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TV Talk: Lost 
27th-May-2007 02:00 am
Lost
Poor Charlie.

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.


Thoughts? Disagreement? Ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Related:
TV Talk: Heroes
TV Talk: The Nine
TV Talk: Prison Break
Comments 
27th-May-2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
i think a lot of the bad episodes had to do with the fact they had no end date. having a solid 2010 end date will really help the writers streamline the show and the reveals.

the worst part of the season was easily the countless times i had to hear desmond say "no matter what i do, youre gonna die"... every previously on lost, every lost moment, commercial, and special with the producers. i have grown to hate that line to the point of hating desmond and scottish people in general.

i can only pray that the episode about jack's tattoo's reveals something big, since (i agree) that was the worst episode so far, and if left alone, will remain completely pointless. i liked the VW episode, could've been a nice break from the action, but not next to the boring tattoo story. a low point for the show, but def didn't make me want to stop watching. they'd have to bring back libby and just do the love story of her and hurley for the rest of the show to get me to quit.

for me, the thing i really like is how long the mysteries take to unravel. i don't mind waiting 2 years to know the answer to something, even if it's as small as the polar bears thing. the slow pace is sort of how the first season was, and so different from normal TV makes it unique.

my big complaint about the finale was jack's razor phone. too much of a clue to the future tense, but still a really cool twist... i'd suspect next season's premier will begin w/ a flash-forward of kate or someone else.

who is in the casket? sawyer seems too easy... but it's way too early to tell.
the "he" could be ben? who knows. another question: who is the lady jack rescued? She had wrappings on her face, maybe she'll come into play. i am a dork for knowing all this.
27th-May-2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
I agree about the end date. I think it will be the best thing to ever happen to this show, and should be a pre-requisite for all long-form narratives on TV. I also think you might be right about the VW episode. In another season, it might've been a fun break. But in this one, it was a tipping point in my frustration with the show.

I'm not an impatient man, so it's not that I mind waiting for central mysteries to be resolved. It was more that I was getting the sense that they had know idea what they were doing, and instead were just stuffing in a bunch of questions in lieu of answers to keep us dangling. Again, I think having the end date will help with this.

As for the future, it is a cool idea, but a dangerous one in that you never know what might happen in the world of television. I'm sure they had bigger plans for the tail section Losties until they fired them all. The West Wing almost had this problem when they flashed forward to start the season, then John Spencer died during taping. But he had been left out of the flash forward, so they were able to deal with his character's death.

Something like that could happen if they choose to show too many people in the future. They can't kill them off if they want off the show if they've already shown them in the future. Jack and Kate are pretty safe (barring death, or possibly an Evangeline Lilly pregnancy, although they could deal with that without killing her off), but I don't think I want to see everyone in the future. At the very least, it would eliminate some drama from the island proceedings, in that they couldn't scare us into thinking they're going to kill someone off.
28th-May-2007 12:42 pm (UTC)
I think we'll get a few flash forwards next season, slowly building up the volume of them going in to the last season so taht when all is said and done, we get the past, present and future stories of everyone on the island.

My main issue with season 3 was that way too much time is spent on the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle. Just when you think its over, it rears its ugly head once again. (Although now that we know that Jack and Kate dont wind up together in the future maybe they can finally drop it)
28th-May-2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
The writers are getting less sneaky, though... Even by revealing Kate & Jack leave the island (and more characters probably soon revealed)... it won't distract too much from the island drama, or fear of them dying on the island. I have always been confident Jack, Kate, Sawyer, & Locke won't die, since they're the best characters and drive the show... LOST just kills off the crappy characters

When Locke got shot by Ben I knew he wouldn't die. That would be stupid! When they showed the previews of Sawyer almost getting executed by the cages, I knew he'd be saved....Charlie was a long time coming, and the show prepared us for that. Plus, as you said, he was pretty lame all along.

Point being: I am pretty sure they won't kill off any of the major players without a warning (besides maybe Desmond, he's a little different)... so showing them in the future is no spoiler.


28th-May-2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
I agree that letting it be known that Jack and Kate survive isn't going to change much (same applies to Sawyer and Locke, as you said), as I've never believed any drama that put them in peril anyway. But, what if they showed Sun in the future? That would hurt the drama of her current predicament. Or Sayid, who is a character I could see them killing off for maximum impact (unlike the deaths of Boone, Shannon, or the tailies, who were all fairly crappy characters, well other than Eko, who was pretty cool).

But sometimes deaths on TV are necessitated by things other than the plan of the writers. Maybe Naveen Andrews or Emile de Ravin decide that they'd be better off doing movies than staying on location to appear on the show for five minutes every two weeks (a practice I hope the show avoids in the future) and they demand to be let off the show. That would be hard to do if we see them in the future.

Here's hoping things go smoothly, but showing the future is a risky thing is all I'm saying.
28th-May-2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I do think Sun or even Sayid in the future would be a spoiler... that is true...

However, I am guessing if they are going to show any characters in the future, those actors must have signed contracts to finish out the series. It's the only way.

I too am predicting a Sayid death anyway... as he is such an awesome character, but really just gets treated as the muscle. Unless they involve his girlfriend somehow (the woman Charlie saved in the Alley, and Locke ran into her in LA) Sayiid is doomed.
28th-May-2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Understand, I wouldn't want to see Sayid taken off the show, but if he were to die late into the show's run, like in the lead-up to them getting off the island, that would fit in with his character and the way he operates (willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the others).

