Crossing the Stream: Part 28 - "Lost in Space" Sn 1, Ep 9

Barbecue season is a potent example of American food culture. The grills and the accessories come out, the meat products are elaborate and fatty, and there's just something missing if there isn't a cold beer on hand. I love it. It's the simple folk's feast, the post-modern equivilent to a leg of mutton at a mideval festival. And it's a cross-cultural institution. My white collar, middle income caucasian father is a grillmeister. My blue collar Mexican immigrant in-laws throw one wicked cookout, and I'm here to tell you...carne asada and guacamole go great on top of a sirloin cheeseburger. I am writing from firsthand knowledge in that regard.

But since changing my ways, or at least practicing temperance with my previous ways, I've had to alter my three-decade outlook on what makes the barbecue the premiere culinary culture for the nex few months. Now, I'm shifting the idea toward the other delicacies: watermelon, ice cold iced tea, homegrown tomatoes, and if I'm getting particularly daring maybe even roasted corn on the cob. The meat is still there, but with less pressure to use it as a centerpiece of a meal.

And with the turn of the weather also comes, finally at last, more oppurtunities to burn off all those lovely fat calories. We went for a family walk through the historic downtown area the other night, and I've never had a better methodof falling asleep. I slept like a dead moose, and walked into the gym today another pound or two lighter. By the end of this week, I'm hoping to hit my first target, 30 pounds down from starting weight. I'm starting to get the hang of this idea that exercise doesn't necessarily need to be grueling, but it has to be regular. Much like writing projects.

Speaking of which, I think I have the next show picked for this series, and it's going to be a little...strange, in a good way.

"Lost in Space" Season 1, Episode 9 - "Resurrection"

Okay, we both call it "green," but how do you know if we're both seeing the same color? Maybe my green is your red!

Though I made the doofy mistake that "Trajectory" was the final episode of this season, I have to could have been. Like every Netflix series--and I do mean every one that I've seen to date--this pulpy sci-fi romp has a fair share of padding within the back half of episodes. This penultimate entry even starts manufacturing new plot threads as if we were short on things developing after the Jupiter 2 exploded in Planet X's atmosphere and Maureen Robinson is kidnapped.

A flashback that pre-establishes an emergency communication code between Will and John opens the episode and seems...sloppy. It also gives the audience a heads-up that John will more than likely be "resurrected" before the end of the episode. It's a Chekov's Radio, almost instantly. But at least it also acts as escalation when it goes off in the alien pteradon-bat cave. And...I just typed that sentence, now. It does serve another purpose when Victor, of all people, tries to take the youngest Robinson under his wing for a minute. Possibly the first genuine attempt at human connection from the man is a good piece of acting from Raza Jaffrey, who plays Victor Dhar as a man who tries doing what is right with mixed success and might be alarmed at how unnatural empathy sounds coming out of his own mouth.

In the wake of John's death, Will is bargaining, trying to find viable explanations for how John could have survived. Judy is avoiding the pain, albeit because she is more concerned with finding Maureen before another family member is lost. Penny, ever the middle child, is trying like hell to hold it together for the good of everyone else. I was glad to see her continue to torment Vijay playfully, if anything just to keep some form of light situational comedy alive on the show, now that Don West is missing in action.

First on the new plot additions is the sudden introduction of the apex predator alien creatures. It would have felt less conspicuous had there been any build-up or hint at it earlier in the series. Instead, it comes off like the "monster of the week" motif has been appropriated for plot cleanup purposes. But, I will admit that I got my fix of sharp CGI creature design, and I have to admit that I had forgotten all about unfortunate, manipulated Angela. Her attempt to square things with the Robinsons in the caves has enriched her arc and answered some questions that eagle-eyed viewers likely remembered, even if I was sufficiently distracted away from them.

Similarly, the much larger overarching mystery of "Lost in Space" that has stayed quietly in the background until now, the origin of the alien Robot and his motives for attacking the Resolute, are reintroduced in skillful ways via Maureen and Smith's investigation of the alien craft, and less skillful ways with some late-in-the-game flashbacks that explain quite a bit too much. Don't get me wrong, I like this development that ties the Robot, the attack, and the falling space object that has ruined Earth's habitability together into a steady line of cause and effect. I just feel it wastes the whole thing when a flashback tells the audience what is going on and then we are forced to watch the characters catch up. It's like someone telling a story that ends with "Oh, but in order to get why that's interesting, you need to know that the guy is Hungarian." And if Dr. Smith had some kind of valuable information about the Resolute like that, I just don't buy that she wouldn't even consider using it as a bargaining chip earlier, like when she was imprisoned on the Jupiter 2, for instance.

At long last, Dr. Smith's full plan is revealed, and for all her careful, minute alterations to the facts and subtle pushes in the wrong directions for those around her, the plan is pretty middling. Fix Robot, somehow replicate Will's bond with the automaton, and then have it pilot the downed alien ship and leave Planet X. So many possibly fatal assumptions swirl around this, one wonders what happened to the cunning lady who, merely seven episodes ago, spoke very lucidly about survival instinct. This whole time, it hasn't been a daring play for her own salvation, it's been a desperate flail for any outcome that doesn't include imprisonment and being shipped back to dying Earth. When Robot's own resurrection seems to stem solely from him coming into contact with his ship, that also feels maddeningly simple, though I won't argue with the visceral "uh-oh" that ends the episode, with several meanings underlining the line "Danger, Dr. Smith."

Random Notes:

-As of this afternoon, Netflix has confirmed "Lost in Space" for a Season 2! Yay!

-Smith's "we're not so different" speech to Maureen is pretty weak sauce, based solely on the premise that they both wanted a fresh start on Alpha Centauri. and literally everyone else on Earth, so...

-The stolen alien technology plot easily would become the equivilent to "Firefly" villains the Hands of Blue if "Lost in Space" didn't get renewed. The decision to start up this series-spanning plot thread in the last two episodes is an unsafe one, even if the show is a Netflix original.

-Will's slow motion, melodramatic fit in his room aboard the Jupiter 2 is shot with a cinematic gravity that it just can't help but fall short of. I know this served a purpose, as it leads to his discovery of the petrified alien feces that can become fuel for the surviving ships. But visually it's a jarring moment that offsets Maxwell Jenkins' performance and loses its tone immediately when we find out about the super-poop.

Rating: C+


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