Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oh, How I've Loved Being Lost

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to write about a stupid television show. And I feel a little icky doing it, but this stupid show has consumed many hours of my last six years. Thanks to the wonder of the DVR, I haven’t been subjected to commercials of any sort in years and years, but I’m always a little bit ashamed when I admit I love a TV show. Because I’m a snob.

Freaking Lost.

I’ve watched the thing since the first episode. Only missed one. (Again- the wonder of the DVR.) I was hooked by the previews. A lover of the film Swiss Family Robinson, I have always been drawn to a good shipwreck, or in this case, plane wreck on a deserted island, story. Now, it's almost over and I feel like I need some time of reflection and closure. And what better place to share reflections and closure than on the internet? So here it is: my thoughts on being Lost...

Lost started off rather slow. It was intense, but slow. The first season developed the main characters, including the island itself. The show’s two main characters were Jack, a doctor and a man of science, and John Locke, an invalid miraculously cured by the restorative powers of the mysterious island. Jack was the Scully to Locke’s Mulder. They were science to faith, Nietzsche to Kierkegaard, Han Solo to Luke Skywalker, atheist to believer. Locke never tells Jack he was paralyzed before the crash; he wants Jack to believe in the island. It was probable that Jack would try to rationally explain away the miracle, anyway.

The first three seasons fluctuated between character flashbacks and what was happening on the island in the year 2004. Jack and Locke are the leaders of the motley crew of survivors, constantly at odds with one another. Secondary characters include Kate, a convict; Sawyer, a con-man; Sayid, a former Iraqi Republican Guard with a penchant for torturing people; Hurley, a lovable, overweight guy who had just won the lottery; Sun and Jin, a Korean couple with marital issues; Michael and his son Walt, who have just recently met; incestuously involved step-brother and sister Boone and Shannon; Charlie, a drug-addicted musician; and Claire, a very pregnant Australian who was on her way to give her baby up for adoption. There are other survivors who skulked about the beach being generally useless. Some were later introduced as regular characters, most remained in the background.

Lost had something for everyone. For the girls, there were love triangles, unrequited love stories, love surviving against all odds, etc., and plenty shots of Sayid and Sawyer sans shirts. There was an abundance of weird science-fiction lore for those interested in subjects like quantum physics, time travel, and parallel universes. There was violence and adventure and dark humor (like when poor Arzt blows himself up with dynamite- I’ve got Arzt all over me!) and paranormal activity. The ever-rational Jack begins to see his dead father; the survivors hear weird, unexplainable whispers in the jungle; a fast-paced pillar of smoke picks people up and smashes them against the trees. A man name Desmond is discovered in a hatch. (He’s been pushing the same series of numbers into a computer every 108 minutes for the past three years. Trapped on the island, he is separated from the love his life, Penelope, which is not coincidentally the name of Odysseus’ wife from the epic poem The Odyssey. What happens if the numbers aren’t entered in the computer? Planes crash into the island, that’s what happens.)

At the end of the first season, we get our first glimpse of the “Others.” A group of people on a fishing boat inexplicably kidnap Walt. (It was a shocking season finale.) In season 2, the “Others” are introduced as adversarial island natives, obsessed with children and pregnant women. We have no idea why. Their gang-leader is an insipid-looking man named Ben, who takes his orders from a mysterious and seemingly invisible man named Jacob.

The flashbacks continue. New characters are introduced; new flashbacks are required. Viewers got accustomed to the flashbacks. Reliant on them. It threw me for a loop when the flashbacks ceased at the end of season 3. The season finale shows us Jack in the future, a drunken mess of a person with no friends, no family, someone Kate pities.

I hated that episode. Jack, though a bit of a tool, was at least reliable and confident. He fixed things- his presence was reassuring. The episode left me unsettled, bewildered, and unhappy.

It was a brilliant episode.

The flash-forwards last a full season. In season 5, time is no longer sacred, and the characters left on the island jump back and forward through time, eventually settling in 1974.

Season 6: flash-sideways. After all, there are only four ways to go: up, down, right, or left. The characters are shown living alternative lives. Their plane does not crash. Kate is still a convict. Sawyer is a cop. Jack is still a doctor. Jin and Sun are not married, but want to be. Hurley and fellow survivor Libby experience strange “memories” from the island. Passengers of Oceanic 815 keep bumping into each other, their lives intricately connected in some mysterious way.

Throughout the series, the writers dropped clues through literary, biblical, philosophical, and mythical allusions. John Locke’s name symbolized his fresh start, his “clean slate,” if you will, after landing on the island. Comic books read, books carried around, all of these things were plot clues. What was the island? Purgatory? Pandora’s box? Never-never land? The lost world? Oz?

The show hasn’t been perfect. There have been some ridiculously irrelevant episodes. Remember Jack’s Thailand flashback? And Kate’s flashback- when she barged into a bank to steal a toy plane? (How come that whole incident didn’t come up in her later trial, by the way?) Overall, however, it’s been a very satisfying ride.

Finally, things are wrapping up. It has been a truly existential trip. The smoke monster? He’s the adversary of the man Jacob- an evil entity who can take the form of the deceased (he was the image of Jack’s father), and who can also take the form of an indestructible pillar of smoke.

Before this final season, the only person who had seen the smoke monster was Locke, briefly, in the abandoned shack in the middle of the jungle.

That episode terrified me. Locke enters a ramshackled, abandoned cabin in the jungle to meet up with Jacob. Things get paranormal. A rocking chair starts rocking. Things fly about the room. If you played the scene very slowly, you could see, for just an instant, the image of a man- Jack’s father- rocking in the chair.

