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Thursday, February 22, 2007

TV Watch: Lost - Stranger in a Strange Land

OK, now I just think the producers aren't getting it. Despite the fact that last week's Flashes Before Your Eyes shed 2 million viewers and Not In Portland apparently shed another 2 million the week before. And yes, I'm aware that these episodes are already shot and everything - but it sounded from the podcasts that viewer angst was being factored into post-break episodes. The first three episodes, it sounded like, would shine light on lots of things. About DHARMA, the Others, the Island, etc.

Instead, we've had a lot of things dangled before us and the slipped away. Jack has access to the Others - but whenever Tom wants to chat about the Purple Sky Event or anything, actually, something shuts him up. Kate and Sawyer get Karl safe and sound ... and Karl seems rather willing to talk all about Otherville and their daily lives ... and Sawyer tells him to get lost. Jack meets a whole group of people abducted by the Others ... and yells at them to go away.

Yells at them to go away. Honestly, the only good Cindy's appearance had was to give them something to put into the teasers. I understand that next week Ben will offer Jack a copy of "The Idiot's Guide To The Others And Why You're On This Island" ... but he'll burn it in an act of defiance.

Look, I like the flashbacks ... I really do. It's just that I think Lost is missing a Sunday Edition. You know how in serial comics very little happens for six days and then bam ... on Sunday the mystery gets solved. It feels like the show needs to - every now and the - cut the flashbacks and put enough emphasis on the island itself to get some questions answered. Jack's story about a killer tattoo was decent enough - but so barely connected to the larger picture that it just makes things like Cindy cameo that much more annoying. I know more about Jack's kite making abilities than I do about Cindy's fate on the island.

And I just don't care about Jack's kite making abilities. Heck, I'm not even sure the end of Jack's flashback made any sense. Why did Coke Boy know about his new tattoo? Lost seems to constantly confuse mysterious with simply not explaining anything. One is complex ... the other is nonsense. Considering we started this fable with the concept that it could be explained through science and now have smoke beasts and time travelling prophets ... I'm guessing we've got the latter.

Get this from Wikipedia:

The supposed three big mysteries solved in "Stranger in a Strange Land" was actually a stunt by the people in charge of the episode promos, according to the producers of the show in the official Lost podcast. They confirmed that the only mystery to be answered in this episode was the origin of Jack's tattoos
-- Stranger in a Strange Land (Lost)

How annoying is that? I'm not even sure how the origin of Jack's tattoos ranks in terms of Lost mysteries ... if it even does rank. It certainly ranks lower than Juliet's mark. Which again, Jack didn't even ask what the significance was.


Update: In a recent EW interview (spoilers), Lindelof describes the fact that Juliet wasn't born on the island "maybe a surprise" to some of the audience.

Really? I think this is the disconnect. The producers/writers have come to feel that virtually any tidbit is a satisifactory morsel of information. Juliet wasn't born on the island. Ethan wasn't born on the island. Jack's tattoos have a significant meaning to him. To me, these don't even feel like much more than background noise. Maybe the scrutiny that every Lost show gets (like trying to decipher every symbol or number in any frame) is actually getting counter-productive. The viewers' attention to minutiae is leading to ... a sea of minutaie.

Still, I don't think that excuses the blatant pulling away of the rug via questionable writing. Tom's abrupt interruption. Sawyer's lousy logic in telling Karl to go get himself killed.

So far this season - we've gotten two major factoids: the smoke monster is connected to the "apparitions" and time travel is probably a factor. Some of the other clues - like Mittelos and aged wombs - are interesting, but get drowned out by the rest of the noise.

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jvm said...

You know how ABC had that show where the guy lived the same day over and over again? It died pretty quick, as I recall. Anyway, the problem there is the same here, in a sense:

You can't make a show about cliffhangers and suspense and mystery unless the situation is resolved nearly completely periodically.

Think about what worked in the X-Files: Monster of the Week. Even better, occasional returns of Monster of the Week monsters. But at the end of each hour, the story had reached a point where enough was explained to move on.

And that can't happen with LOST. I just don't think that a story which wants to be this large in scale can dole out the full explanation in pieces without reaching a point where the whole thing snaps into place for everyone *well before you're done giving every detail*. People will *guess* what's going on, or get enough of a picture that the mystery is essentially gone.

Which is why the series needed to be a fixed story from the beginning, somewhere around 60 episodes, with the last three episodes a series of cliffhangers toward some goal that becomes clear as the veil is ripped away and all secrets become clear.

Like "Oh crap, this is really Earth" in Planet of the Apes and then some action ensues where the human tries to escape from the planet. Or they realize what's going on with the Island, and also find out that it's going to be destroyed or if they stay much longer they'll never be able to leave, and there is a race (and battle) to get away before it's too late.

Or something.

Short version: Giant mysteries can't have solutions that are doled out in tiny bits. You need to reset the mystery every so often to something new.

Brain dump ends here.


Josh said...

Wasn't that the mid-season replacement for Lost? I don't know if ABC intended on bringing it back post-Lost ... but if it clicked I'm sure they could have.

I don't think that detracts from your point, though. From X-Files to John Doe - we can get a pretty good cross-section.

And I think Lost lacks it's Monster of the Week. It's not that I want them to necessarily make MOTW plotlines in the style of Buffy or X-Files ... or even Veronica Mars. It's just that it's become a slave to its format. Those shows use MOTW episodes to break up the "superplot" while still giving allusions to it.

Now, Lost just seems to give allusions to the superplot ... but there still isn't any MOTW.

Otherwise yeah - I think they needed to stick to a fixed storyline. The show feels inflated at this point. Nikki and Paolo are prime examples. As I understand it - they weren't planned but added because they were running out of backstories.

And my guess is that the frontstory only has a few cards to dish out. It's not nearly as complex as they make it seem. That's why they're so shy about revealing anything major.

That's why they whisk Karl away. One long conversation with him might eradicate a whole season's worth of innuendo. I mean - the producers give us an "Easter Egg" for a clue about the skeletons in the cave. WTF good is that?

Dang - it's like impossible to have a short rant about the show these days.