Finding “Lost” Again

February 10th, 2007 | Posted in General

We had a few of the neighbors over in the home theater to watch the “spring premiere” of “Lost” on Wednesday. After a 15 week hiatus, the show began a promised 16 consecutive week run to the end of the season with no repeats. I wrote this post back in November with my thoughts on the shows direction, or lack thereof. In short I felt the show was being too stingy with any real plot advancement, and that the little glimpses of actual story-line development we got were not enough for viewers to continue to stay on the wagon. Saying the show is “about the journey and not the destination” is all well and good if the journey is always thrilling and interesting, but this show ground to a huge halt when Jack, Sawyer and Kate were taken away by “the Others”. There were too many contradictions with the Other’s behaviors, no sense to their actions and any reason to develop an interest in them except to hope that their heads would get blown off. It became frustrating to watch the last few episodes. Considering that and the loooooong wait for the next new episode, I felt we needed some ground breaking revelations Wednesday to get things back on track. Did we get them? Well… no. But there was at least some further development with the Others and some entertainment and action within the episode itself to give viewers a chance to get absorbed again. Lost is at it’s best when it shows glimpses into the past of it’s characters while providing tantalizing but tangible hints as to the mysteries of the island and it’s inhabitants, while still giving us some interesting interaction between characters.

Before I give my thoughts on what happened in the “spring premiere”, I thought I’d mention the hour long special that preceded the new episode. “Lost Survivor” was a discussion by producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse about the show and it’s many mysteries. It was less a ‘get you caught up’ primer than a series of explanations and descriptions of the show’s different characters and elements. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if I did not agree with something they said. I liked how they explained some of the features of the show, like the “easter eggs” that show up a lot. Some are just for fun (like during an airport flashback scene, the camera pans across the backs of a soccer team whose jersey numbers are… you guessed it… 4,8,15,16,23 and 42) and some tie into the story (one I did not catch was that the US army commander in Iraq that worked with Sayid in his flashback was Kelvin, the man who found Desmond and took him into the hatch when he wrecked on the beach). The show is full of that kind of thing, and it’s fun to try and spot them. Their description of the characters were short and provided no real insights, but this was mainly to try and help bring a newer viewer “up to speed” about each and not for the more seasoned viewer.

That’s the part I disagreed with them on. I can’t remember if it was Damon or Carlton who said, and I am paraphrasing, that the show is “like a baseball game. A casual fan can go to a game and enjoy it as a single game, but a lifelong baseball fan can enjoy it on a deeper level”. Bad example. All baseball games have endings and a winner. There are moments of action, tension and suspense in a game, but it all builds up for a payoff. There is another at the end of the season. No payoff in most episodes of “Lost”. It would be a lot to ask a baseball fan to come to a game where players popped up at any time, hit a ball and ran wherever they wanted to for 3 hours and then they all just went into the clubhouse while 4,8,15,16,23 and 42 flashed on the Jumbotron. Without the kind of mini story arcs that are resolved at the end of an episode that shows like “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy” have within the framework of a larger, ongoing story, there can be no real casual fans of the show. A show like this would probably be unthinkable even in the days of VCRs, which were notoriously fickle to program to record shows automatically. Tivo and on-demand video like iTunes or via the NBC website probably retain viewers of these heavily serialized shows more than people realize. I cannot imagine jumping into this show today, or keeping up with it without the availability of previous season DVDs and episodes on iTunes.

On to the episode. While there were no definitive answers (did anybody really expect any?) there were some satisfying movements forward in the understanding of what is going on with the Others, something that has been sorely lacking and is the source of much frustration on many viewer’s part. There was plenty of good action with Kate and Sawyer’s escape, but the best part of this episode was Julia’s flashback. Still no explanation for the bizarre behaviors, but the glimpse into Julia’s past is the first time we have gotten any information on where the Others came from. She appears to have been hijacked for this duty, and is not there entirely of her own free will.??ᬨ‚Ć She’s a leading researcher of fertility, but we don’t know of what kind. She used radical, experimental therapy on her sister in Miami to allow her to get pregnant, but we do not know why she had a problem with fertility in the first place. Clearly it isn’t of the more typical kinds of infertility, as demonstrated by her ex-husband’s regard of her sister’s successful pregnancy as a near miracle. By the way, everybody knew when Julia said to the guy interviewing her for the job in “Portland” that the only way her ex-husband and boss would let her go is if he was “hit by a bus” that he would be hit by a bus… but it still shocked the hell out of me when it happened! There is still no real evidence that the Others are a part of Dharma. They are using a facility that is clearly for zoological study, not fertility. They wear Dharma lab-coats but are they just being used or are they meant of their purpose in the first place? It has the feel of a place they took over for their own purposes. I am beginning to think the Others and Dharma are different entities, and the Others are as much at the mercy of the Island as the crash survivors are. Time will tell (or not). At least I felt like the spinning wheels hit a little solid dirt and the car lurched forward a bit for once. The show itself is still entertaining and I think those lurches are all we need to keep things interesting.

As for the rest of the episode, I was able to release some irritation with the Other’s unexplainable behaviors when Sawyer beat the crap out of Danny, and especially when Julia killed him. Danny is the tough guy who has epitomized the bizarre actions of the Others. Here is a guy who has no problem at all torturing, beating and manhandling the castaways… much like the rest of the Others, who shoot castaways, kill them, hang them, beat them nearly to death and play mind games with them with no problem at all, yet act like they are doing nothing wrong and have even said they are “the good guys” with complete sincerity. Danny harbored murderous rage at Sawyer because his wife as killed by Sun when she boarded the ill fated rescue boat. His wife was armed to the teeth with other armed people out to kill or capture any castaways and he is surprised she was shot at and killed???? He acted like they murdered her in her sleep, not that she was shot while in the middle of a raid on the boat. Exactly how do the Other’s feel that kind of outlook is justified? I don’t really expect to find out so I am not holding my breath. Anyway it was great to see Danny get his.

The rescue of Karl was weird but I doubt we’ll get any answers from him when he wakes up. No doubt he’ll remember little. I laughed a lot at Sawyer and Alex’s banter back and forth. Funny and snappy dialogue. I’d like to see more of Alex and I suppose we will eventually.

I read an article the other day that got me to cut the producers of the show some slack, and made me feel a little sorry for them. In essence it said that they have no control over the end of the show. Serialized dramas on TV are controlled by the networks, and it’s an ultimately fatal system. Creators of a show control the beginning, but it’s the network that controls the ending. As long as it’s a hit, they don’t want it to end. Therefore they make the creators keep in churning along, and that limits their availability to move the story toward a conclusion. The show only concludes when it’s popularity drops off, and by then who care how it ends?? I think there must have been some shows that were allowed to run their course and end satisfactorily without “jumping the shark” or losing their focus entirely. I hope such a fate doesn’t happen with this show. I’d rather have a four season story with a blockbuster ending than 7 seasons where season six begin with Kate stepping out of the shower in the hatch and telling Sawyer everything since season two has been a dream he’s been having in a fever from his wound infection. What’s wrong with a little creative integrity? Oh, I forgot… this is television.


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New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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