Does LOST Need To Find Itself?

There’s no denying that ABC’s hit drama LOST is one of the best shows to hit the airwaves in many a moon. But while pondering the show’s twists and turns during this mid-season break, one can’t help but notice that while the reigning Emperor of cult TV isn’t wandering around in a bathing suit trying to convince us it’s fully dressed, some of the material is starting to wear a little thin.

For example, as much as it’s great to meet new characters, should it really be done at the expense of ones we’ve come to love? Why did we spend last season investing in Charlie and Claire’s romance if this season, they would become little more than background players? For that matter, why did we bother investing in the “tailies” only to have their major players be killed off?

There are those who say that the killing of “major” characters such as Mr. Eko create a sense of peril which extends to the other characters we know and love. “If they can kill off (Eko, Libby, Boone, Shannon, insert your favorite dead character here), then they can kill anyone!” But that isn’t really true. None of the characters killed were, in fact, “front-burner” players. The blink-and-you-missed-it romance of Shannon and Sayid was thrown into the mix for no other reason than to give us the scene where she dies in his arms. The same was true of Libby’s pre-demise flirtation with Hurley. The characters killed thus far are basically the island drama’s equivalent of STAR TREK’s infamous red-shirt brigade, and that’s just cheap melodrama, kids.

Worse, the weekly flashback sequences are becoming predictable and repetitive. Where originally we were taken by surprise by each installment’s O. Henry-esque twist, we now know that each will involve one of two things: redemption or the character in question making a bad decision which will impact either their life or that of someone they love.

And sure, the opening moments of this season gave us the jaw-dropping sequence in which the book club meeting was revealed to be happening in an island compound inhabited by The Others, but what of last season’s equally shocking final moments? You know, that whole thing with the guys in the snow shack who were speaking Portuguese and then called up Penny Widmore, aka Desmond’s lover.

From a storytelling standpoint, it’s not enough to keep piling mystery upon mystery without ever providing answers. Let’s not forget a little cult TV hit called TWIN PEAKS which made that same fatal error. Rather than addressing the primary mystery of season one (“Who killed Laura Palmer?”), that twisted soap opted to turn Nadine into a superwoman and explore the twisted mind of a psychopath named Windom Earle. Season two became such a mess that the show quickly went from brilliant to cancelled. LOST — which has given us polar bears and black clouds, each rather poorly digitized — is far from having to worry about that scenario at this point, but how long until viewers begin to suspect that the drivers of the bus don’t have a clue as to where they are going, let alone a map?

Various interviews have indicated that the creative forces behind LOST are taking this season in a more action/adventure direction, as well as playing up the romantic relationships. And that’s great… but let’s not forget that before you run off into the future, the audience is going to expect a few answers about the past.

It bears repeating that LOST is, without a doubt, one of television’s best written, acted and directed offerings. But the powers that be may want to be careful that they don’t leave passengers who’ve signed on for the ride thinking, “I should just get off at the next stop before this thing crashes.”

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  • DAVE

    A worthy critique of the show. Yes much to much open ended storylines without resolve. We need more. Sometimes I think the show doesn’t know where its going.

  • Muriel

    I totally agree. I love Lost. I really do. But it is no longer entertaining, but tiring. I’m tired of waiting for some answers. To me this is the big difference between Lost and Heroes. Both have a major secrets to answer ( Heroes: Where are these powers coming from and why were these people chosen? Lost: Where are these people and why were these people chosen?) But Heroes answers some question. We now know who Skylar is. We know that Claire’s dad is working for someone. We still don’t know why it was important to save Claire, but we are starting to and atleast feel like we will soon. The show feels like it is moving and almost quickly. Lost…we still don’t even know what the numbers stand for! What is the black smoke?! Where is the french lady?! Is this a freaking experiment?! Tell me something for freaking sake!! Lost is a tough show to stay loyal to, but I’m trying. Thanks for speaking up for us loyal Losties!

