Meagan has arrived, having single-handedly wrestled the controls of her ailing Virgin flight through the deathclouds of molten pumice billowing forth from the malignant heart of the Chilean Inferno-Mountain. Or something like that. I didn’t really catch all the details. The important part is that she is here for a couple of weeks of dinner parties, bad movies and discussing how good/bad our favourite television shows are. Just like old times. 
I am feeling dull-witted and out of sorts today. There are hockey fans rioting in Vancouver, the creator of Dilbert has gone screeching and flinging faeces off the brink of Misogyny Falls, and the Greek economy is collapsing so fast an event horizon has formed around it – but I couldn’t care less.
Help me manage my ennui: If something has you riled up or excited or pancreas-squeezingly bilious, tell us all about it in the comments. I crave novelty! Especially if it’s something good. Perhaps involving baby pandas or a new kind of caffeinated beverage. Or something good to read, perhaps?
I’ll be done with the Season One Lost reviews by tomorrow, so I will be looking for a new side project to supplement my other writing for the next month or so. I think I may solicit some writing challenges, or issue some myself, if anyone is up to a public game of ‘Write or dare’. Let me think about that.
Random wonderful thing from the internet for the day: here’s a 24 hour comic done by Australian artist Canaan Grall that mashes up Thor and the Muppets. He has some other long-running webcomics that I haven’t had time to check out yet, but based on how good this is I certainly will.
 Speaking of which, the Game of Thrones series is gloriously, sumptuously good, as long as you can keep up with the spectacularly vast cast and seemingly-disconnected plotting. It’s worth watching for the costuming alone. And the beheadings, of course (of which there have been at least four that I can recall). Man, they love them some decapitation in Westeros.
Behold now: the first half of the first season finale of Lost:
Back to the Island 1.24 – Exodus Part 1
“So I talked to Vincent. He’s a good listener. You can talk to him about Boone if you want.” – Walt Lloyd
Summary: Danielle Rousseau, the French castaway, walks into the Oceanic survivors camp and, after a long hard look in the direction of Claire’s crying baby, announces that “The Others are coming”. With everyone gathering around, she recounts how she came to the Island 16 years earlier, heavily pregnant. After she delivered her baby Alex, she saw a pillar of black smoke from inland. Then people she calls the Others came and took her baby. “You have only three choices,” she tells them. “Run, hide or die.” Locke takes the warning seriously, but Jack is less worried about the ranted backstory of a known loon and more concerned with getting the raft launched. He press-gangs all the extras into helping drag the raft to the waterline, but something breaks. While Michael is singling Sawyer out for blame – aren’t they going to be delightful shipmates? – black smoke begins rising from somewhere inland. Everyone looks worried in a wide-angled shot of the entire cast. Take a drink.
Jack leads Rousseau’s interrogation, but she doesn’t have much to add. She points out that she’s a jungle ninja who can slink off and hide whenever she likes, but where are they going to hide forty hapless survivors? They take her to the Hatch, hoping she has an explanation, but she claims never to have seen anything like it. It’s still sealed, of course, but Locke has the bright idea to ask Rousseau whether she has any more of the explosives she used to blow up her own camp. Why yes, there is more dynamite at the black rock in the middle of the dark territory, she informs them. Hurley correctly observes that this sounds like three excellent reasons to come up with another plan, but nobody does. Arzt the teacher wants to come along, claiming some knowledge of how to handle old sweaty dynamite.
Jack goes to find Sawyer, who is cutting a mast for the raft, and gives him one of the guns “just in case”. Expecting never to see Jack again, Sawyer tells him about meeting Christian in the bar in Sydney, and how proud he had been of his son. Jack chokes back some manly tears and they wish each other well. Walt asks Shannon to look after his dog Vincent, explaining that he was a good companion after his mother died. Sun gives Jin a handwritten phonetic Korean-English handbook and, tearfully forgiving each other, they reconcile. Sayyid gives Michael a jury-rigged radar which will help ships find them, if they use it sparingly. With fond farewells from the other survivors, Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer launch the raft and head out to sea.
Rousseau leads Jack’s group into dark territory. She tells them that this is where, 16 years earlier, her team became ‘infected’ and Montand lost his arm. Arzt chickens out at this and turns back, but comes running back a moment later, pursued by the Clanky-Stompy Monster. Everyone scatters, but a collected Locke convinces Hurley to hold still and the Monster passes them by, still unseen. Rousseau says that the Monster is a security system for the Island. Finally they arrive at the Black Rock, which turns out to be an overgrown three-masted sailing ship, halfway up the mountain.
Flashback: The morning of the Oceanic 815 flight from Sydney, Walt is a rebellious brat who doesn’t acknowledge Michael as his real father and doesn’t want to leave Sydney. Sawyer, whose real name is James Ford, is arrested and deported for getting into a bar fight and headbutting a Member of Parliament. At Sydney airport, Jack has a drink with a sympathetic woman, Ana Lucia, who overheard him losing it with the check-in attendant. To prove the point to Boone that she can orchestrate chaos without moral constraint, Shannon reports “some Arab guy” – Sayyid – to the authorities for leaving his bag unattended. Federal Marshall Mars is checking in his suitcase full of guns and, to explain why he needs so many, goads Kate into attacking him. A ghastly American woman bemoans Sun’s apparent subservience to Jin, unaware that Sun can understand her every word.
