Get Lost – For the Defense

March 7, 2009


“On the charge of ruining a really cool show, how do you plead?”

(Guest post by . . .

Greg Forster for the defense, your honor.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, last week District Attorney Greene read you a very serious and sobering indictment. There is no denying that the charges, if proved, would justify a severe sentence against my client, the television program Lost. But during the forthcoming trial I intend to show you that the prosecutor cannot prove his charges.

The charge, in a nutshell, is this: that with the resurrection of John Locke, my client has 1) irreversably committed itself to containing “fantasy” elements as well as “sci-fi” elements, and 2) that this means the rules of the story’s narrative world are not stable but subject to arbitrary interference, which ruins the drama.

Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no denying the first element of the prosecutor’s theory of the crime. With Locke’s resurrection, my client is irreversably committed to having one foot in the fantasy genre as well as one foot in the sci-fi genre. The possibility that the show might end up with both feet on the sci-fi side of the divide is effectively foreclosed.

And it is also true that stable narrative rules are indispensable to good drama. Drama depends on moral agency, moral agency depends on choice, choice depends on actions having consequences, and actions having consequences depends on events obeying stable rules. In a universe where events were arbitrary, I couldn’t possibly make choices – I would have no way to connect my actions to any consequences. For all intents and purposes, there would be no alternatives to choose from.

But ladies and gentlemen, the prosecutor is wrong – “just plain wrong,” as he himself might put it – to assert that fantasy fiction, which is defined in the relevant statute as fiction containing supernatural elements, must necessarily have narrative rules that are unstable or subject to arbitrary interference.

Not only is this not true, ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your consideration that sci-fi fiction has historically been more guilty than fantasy fiction of presenting us with narrative worlds that have unstable or arbitrarily broken rules. Thus, I submit that when my client, having placed one foot firmly in the sci-fi camp, proceeds to place the other foot firmly in the fantasy camp, it increases rather than decreases the probability that we will ultimately get a narrative universe with stable rules.

No doubt there is much fantasy fiction that lacks stable narrative rules. You will all be familiar with the Harry Potter series, for instance.

But is there not also much fantasy fiction with admirably stable narrative rules? Whatever you may think of the Lord of the Rings, nobody accuses it of taking place in an insufficiently structured narrative universe.

As you will see when we introduce LOTR into evidence during the forthcoming trial, the text of the books is quite clear that Gandalf was not simply in a coma on the mountaintop, but died there, and “returned from death.” Did this leave anyone with the feeling that henceforward anything was possible and there were no rules in the LOTR universe? Was it not just the opposite, ladies and gentlemen – that the resurrection of Gandalf was the highest and most sublime manifestation of the story’s underlying narrative unity? It would be one thing if anyone, under any circumstances, could come back from the dead. But Gandalf’s return from the dead was not like that. It was a unique event, one that could only have happened to that particular character – and for a reason that was not arbitrary, but was clearly an integral part of the narrative universe. And his death and resurrection were connected to a series of consequences – connections which again were an organic part of the narrative.

One may summarzie the case by saying that Gandalf would not be Gandalf if he did not come back from the dead. The perfectly stable and uninterrupted narrative rules of the Tolkien universe demand that Gandalf come back from the dead.

Again, ladies and gentlemen, you may like the LOTR story or hate it. But will anyone really say that J.R.R. Tolkien was insufficiently concerned with the stability of his narrative universe?

One could cite other examples besides LOTR – the fantastic element in Star Wars comes to mind – but this is going to be a long trial with a full-dress media frenzy accompaniment, and I don’t want to make it any longer.

The question is not whether LOTR or Star Wars, or fantasy in general, is good fiction or bad. The question is whether the presence of supernatural powers, including resurrection, implies narrative rules that are unstable or subject to arbitrary interference. It does not.

The reason is simple: supernatural powers, even including power over death itself, may transcend the stable orderliness of nature, but that does not mean they transcend all orderliness. There can be a supernatural order that stands above the natural order. This supernatural order may take many forms, and need not imply anything religious. The only point is that supernature can be just as orderly as nature.

On the other hand, ladies and gentlemen, what has been more common than sci-fi fiction that lacks stable narrative rules? The arbitrariness of the rules of the Star Trek universe has been a running joke for decades. The defense will introduce into evidence several examples of people mocking Star Trek for the cavalier manner in which it disregards its own narrative rules.

For the purposes of narrative, ladies and gentlemen, there is no functional difference between highly advanced technology and supernatural powers. What are “dilithium crystals” if not the Star Trek equivalent of magic? Sci-fi and fantasy are both defined as genres by their reliance on powers – which is another way of saying “technologies” – that are inexplicable. The only thing that separates the two genres is why the powers are held to be inexplicable.

And surely, ladies and gentlemen, that distinction has no relevance for the charge that has been brought against my client. Both sci-fi and fantasy involve inexplicable powers that “do the impossible” from our perspective. Why should one method of doing the impossible still allow for a stable narrative, but not the other?

Here’s another way to put that point. Before Locke’s resurrection, the prosecutor did not bring charges in spite of all sorts of “magic” events that took place in my client. If the prosecutor thought that Locke’s getting up out of a wheelchair was at least potentially reconcilable with a stable narrative universe, why does he not think the same about Locke’s resurrection?