Did Ben know the difference between Jacob and Smokey? Did he believe he was taking orders from Jacob when in fact, it was the other one; the evil entity; the Satan character, if you will, he was taking orders from?

It’s all very confusing. However, Ben, who stabbed Jacob to death, strangled Locke to death, who allowed his own daughter to be killed, finally recognizes his empty, worthless existence (as he has driven away every person in his life)- and is forgiven and accepted by Ilanna, a woman who is very close to Jacob.

It’s ultimately been a show about redemption. As the main characters have been plucked off the island one by one, they’ve gone down heroically. Eventually, all of the candidates will be eliminated but one (just revealed to be Jack Shepherd.) In the last episode, Sayid sacrificed himself by running off with the bomb. Jin sacrificed his life to try and save his wife’s. Through their sacrifices, these Lost characters are eventually found, redeemed.

The sadness of each death is lessened knowing they live on in their sideways lives. It’s like believing in heaven; the blow of losing a loved one is softened when you know you will see him or her again after this life is done. Each death is no longer agonizing because it is not an end, but a release. And in that way, Jacob, who has allowed these bad things to happen, seems to be working things out for a greater purpose- a purpose we don’t know about yet.

Ben asked Jacob, right before he killed him, why Jacob had ignored him. Ben, like Judas, had taken everything Jacob had given him and manipulated it, relishing the power behind his knowledge of the island. Jacob did not seem surprised when Ben killed him. He didn’t struggle. Like Obi-wan when Darth struck him down. Like Jesus after Judas kissed him on the cheek. Miles insists that Jacob ultimately believed Ben would do the right thing. In the very end, I think Ben will do the right thing. He will be redeemed.

In the finale, I don’t think Jack will end up taking over for Jacob. Here’s my prediction: Jack’s conversion to team Jacob helps rid the island, and the world, of the malevolent evil that is Smokey. Once evil is vanquished, Jacob is able to rise from the grave, so-to-speak, and continue doing whatever it is he does. Perhaps Jacob will live again in Aaron. I don’t know. Desmond factors into all of this somehow, too. Jack will die, but will live a happy sideways life. Maybe he’ll even reunite with his ex-wife (who I think is Juliet. They met in medical school.)

I guess we’ll see in a few weeks.

My Lost Memories:

Favorite episodes?

First favorite: The first Locke-centric episode (Walkabout) where we discover the island healed Locke’s paralysis. (Tuesday night’s was pretty amazing too, when Jack acknowledges (after pushing Smokey, who is wearing a “Locke suit”) into the water, that Locke told him to believe.)

Second favorite: The one where Desmond goes back and forth in time (The Constant) and cures himself of time-travel sickness by finding his one true constant, Penny.

Least favorite episode? The one where that couple gets buried alive. (Expose.) It added absolutely nothing to the story-arc.

Favorite characters?

10. Hurley
9. Desmond
8. Jack
7. Kate
6. Sayid
5. Juliet
4. Daniel Faraday
3. Sawyer
2. Benjamin Linus
1. John Locke

Only episode I haven’t seen: The one where Sayid tortures Sawyer. And quite frankly, that’s okay with me.

Your favorites? Least favorites? Other thoughts? I know I’m not the only Lost geek out there.


Ruthanne....Empress of her World said...

I love the Richard "Ab Aeterno" episode. What an emotionally and spiritually confusing episode there. I have always thought the series was about redemption of some sort. Anytime that a character is redeemed, they die. Hopefully we will get an answer to that relationship...redemption=death? Favorite characters?

3-Sayid (mmmpfffff)

Least Favorite=Jack, I want him to die. In fact, I have heard that the original plan was to kill him off in the pilot. I can only wish. Kate is also a good runner up for my "most frustrating" character.

I will cry like a baby when it is over.

Holly said...

already am. (crying)

why didn't anyone tell me I repeated an entire paragraph? i'm so embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

Hol, I don't see an entire paragraph repeated...

Dad said...

Sometimes I feel that I'm living in an alternative universe from my children.

Chris F said...

Favorite characters and thoughts:
1. Ben- when asked how he knows Locke isn't Locke and he responds, "because I killed him". He had some of the best lines.
2. Locke- "the island's not done with you Jack" tru dat.
3. Sayid- "I was a torturer" Somehow he always manages to look sad but serious.
4. Hurley- I loved the episode when he re-wrote star wars. How could you not love Hurley?
5. Charlie- Great, great character and actor.
6. Sawyer- All that pent up aggression that always seems to get directed at Jack...I'm kind of hoping Sawyer kills Jack with a rusty machete in the final episode.
7. Jin- He kind of reminds me of Bruce Lee mixed with Clint Eastwood.
8. Jacob- Cryptic, wise, and good with a loom.
9. Jack- Not everybody loves him, but you need him. Like Holly says, he brings stability to an otherwise unstable group of people.
10. Bernard...what a great husband. I loved the moment when the plane wreck survivors find Bernard and Rose again and they go, "ah crap."

Obviously missing from my list- Kate. She's one of those girls that secretly loves manipulating the emotions of every guy around her. Boo.

Holly said...

Aw, go easy on poor Kate. She has daddy issues, after all.

Great thoughts! I love a man who's good with a loom. We have the same top two faves!!!

Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed reading this post more than I enjoyed most episodes. I'm either too thick for this show or I just cant relax and enjoy when I don't know whats going on. My money is on then first one. I'm sorry its all ending for you... you will have to invest in the box sets.