Lost in Space (2018) s02e09 – Shell Game

This episode may be the perfect example of “Lost in Space: Season Two.” It’s got a bunch of problems, and they’re all ginned up and exacerbated by the main cast. Mostly Toby Stephens and Molly Parker because they’re the parents. But this device—ignore an obvious problem and then act surprised when it becomes a dire situation—kind of sums up season two’s storytelling. When JJ Feild and Douglas Hodge joined the supporting cast as the eventual villains, “Space” had a chance to go somewhere.

Instead, it keeps creating problems to delay any movement. If these were actual problems—which might have been what made the metal termite episode so good—it’d be one thing. But this episode’s all about how Parker Posey teams up with Hodge after Stephens pisses her off by dismissing her. Posey and Stephens were temporary pals—Stephens gave speeches about how he learned as a Navy Seal to lead people, but then it turned out he was full of shit as far as reading his comrades. Sure, Posey had the sads because she saw Nevis Unipan, the daughter of the guy she killed, but Stephens doesn’t know she’s a second-degree murderer; he just saw her in distress and ignored it. It’s not so much inconsistent characterization as lack of it. “Lost in Space: Season Two” lets the events dictate character, only there aren’t enough events, so the characters are spinning out.

So Posey and Hodge are after the kids. Maxwell Jenkins and Mina Sundwall are going to help the robots, even if it means Hodge and Feild don’t get to torture the regular robot until a little later. Jenkins remains entirely obtuse to what’s going on around him, which would work if the show were from his perspective, but he’s not. He’s too befuddled to be functioning as well as he does here. Though it’s Sundwall and Taylor Russell who come up with the plans. Once the kids are all together, the episode works better, so it’s weird they keep the kids apart so much this season. The show refuses to play to its strengths.

Feild, Hodge, and Posey are hunting the kids through the mothership while Stephens is out in space rescuing Parker. Except since Stephens didn’t do anything about Hodge being murderous last episode, Hodge has locked them out of the ship, and they’re going to run out of fuel and die in the gas giant together. There’s a bunch of busy sci-fi action tropes they go through while in orbit, but no heart to any of it. Director Stephen Surjik can do all the effects stuff. He just can’t pretend it matters.

Things only go wrong at the end because of a character’s lack of, well, character and whether it can be overcome. It’s an episodes’ long C-plot at this point, and it was apparent from jump what needed to happen. But instead, the show moped along for four episodes just to get a drug-out finale before the season finale.

If the show’s only got as much story for the season as it seems now… the meandering to get here hasn’t been worth it. There’ve been some nice moments for the actors this season—primarily Russell and Ignacio Serricchio (who’s unconscious this episode, apparently Hicks’ing for the grand finale)—but I’ll bet it finishes with the exact narrative stakes where it started with. There’s been no progress, just a bigger supporting cast.

Fingers crossed I’m wrong.

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