We’ve been hearing since Comic-Con that the final season of “Lost” will feature some faces not seen on the show for some time. So, naturally, it’s fun to speculate on who might return to the show in some capacity next year. Claire? Most definitely. Charlie? Darn good chance. Frogurt? If there’s a God in heaven.
Naturally, some actors are already preemptively lobbying for a return to the show. And one in particular surprised the heck out of me late last week:
In the same interview, he tells EW: “I loved playing that character…I loved working with that team and the reception I got from people was phenomenal. Even at Comic-Con this year I went to sign my action figure for G.I. Joe and people had tons of questions about Lost. It makes you feel good that you could be off a show for more than a year and still have people thinking about your character. It was a great part.”
Yup, it sure was a great part, Adewale. And people still definitely talk about your character, myself included. And now you want back on the show?
Thanks, but no thanks.
Might sound harsh, but that was initial reaction to reading that article and it really hasn’t changed much in the interim. Did I love Mr. Eko as a character? You betcha. He was the highlight of Season 2, a quiet, menacing, inscrutable character that may have received the best series of flashbacks of any episode to date in “The 23rd Psalm“. When he died, I felt shocked and angry. So why don’t I want him back?
Because Eko’s death damn nearly killed “Lost” as a show. Go back and watch the first half of Season 3. When “Lost” has suffered narratively over the years, it’s usually due to one of three factors
- Inability to predict an end-date
- Actor forces their hand and leaves the show prematurely
- An outside imposition on their airing schedule
Eko’s departure from the show was the perfect storm to smack the show’s story off its hinges and get slammed, not unlike Eko himself, from tree to shining tree. At the outset of Season 3, the producers were growing incredibly frustrated at the inability to pace their story in a manageable fashion. They then learned that one of their major actors wished to leave the show in order to pursue a passion project in the wake of deaths in his family. And third, they agreed to air the season in a block of six Fall episodes before running continuously come the Spring season.
So, after the great heights of “Live Together, Die Alone,” fans watched in relative horror as we dealt with the slow-moving events on Hydra Island, the inexplicable death of Eko, a seemingly interminable wait after the lackluster block, and the horror show that was the Nikki/Paulo/Achara triptych. Even casual fans sensed that it made little to no sense that Eko should barely survive the aftermath of the Swan implosion only to die immediately afterwards at the hands of the Smoke Monster. It reeked of all things usually not associated with “Lost”: sloppy logic, poor planning, and an inorganic, unsatisfactory end in a show that normally excelled in making deaths on the Island powerful, not perplexing.
“But Ryan,” you say, “It’s not fair to criticize a man that by all accounts asked off the show due to familial concerns. Actors leave shows all the time prematurely for much lesser reasons. If he wants back now, why shouldn’t the show welcome the return of a fan favorite?” I would say this isn’t anything personal against Adewale; I don’t know the man, and I’d say there’s an extremely unlikely chance that will ever change. And yes, actors leave in well-publicized huffs and/or puffs all the time. But the unique nature of “Lost” also means that this situation was unique as well.
In a show as carefully plotted as “Lost,” losing an actor of Adewale’s skill is less vital than losing a character of Eko’s importance. And that’s where my dismissive nature towards his would-be comeback derives: the dude badly injured my favorite part of the show: its story. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the character work and production design. But what separates “Lost” from any other show in my lifetime is the massively huge, ridiculously complex, and overall unified narrative that props the whole show up. It thrills me to no end. And when someone messes with that, things get messy fast.
It’s one thing to accept that while “Lost” has its major signposts set in stone, it’s got wiggle room in how to get there. That construction implies that while the bigger picture is in place, there’s the option to let a series of organic developments color in the minor details. Such a supple arrangement doesn’t always yield winning choices, but it allows the show to be flexible about allowing the story to develop. Where the show usually gets tripped up are when the choices become unexpectedly finite. (Think the hurried nature of post-strike Season 4 eps.) Losing Eko meant they could still get from Point A to Point B, but Point B in between Seasons 2 and 3 was already damn hard to identify. They had to MacGyver their way to Point B or end up like MacGruber.
By the mid-point of Season 3, the producers of “Lost” miraculously righted a narrative ship that seemed destined to make the Black Rock look like a happy voyage. They got their end date, which allowed them to drop the infamous twist in “Through the Looking Glass” just a few months later. The post-“Stranger in a Strange Land” episodes through “Looking Glass” are my favorite run of eps in the show’s history. Even with “Expose” in that mix (an episode I still loathe), it’s an astounding streak. The show not only survived but excelled in the aftermath of something that would have utterly derailed and destroyed another show.
But none of this was certain in the wake of Adewale’s departure. If the producers hadn’t forced ABC to take the unprecedented step of sending an end-date, the fall-out from Eko’s death could have sent the show off the air by season’s end. How could the show seriously claim to know where it was going, if beloved characters were clearly dying before their time? As such, I’m fine with leaving Eko where last we saw him: invisible, losing a game of chess to Hurley in Santa Rosa. The show’s already let us know that the characters feel his presence; it’s not necessary that the audience actually see said presence in Season 6.
What do you think? Do you want Eko back in Season 6, or should “The Cost of Living” remain the end of his character’s time on the show?
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