Artist depiction of the Lost island, with a beach and ocean in the foreground. Image from ABC.In Season 2 of Lost, the showrunners  hit both the zenith and nadir of characterization, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) and Ana Lucia Cortez (Michelle Rodriguez.) They succumbed to the Epic Fail technique of “fridging.” Pop-star character Charlie wrestled with addiction, as Locke did with faith. And as in Season One, lots of people run through the jungle. With Season 2, the show added the dramatic innovation, “running and falling down in the jungle.”

Starting in September, 2005, Season 2 led us through 24 episodes. Storylines include:

the Hatch

the Tail Section Survivors

Walt’s abduction

The Others

Courtesy of Lostpedia, here is the cast list for Season 2.

At the end of Season 1, the Others had abducted Walt, shot Sawyer, and burned the raft. On the island, the castaways blew open the hatch.

When Season 2 opens, Shannon has a visitation from Walt, who is speaking strangely and seems to be warning her. A little later, flotsam from the raft washes up, alerting the other main characters that the raft is in trouble. The hatch has been opened, revealing a subterranean outpost, leading to the famous enter-the-numbers-and-every-108-minutes storyline, with its abracadabra component, “electromagnetic energy!” later called “exotic energy” by the Dharma Initiative. Charlie, still detoxing from heroin, is stalked by statues of the Virgin Mary filled with the drug. No, really, that’s a thing. Claire begins to recollect what happened to her when she was abducted, paving the way for the “Others” storyline in Season 3.

I considered sub-heading this column “Down the Hatch,” but as fun as the hatch is, I’m more interested in the books that show up in Season 2, and the way the show uses books throughout.  Part of the pleasure of Lost when it originally aired was checking in with fellow watchers about what you thought the hints and clues meant. Books were one of the best, used as Easter eggs and misdirection.

In Season 1 we see Sawyer reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, and later Madeline L’Engle’s  A Wrinkle in Time. In Season 2, three books chime in to add clues and confusion: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce; Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoevsky, and The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, a pseudonym for Brien O’Nolan. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge may be out of style now. The story follows the escape of a man being hanged during the American Civil War, with a final shocking revelation. (Spoiler alert! He never escaped!) Hint or red herring? I’m leaning toward the herring.

Two books get frequent mention: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (usually evoked in response to bad or violent behavior).

Another book is never named, but it’s impossible to watch the season without making the connection once a character named “Henry Gale” is introduced, and that is Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.

Crime and Punishment—well, the title speaks for itself. Half of the title may refer to various castaways—that would be the “crime” part. This is the book Henry Gale uses to sow discord between Locke and Jack with a story about how Hemingway was always secondary to the Russian writer. Locke (correctly) identifies himself as Hemingway in that scenario.

The Third Policeman is actually the best “symbolic” book for Lost, for a couple of reasons–secret rooms, other dimensions, people who aren’t what they seem, betrayal, lies and death… and also because the author never found a publisher in his lifetime and claimed he “lost” the manuscript, but it was published after his death. Basically, it’s hard to take anything about The Third Policeman at face value, and that is certainly true for Lost as well.

Now, onward with plot things.

Jin, Michael and a wounded Sawyer are captured and imprisoned by people on the island. Our guys think this group is the Others. They seem to be led by a menacing, shirtless Black man with a big club, but it emerges that their true leader is a brutal woman named Ana Lucia. The menacing Black guy is Mr. Eko. From the vantage point of 2024, seeing the first appearance of Eko—shirtless, speechless, and carrying a big club—is cringey. I suppose in 2005 this was designed as an important lesson in judging from first impressions. Maybe I’m overthinking it, and this was a nod to a certain segment of the viewership, the we-like-shirtless-men crowd, since Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has amazing arms.

The “tailies” include Ana Lucia, Eko, Libby, Cindy and Bernard. Spoiler alert: Don’t get attached.

Soon we find out that Ana Lucia thinks Jin, Michael and Sawyer are the Others, and that her people are the survivors of the tail section of Oceanic 815. Eventually, everyone decides to hike back to the beach camp. Along the way, we see creepy evidence of the Others, who abducted 12 people including two children from the tail section survivors.

When the beach camp survivors open the door to the hatch, they discover a wild man, Desmond. Desmond, a victim of sleep deprivation (never mentioned in the show, but seriously, how could he not be?) tells them that the Lost numbers must in entered into a 1970s computer every 108 minutes, or the world will end. When the computer is damaged, Desmond flees into the jungle, sure the end is near, but Sayid fixes the device and they start the process.

One theme in Season 2, spelled out in so many words, is “science versus faith,” as if those two have to be in opposition. Locke, the island’s mystic warrior, sees himself as a man of faith, while Jack is a man of science. The “press enter” act becomes a source of faith to Locke, and later the “tailie” character Eko. For a brief time, Jack and Locke co-lead, but this equilibrium won’t last long.

The hatch has electricity, music, a pantry filled with food, which miraculously restocks… and (to quote The Matrix) guns, lots of guns. The growing distrust between Locke and Jack lets Sawyer pull a con on them, getting the guns for himself. Is it weird that I feel better when the guns are in the hands of Sawyer, a criminal and a killer?

