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The Moth

January 24, 2010

On my first and probably second viewing of S1, this was in my top two or three episodes of the first season. Not that it’s necessarily dropped that far, but it didn’t dawn on me until this viewing how contrived the cave-in was. It’s like before this, there was always an “issue of the week” (water being stolen, running out of food, etc), but here’s where the series ramps up to a “disaster of the week” or “mystery of the week” (who hit Sayid? And later, as an example, will Sawyer give up the inhaler so Shannon can breathe again?). I understand this from the perspective of trying to keep the audience engaged, but sometimes, these problems or situations just come across as forced or contrived in order to put certain characters in certain situations.

That being said, this episode continues a string of good to great flashbacks. And it again makes me very grateful that the flashback formula was discontinued eventually, as we eventually were witness to possibly the low point of the series (perhaps barring Nikki and Paulo’s introduction), full-grown Charlie in diapers.

Again, though, this is pretty much a filler episode. Not a lot really happens, and aside from Charlie, there’s really not too much character growth. One of the harshest moments emotionally (until Alex’s death, which continually rips me to shreds) in the series occurs in this episode when Liam tells Charlie that aside from being a bass player who nobody really knows, he’s useless. This of course ties in decently smoothly to the on-island material.

There are a few other small character moments that shine in this episode. One of which is Jin confronting Sun about wearing the skimpy blouse, and Sun’s refusal to change. And this again is what LOST does so unbelievably well, which is to take small seemingly throwaway moments and pack them with meaning. In this case, Sun is no longer submitting to Jin. It’s a tangible shift in the power of their relationship, due to both his being handcuffed in the last episode (being emasculated to a certain extent) and to Sun’s ability to speak English. She had been reticent to speak English prior to her centric episode right before this one, and the resentment she had had in the prior episode of not being able to speak to the other survivors for fear of her husband pays off in this one as she’s aware that she has more power in the relationship than he does, and no longer needs to submit to his every request (or demand, as it were). And by power, I really do not mean a conscious power struggle necessarily. It seems to be more like an ever-increasing freedom.

The other small character scene that finds some progress is Michael’s leading of the rescue attempt. There is a very short shot of Walt during this, and again, it is wordlessly conveyed by the look on his face that he has gained a new-found respect for his father.

A few other comments on the episode…this episode also contains one of my top ten scenes of the series. It’s the one where Locke explains to Charlie about the moth and struggle. After this scene, Charlie makes the decision to push himself to not wallow in self-pity and addiction. This results in his rescue of Jack, and of course results in his throwing the rest of his heroin into the fire later in the episode. The thing I love about the scene is the metaphor, and that it comes from Locke, who continues to show more and more wisdom.

There are also a few references to some of the main themes underlying LOST in this episode as well. Jack (no surprise) tells Kate he does not share her faith in an eventual rescue, and in Kate’s conversation with Sayid later while walking through the jungle, a reference (possibly the first on island) is made to fate vs coincidence or luck. And later, a conversation along similar lines happens between Locke and Charlie where the concept of choice (which can be interpreted as free will) is mentioned. This seems to be the major theme of the episode, as it’s also mentioned in Charlie’s flashback in confessional. Funny that Locke is eventually established as “man of faith” who chooses to believe in destiny or fate more than free will. And of course, Charlie’s cloths on his knuckles began with the word F A T E written on them.

And finally, it did not dawn on me until this viewing that this episode contains the first of many Star Wars references when Charlie enters the cave-in and says, “I’m here to rescue you!” to Jack with the same goofy optimism that Luke had when rescuing Princess Leia.

Island mythology: 0 out of 10. I’m not sure if this is going to be the only episode that I feel the need to score as a zero in this category, but there is nothing whatsoever in this episode dealing with the island’s mysteries besides the subplot to triangulate the distress call. I had contemplated scoring this as a 1, due to referencing themes like fate vs free will, etc, that tie into this category, but instead have decided to make that a category of its own from this point on, as this is one of the major concepts of the show.

Philosophical concepts/themes: 6.75 out of 10. This episode was not heavy into the main underlying themes of LOST, but as enumerated above, some of these did come up a few times.

Character development: 8.25 out of 10. Charlie’s growth, aided by Locke, was believable and didn’t seem forced, and the small moments with Sun and Walt contributed to this filler episode that was heavy in character growth.

Importance of episode to series: 2.75 out of 10. With the further referencing of some philosophical themes that run through the series, Locke’s continued growth as a man of wisdom, and Charlie’s acceptance of choice or free will (which is later negated by Desmond’s premonitions), this episode had a few important factors, but not enough to make it important in the long run.

Personal enjoyment of episode: 8.25 out of 10. As I wrote at the beginning, on the first few viewings of Season 1, this was among my favorite episodes. This current viewing has tempered my enthusiasm to a small extent, due to the convenient “disaster of the week,” but the scene with Locke, Charlie and the cocoon remains indelible.

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