  • Todd W in NC

    I totally agree about the problem of killing off all the tailies. I feel that the introduction and integration of those characters was one of the best things about season two, that and the hatch. Now, with only the little-used Benard remaining from the tail section, and the hatch having imploded, the first segment of season three feels a little wayward.

    (On the other hand, we don’t know what the Others did with the Tailies that they abducted that first night. It could be that there are more Tailies still alive than we think.)

    I’m hoping that the extreme focus on Jack, Kate, and Sawyer is more a result of the two-piece season split, and that after the hiatus is over, they’ll get back to telling large ensemble stories.

    Also, by killing Eko & Ana-Lucia and having Michael & Walt boat away to…wherever, I realized that the ethnic diversity of the show has diminished too. I thought maybe I was nitpicking, but I’ve heard and/or read the same comment from other sources. I think it was even mentioned in the TV Guide podcast, and I think it got back to the creators of the show, because they’ve mentioned it in one of their podcasts too.

    I also wonder what ever happened to the Penny/Arctic/Portuguese subplot. Funny how they use that as the cryptic yet shock-filled cliff-hanging moment of the season two finale but then don’t follow up on it after six episodes of season three. Surely they’ve got to re-address that subplot once they return from hiatus.

    Granted, they have revealed *some* of the mystery about the Others. They aren’t primitive savages; they have a cozy spot on the island; they have another island; they have an underwater habitat (or, perhaps, a submarine); they have knowledge of the outside world; they have sophisticated ways of gathering personal information on others; they have a combination of old & modern devices but are limited on medical & surgical devices; etc. However, we still don’t know their agenda, which is the important thing.

    The creators probably justify it by thinking that revealing the Others’ motivations would be revealing their whole hand. Since we don’t know what that motivation is, maybe that’s true. I’d like to think, however, that knowing a little more about what they’re up to could leave the smoke monster, the four-toed foot statue, the Black Rock washing *way* up shore, Locke’s miraculous healing, Walt’s alleged power, etc. all still a bit mysterious.

    And, as far as the flashbacks, they have been seeming a bit more pointless lately. Some are good for character development, but not many have been informative about the characters’ fates to end up on the island.

    In summary, yes, we need more information. I’ve heard way too many say they’ve given up on the show, precisely because of the mystery getting out of hand. I think it’s pretty obvious this show needs to have a definite light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps a guaranteed series finale at the end of season five, the way J. Michael Straczynski handled Babylon 5. That way, we’re not left with dangling mysteries, and the creators can guarantee a timeframe in which to wrap up all mysteries and storylines.

    If there’s too much chance of the show dragging on forever, I’m afraid too many will lose interest. I’d rather know the show only had 2.5 seasons to go and could end when it’s still on top than for the show to drag out to a 7th or 8th season and risk losing quality along the way.

  • Cory

    Based on interviews with Lindelhof and Cuse it has become apparent to me that the showrunners know exactly what they are doing and will not drop the ball on the mysteries that people are clamoring for answers for.

    The unfortunate part is, because the show is a hit ABC is going to milk it for all it is worth so they need to drag their feet so they have places to go. I believe that ABC is the one responsible for all the issues you have brought up in your article. Also, as I understand it we will get more Penny answers shortly when the show returns.

  • tralfaz

    I agree, to a point, with Cory’s notion that ABC is to blame… but let’s face it: Who creates what they hope will be a hit show and doesn’t come up with enough plot to last five, six years? Look at how Alias re-invented itself every couple years to keep things fresh. If you only have a certain number of plot points to hit, then you’re in trouble… or you’re assuming you’ll be a one-season show. Either way, it seems like a bad idea…

  • Cory

    To respond to tralfaz,
    I believe that they do have enough mystery for a full 5 year story but that they are not even sure they will be able to end it then. So until a more final word or a “promise” from ABC to let them end it when they want, I think we will be stuck in this lull time.

    I do think ABC is realizing the problem they are having with the show in terms of dwindling viewership so hopefully they will remedy this with the B5 theory.

