///We noticed that someone at AV Club was rewatching Lost and posted some reviews about the show. We’re going to post here all the parts about Juliet and Elizabeth.///
The third season opened on Juliet, in a scene we first presumed was a flashback introducing her character, but was revealed to be a different perspective on the plane crash that started it all. It set up the third season as the season where we’d finally learn who the Others were, and how exactly they fit within the island’s ecosystem.
“Not in Portland” opens on Juliet, in a scene we first presume—both through Juliet’s initial appearance on a beach, and through Ethan’s appearance in a hallway—to be on the island, but is subsequently revealed to be her first proper flashback. On the one hand, it continues the season’s resistance to returning to the settlement it started with, obscuring that particular piece of the Others’ history. However, on the other hand, it signals the show committing to the tentative fleshing out of the Others as real characters that began in the first six episodes, but which the show held from the audience in favor of mystery and obfuscation.
It works wonders. “Not In Portland” is just as isolated as “A Tale Of Two Cities,” ignoring everything happening back on the other island, but Juliet’s increased agency dramatically expands its dramatic potential. Kate and Sawyer’s escape gives us more unfettered access to the Hydra Station, true, but it’s Juliet through whom we come to better understand the Others as human beings. While the show’s primary interest to date has been picking away at little hints, like the subliminal messages sensory bombardment video with its mention of Jacob, with Juliet we have an actual human being whose past, present, and future is tied to what has thus far been another one of the island’s mysteries. The first six episodes couldn’t allow that transformation to happen because it was tied—and hampered by—the limited perspective of other characters. From the moment Juliet interrupts Jack’s heroic moment and points out his plan won’t work, we’re finally getting the tale of the second city, and it breathes new life into the flashback format and kicks off the season’s larger narrative arc.
The flashback itself benefits from novelty, no doubt: it has been ten episodes since the show featured a first flashback (Rose and Bernard), and the flashbacks since then have struggled to find new angles on existing characters. Juliet is all new angles, and although her story is hampered by some muddled logic by which her ex-husband is impeding her research, the story quickly becomes a testament to the Others’ commitment to scientific progress. They identify Juliet’s research into infertility—including doing a test on her sister, who is suffering from cancer—as valuable to them in some way, and through either divine or forced intervention, her ex-husband is moved out of the picture to free her up to travel to somewhere that is decidedly not Portland, where Mr. Alpert originally implied Mittelos Bioscience was based.
The story is still undoubtedly tied to the Others’ sense of mystery, given the foreshadowing of the bus in Juliet’s earlier comments—did they purposefully use the bus? Did some higher power will this to happen? Is this the island operating off the island? But amidst those questions is a person, who had a life, and who was pulled away from that life with the goal of doing something important, and who finds herself a prisoner there was much as Jack is. While Jack might have crashed on this island, and landed in the Others’ hands through a complicated set of moves and countermoves, Juliet was brought there under her free will, but has remained there because whatever she was brought there to do was too valuable to allow her to leave. And as much as she may have internalized the Others’ goals and been willing to follow orders—which she emphasized to Jack as she prepared for the surgery in “I Do”—she also murders Danny and agrees to let Ben live when given a promise that she will return home if Kate and Sawyer are able to escape.
The flashback structure of Lost works because it gives meaning to characters’ actions, which has to this point been antithetical to the Others, whose actions have been purposefully meaningless from our perspective. While Juliet’s disconnect from the history of the Others makes her less than the skeleton key some might be hoping for, it simultaneously makes clear that the rest of the Others could have their own stories. I love, for instance, the brief moment in the observation area where Tom formally introduces himself to Jack. You sense that it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Tom where he’s not operating in an official capacity, escorting someone here or putting on a show or orchestrating some sort of con. He’s just sitting there, much as Jack is, waiting to see what comes of Ben’s conversation with Juliet.
We get other moments like this in the episode, whether it’s confirming that Ben is Alex’s “father,” or seeing Alex be made a prisoner in her own right as Juliet reminds her Karl can only live if she stays. Those details create a dimensionality to this so-called threat that the show desperately needs, and anchoring it on Elizabeth Mitchell is one of the smartest choices the show made this season. Mitchell does a particularly nice job of creating a clear difference between the calculated, practiced mannerisms that define Juliet on the island as compared to the person she was before. She has traded the sublimating power of one man for another, but she is not passive in the way she was before—her video to Jack confirmed as much, and that she would kill to get home only reinforces that.
The end of the episode works to make this a pivotal moment for the three castaways as well: although Jack didn’t make him part of his original deal, Sawyer escapes anyway, but it’s Kate and Jack who share the climactic moment as they separate for good. The callback to their first meeting plays into their emotional connection, certainly, but the ceremony feels more about the series as a whole. For the first time since Sayid sought solitude, a character is entirely on his or her own, with Jack forcing Kate to violate the “Live together, die alone” ethos that he himself instilled in her. However, while true if we accept the previous view of the Others, “Not In Portland” works to ensure this isn’t true from a narrative perspective: with Juliet being fleshed out, Jack isn’t alone, and those final moments promise positive growth on both islands as Lost pushes off and launches into the season proper.