Monday, May 7, 2018

Squawk Box: Lost In Space

Netflix actually didn't hype their reboot of Lost In Space nearly as much as they hyped Altered Carbon, but there was enough in terms of teasers and trailers out there to get me interested enough to check it out and wow! I'm going to make an exceedingly bold statement, but hear me out: the potential for this show is very high indeed...  I would go so far as to say that if it fulfills it's potential, it may well end up being a better show than The Expanse (or even it's Netflix counterpart Altered Carbon.)

Lost In Space immediately distinguishes itself from it's big screen counterpart by flinging you into the middle of the action. It doesn't waste an episode mucking about starting the mission, instead, you open with the family strapped in and suited up as the Jupiter 2 is heading down toward a planet of unknown origins, about to crash. Crash, they do, onto a glacier bed where it begins to sink. They evacuate some supplies, but when the eldest Robinson child, Judy (Taylor Russell) goes back to try and get some more, she ends up getting trapped in the ice.

While the family bands together to figure out how to get Judy out of the ice, we find our more about the family. Mom is Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker) who is the mission commander for their Jupiter and an aerospace engineer who is all set to start a new and better life with her family on Alpha Centauri. She's married to John Robinson (Toby Stephens) a former Navy SEAL and biological father to Will and Penny and stepdad to Judy, Maureen's child from her first marriage. There's a tense and interesting dynamic between the two of them from the get go, as we find out the two are separated and were heading for  a divorce before the family jumped aboard the Resolute (the colony mother ship) and headed to Alpha Centauri.

While trying to get Judy out of the ice, Will (Maxwell Jenkins) tells his Dad that the white fire they saw coming from the mountain was probably magnesium, which would be hot enough to free Judy from the ice, so the two set off to find some. Of course, they do, but Will get separated from his Dad and meets the Robot (Brian Steele), an alien mechanoid that bonds with him. 

The show then introduces Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) and Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) who crash land on another part of the planet. Dr. Smith, who is actually a stowaway/conperson named June Harris, who steals the identity of the actual Dr. Smith (played by Bill Mumy, the original Will Robinson from the 1960s Lost In Space, which I thought I was a nice touch) and together they band together to survive. (Though Smith ditches West at the first opportunity to get rescued by the Robinsons.) 

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll go ahead and short cut to the end: after finding the other survivors, the Robinson and company end up having to figure out how to get off the planet because it's about to get fried by a black hole. Unfortunately, there are eels that eating the fuel and the truth about Dr. Smith is eventually revealed along with the alien robot and why it attacked the colony mothership to begin with. (Turns out that humanity done stole some fancy technology that didn't belong to them- though that's a plot threat left dangling for a presumed season 2.) 

The family dynamics that the Robinsons have are just about perfect. Will carries a lot of the show on his shoulders and does so with ease and maturity far beyond what you'd expect from an actor of his age.  Penny (Mina Sundwall) also has her moments, trying to be a normal kid and attempting a teenage romance with a fellow survivor Vijay (Ajay Friese). I've seen a lot of complaints here and there online about Dr. Smith. It's an interesting direction for the character to take compared to Gary Oldman's scheming spy in the movie, but I think it works. I think if anyone other that Parker Posey was playing the role, that might be a different story. However, I think Posey walks the fine line between cheese and a good performance and seems to have an instinct to know how to say 'when' to stop the parmesan. (Weirdly, a lot of people complain about her character's motivations as well: seems pretty obvious from the get go: survival is her main motivation.)

The cliffhanger of the first (of what I hope will be many seasons) sets up the Robinson Family and company for some very interesting adventures indeed. If there's a fault to this show, it's that it does take a few episodes to get going, but once it does, it starts moving down the tracks with impressive speed and purpose. 

Overall: A brilliant update of the 60s classic, Lost In Space establishes a strong foundation for future success with a family that feels like a regular every day family struggling in extraordinary circumstances. I hope this show gets another season, because I really want to see where they go with this. My Grade: **** out of ****

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