We’re tumbling into the last four-and-a-half hours of Lost, and I have some ruminations on Jack, and on Jin and Sun, that I’ll be sharing this week, but I wanted to follow-up on The Candidate with some reflections on the character who has seemed to have the worst go of things the past couple seasons: Pilot Frank Lapidus.
We met Lapidus in season four as a dissolute pilot struggling with survivor’s guilt. You see, he was scheduled to pilot Oceanic 815 the day it crashed on Mystery Frickin’ Island, but he accidentally “slept in,” forcing his friend Seth Norris to fill in (and, ultimately, get mauled to death by the smoke monster, but Frank had no way of knowing that part). He spent months reading and re-reading the passenger manifest, thinking he had killed his friend and widowed his friend’s wife. When the wreckage was found, he yelled at whoever would listen that the footage was faked, and that the body in the pilot’s seat wasn’t the man they claimed it to be.
As if it’s possible, thing just got worse for him from there. He got brought to Craphole Island to fly around a team of mercenaries dedicated to killing the planeload of people he had already thought he was responsible for killing, managed to rescue six of them in a daring water landing, and then found a quiet job heading up small international flights before getting dragged back to the same freaking island against his will.
Of all the people we’ve been following the past few seasons, Lapidus has been the least interested in the supernatural drama playing out on the Island. All he wanted to do was get some closure about what really happened to Seth Norris, the man whose death he felt he had caused. And yet Keamy, Jack, Ilana and UnLocke all kept dragging him back into the thick of things. Keamy needed a pilot, so he forced Frank to fly him back to the Orchid station at gunpoint then handcuffed him to the chopper. The Oceanic Six needed his cooperation in their alibi. Ilana thought he might be a candidate, so she had Bram knock him out and drag him along on their further adventures. And UnLocke…Well, maybe UnLocke just didn’t like Frank’s chest hair, and that’s why he decided to get him out of the way.
Now, just as the show enters its endgame, he drowns off-screen, unlamented by the four survivors. You can bet that Sawyer, the person most directly responsible for that bomb going off, isn’t going to be nearly as bothered by survivor’s guilt as Lapidus was after the original crash. As a plot element, sure, Lapidus was a little extraneous (none of us really expected the endgame of the show to be a contest of whether or not our people could get to the downed Ajira plane), and in a show with a cast this sprawling it’s probably important to pare down the character list going into the finale if we hope to keep any kind of coherency or focus.
But as a character, Lapidus was loyal, good-natured and penitent. And he deserved better.
We salute you, Captain Lapidus.