko’s recent  flashback, that the former killer never was a priest, at least not until he decided to start calling himself one after staring down that magic charcoal puff in the jungle.

Someday, of course, we’ll get another flashback about Eko and learn something that completely changes our view of him yet again. In which case we’ll have to go back and re-watch all of his episodes. All this has to be really good for the DVD sales.