Homecoming (S1, ep. 15)
I hate this episode.
That’s not entirely true. There are great portions of this episode that are entertaining, suspenseful, everything we expect from Lost.
And it isn’t as though the episode is lacking in drama, either. Dominic Monaghan gives another out-of-the-park performance, to boot.
But oh, how I loathe the flashbacks. More specifically: Oh, how I loathe Charlie here. This is a credit to the show, ultimately. When my television set is capable of making me feel sincerely revolted by the shenanigans of a fictional Brit and his yawning addiction I have to give serious credit to everyone involved. But that doesn’t mean I’ve got to enjoy it.
With “Homecoming,” we get to see Charlie at the bottom of the junkie barrel, and it’s not a pretty picture. I’m lucky enough never to have dealt seriously with an addict among friends or family, and this episode reinforces that feeling of luck. Charlie vomiting into a copier is something that, to use the modern parlance, I wish I could un-see.
To make a long flashback short: Charlie partners with a ‘friend’ who sets him up to steal from a rich girl (Lucy) so’s they can get their smack on. Driveshaft has gone up in smoke, and Charlie’s hard-up for money. So he charms his way into her heart with the intent to rob her blind, then changes his tune and attempts to get straight only to succumb to temptation/addiction and swipe Winston Churchill’s cigarette case (hey, if you’re going to steal, you might as well steal big I suppose) from her house, shattering her trust and sending him back out into the cold world alone. Also, he vomits into a photocopier and passes out. Had I mentioned that?
That said, also illuminating. Lost continues it’s sterling tradition of shedding new moral light on our characters, and Charlie’s past serves as both counterpoint to, and comment upon, his present concern for/fear for/protectiveness of Claire who’s reappeared as suddenly as she vanished. Who is Claire, you ask? I don’t blame you for forgetting since most of the 815ers did. And in what could be ultra-charitably considered clever meta-commentary on that fact, but is much more likely just a convenient plot-extending device, Claire’s forgotten all about them as well. In fact, she’s got no memory of anything about the Island or about these people she’s crashed with. It’s as though Ethan reset Claire’s personal System Restore Point for just before the crash. And maybe he did – I can’t remember.
Charlie’s insistent struggle to be remembered by Claire is touching. His need to do so illustrated (though not necessarily explained by – a distinction that’s important, if thin, in my opinion) by Lucy telling him that he’ll never care for anyone.
The bulk of this episode revolves around Ethan’s threat to Charlie – bring him the girl, or he’ll kill one castaway every day, leaving Charlie for last. I’m beginning to see the full arc of Ethan’s character now as I’m rewatching, and it’s pretty shocking to see the man who will later smile and enjoin Juliet to travel to the Island - who will later be shown as having attempted to save Claire during this missing week of time - act like such a frightening sociopath. He’s a spooky muthafunka, essentially, made all the moreso by his ‘special skills.’
Ethan is crazy strong, first of all. It was hinted at in his initial fight with Jack, and it’s reinforced by his reappearance to Charlie, where he one-handedly lifts our favorite smackhead by the throat like a ragdoll. Then there’s the matter of his skill with a rock-and-sling. Seeing these sorts of things makes me hopeful for some serious time (an hour at least! C’mon!) spent next season on the culturing/indoctrination/training of the Others. If I’m right about what purpose they serve (see my “Monastic Knights” hypothesis for a firm dose of the crazies) then all of this stuff falls right in line with it – learning to use the natural world to defend and attack.
That asthetic would also perhaps explain Ethan's apparent contempt for the castaways, and his oddly sunny-seemign demeanor around the Others. This episode continues to widen the chasm of opinion that will divide Locke and Jack. Jack wants to immediately dash off to catch and kill Ethan. Locke wants to fortify their camps defenses instead and wait for Ethan to come to them. This difference in strategy is also a clear illustration of deeper differences – Jack is the strongheaded, proactive, (typically) unthinking one, getting set off at a moment’s notice and focusing laser-like intensity on whatever is directly in front of him. Locke is the intuitive, reactive, (typically) cooly-rational one, slower to anger and more of a chessman when it comes to his planning.
Everything wraps up nicely (if not neatly) when Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Locke go a-hunting for Ethan with the guns from the Marshall’s case and manage to trap Mr. Rom for questioning. Only, again conveniently, Charlie shows up and blows him away – because no haunting ghost of the past is going to tell Charlie who can or can’t rely on him! Ever again!
And this psychosis is rewarded by Claire, who against the odds remembers the old CharliePorn Peanut Butter moment from earlier in the season and, instead of screaming and running, tells Charlie that she wants to trust him.
All is right with the world – except that Charlie’s a barely-hinged murderer that just busted a cap in their only potential means of obtaining information.
Lucy’s father is played by the great Jim Piddock, a character actor who’s appeared in Best In Show and A Mighty Wind, and, like many of Lost’s chosen guest stars (thanks, David Fury!), appears to be an occasional Whedon player as well. He’ll forever be the Immortal Valet from Angel to me.
Boone continues his near-unbroken string of complete failures. Way to fall asleep on Watch, Boone. I’m beginning to think that the Monster kills the dim-witted first. Clearly they’re of no use to him.
The logic of (1) forgetting about Claire until it's narratively convenient to remember and (2) killing your only hostage when it's clearly not in your best present interests escapes me. Entirely. I remember being frustrated by these developments when I first watched these eps, and I'm no less frustrated now. Anyone who champions this season and claims they 'lost' it in Season Five is operating with intensely selective memory.