Tonight's telecast illustrated even more the big problem facing ''Lost'' -- and I don't just mean that every freakin' break seemed to include a promo for ''Day Break,'' which will take over the time slot when ''Lost'' goes on winter hiatus after next week's episode.
I am thinking more of cast inflation, which I have mentioned before -- the added characters, the scattered locations, the multiple, infrequently overlapping stories to be told. And why is that a problem? Because we are supposed to care about most of them, or at least be intrigued by them, and there are far too many demanding our investment.
Tonight's episode made that worse because it took one character that the audience had had time to make an emotional connection with -- and then it killed him. As the bride said more than once during the episode, ''I like Eko.'' But the audience was expecting a death in the ''Lost'' family, and for the death to matter, it couldn't be some ''red uniform.'' Unfortunately, the death of someone we liked felt less powerful than it should have because so much of the narrative lately has been about characters we don't care about and don't know. That was part of the joke of one character's having been left out of previous events -- since it's a new character, not one that was there and just unnoticed.
I like Eko, too. And I would rather have him back, going through his spiritual struggle, and tugging at my heart, than deal with all this peripheral stuff that lets the show avoid moving us forward. Last season, the show could be as annoying as all get out for an entire episode, then pull us back in with an emotionally powerful closing sequence. This time, the best it could do was an attempt at a dramatic last line -- and not all that good a one at that.