The first time we met Ben Adler, there was no doubt that he was a man with secrets. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, his sketchy actions have only intensified. “Evolution” doubles up on that shadiness, revealing that Adler’s mission has always been to contain Robot for its potential to power the Resolute’s hyperdrive engine. But a funny thing happened on Adler’s way to using Will’s influence over Robot to capture it: he sees firsthand the evolutionary progress of a creature he saw as nothing more than its programming. The epiphany comes from watching its connection to the most unexpected of things; not Will, but a horse.
Last season, the uncertainty of Robot’s allegiance to Will and the formation of their bond provided not just the warmth but a healthy bit of tension for the series. Now that the pair have been reunited, we needed something more. “Evolution” gives us that, with Robot growing before our eyes in a way that, as viewers, we always suspected but is a major shock to Adler. Putting aside the fact that even in their study of Scarecrow, they’ve had limited exposure to these entities, not nearly enough to be set in one’s premise as Adler has (understandably) colored his opinion to the point that he’s unreliable.
But what Adler gives us is a character who is flexible and honest enough to see when he’s wrong and effectively changes the game. It’s an interesting parallel, watching Adler’s evolution coinciding with the Robot’s. Though the latter is still hamstrung by its inefficient communication, “Evolution” adds to the depth of its relationship with Will and may make for a very curious development of Adler as an ally to the Robinsons against Hastings, who now moves into the lead as the primary antagonist.
Sidelined for the better part of last episode, John returns to the forefront in “Evolution” doing what he’s known for: pulling out all the stops to protect his family. After learning of Captain Kamal’s decision that could have killed Penny, John no longer trusts command, a feeling emphasized when the captain shuts him out on a mysterious communication picked up in the system.
With Don locked up and Maureen still planet-side with Will, John partners with the most unlikely (and unlikable) ally in Dr. Smith. Now, I’ve given the good doctor some begrudging respect lately as the series has pulled back on some of her more ridiculous moments. “Evolution” does make us of Dr. Smith’s ungodly hacker capabilities to give herself command-level access, the pair uncover the transmission; that of alien robot ships, and quite a bit at that. But it’s not their discovery that gets the biggest applause for this episode but, playing on the viewers’ anticipation of a Dr. Smith double-cross of throwing the wool over our eyes and giving us just that; a Dr. Smith double-cross.
Only it’s a swerve (a triple-cross, if you will), cooked up by her and John to give Smith an in with Hastings, gaining the shady administrator’s trust and giving her even more unfettered access to what would be need-to-know information. It’s perhaps my favorite part of “Evolution” because it was a wholly unexpected surprise, muddying the waters on Smith’s character in the most narratively satisfying sense. Parker Posey has played her role well these past couple episodes and, though she was the massive albatross in Season One, is becoming a well-rounded and surprisingly interesting character this go-round.
From the larger story though, the biggest surprise is the discovery that the captain plans to abandon those remaining on the planet, due to the issues with the oxygenators as well as the fears of the approaching alien fleet. Back onboard the Resolute, Maureen devises a plan to solve their issue with scrubbing the corrosive-infected water… it’ll just require committing petty mutiny (if there is such a thing). For the Robinsons, it’s just another day in space.
It’s official: I am as excited as I’ve ever been for this show. That’s three straight episodes of tight storytelling, excellent emotional arcs, and surprises crafty enough to fool me. Adler’s face turn was a pleasant but expected development, more than I can say for the shock of Dr. Smith’s alliance with the Robinsons. I still don’t trust her but at least now she’s escaped the gravity of the previous caricature of an antagonist and sliding into an orbit of competence that has genuinely captured my interest. With only three episodes left on the season and the Robinsons betting on another dicey gamble while the fleet of alien ships possibly closing in, the back half of this season is setting up to be one wild ride.
Danger, Will Robinson
• While I grant that Captain Kamal’s had an extremely difficult task, this is the second episode where her inability to get creative with solutions makes me question her capabilities. In “Severed”, she was resistant to Don’s idea to rescue Penny and the others, despite not having any better suggestions. This time, it takes Maureen to theorize a way to speed the filtration of the corrosive water by identifying an ammonia-rich planet in the neighborhood. She’s not a villain but if she continues to show such constraints for thinking outside the box in a crisis, at best she’s in the way and, at worst, she’s not fit for that captain’s chair.
• After her character-centric run in “Run”, Judy’s been a background character these last two outings. Granted, this has been in service to the overall narrative but it’s still a bit disappointing, especially when taking into account the strength of her performance. Hopefully, now that the Robinsons are taking a family gamble to save the planet-side colonists, she’ll get a bit more to do.
Lost in Space – “Evolution”
8 out of 10