Is “LOST” Getting Lost?

October 5th, 2006 | Posted in General

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead. Do not read if you do not want to know details of the season premiere of ABC’s “LOST”

I watched the season premiere of “LOST” last night. I’m still digesting it, but I am sorry to say I didn’t come away too excited about the next episodes. Maybe I’m expecting too much, and one episode into the season is way too early to see where it’s going, but I am getting worried that LOST is getting lost itself in it’s never-ending peeling of a layer to reveal another layer storytelling. I’m concerned that this ship is sailing in undeniably interesting waters but will sink before it reaches a satisfying destination.

Early on the mystery surrounding the island was very cryptic and vague. Clearly there was something different about the place, either supernatural or super-scientific, or both. The slow unfolding of the subtle but definite connections of the survivors in their lives before the crash were tantalizing, pointing to a perhaps divine purpose of some higher power. The discovery of some scientific experiment that happened years earlier on this island and the abandoned (or were they?) bunkers and devices used by Dharma fueled the speculation there was some kind of science behind it all. The discovery of more survivors (the Tailies) whose lives were also interconnected before the crash was yet another unexpected twist. Last season we got a closer look at “the Others”, a group of mysterious (NO! Really?) people who were presumably already on the island when the plane crashed. It seemed obvious these people were behind all the weird stuff going on. There were precious few facts learned and a great number of further clues that led to more questions. Theories abound but there has been very little that can move to either prove or disprove any of them.

What’s the problem with that? Well, I think it’s just that a mystery can only go on so long without at least some movement towards a solution instead of constantly moving sideways before frustration sets in. If I had to pick a word to describe my reaction to last night’s season premiere, it would be “frustration”. I guess I just expected something more than what I got. I knew Kate, Jack and Sawyer were prisoners of the Others, that was old news. The fact that they are being held in an old zoo is weird and might have been interesting even last season, but not so much anymore. Beside we learned that part of Dharma was zoological ages ago, and that the appearance of the polar bear was explained by that (or was it? Walt’s comic book has an attacking polar bear in it. Coincidence?) Who cares where they are being held? I want to get a glimpse of why. Worse, Jack’s flashbacks are making me dislike his character, and he was one of the people I did not want to dislike. Was it me, or did it seem like there was more commercial time than show time in the premiere? It seemed like the show was on for 5 minutes with 12 minute commercial breaks. One might say that’s a sign of riveting storytelling but I think it’s more of a sign that scenes are being stretched because they are long on mysterious looks and cryptic dialogue and short on plot. I am beginning to think that “LOST”‘s leave ’em hungry style is starving at least this viewer so much I am thinking this part of the jungle is too short of foodstuff, and it’s about time to move on.

What if there is either no true purpose and destination planned out for this series, or that a very lame and pedestrian one will be the end result? If the show ends where we learn this is all some alien experiment on human abductees, or it’s all Walt’s dream or something equally stupid and shallow it will be a real disappointment. In some works of fiction the journey is the important part, and the ending is just where it stops. However when the entire journey is built around a mystery the ending becomes the focus, and a payoff is required. I read somewhere that Abrams is leaving the show after this season. I hope they end it soon after. I’d hate to see this show “jump the shark” and turn into a shadow of itself before someone finally mercifully pulls the plug with a two hour finale that neatly wraps it all up at once with one of the lame explanations previously mentioned or one like it. That said, I honestly believe the show was created with the actual mystery in hand and the ending already determined. The substance of that ending might be of concern, but I’ll trust the writers until they give me a reason not too. Maybe they’ll have a “Matrix” like explanation that will blow us all away. Too bad the Matrix already used the old “we are all just batteries for sentient computers” explanation. That would have been a good one… Jack waking up and pulling out his plug…

