Subtropical Homesick Blues

Bob Dylan via YouTubeOh boy! My blog’s first post-by-request. Granted, it’s about “Lost,” so I would’ve ended up talking about it anyway, but still.

It looks like the “Lost” backlash is in full effect on the internets, to the point that even the complaints have gotten stale. For my part, just over the last four or five weeks I’ve gone from being excited enough to stage an ill-fated “Lost”-watching party at my apartment, to being disappointed, to even forgetting that it was on last night until I was reminded. Still, I think the episodes this season have steadily been getting better.

I’m not the gushing fanboy that I used to be, but I kept thinking last night that there was some really cool stuff going on, stuff that reminded me of a show I used to like an awful lot. I didn’t really care about the big developments last night, and/or I saw them coming from a mile away even without the internet spoilers, but I still thought it was a very well-done episode.

The episode could just as well have been called “The Cost of Success,” because at this point, the show is clearly a victim of its own hype. The production quality and the performances haven’t gone down, and the series still has one of the highest cool-stuff-per-episode ratios on TV, but they’re just not delivering on everything they promised, and it’s wearing down viewers’ patience. I kept being reminded of the series “Heroes.” It’s really not a good show. It’s got enormous plot holes, terrible terrible dialogue, mediocre performances, and is full to bursting with tired cliches, stereotypes, and gimmicks. “Lost” is better in just about every conceivable way — so how come I’m more interested in what’s going on with the former than I am with the latter?

Now, the “Lost” guys have painted themselves into a corner, and they’ve got an obscene amount riding on the next episode. It’s going to be the last for a long while, so they stand to lose a lot of viewers. As if that weren’t enough, they’ve been hyping it even since before the season started, saying that it’s going to be the most stunning thing we’ve ever seen on television. If it doesn’t deliver on a lot of the mysteries left dangling since the pilot episode, then there are going to be a lot of pissed off viewers, and those of us who are still watching the show are going to have to hear about it incessantly for the next four months.

I still have faith they can pull off something good, even though there’s no way it’s going to be everything people want from it. I thought last week’s episode was pretty cool if forgettable, and last night’s showed they can still hand out the reveals when they need to. But for that I need spoilers, so don’t read the rest of this post if you haven’t seen the last two episodes.

The reason I have faith is because this episode was the first sign that they’re willing to start answering questions again. They had the new underused characters comment on how nobody asks questions and how the rest of the castaways were always being left out. And point out to Locke that he should’ve monitored the other stations when he was there last. They had Ben and Juliet talk about all the duplicity and too many mysteries. It all seemed to imply that they (the writers) still “get it” on some level.

Eko’s death didn’t surprise me at all; from the first flashback, I saw it coming. What’s impressive is that even without the shock value of his death, it was a strong episode. It showed one final twist for the character; until now he’d been completely defined by his first flashback episode. He was a criminal who’d become devoutly religious by taking over his brother’s life and using it to atone for his past sins. Now we finally see (and he saw, too, from the looks of it), that his character was more complex than that. For better or worse, he did what he thought needed to be done, and no longer felt guilt or remorse for it. Not quite redemption, maybe, but close enough for the Island to kill him.

More importantly, it finally gives more info on the Smoke Monster. With the final scene with Yemi, they strongly imply — I’d say that in “Lost” terms, they basically said outright — that the smoke monster can take the form of people. Like Yemi, or the dead drug runner zombies, or Jack’s father, or Hurley’s imaginary friend, or Shannon’s visions of Walt, or Kate’s black horse. This episode plus Eko’s first encounter suggests that it scans your memories to find a person or thing you have unresolved issues with, then manifests itself as that to see what you’re about. Implying that it’s acting as a judge and, apparently, an executioner. That’s pretty significant. And cool, especially if you like “The Prisoner.”

Plus, they’re finally bringing back stuff from older episodes and setting them up to be used further, instead of just introducing new material. Except for eye-patch guy, which I thought was a great Rear Window-type moment, and creepy as hell.

The whole Ben and Juliet and Jack business didn’t work so well for me, because it still just feels like set-up. I’m hoping that there’s a much bigger con going on here. I don’t have any guesses as to how it’ll actually play out, but there’s got to be something more than just what Juliet is telling him. The episode with Sawyer’s pacemaker seemed to imply that there is — this is the length they’ll go to to screw with your mind.

Speaking of that episode: like I mentioned, I thought it was good, but forgettable. They didn’t really establish anything significant that I can remember. I was reading responses to it online, and that was what made it clear to me that there’s no way the creators of the show are going to be able to please everyone. The complaint was something like “how could Sawyer have been so stupid to believe that the Others make tiny bunny pacemakers?”

Which sounds clever unless you realize that if you’ve been on an island seeing two years’ worth of weird stuff happen all in a little over two months, and you’re kidnapped and put in a cage, and you wake up strapped on a table to see guys shoving a huge needle into your chest, and you wake up again to see your arch-enemy slowly walking up and suddenly shaking the hell out of a bunny in a cage, your first impulse isn’t going to be to say, “Hmm, now wait one second.” It’s going to be, “Holy shit!”