With Season 2, the showrunners employ the “fridging” plot device, a term coined by writer Gail Simone in 1999 to describe the death/rape/torture etc. of a woman character as a plot device for a story anchored by a male character. This happens first as the tail-section survivors approach the castaways’ beach camp. Shannon sees Walt again, and persuades Sayid to follow him with her, leading them straight into the tail-section survivors. In the pouring rain, a jumpy Ana Lucia fatally shoots Shannon. This clearly has two purposes—cull another storyless survivor, and make Sayid feel bad. Relatively little time had been spent on the Sayid/Shannon romance. Sayid, who has spent seven years looking for his true love Nadia, blurts out to Shannon that he loves her and will never leave her only minutes before she’s killed.

In the aftermath, several of the “tailies” follow Jin into the camp, leading to a tender reunion between Rose and Bernard—which the audience deserved.

At the hatch, Michael is contacted by Walt via the computer, and takes off to find him. Jack, Locke and Sawyer follow, with Jack planning to bring Michael back, but they have a frightening encounter with the Others instead. One Other, “Tom” says, “Walt is a very special boy.” Michael returns to the hatch later.

Ana Lucia was one of the show’s worst characters, and a short-lived one. The lore of the show is that she was unpopular with fans, but Rodriguez’s bad behavior off-set, including a short jail sentence for a DUI, didn’t help. She’s more plot device than character. A cop, Ana Lucia coldly hunts down and murders a suspect who shot her and caused her to miscarry. Maybe there was some thought of drawing parallels between Sayid and Ana Lucia—both characters steeped in violence—but she isn’t around long enough to have a storyline.

Season 2 does, however, introduce one of  the show’s best, trickiest, and most compelling characters, who calls himself Henry Gale.

Rousseau, the reclusive French woman in the jungle, contacts Sayid to say she has captured an Other. She delivers Henry Gale wrapped up in one of her trap nets. Dragged back to the hatch, Gale says he and his wife were trying to take a hot-air balloon across the Pacific Ocean and crashed on the island during a storm. Gale is a frail, unimpressive man, obviously terrified, further devastated, he says, by the death of his wife shortly after the crash. Jack is inclined to believe him; Sayid is not and resorts, again, to physical torture. Sayid’s soul-searching and shame of Season 1 is gone, maybe because he feels bad about dead Shannon.

Gale does not change his story. Sayid and Ana Lucia, with whom he is  reconciled, journey to the place Gale says his balloon crashed. They find a balloon, a grave—and proof Gale is lying.

Gale reveals nothing. He manages to shake Locke’s faith and sense of purpose about the hatch and the numbers. By now we are definitely paying attention to “the man behind the curtain.”

Michael returns, saying he escaped from the Others, and he’s seen their camp. He wants to take a team to rescue Walt. When Ana Lucia is watching Gale by herself, Michael kills her, then kills Libby, who had just come into the hatch. He frees Henry Gale and wounds himself. Michael has made a hellish bargain with the Others to get his son back and will betray several of the castaways as the season ends. His betrayal plants the seeds for three tropes that appear throughout the show; death as redemption, death as heroic sacrifice, and life as redemption.

Libby is the second woman to be “fridged” in Season 2. Her character strikes up a friendship with Hurley that becomes something more, and she is killed just minutes before their first date. Sound familiar? I’ll let Lindelof and Cuse speak for themselves on the reason for this. While Ana Lucia’s death corrects a bad hiring decision, Shannon’s and Libby’s only serve to make men feel bad.  I think it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, one the showrunners were starting to acknowledge; what were they going to do with all their “survivors?”

In the long stretch of Season 2 we get different versions of faith through the actions of Locke, Eko and Charlie, who struggles with increasing anxiety over the safety of Claire’s baby, Aaron; we find out more about the 1970s research group the Dharma Initiative, their multiplicity of 1970s-era “experimental” programs and their various stations on the island. Eko confronts the smoke monster, and it backs away from him. We watch Henry Gale introduce himself as Ben Linus, leader of the Others, and tell Michael the Others are “the good guys.”

Desmond, who ran off into the jungle, returns, bringing a hangover, his boat and a desperate solution to a crisis at the hatch.

Season 2 ends with Jack, Kate and Sawyer as prisoners of the Others; the Hatch imploded under a strange violet sky, and Michael, with Walt, leaving the island. One of the Others says of Walt, “We hate to let him go, but he gave us so much it’s only fair.” So much what? Attitude? Blood? DNA? Information? Walt, who can bilocate among other things, appears once or twice later in the show, but his gifts are never explained. Remember that line, “He’s a very special boy?” Yeah. Me, too.

The very end of the season hints that Penny, the woman Desmond loves, has been searching for Desmond, and the hatch implosion has pinged her radar, literally.

I was unsatisfied, but three of “our” guys are in the hands of the murderous, lying Others, and I wasn’t ready to walk away yet.

(One commenter will get a paperback copy of Spin a Black Yarn by Josh Malerman.)



  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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