I think we learned one important thing this episode. Usually there is at least one fact or clue that lends… well maybe not “light”… but at least a new piece of the puzzle. Sadly not EVERY episode has one of these important things, but beggars can’t be choosers. Unfortunately that important thing happened in the first five minutes, and after that it was all comparative frosting. The important thing we learned is that “The Others” are not in control of what is happening on the island. We know this because they did not expect the accident at the “hatch” with Desmond that caused the earthquake or “electromagnetic event” or whatever it was that took place, and that caused the plane to crash in the first place. “Henry” was clearly surprised to see the plane crash, had no idea there would be survivors but took no chances, sending Elliot and Goodwin out to investigate and plant themselves as spies if there were survivors. Clearly they did not expect any of this to happen. If so, then they could have had nothing to do with bringing the survivors to the island, and therefore are not the instigators of the coincidences, connections and seemingly supernatural events that surround the Flight 185 passengers. That’s an important point, if it is indeed fact and not misdirection.

You see, that might be the thing I am most concerned about. I’m afraid that we will eventually start discovering that what we have previously discovered was wrong. That backpedaling starts happening to keep the story going. Clearly we are dealing with either supernatural elements, science that is way beyond our real world levels, or both. Explanations must either then be by definition supernatural or science fiction, or both. Unless we discover later that what we saw we didn’t really see. That would be the most disappointing thing of all. If we later learn that the Others did expect the passengers of Flight 815, and Henry’s reaction in last night’s episode was feigned, then we can no longer believe that anything we see on the show is real or unreal, is a clue or is something that will just be explained away later with some other clue that refutes it. That’s when I stop watching the show, as I will feel that the writers and producers of the show are just interested in keeping me watching and not in telling me a story.

I’m going to have faith that the writers and creators of the show won’t do that to me… for a while. But I just hope that this show won’t go the way of the “X-Files”, where eventually the constant “the truth is out there, but we’ll never actually find it” got old and the stories couldn’t support he sagging never-ending anti-climax. By the time they tried to end it, it was too late.

An even better example is the short lived “NightStalker” with Stuart Townsend. I never saw it on TV, but downloaded the episodes produced from iTunes. The show wanted to create some master evil element that was interconnected with many of the weird crimes and happenings. They kept introducing elements like strange scars that appeared on some people’s wrists before or after death, weird wolf-like creatures that kill pregnant women and abduct kids, a ghostly can’t-be-killed biker gang that are after people who know or were exposed to some secret of some kind. One got the feeling that the writers sat around trying to come up with strange, bizarre elements that would be “cool and scary” and just hoped they could tie them all together later. They were so strange and disjointed that they just didn’t create any interest for the viewer, and the (in my not-so-expert opinion) terrible acting caused the show to have a short life. No payoff, but in this case I don’t really care. Townsend was pretty good in the show, BTW, but the woman reporter and the guy that played the Jimmy Olson character were not right for the parts.

Let’s hope the guys who write for “LOST” are working with a specific and well thought out premise and final destination in hand, and not just leading us here and there based on what they can come up with that’s “cool and strange” hoping to tie it up somewhere down the line. Let’s further hope they can recognize when it’s time to move towards the end and when it’s time for the end to happen, rather than stretch it out until it’s a well beaten dead horse. I don’t think the former is the case, but I am afraid the latter is a real possibility.

I still think that once we understand why some episodes begin with someone’s single eye opening and why some do not, we’ll have the answer to it all.

Comments

  1. Matt. says:

    They do these things purpose to keep the show running as long they can to juice out all the moula. I see where you’re coming from though. However, I enjoyed the episode last night.

  2. Mark Heng says:

    I think a large part of what made Season 1 especially so enjoyable was the general ambience of the sand, sun, surf, and sea. The Hydra isn’t particularly mysterious or enjoyable so far…And if they don’t advance the mythology pronto, it’ll turn into just more shots of Jack crying. Not cool. I’m watching from Ireland where the first episode premiered tonight.

    BTW, keep up the good work. This blog is great for ideas and techniques.

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