Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Taylor Russell, Toby Stevens, and Maxwell Jenkins
Taylor Russell, Toby Stevens, and Maxwell Jenkins
Photo: Netflix
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In space, no one can hear you scream—not even if you’re one of the Robinsons on Lost In Space, who seem to find themselves in danger with an almost perverse regularity. Equipment failure, methane leaks, and hostile extraterrestrials are all in a day’s work for Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker), John Robinson (Toby Stephens), and their children Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall), and Will (Maxwell Jenkins). Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless’ reboot shares little more than a title and character names with the 1965 sci-fi series, though it remains in the rugged spirit of the 1812 novel, The Swiss Family Robinson, that inspired both shows. While not quite dour, season one of Netflix’s Lost In Space traded the camp of Irwin Allen’s series for a more grounded tone to go with the Robinsons’ exploits in far-flung places, which were now depicted with considerably flair (the visual effects budget remains money well spent).

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The family’s desperate, ongoing bid for survival is a microcosm of humanity’s search for a new home after an impact event threatens to make Earth a much less hospitable place. Yet, despite every episode essentially serving as a new escape room for the Robinsons to outwit, season one was still a little airless, and often rather slow—overlong runtimes and a growing sense of repetition undermined the spectacle on screen. From the moment they were introduced in the pilot, the Robinsons have been on the run or on the clock, trying to stave off some natural disaster or otherwise find a way to rejoin the group of colonists journeying to a settlement somewhere in the Alpha Centauri star system. That clock resets with each new episode, as the Robinsons’ quick thinking saves them time and again. They’re frequently divided by circumstance or sentiment—among other things, the family dynamic has been altered considerably—but they remain resourceful and, just as important, dedicated to each other. “The Robinsons stick together,” Judy reminds Penny or Maureen tells Will just as they all stare death in the face for the third time in 45 minutes.

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Season two of Lost In Space mostly sticks to this formula; occasionally, it even feels like a do-over of the first season, with less bulk and roughly the same number of utterances of “Faraday cage.” The new batch of perfectly adequate episodes finds the Robinsons once more MacGyvering their way through a series of obstacles and otherwise trying to contact the Resolute, the mothership that holds the rest of the 24th colonist group. Smith (Parker Posey, who’s loving every dishonest minute) has lost the “Doctor” and the Robinsons’ confidence, but none of her cunning. Early on, the wily stowaway is down, but not out—she has no robot protecting her (nor does Will, for that matter, after the events of the season-one finale), but as long as there are people to manipulate, she’s far from helpless. Smith (or June, if that’s her real name) continues to be the chaotic neutral highlight of the series, thanks to Posey’s balancing act: the actor combines real vulnerability with an inclination for mayhem. As the season goes on, Smith/June’s schemes and her past are revealed like the pieces of a nesting doll, each new layer exposing the same unrelenting sense of self-preservation.

Illustration for article titled The Robinsons chart new worlds, but iLost In Space /iremains aggressively fine in season 2
Photo: Netflix

In a way, that makes Smith and Maureen two sides of the same coin; they’re both driven to survive, though the latter hasn’t totally abandoned her morality to do so. Still, their similarities are explored throughout season two, along with new planets and spacecraft. But Maureen isn’t the only member of the Robinson family pondering their connection to everyone’s favorite schemer; Penny becomes more sympathetic—and vulnerable—to Smith’s plight after repeatedly being thrown together with her. But for the most part, the arcs from the first season carry over into season two: John and Maureen continue to rekindle their relationship, Judy keeps finding ways to show how exceptional she is, Penny still wrestles with her middle child syndrome, and Will proves he’s much more suited to the rigors of space travel than the results of that stress test suggest. The Resolute and the promise of a new life in a colony also loom large, as do several questions raised in season one, including what happened to the Robot (voiced by Brian Steele) Will saved then befriended.

The Robinsons’ ingenuity sees them through it all, one hourlong installment at a time, but the serialized element of Lost In Space gets a bit more of a workout in season two. Along with Sazama and Sharpless, returning writers Vivian Lee, Kari Drake, and Daniel McLellan dig further into the family drama—the sibling rivalry and parents’ misguided attempts to keep their children safe at all costs. There are plenty of other sources of tension throughout, including from some of the other colonists the Robinsons were bound to encounter again, so this doesn’t count as a spoiler. The emotional terrain remains firmly in place as stunning new landscapes on desert planets come into view.

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There is some forward momentum with the overarching plot about how humanity’s last stand is built on stolen alien technology, but not enough to make the new season look like something more than a smoother series launch. You won’t get lost in Lost In Space, but the family-friendly adventures of the Robinsons will still make for solid viewing over the holiday break.

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