Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Land of the Lost: Season Three (Part One: After-Shock)

Judging just from how much I ended up saying about the first episode, we're going to have to divide Season Three into smaller chunks than just two posts. So just Episode 1 today. If you need to catch up on previous seasons before we get started, here are the links:

Season One: Part One, Two, and Three.
Season Two: Part One and Two.

Episode 1: “After-Shock”

The season opens with Will and Holly’s exiting a pylon. Just inside, we can see Rick’s back as he works. Will’s got a new shirt for the season, as usual, but that’s not the only thing immediately different from the previous seasons. The kids are growing up.

Will’s hair is shorter and he looks more like a young man than a teenaged boy. Holly’s also maturing; she’s taller and her face has more definition. That’s normally not worth mentioning in a show with child actors – of course they’re going to grow up – but it is with this show because the only timeline that makes any sense has them escaping the Land of the Lost while looking younger than this. Intentional or not, it’s our first hint that this is an alternate reality from the one in the first two seasons.

As Will and Holly take a break, they wonder whether “that new pylon” is going to help them get out of the Land of the Lost. Since the pylons were presumably all mapped in Season Two, the existence of a new one is another clue that this isn’t the same reality we’re used to.

Yet more clues and a Bold New Direction, after the break.

Right about then, an earthquake hits. It’s giving the writers a lot of credit, but could this be a reminder of the quake from “Split Personality,” the episode that introduced the concept of alternate realities to the show? That would be cool. Regardless, the quake opens a time portal in the pylon and Rick – we only see him from the back since it’s not actually Spencer Milligan playing him – goes tumbling through. The quake also destroys the matrix table that controls the portal, preventing Will and Holly from following him. Will and Holly assume that their dad’s made it back to their proper time, but that’s never proven.

The earthquake is massive. It destroys the Marshalls’ cliff cave, opens huge cracks in the earth, and threatens to cave in the Sleestaks’ homes in the Lost City. There’s some nice acting by Kathy Coleman as Holly mourns the loss of her dad. Wesley Eure is less comfortable with emotions, but his role is more complicated, having to simultaneously grieve and be strong for his sister.

As the kids explore the damage, they meet Cha-Ka and we get another clue that this is a new reality. Cha-Ka looks different this season. His costume appears to have been simplified and the result is that he now has a cool mane. More important than that though, he speaks English. It’s a sort of Johnny-Weissmuller-as-Tarzan English, but there’s no more pantomiming or awkward repeating of Pakuni phrases in English and vice versa so that the audience can understand him. For Cha-Ka alone, I’m already excited about the new reality.

Ta and Sa aren’t mentioned by name (maybe they don’t exist in this reality?), but Cha-Ka explains that the other pakuni ran off during the earthquake and that he was left behind when he got hurt. He seems to think that the others have left the Land of the Lost, but everything we know about it says that it’s not that easy. If we don’t see them again this season, my guess is that they were killed and swallowed up by the quake.

As the kids are talking to Cha-Ka, another new element pops up in the nearby swamp: a two-headed, dinosaur-like monster. Will and Holly speculate that the earthquake may have stirred it up – that perhaps it’s been there all along – so this isn’t really more evidence of an alternate reality, but it’s worth pointing out. Especially since it reappears in future episodes. Fortunately it doesn’t see very well above water and they escape. Holly nicknames it Lulu. “One ‘Lu’ for each head.”

Since their cliff cave has been destroyed, the trio starts looking for another place to live. But their search is interrupted when Holly sees something fall from the sky and land near the lagoon. Thinking that it might be Rick returned to save them, they investigate and find a raft like the one they arrived in. But it’s not Rick whose unconscious body they find nearby, it’s their Uncle Jack.

When they revive him, he explains that he’s been trying to find them for six months. Since he knew the route they’d taken, he’d been following it and searching for them. The recent earthquake in the Land of the Lost had also been felt in the real world, creating a second “greatest earthquake ever known” and repeating the circumstances that had transported Rick, Will, and Holly.

I miss Spencer Milligan’s Rick. Though I’ve read comments that he always acted like he was slumming by being on the show, I never saw that and liked his relationships with the kids. He was a strong, confident dad who inspired confidence in his children as well and helped them learn to survive. If Uncle Jack hadn’t come along, I have no doubt that Will and Holly could’ve made it on their own.

But I also like Uncle Jack. He’s better looking than Rick – more rugged – and also more adventurous. Rick was always looking out for his kids first and trying to keep them safe, as he should have been. Like any uncle, Jack allows Will and Holly to take more risks (especially considering that they’re the experts on surviving the Land of the Lost) and that gives Season Three a different feel. I’m not far into it as I write this, but it feels less like a mystery about uncovering the secrets of a strange land and more like an adventure tale in a place where anything can happen. After two seasons of mystery, I’m willing to let things become more fun. I hope that the Marshalls will continue to learn about the Land of the Lost, but I’m okay with that not being the focus anymore.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Once they’ve gotten Jack on his feet, Holly wonders if the Lost City might make a good place to live. Will offers the alternate suggestion of the old temple right next to it. So much for what I read about the temple’s not coming up again. It's true though that the version in this reality is very different from the one in Season Two’s “The Test” and “The Musician.” It looks completely different and Will tells Jack that they’ve tried to open it before, but that the door is jammed. There’s no mention of the Builder or any of the other events from “The Musician.”

So we have two options. 1) This is a completely different temple that also just happens to be right near the Lost City and is only now being mentioned for the first time. 2) It’s an alternate reality version of the same temple. You know what my choice is.

Another bit of evidence that this is a new reality: Will and Jack spot Big Alice, but there’s no sight or mention of her son Junior.

At the temple, Jack discovers that the jammed door has been shaken loose by the earthquake, so he and Will go inside. (Holly and Cha-Ka are gathering water and food and are due at the temple later). There’s a nice moment when Jack notices the time and observes that the sun should be going down soon. “The sun does go down around here, doesn’t it?” Will chuckles and answers, “Most of the time.” I like it because it reminds us that things aren’t completely different in this reality. We don’t know that Will’s thinking of the exact events of the second season episode “The Longest Day,” but obviously something similar happened in his reality.

Will and Jack repair the temple door and build a fire while they’re waiting for Holly and Cha-Ka to show up. The pair does shortly after dark; chased by Sleestaks. Will and Jack fight the lizard-men off while Holly and Cha-Ka run into the temple, but the Sleestak leader commands the Marshalls to abandon their new home. After the earthquake, the Sleestaks are afraid to live below ground and want the temple for themselves.

The Sleestak leader’s ability to talk is yet another difference between this reality and the original. We’ve heard him talk before, but only in the Library of Skulls were it was made clear that the mystical smoke there could allow humans to hear his thoughts. In Season Three, he can communicate as easily and clearly as Enik, though he’s not as smart as the Altrusian.

Since the Marshalls refuse to give up their new home, there’s a battle. The Marshalls manage to drive back the Sleestaks though and their newly functioning door will ensure that the Sleestaks can’t sneak in to take over when they’re asleep. It’s a dangerous place to live, but as Will observes, it’ll be “home sweet home” for a while.

One final thing I noticed in the closing credits. For those who like to compare this show to Lost: the Sleestak Leader is played by a man named Jon Locke.


Wings1295 said...

I have to say you came at Season Three from a much kinder perspective than I had. An alternate reality is a much better explanation than the writers/producers just chucking the work done before with the Land and the language of the Pakuni.

Much easier to watch it thinking that way!

Michael May said...

I'm sure it helps that I want to like the show, but I generally enjoy filling in writing gaps where I can anyway. :)


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