TV Talk: Lost
Starring: Naveen Andrews, Henry Ian Cusick, Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Evangeline Lilly, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O’Quinn
Series Creator: Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
All right, I’m doing it. I’m dipping my toe into the murky waters of internet Lost discussion. I do so recognising that Lost fans are probably the most obsessive of any fans of any TV show, pouring over minutia and fiercely defending their show against attackers who might suggest that the show isn’t as good as it used to be. So to make it clear: I’m not that kind of fan. No judging those that are, hey if that’s what you do for fun, all the power to you. I spend my time blogging about stuff like this, so I certainly won’t look down on anyone who devotes time following the clues and red herrings of this show throughout literature, history, philosophy or what have you.
I’m just putting that out there so you know that if you’re looking for a post that deeply delves into moments of the show, then this isn’t the post for you. I don’t follow it that closely, but feel free to try and start any sort of discussion on anything about the show you’d like in the comments. I also need to state that while I’ve watched every episode of the show, and there was a time where I was a big fan, I’m not a very big fan now. Or, at least, I wasn’t for most of this season.
In fact, I was genuinely ready to stop watching the show altogether. Our PVR missed a couple episodes because the network we programmed to record from messed up (CTV in Canada). We downloaded them, but I found that I had little interest in watching them. When we got around to watching the backlog, I said to my wife: “I’m ready to stop watching this show”. But she wasn’t (despite not liking it either), so we plowed on.
I think the turning point was the eighth episode of the season, the Desmond-centric episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes”. It wasn’t even a bad episode; in fact, it was probably fairly good. But once it was over, I realised that I no longer gave a damn about any of the characters on the show. Not Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), not Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) who was now fated to die as per Desmond’s visions, not Jack (Matthew Fox) who was still the captive of the Others, not Kate (Evangeline Lilly) or Sawyer (Josh Holloway) who just escaped from the Others, not even the Others themselves, Ben (Michael Emerson) or Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell). The cast had gotten too bloated and the flashbacks weren’t particularly revelatory (unless they were of a new character, like Desmond or Juliet) but they seemed to dominate the proceedings even more than before (which might not be true at all, but it seemed that way). The effect was a disconnect with the characters, with the show seeming more interested in myth-building than real character development or the furtherance of plot.
Of course, there’s a segment of the audience who eat the myth-building up. I think that’s part of the problem, in that the show has been playing to the smaller segment (that would probably be with them anyway) while they were killing time, unsure of how long they were going to have to stretch their narrative out. The big complaint about this show is that it never answers any questions. That’s actually a misunderstanding. The show answers questions all the time. The problem is, they answer the small questions, or answer the big questions in small, underwhelming ways. This season, we learned what was up with the polar bears, and it wasn’t all that interesting. Worse, after “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, we were treated to “Stranger in a Strange Land”, an episode whose major story was explaining Jack’s tattoo. I almost punched the TV when that one came on. It seemed like the ultimate “fuck you”, we’ll kill time as long as we want to, and you’ll like it!
It turns out, it wasn’t the ultimate “fuck you”, since they followed it up with “Tricia Tanaka Is Dead”, an episode about Hurley (Jorge Garcia) finding a VW van on the island. I don’t care that they brought the van back in later episodes to explain how it got there, or help Hurley save the day, it was still a terrible episode. At that point, I actually HATED Lost.
Unbelievably, the season started to turn around for me with “Exposé”, which featured new characters Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro), who became the symbols for all the bad ideas the show tried this season (among them, the insertion of Nikki and Paulo as though they’d been there all along and we were supposed to care). The entire episode came off as a mea culpa by the show, admitting that they recognise that there are limits to what the fans will accept. Plus, the way they killed them was really cool. It came off like a campfire story.
The show really picked up from there, making me care about the characters again. It helped that Sayid (Naveen Andrews) starting getting some more airtime, showing again and again that he is never wrong. Ever. They actually got me to look forward to the next episodes, and finally showed the one flashback I still cared to see: how Locke (Terry O’Quinn) wound up in a wheelchair.
I realised that I was a fan of the show again when they accomplished the seemingly impossible: made me care about Charlie. When Desmond first revealed that Charlie was going to die, I was all “Awesome! Let’s do it!” I was so tired of that whiny Hobbit and his constant ditherings over Claire (Emilie de Ravin), that I was all for his death. But then they made him more heroic (starting with “Catch-22”, co-written by my favourite comic book writer, Brian K Vaughan), and gave him a really great arc to finish the season. When they finally did kill him, I was genuinely touched, and had started to hope that they wouldn’t.
The season ended on an incredibly high note, with the phenomenal “Through the Looking Glass”, probably the best season finale I saw this year. My wife predicted that we were watching Jack in the future before the reveal (I wasn’t so sure, since Jack kept mentioning his dad as though he was alive), a reveal that has huge implications for the next three seasons the show has promised. The big battle with the Others was tense, and the new twist that Naomi (Marsha Thomason) might represent a new, bigger threat sets us up for some real excitement. Moreover, I’ve reconnected with most of the characters, and am once again driven to learn the answers to some mysteries (who was in the casket in the future? My original guess was Sawyer, but then I started to think that Sawyer was the “he” that future Kate mentions. So maybe it’s Locke? Or Ben? I can’t remember if the sex of the deceased was ever specified. Anyone else have a theory?).
All in all, it was a stunning turnaround for a show I had almost left for dead. If you had given up on the show (yet are for some reason still reading this post), I highly recommend going back and catching up, and that’s coming from someone who was incredibly close to giving up on the show himself. I understand why people stopped watching, but the thing is, it seems like the showrunners might have begun to understand that too. Once the ratings started to drop, they started to streamline the cast, and get back on track with the core plots on the island, then set a manageable date to finish their story so they wouldn’t have to keep stretching out the middle. Simply put, it’s good again. Season one good. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next.