But that sums up the problems with the series, I think. They’ve over-built the mysteries, so that everybody in the audience spends more time thinking about things than feeling them. That whole sequence with the adrenaline shot and the bunny was really creepy, but the audience is distracted trying to second-guess what’s going on and figure out how it all fits into the overall storyline. The “big moments” are having less and less of a pay-off; I think the only way they’re going to be able to get back that feeling of importance is to start answering some more of the big questions.

Or hell, all of them. The show could answer every single question raised since the pilot. That doesn’t mean the series has to end — just introduce a new story arc. “Star Blazers” did it. Decades of comic books have done it. I maintain that there’s no magic formula to “Lost;” fans of the show aren’t fans of this particular concept or characters. They’re fans of the way the story is told. These guys can (and do) introduce new mysteries all the time, so it’s not as if they’re in danger of running out of intrigue. They just need to set up a moratorium on introducing any new question until they’ve answered at least 2 of the old ones.

Some of the stuff you know they have to answer, and they’re just taking too long to do it. I’m guessing there’s no way we’ll go for much longer without seeing Desmond’s girlfriend Penelope, or finding out more about the hatch implosion and the purple sky, and that eventually we’ll learn about Aaron’s importance, the smoke monster, etc. But there are lingering questions I’m afraid they won’t answer, and if they don’t, it’ll ruin the series:

  • Why did Libby show up in Hurley’s sanitarium?
  • What’s the deal with Walt’s magic powers? (preferably, bring back Walt and explain that Michael was killed in a boating accident)
  • What happened to the stewardess from the tail end who disappeared suddenly?
  • Was it just fate that brought all these connected people onto the same plane?
  • Where is Vincent, the mastermind of the entire thing?

3 thoughts on “Subtropical Homesick Blues”

  1. Chuck, thanks for giving your two cents. I would have to agree with about 99% of your sentiments listed above.

    I’ve come to expect disapointing episodes, like the pacemaker. And I’ve gotten used to the fact that they never answer any questions. But, I tell ya what made me want to throw my remote in the fireplace: more new characters! GAH!! Please keep in mind, that I’m not one of the fans who have been asking about all the other unused/unseen characters from the orignial crash site. I was actually wondering why they ever bothered with showing other poeple outside the main cast in the first place. I would have been totally happy with the idea that just our main characters survived. Hell, to survive a plane crash is a miracle anyway. Did we really need to see character that survived outside the main group? No.

    I thought the pacing of the first season was perfect. There were plenty of interesting characters, and endless posibilities with flashbacks, that could have filled five years worth of programming alone. Especially since only one character gets a flashback per episode. It was a great formula for the show. Then the tail section story. Even more characters. I thought it was a distraction from the show that didn’t pay off. I still think I’m right. Now, we have the Others. This is reasonably acceptable, because who wouldn’t want to know a little something about them. I get that. But, now they writers have introduced two new characters out of the original bunch. I say “WHO CARES!” Come on, with so many characters in the story now, it would take an iceage to do all their flashbacks, to show any relevance. Did we really need these two clowns? They did less than zero for the episode. If you are going to introduce someone new, then make me give a goddamn about them. Are they fodder for an accident like the guy that blew up in season one? That was cheap…and I think this will be the same.

    Echo’s death wasn’t suprising, but what’s worse, it wasn’t emotional…at all! I know I just bitched about too many characters, but he was the only one I thought contributed any interest what so ever. Make me care that he died, damnit! Now, for the smoke monster. I’m in complete agreeance that it’s the judge, jury, etc. But why didn’t it kill him when he first ran into it? Did it have trouble reading all his thoughts the first time around? I didn’t feel that the rest of his story was all that compelling. I saw it coming.

    Maybe you can fill me in with some information here, but why is the next episode the last for 12 weeks? Did they not film any more episodes, and are waiting from feedback from these to continue? Is it a hype generator? I’m a little confused. I can’t remember the last time a series abruptly went on haitus at the beginning of a new season.

  2. They’re going on hiatus so they can air episodes without any repeats. It’s the nature of the fall season that shows produce fewer episodes then there are weeks in the TV season. So, as a reaction to complaints about all the repeats last season, and how that interuppted the flow of the show’s linear storytelling, they’re taking two months off, and when they come back next year, they’ll air (I think) 18 episdoes in a row, no repeats.

    I’m a little torn about the descision. I hated having so many repeats, but sometimes I actually welcomed the breaks. Short breaks I can deal with. This long break is going to be tough, especially if next week’s episodes kicks ass.

    As for the addition of the new Losties, I kind of liked how they were introduced, with no fanfare, and how they’re kind of bitter. Like me! But if they’re just going to be introduced so they can be killed off, as seems to be the case with the Tailies, then that’s lame.

  3. Thanks for that explanation Rain. I really don’t watch much live TV (mostly DVD series), so I have been out of the loop on how seasons actually work.

    Yeah, the introduction of the new characters was definitely without fanfare, but did it have to be so *boring*? It’s not the fact that I’m worried the new characters were introduced to simply die, it’s just that I could care less about them.

    I’m taking many notes here on how not to lose an audience…if I ever get around to writing a show.

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