How awesome is it that the show has made the Iraqi Rebublican Guardsman one of the most trusted and most liked characters?
28th-May-2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
all they need now is an Iranian character, and we'll have great characters from the entire 'axis of evil'
29th-May-2007 05:01 am (UTC)
Sun and Jin are from South Korea. They're good Koreans. I personally like how they finally acknowledge the fact the Jin served in the army in the season finale. I also didn't believe for a second that Locke died, nor do I see either Kate, Jack or Sawyer dying in the future. Locke would have to take a bullet between the eyes for me to believe he's dead.

Maybe it's just me, but has anyone considered that the "flash forward" wasn't really the future? Maybe it's because the writers have been jerking the plot around so much, but I wonder if perhaps time as "Lost" reckons it, is more mutable than we would otherwise expect.

I wonder because Desmond and his flashes can change, if only in the manner of Charlie's death, the future as he sees it. And he predicted a death for Charlie that didn't go exactly as planned, and could therefore have unintended consequences, like maybe they don't get off the island or at least at that time. The flash forward actually providing a glimpse of the future that isn't neccesarily the future as it would turn out?
29th-May-2007 05:42 am (UTC)
That's an interesting theory... LOST is definitely playing with time a lot, as well as destiny. The ability to change your destiny becoming a recurring theme...

A lot of "supposed to do this or that"

Right now there is no way to tell... especially since Jack keeps saying his father is alive and stuff... the whole future part is just weird. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a crazy twist like that in it.
29th-May-2007 06:15 am (UTC)
Hmmm, Jack's father still alive? I hadn't considered that. Given the flash-forward, I figured they tossed in the references to his father to not make it obvious it was the future, and in retrospect make it clear that Jack and reality weren't getting along well. Or maybe he is alive and well. But he was dead when he was on the island. Unless you can only die while on the island, therefore a dead person brought to the island would be revived. That would be a crazy twist.
29th-May-2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
Jack mentioned his father quite a few times in the future, making me think he wasn't just crazy or something... He seemed depressed/addicted but not insane...

My old theory was exactly that, if your body is brought to the island you come back to life somehow. Jack's dad's body is on the island (it was on the plane) and Jack saw him standing in the woods. Eko's brother's body was found on the island, and he appeared to Eko. Etc.

But then I got thrown off by Hurley seeing the guy from the mental institute, and Ben seeing his mother. Neither of those characters' bodies are on the island...

It's all so confusing... Anyway I am pretty sure the future world is much more complex than the flashback worlds.
29th-May-2007 04:18 pm (UTC) - RE: Jack's dad
They could go a couple ways with Jack's dad. He can still be dead, since no one other than Jack confirmed his dad's continued existence (the pharmacist never phoned his office, the chief of surgery looked at Jack sympathetically/like he's crazy). I personally think it was a red herring, but there's room to maneuver there.
3rd-Jun-2007 01:21 am (UTC)
Damn I wish you'd made this post a week later. I just finished the last episode after waiting ages for the final three to download.

Like everyone else, it seems, I too was ready to quit watching (just to reiterate an already well made point; GODDAMN that tattoo episode pissed me off). In fact I did, announcing that Lost was crap to everyone that would listen. But euphates_tiger urged me to continue watching and he was right, it picked up big time.

The future flash was a stroke of genius. Not sure who the casket person could be. I'd have to guess Sawyer was the person Kate was talking about, so I'd guess it's not him. Hurley wouldn't fit in a casket that small (unless he loses a lot of weight I guess) so I'd rule him out. I'd have to watch the episode again so see if a gender was mentioned, but for some reason I had the sense that it was a man, so I'm imagining it was mentioned somewhere.
Here's a thought; maybe Michael? That would explain why nobody showed up any why Kate was all like "why would I go to the funeral?".

I hadn't heard about the 2010 deadline they set, but I am very VERY glad they have. No more stretching, no more making it up as they go along. I have a very strong feeling there's some things they set up from the first three seasons that they never really intended to explain in full (the monster, the numbers) but having a dealine hopefully means they'll actually be able to map out a series of ideas and twists that will be cohesive and fully explainable.

The way they handled Charlie's death was brilliant. There was no doubt about it, he had to die; he had no real purpose anymore other than to piss viewers off. But the fact that they actually made him someone I thought I would miss and was sad to see go in the end was very surprising and pleasant.

It's managed to get itself to the point where I care about what's happening again and actually look forward to another episode rather than just watching out of habit. I expect that now when something is revealed my reaction will be of genuine surprise, not because the revelation will be any nore surprising, but because I actually care. Too many times recently my reactions has been "great, why do I care about that now?" (refer to: polar bears). Let's hope they can keep it up.

P.S. Andy, do you have the entire Yellow EP? I can't find it to download. Is there any way I could get it off you?
3rd-Jun-2007 01:23 am (UTC)
Just got the email, cheers.
3rd-Jun-2007 01:26 am (UTC)
I've considered Michael too. Basically, I think the person has to be A) American (thus ruling out Sayid, Sun, Jin, Desmond, and Claire... for the most part. Of course, its always possible that one of these characters would move to America, like Sun and Jin had planned) and have a reason to be unpopular (which rules out Hurley for me, but points to Locke, Sawyer, Michael, or Ben).
3rd-Jun-2007 02:12 am (UTC)
Yes, I believe you could safely rule out rule out the foreigners, as even if they lived in America the funeral would probably be held with their families at home. I can't see Ben leaving the island. I'd say Michael or Locke. But having sai that, obviously three seasons worth of time passes between present island time and the funeral, so there's a lot that could happen. It could even be someone we are yet to meet.
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