I have been a “Lost” fanatic since the Season 3 premiere. There was just something about polar bears, DHARMA hatches, the numbers, and Paulo and Nikki that grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go. After seeing the first episode of the season, with the Other’s perspective of the crash of flight 815 from their vantage point in DHARMA-burg, I wanted to watch every episode I could and quickly did so. I borrowed the DVDs from a friend and pissed away a couple of weekends while I ravenously consumed episode after episode after episode.
This show was awesome! It was like the X Men by way of Dante Alighieri. You had all these pretty-well-developed-for-prime-time characters with all their crazy dysfunctions! You had mistrust and power struggles! You had an eerie transmission from a foaming at the mouth French lady! You had the foaming at the mouth French lady herself! You had the Others and their cool whisper language! You had the smoke monster! Most of all, you had what seemed to be a cohesive and original story developing that would – despite doubts some people had – someday come to a definite conclusion.
That last claim might seem ballsy to detractors of the show. In fact, I am confident naysayers would dismiss any notion that the writers of the show aren’t flying by the seat of their pants, because I am friends with a few who guffaw at any attempt to explain the last five and a half years of plot twists, “ham handed philosophical references” (to quote one such friend) and theories about where the story is going. Are they right to do so? I would say probably, that’s pretty much what this post is about, but I am getting ahead of myself.
I have been, until recently, a pretty strong defender of the idea that the writers of Lost knew exactly what they are doing and they are all going to blow our freakin’ minds by the summer of 2010. Who could blame me? What did people who didn’t actually watch the show know about it? Nothing, that’s what. They were just jealous that I watched something awesome on television while they were stuck going out to bars and having fun. Plus, I as well as other people had made predictions about the show that had come true. The writers had left clues for their clever little fans and we had been validated from time to time by guessing correctly. “Don’t worry,” I would reassure myself anytime the writers jerked off an occasional Paulo and Nikki or Lo Pan story, “this is all going to end with a mind-blowing conclusion. It will be worth it.”
Now however, we are nearing the end. There are now just eight episodes left of Lost and I am no longer as confident as I used to be. Some of the biggest, most compelling mysteries on the show have been revealed. The problem is, the answers we were given were often lame, contradictory or just raise further questions at a time when things should be winding down. So, here are some problems I currently have with Lost.
OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING – MANY SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EVERY EPISODE BUT MAY STILL DO SO SOMEDAY, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: CHOPPER SICS BALLS!
1) The Richard back story is pretty weak. Richard Alpert has long been one of my favorite characters on the show. Even when the rest of the Others were acting like a pack of murdering crazies, Richard always had a relaxed, wise vibe that suggested to the audience that there was more going on. Of all the characters that ever alluded to knowing about Jacob, he was the one made Jacob seem worth knowing about. He was the first character we saw go freely to and from the island with the submarine. Then, holy smokes, the bomb was dropped that he doesn’t age! He doesn’t age!? Awesome!
The longer they let this mystery stew in our heads, the more hyperbolic our own assumptions about just how long this guy has been around would naturally grow. Juliet would often shoot the audience that annoying smirk of hers and say things like, “Oh, he’s old.” OK, cool! He’s old. Since this is a sci-fi show about a magical island that cures people with electromagnets that can destroy the world, just how old is he? I would imagine it would have to be a pretty far-fetched answer. Hundreds of years? THOUSANDS? Plus, isn’t the island littered with gobs of Egyptian imagery? Maybe he’s ancient! And that might explain the eyeliner…
Nope. He’s not ancient. Nor is Richard Albert Egyptian. He is from 1860s Spain. That’s it. One of the biggest build ups on the show, and we’re given a conclusion that is far lamer than any of us imagined. 1860s Spain? Where is mysticism in that? Why not 1920s Long Island or 1890s Iowa? Our imaginations had run wild for three years now, and all we get is second-rate Ponce de Leon.
While we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with Richard’s accent, or lack-thereof? He went from barely any English in 1867 to completely fluent in the language with no discernible cultural definitions by as early as 1954? I know Jin has miraculously picked up the language over the last few years, as he spoke zero English in the first episode and is now just as fluent as everyone else, but he still has a Korean accent. Maybe the island, in addition to curing cancer and paraplegia, also works as a magical speech pathologist.