    Hell to expand on the B5 theory, they could maybe even get away with a spinoff or something in the same world as the show if they satisfactorily resolve the plotlines.

  • ||TheTVAddictAddict||

    I also agree…

    I’m glad people listen to you because you are the TVAddict, but they won’t listen to me. I simply can’t understand introducing new charachters without explaining more about the original cast. I have never seen a more frustrating show in my entire life. This season has been so freaking bad. This show wont last much longer if it keeps going like this.

  • Todd W in NC

    Cory, I agree with you about the spinoff idea. In fact, I recently came up with a new [nutty] theory that TV shows should be structured a lot like high school and college. That is, shows should plan on lasting four years. Any less isn’t ambitious or well planned out; any more may be beating a dead horse. And you know there’s a definite end coming in the “senior year.”

    If a show is successful enough to continue past four years, you re-invent it a little but keep about half of the same characters and half the subplots, maybe even give it a new name, and make a spinoff that could potentially last four more years. It’s like the equivalent of going to college.

    In both the original show and the spinoff, the “freshman year” would be like laying the groundwork for characters, the basis of the story arc, etc. The mid-point of the story could be where some major shift happens in the characters’ development or the story begins to accelerate toward it’s resolution, equivalent to getting your drivers license around sophomore or junior year in high school or turning 21 midway through college.

    In both cases, the “senior year” is the anticipation & bittersweetness toward the end and the wrapping up of loose ends, with a “prom” episode being one last emotional story about character relationships before the last 2 or 3 plot-heavy episodes and a “graduation” episode being the series finale. (When I say prom and graduation, I don’t mean it literally; I think the metaphor could work for almost any type of show, especially high-concept shows, maybe a little less for soap operas or dramedies.)

    Considering our culture’s short attention span and the way we grab on to things that are new and shiny and get more critical of things that have been around for a while, maybe some shows, especially the really good ones, should only last four years (or at least give us some *positive* re-invention at the four-year mark to keep things fresh if they do keep going).

    Four seasons won’t get most shows to the magic number of 100 episodes for syndication, but isn’t that rule of thumb changing anyway? There seem to be fewer shows in 2nd run syndication, and some that do lasted fewer than five seasons (Farscape being an example). Plus, with more broadcast networks filling up affiliate airtime and cable networks re-airing recent episodes of broadcast network shows, there’s less time to fit in syndicated repeats anyway. So, maybe four seasons (regardless of the number of episodes per season) should be the new magic number (eight, if you do the spin-off thing).

    Just a crazy idea.

  • seat42f

    but Lost would be terrible in syndication.. someone will buy it but the cash comes from procedurals and not serials. People want to flip over to A&E and tune into CSI Miami or watch Law&Order on TNT for one and done episodes..they dont want to follow a story.

    I think the should do a show called seek… it can have those looking for our losties, include flashbacks with the current lost cast and allows characters like michael and walt ( if they did get off the island) a spot on tv… the two shows could overlap and end up at the same place…..

    Lost has to be REAL careful when it comes back from hiatus. It dropped around 2M viewers from the same time last year so any kind of drop in 2007 would be worrisome. ABC is playing the get out of the way of Criminal Minds, Deal Or No Deal and idols way but the reality is the network got it’s eared chewed off about not having a show at 10PM to help lead into local news.

    the producers just need to listen the the casual viewers more than the rabid fans for a change if they want to get the numbers back up. Have you noticed we’ll get a blurb about a big reveal down the road and then down the road gets there and you’re like huh? okay.. just happened with the huge cliffhanger they promised in the first arc of the season. it ended and I was like huh, okay, that’s nice but it’s not huge….

    we had six episodes and you could take 5 minutes from each one and make a GREAT half hour. Looking forward to great episodes and not just snippets in 2007.

  • Sam

    I agree with tvaddict and that’s all I’ll say. I’d give myself a hernia talking about it otherwise.

  • ||TheTVAddictAddict||

    Hahaha. this is good stuff. Nice to see people finally bashing this show.