Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lost Thoughts

Coming into the final season of Lost, it's clear to me that I have spent not nearly as much time in thought and anticipation than in any other show. Something about this show has taken me in and clearly I am not alone.

Yet, throughout these last six years, as the onion has been peeled back more and more, the concern mounts that what we find in the middle isn't going to be something that will be nearly as satisfying as it could. What seems to be most interesting is the subculture that has spawned in the wake of "Lost." People constantly analyzing every little movement, every character action, every story point, and attempting to cross reference that with probably hundreds of different sources throughout literature, film, mythology, and philosophy.

Speculation is most certainly fun, but the major drawback is that we're working from limited information. The fact is, even four episodes into the final season, we still have nowhere near the amount of information necessary to make a truly informed decision. Things that still lay shrouded in secrecy are vital to our understanding of the show and therefore any speculation people have is clearly speculation and lends itself to ultimately weak arguments.

The third season finale is a perfect example. When the concept of the flash forward was introduced, it blew my mind. I was confused, and my thoughts were most assuredly provoked. In fact, I spent hours that evening trying to understand the ramifications of the ending. Was this an alternate timeline? Was this the end point of the show? Those were honestly the only two ideas I could come up with that night, and both were completely wrong. After several months of waiting, I realized that the third option that I didn't think of, that this was yet another part of these characters' journeys, was something that was ultimately incredibly simple. At this point, I made the decision to do no more speculating to that degree. Since clearly I couldn't predict what was going to happen anyway. The only thing I could do is make minor inferences based on that which I could actually see, while realizing that my chances of accuracy were rather low. Of course, it was also after that premiere that I had decided this show wouldn't do anything crazy as alternate realities, yet, here we are. Experiencing alternate realities.

For the last several years, I've held out hope that the end was going to be satisfying. Following the show with as much detail as I do, specifically listening to the weekly podcast from the creators, has imbibed me with a sense of confidence that the show does have a direction that it's following. Obviously that plan was not in place early in the first season, since despite their best efforts, there are things that just do not seem thematically consistent with later episodes. Yet, what does seem to be the case is a sense of knowledge that "all will be revealed" before it's over, and this was incredibly evident to me once the end date was finalized.

But here we are, once again, three episodes into the final season, and the mad dash to the finish line I was expecting has yet to arrive. There was a nice sprint out of the gate, but I feel that while the wheels aren't exactly spinning, the pace is much more leisurely than I otherwise would have expected.

The premiere was excellent, weaving between two realities relatively seamlessly while simultaneously hinting at detailed answers that were to come. While we can now say unequivocally that The Man in Black from the season 5 finale is not only taking the form of John Locke, but is also the Smoke Monster, we still don't exactly know WHAT he is. Nor do we understand what changed things so dramatically in the alternate timeline to make things so different, yet so similar. The ABC promos have been saying that "The Time For Questions Is Over" but frankly, it appears that I'm left with more questions than I had before the season began.

The second episode "What Kate Does" was seemingly panned by a majority of the Lost community as a poor episode. Yet, surprisingly, I rather enjoyed it. Especially most of the flash-sideways. Seeing things happen that are eerily similar to what happened on island did give clues to the fact that this universe appears to be course correcting itself. That the situations that happened on island are going to be very similar in this alternate reality. And I thought there were some rather touching scenes in the smaller character moments, which is ultimately the biggest reason that this show is so successful. People want to know who these characters are. The problem was that with a premiere that had such forward momentum, only to be stopped in its tracks, the effect can be rather jarring. Although I suspect that when viewed as part of a whole, it won't be remembered as poorly.

And this brings us to tonight's episode "The Substitute". The episode that inspired me to write all this tonight. Because with the exception of the flash sideways, all that really happened was Locke and Sawyer walked through the jungle and into a cave. Granted, there were interesting things, especially about the numbers, within the cave, but I felt slightly like we were stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for the roads to clear up. Movement is being made, albeit slowly, and that's not what I'm wanting at this point. In addition to the fact that I wanted to see what was happening with the people at The Temple, and being denied that was rather frustrating, especially given what happened with Sayid last week. To leave us hanging after that only to provide us with completely separate information this week probably lessens my enjoyment somewhat. Since my desire to see more Temple is overwhelming my desire to see Locke and Sawyer trekking through the jungle. And the more things like that happen, the more I become worried that despite my blank expectations for answers, the ending will just not be satisfying.

The flash sideways again presented some really interesting questions, but none that were remotely answered. How did Ben become a teacher? (A hilarious scene by the way.) Who's Locke's dad that's going to come to the wedding? And if it's Anthony Cooper, then how did Locke get into the wheelchair this time? Although I must say it's rather awesome watching Terry O'Quinn play the juxtaposition of both confused, frustrated Locke, and completely certain, unwavering Locke and the fact that elements of both characters seem to be sliding between the two of them. Specifically sideways-Locke's acceptance of the reality of his situation and fake Locke's yelling about people telling him what he can't do. There seems to be more to that.

Keeping everyone separated is also a mistake. Jin and Sun have been trying to reunite for over a season and a half now. For far too many episodes, Sun, Lapidus, Locke, Ben, and Richard have been hanging out by that four toed statue, essentially waiting for something to happen. Tonight they finally made the decision to head toward the temple, and hopefully the group will all reunite very soon. Since this show seems to work best when all the characters are functioning as one large unit and not incessantly separated.

I suppose that when all is said and done, it's the journey, and not the destination that makes it all worthwhile. The characters are interesting, and the plot is just a vehicle through which the characters can make decisions and change. Yet, this does not mean that I am not interested in a solid resolution to the plot. On the contrary, I am very interested. And that is ultimately what I hope, and to a degree, expect to see.

Also, where's Desmond? My favorite character needs to come back. Now. Come on man, where are you?

Anyway, this ends this current article, for all of you who actually took the time to read it. I actually have a lot more to say, but I'll save it for another time. Feel free to comment if you want to start a discussion about the show, and I'm thinking about doing this every week now.