Ever since Lost went off the air, a lot of TV shows have come and gone trying to be the next Lost. I can’t think of any quite so shameless about it as Netflix’s The I-Land.
The first episode even opens with a close-up shot of a character’s eye opening. I’d almost be inclined to think that this could be some sort of intentional meta-commentary on the similarities between the two shows, but that would definitely be giving the writers of this schlock way too much credit.
The plot: A group of strangers wake up on the beach of a seemingly-uninhabited tropical island. None of them knows where they are, how they got there, or even who they are. Coincidentally, all of them have total amnesia. Yet they’re all dressed in identical white shirts, which conveniently have name tags in the collars that they’re left to assume must be their names. Chase (Natalie Martinez from Under the Dome and last year’s Lost clone The Crossing) quickly takes a leadership position as the group’s “Jack.” However, she’s immediately met with animosity from ice-cold K.C. (Kate Bosworth), who distrusts and despises her right off the bat for no apparent reason.
Other members of the group are mostly a bunch of idiots and assholes. Beefy hunk Brody (one-time failed teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer) seems to be on Chase’s side, but that relationship sours when he tries to rape her and then lies to everyone else about what happened, making them doubt Chase’s sanity.
In addition to the name tags, Chase discovers a series of clues hidden around the island, almost as if planted there for her to find. The group then split into smaller factions, some of whom want to stay on the beach and wait for rescue while others want to move inland for shelter. As they explore the island, its many mysteries deepen, leading to the inevitable conclusion that all the members of this group were chosen for a reason and the powers behind the island have plans for them.
Verdict / Grade: C
To be fair to The I-Land, the show isn’t just a Lost knockoff. It’s also a blatant knockoff of another very famous sci-fi franchise. That plot twist gets dropped in Episode 3 and I’d feel a little bad about spoiling it, even if Netflix’s own trailers pretty much give it away.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of viewers gave up before getting that far. The first two episodes of the show are embarrassingly bad. The characters are all unlikeable, the dialogue is terrible, and some of the acting feels like it belongs in a porno. And that’s all on top of the heavy-handed Lost copycatting.
Things start to turn around in Episode 3. The big twist is kind of an eye-roller and the show still doesn’t have a single original idea in its head, but the plot becomes marginally more interesting and some of the characters (especially Bosworth’s) are less annoying once their backstories are doled out in flashbacks. Episode 5 also ends with a legitimately hilarious zinger.
Asking audiences to sit through two terrible episodes to get to the better ones is a big ask, and even the improvements in the second half of the season barely raise the show from “awful” to “mediocre.” The ending also fizzles out, leaving a lot of plot threads unresolved, but in such a way that I don’t expect a second season to follow.
Nevertheless, I stuck it out. If you’re inclined to do the same, the good news is that, despite initial impressions, the short eight-episode binge is not totally unbearable. A few moments here and there are entertaining, and most episodes are only 40-50 minutes long, so they’re practically over before you can get too irritated with them.
Is that a recommendation? Hardly. But I’ve hate-watched shows a lot worse than this one. Take that for what it’s worth.