Lost Jumps the Death Shark

(This is  actually Jeremy Bentham.  He’s preserved and kept at Oxford, where they bring him out for certain occasions.  True story.  But he doesn’t come back to life, unlike another Jeremy Bentham we know.)

Our Friday Lost commentary was again exposed to negatively charged exotic material and shifted through time to today.  And that makes about as much sense as Lost lately.  You could say that I am starting to lose it with Lost.

The problem is that Lost has clearly committed itself to having dead people come back to life.  We’re not just seeing ghosts of dead people.  And we aren’t just seeing time-loops to when people were still alive.  People seem to die and then not be dead.

We know with certainty that this happened to John Locke.  We saw him get killed and then later come to life.  And he wasn’t just a ghost or time-looped.  He remembered dying.  He ate a mango.  He was alive after being dead.

Keep in mind that the producers of the show swore that dead people were dead in the Lostverse.  They told Entertainment Weekly: “These people have hearts, and when those hearts stop beating, they die.” This was part of their explicitly debunking the theory that the Island was Purgatory.  No, they swore, the people on the Island are alive and when they are dead they are dead.  They added to E! Online: “”If we did such a thing after repeatedly stating otherwise, we’d be tarred and feathered!”

Well, get out the tar and feathers.  I guess they did not technically break their pledge that the Island was not purgatory, but it is clear that they misled us about whether being dead means that you stay dead. 

Why does this matter?  I’ve been concerned for a while that Lost has turned from a science-fiction story into a faith-based fantasy.  In science-fiction there are “natural” rules and the plot is constrained by those rules.  Those rules aren’t science as we know it, but they resemble science and must be consistent and logical within the universe of the plot.  In a faith-based fantasy there is a power outside of and exempt from the “natural” rules.  Those stories largely revolve around the desirability of faith in this power.

Now, I have no problem with stories that affirm the desirability of faith, per se.  It’s just that they tend to be less compelling as stories.  Dramatic tension in most stories occurs by bumping against the constraints of the rules.  But if the rules within the story can be broken or suspended at any time or if there is a mystery that is never resolved because it lies outside of the rules, then the drama is undermined.  The book of Job may be a great read and provoke a lot of interesting discussion, but it is hardly great drama.  The explanation is that you are not entitled to an explanation.

If Lost has an Island with a conscious purpose (not the unconscious purpose of Fate, as we discussed last week) and if death does not mean you are dead, then we are breaking outside of a natural system with rules.  It’s true that zombie movies involve the un-dead, but they are always explicit about their rules upfront so that they clearly stay within a natural order.  But in Lost we are trying to figure out what the rules are and it is becoming clear that the rules are mystical and not natural.  Sure, they may explain the rules before the end, but it will seem post hoc and unsatisfying.  We can’t even infer the rules from what we are seeing since clearly anything can happen.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still going to watch because I’m addicted and need to get the answers.  But I am preparing myself for the fact that the answers will be unsatisfying because they will come from outside of any natural order that we can observe in the Lostverse.

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