2) Jacob exists – and he is a giant douche! Ah, the elusive Jacob. One of the biggest carrots ever dangled in front of a TV audience: who is Jacob? What is his purpose? Is he the Island’s Jim Jones, bending the will of a murdering cult for some personal goal? Is he a savior, using the island’s magic healing powers for a greater good? Is he a tired old ghost in a cabin? Maybe he is just an ancient dickhead who is desperate to prove a philosophical point to his equally ancient fishing buddy.
For a very long time, we, the Lost audience, have been given clues about Jacob. He is the guy that tells the Others what to do. OK, cool. Very few ever get to meet him. Alright, makes sense. He has a list, and some of the people from 815 are on it, others are not. Awesome, there might be a story arc here. He might be a ghost in a cabin. Erm, what? Actually he’s not, Ben was making that up. OK. But then again, he really is. Maybe? I dunno. Fuck it. He lives in that four-toed statue Sayid saw once. Why not.
But why? What is he doing? Why does he have a list? Why does he summon people to the island? Why are people so willing to give their lives for this guy? In the same episode it was revealed that Richard is just a sad old Spaniard, it was also revealed that the reason everything has been happening, the weirdo cults, the constant barrage of people to this secret island, Paulo and Nikki, the eternal struggle between good and evil, black stones and white stones, is that Jacob and his nemesis, the salt and pepper haired smoke monster man, have a strong philosophical disagreement.
Guy in Black Shirt thinks people are corruptible and evil. Guy in White Shirt thinks otherwise. How can we settle this? By forcing people to come to a horrifying island and letting them go to war over why they’re here in the first place, obviously. Who cares if they disappear from their families and always eventually end up murdered? Jacob has a point to make. Somehow, he is the good guy of the two.
3) The island’s purpose. In addition to Jacob, the nature of the Island itself has been the focus of much speculation over the years. It has a giant electromagnet inside that turns the sky purple and can destroy the entire planet if not cared for properly. It can travel through time and space if you turn a plastic wheel in its core. If you leave the island via the plastic wheel, you get pooped out in Tunisia. It can cure cancer. It can give the wheel-chair ridden the ability to walk and hike and discover DHARMA hatches. It kills pregnant women. It has polar bears and a smoke monster. Clearly, the island is the center piece of this science fiction cornucopia. Why then, does it exist?
Apparently, Guy in Black is also the smoke monster. The smoke monster is evil incarnate. The smoke monster wishes to leave the island so he can wreak havoc elsewhere, presumably because humanity is inherently good, as long as you keep it away from terrible, prime-time CGI. The island is the smoke monster’s containment unit. It holds him in, away from the rest of the world.
That means essentially the island has same function as that red furnace ghost container thing in the Ghost Busters’ basement. Awesome.
4) The moral ambiguity of Charles Widmore. One of the things that made the remake of Battlestar Gallactica one of the most outrageously overrated shows of all time (bring it nerds, I will cut you), was the complete lack of a moral compass for one of the main characters, Lee Adama. From episode to episode the character would go flying from outraged rebel, risking it all to prove an ethical point to die-hard patriot shooting down opposition to the cause. It, among many other things, really made me hate watching the show.
It would seem we have now reached the same point with Lost and Charles Widmore. He has gone from evil, exploitative capitalist murderer hellbent on capturing the island for his own personal gain, to leader of the others, exiled by the ever manipulative Ben Linus to apparent savior with plans to conquer the smoke monster. At one point, it really seemed the writers wanted this guy to be the show’s main antagonist, but now they must feel that Smoky is more interesting. I suppose it’s fine that they take liberties with the characters, but every time Whidmore shows up, he seems like a completely different guy on a completely different team. Maybe they’re just messing with us, maybe they forgot who he even is.
“Lost” has surprised me in the past. The middle of Season 3 was often sluggish, seemingly pointless and peppered with Paulo and Nikki. Then it ended with one of the most kick ass finales ever. There are still 8 episodes to go, and that’s plenty of time to build momentum. They could still somehow pull this all together and make one history’s greatest TV shows. It’s still possible, but given that the revelations presented in the last couple of months have been tepid and less than we’ve expected this whole time, confidence is not high. Have the writers had an idea all along? Is this coming to a solid ending that will tie the whole series together? Will it blow our skulls to pieces? Or are they going George Lucas on us and letting their kids call the shots at this point? We’ll all find out soon, and the size of the collective groan let out by viewers at the end of this spring will indicate just how bad it was.