Highlights: One: the column of black smoke is an alarming visual underscore of Rousseau’s scary story about the Others – but in retrospect it is also a strange but clever piece of foreshadowing for the big revelation in the episode to follow. There is a great expression on Locke’s face during Rousseau’s story, when he realises that she is not talking about what he thought she was talking about.
Two: there’s a sailing ship in the jungle up the side of a mountain! What the hell? I love the payoff for all the misdirectional mentions of the “Black Rock”, which is nothing like what we assumed it would be. It’s a classic Lost moment – an utterly incongruous revelation that underscores the sheer weirdness of the Island and emphasises that for all their effort to come to grips with their situation and take control of their fate, the crash survivors are in over their heads.
Aside from that, ‘Exodus Part 1’ is replete with outstanding emotional moments. When Sawyer tells Jack about his father’s final days; when Walt explains to Shannon that Vincent was a good listener who helped him through the grief of his mother’s death; when Jin finally admits that he’s been a stubborn jerk and that he still loves Sun; when Vincent leaps into the water chasing after the departing raft. These are all beautifully realised tear-jerking scenes, which are only effective because we have come to know the characters so well and we have an appreciation for what it costs them to reach out to someone else. Well okay, not Vincent – that was just sheer gratuitous emotional manipulation, but that can work well too.
Mira Furlan as Rousseau has had a few good scenes in her previous appearances, but here her conjuration of a potent combination of authoritative command and abject despair recalls her more stirring performances as Ambassador Delenn back on Babylon 5. (Watching her talking about her first weeks on the Island, it’s easy to imagine dubbing the “They are called the Shadows. We have no other name for them” speech over the scene). Once again she is deployed to deliver a payload of exposition, but she disguises it with an honest, raw emotion.
Themes: The episode is replete with goodbyes. Immediately prior to the raft’s launch, there is a dialogue-free scene in which the crew farewell those they are leaving behind. You know exactly how each character feels about the others. It’s achingly well performed and directed with perhaps at least one eye on the possibility that the show would not be renewed for another season. It hits almost exactly the same emotional notes as you’d expect of the finale of some long-running teen drama along the lines of a Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill. Considering there’s another episode yet to come, it’s a sly hook of the heartstrings before the imminent action-packed cliffhanger ending.
Getting back to the goodbyes, though, the episode does wrap up some relationship arc subplots in a way I didn’t notice the first time around. The attraction between Sun and Michael, which their individually distracting circumstances never permitted to become anything more significant, is drawn to a close here with an awkward hug, Sun having made the decision not to walk away from Jin. Walt and Michael have finally accepted each other as father and son. Jack gets some closure on his father, courtesy of Sawyer. And while Sawyer and Kate’s feisty romance hasn’t died out altogether, his searching look back from the raft assures us that it’s reached its nadir.
The flashbacks are all to the night before or the morning of the fateful Oceanic 815 flight, with about half of the cast getting a sendoff (Boone too). Nothing new is revealed in most of them, though we do learn that Sawyer has been deported not for murder but because he headbutted the Honourable Warren Truss in a Sydney bar! Would that we all had such opportunities – no wonder Lost gets labelled a fantasy. If you were confused about it, US Marshall Mars helpfully explains Kate’s backstory in chronological order – though he still makes no specific reference to the crime for which she was pursued. And we meet Ana Lucia, whose appearance in the bar with Jack seems to serve no purpose – which only serves to highlight its importance.
Just quickly, the Numbers make an ostentatious appearance – Rousseau’s crew were stranded 16 years ago (which we already knew, but it gets mentioned three times in this episode). Jack was sitting in seat 23A on the plane, and Ana Lucia was in 42F. Those Numbers really seem significant, don’t they?
Summary: For the first half of a two-part story, this story seems to spends very little time setting up the drama of the second half. Everyone is kicked into action with real economy: the Others are coming, so we need to hide, so we need dynamite; the monsoon is coming, so we need to get the raft into the water. Go! The rest of the episode is devoted to drawing the season to a close, clearing the decks of a few character arcs and plot threads, and putting a few new pieces on the board. And all without looking like the horrid clash of metaphors that comprised my last sentence.
‘Exodus Part 1’ is superb, though duplicitous. It’s much less the start of a short story than it is the conclusion of a much longer one, which is to say the entire season that has gone before. It doesn’t answer every question raised during the previous couple of dozen episodes – get used to that – but it does bring the whole show in for the softest of landings. If the show had been cancelled, ‘Exodus Part 1’ would have been a sweet, intriguing conclusion.
So where does that leave ‘Exodus Part 2’? Cue the Action Drums…