“Thank you…for reminding me who I used to be.”
Season Two of Lost in Space comes to a close with a non-stop ride of action, suspense, trickery, and leaving viewers with far more questions than it does answers.
If “Shell Game” was the climax of Ben Adler’s tremendous character arc, “Ninety-seven” works as his capstone. Flying a Jupiter down to the desert world’s metal ring structure with Will to heal Scarecrow, the lightning storm they need for the task arrives early, forcing Adler to make a choice; let Scarecrow die or pay the ultimate price? He does the latter, giving his life to save the alien creature though, unbeknownst to him, it also awakens the massive contingent of alien robots that call this structure home. With no one to fly him to safety, a terrified Will (tremendous job here by Maxwell Jenkins) calls out an SOS to anyone who may be listening…
On the Resolute, the Robinson band make their move against Hastings, who finds that Robot is not as easily conquered as Scarecrow. Refusing to lead the ship to Alpha Centauri because it would mean leaving Will behind, Robot’s resistance provides just enough time for the Robinsons to free their family friend, but any celebrations (or consequences) are put on hold when the final incoming Jupiter (with Will onboard) is being hounded by an alien robot ship.
Led by Maureen’s ingenuity, the Resolute crew set up a literal kill-box, rigging the alien robot killing device to encompass an entire room. Using the alien engine, John and Judy act as bait, lead the robots on a fantastic chase through the ship’s corridors in a scene more akin to the horrors of Aliens than a family sci-fi adventure. The visuals are spectacular here, giving life to the tangible menace these metal monstrosities represent as they scurry along the walls like overgrown spiders, with murder on their minds. Unfortunately for the humans, the alien-killing device isn’t charged enough to end the robots and instead, puts them into a slow motion stasis. But even that is a temporary thing and the decision must be made: Where do they go from here?
Now that the robots have made it to the ship, there’s no way they can take the Resolute to Alpha Centauri. Judy comes up with the family-splitting plan, one that is not what I wanted from the finale but is a beautiful payoff to Season Two and Judy Robinson’s — to this point — underused arc. Her plan is to put the alien engine on a Jupiter and populate the ship with all the children onboard the Resolute — all 97 of them — while the remaining colonists scattering through the system in the other Jupiters. All families are affected by this, none more so than the Robinsons.
Though Judy ends up as captain of the vessel (thanks to John’s convincing words) and has Penny and Will by her side, Maureen, John, and Don are left out there with the rest of the adults. In a spectacular gambit that ends up destroying the alien ship (and Resolute in the process) — though hundreds of others are on the way — Maureen and John give the kids’ ship the time necessary to get through the rift and to Alpha Centauri.
Only it’s not Alpha Centauri.
In maybe the most surprising moment in a season of surprises, Judy and the others realize that Robot didn’t hone in on the Alpha Centauri signal; instead, it somehow picked up a signal from a ship thought lost 20 years ago: the Fortuna. The ship captained by none other than Grant Kelly, Judy’s biological dad.
Though Lost in Space is, at its core, a family show, the last half of this season has been filled with an intensity more befitting of an adult fare. “Ninety-seven” is the perfect send-off. The episode’s pacing is relentless, moving from scene-to-scene, never losing momentum and continually raising the stakes. Though there are some very strong arc-ending moments, from Adler’s sacrifice, Scarecrow returning the favor by saving Will from its legion of fellow bots, to Smith’s own seemingly sacrificial face turn, it ultimately leaves us with more questions than answers. As Maureen said, how will they find the kids?
On the kids, where are they and how did the Fortuna get there? How in the world did Smith fake her death (we all knew she wasn’t gonna die)? And will the robot horde track down the colonists one-by-one? All of this (and more) will be on our minds, particularly over the next month or two, while we wait to see if the series gets greenlit for a third season. If that happens, we’ll still have to wait a year or more for answers, but that’s leagues better than the alternative.
‘Lost in Space’ “Ninety-seven” rating:
9 out of 10 stars
Danger, Will Robinson
If, after the first four or five episodes, someone had told me that this would be one of my favorite shows of the year, I would have called them crazy. While fun and lighthearted (at that time), it never captured me on an emotional level. That all changed with “Run”, the Judy-centric episode that added an emotional charge to the series and was a springboard into one of the most impressive five-episode runs of any series in 2019. Every character showed significant growth from Season One, none more impressively than Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith, who went from one of the worst antagonists I’d seen in any series to a captivating and diverse character.
Though the great character moments were its foundation, Lost in Space was also helped along by some decidedly ominous horror tones that raised the tension to levels Season One just did not do and some truly exceptional themes of friendship, sacrifice, and atonement. The icing on this deliciously entertaining cake were movie-quality visuals, particularly in the final three episodes. I can’t say enough about the back half of this season, of which “Ninety-seven” put a wondrous stamp on. Lost in Space doesn’t just need a third season (at minimum), it deserves it. And that’s not something a lot of shows can say.
‘Lost in Space’ Season Two rating:
8 out of 10 stars