Even now, what is it that the prosecutor wants to see in lieu of resurrections? Time travel. Time travel, ladies and gentlemen! Apparently the prosecution thinks you can travel through time and still be subject to some sort of orderly rules. Well, why can’t resurrection be subject to some sort of orderly rules? Of course, any set of orderly rules governing resurrection would have to be different from the rules of nature that we now live under. But the same is true of time travel!

I would like you to ask yourselves a question during this trial, ladies and gentlemen: Has the prosecutor introduced any actual evidence of narrative arbitrariness on the part of my client? Does my client actually exhibit the breakdown of narrative structure that the prosecution attributes to it?

Surely not. The resurrection of John Locke fits the established narrative seamlessly and perfectly. Of course Locke was resurrected when he returned to the Island. He would not be Locke – and the Island would not be the Island – if it were not so.

The prosecutor also brought a charge of promise-breaking, but on this charge no serious defense is needed, since the prosecutor has failed to introduce any evidence that my client’s creators promised that dead characters would never come back to life. On the evidence so far introduced in this court, they promised only that 1) the characters on the island who appear to be alive are really alive, and 2) when those characters appear to die, they really die. None of this amounts to a promise that dead characters will not be resurrected, ladies and gentlemen. So on this charge we will be submitting a motion for summary judgment.

It is also worth noting, ladies and gentlemen, that the prosecutor confuses the question of genre (sci-fi or fantasy) with the role of faith in the narrative. “Faith” is not necessarily faith in something supernatural. That word means the same thing whether we’re talking about trusting God or trusting in another person, or even a machine. Indeed, the question of whether we should (with John) have faith in the Island, or (with Jack) doubt it was the central plot device on my client long before it was clear whether the Island was supernatural. The whole issue of faith is irrelevant to the prosecutor’s charge; the issue here is whether a narrative world can simultaneously allow for supernatural powers and have stable rules. And on that point I trust you will now see my client’s innocence.

And if all that doesn’t convince you, we have one more argument to offer.

Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed “jury” . . . this is Chewbacca.

Lost Jumps the Death Shark

February 28, 2009

(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.

Get Lost 316

February 21, 2009

Last week Greg suggested that the Island has a will of its own that trumps the will of humans to direct its powers.  According to Greg’s analysis, the Island is essentially a super-natural being, like God, although he admits the possibility that it is a malevolent super-natural force.  And like God, Greg suggests that faith in the Island involves obeying even when the Island’s reasons are mysterious: “If we understood why the Island demands what it demands, there would be no question of faith (remember, John is the “man of faith”). In theology, “faith” doesn’t mean simply believing in certain facts about God, it means trusting and obeying God. And the supreme test of faith is to trust and obey when you don’t understand.”

Upon first seeing this week’s episode, 316, I thought Control-G (the hot-key for agreeing with Greg).  Greg is right so often that we had to develop a hot-key to make our agreement more efficient (in your heart you know he’s right).  It certainly would be novel to have a TV series entirely built around faith in a super-natural power.  Ben’s suggestion that Jack was similar to the Apostle Thomas, Locke’s note wishing that Jack had believed, Lapidus’ presence as the pilot of Ajira 316, and the allusion of the flight number to John 3:16 made me think — at first — that Greg was entirely right — Control G!  In the most recent episode Lost not only seemed like a story of vindicated faith but almost an explicit Christian allegory. 

That’s when I started doubting this interpretation.  Major TV producers would never make a series of a Christian allegory.  The religious references, whether Christian or Island as super-natural power,  have to be a false lead.  The argument between faith and science will be revived.  Faith has only temporarily prevailed.

The original faith/science debate revolved around pushing the button.  The alleged purpose of pushing the button was to save the world from destruction.  Locke had faith that the button must be pushed.  But what seemed like faith may have just been the prescience of time-loops.  The odd coincidences may just be the necessity of time course-correcting.  Is the purpose and direction of events determined simply by Fate, a power without an independent will or consciousness, or is there a super-natural entity choosing the course of events?  Greg’s theory seems to be the later, but I suspect it is the former.

I suspect that Fate has the world being destroyed.  Humans have detected this Fate through the Numbers and time-travel and are struggling to alter that Fate.  What seems like the will of the Island may just be the actions of humans in time loops attempting to steer Fate away from global destruction.  Whether they succeed or not will revolve around whether humans can change Fate, not the will of a super-natural entity.  I just can’t imagine a TV series emphasizing the will of a super-natural being over the primacy of human “agency.”  It would be gutsy and interesting if they did, but I just can’t see it in mainstream TV. 

The video embedded at the top of this post, suggests that human action to prevent destruction of the world is going to be central.  The video comes from Comicon and I found it on Lostpedia, where it is known as the Dharma Booth Video.  In it, Pierre Chang sends a message through time urging whoever sees it to continue the Dharma research to change time.  The different factions will struggle over who will control the potential power to change Fate, but we will discover that who controls it will be less important than using it to avoid total destruction.

Get Lost 10

February 13, 2009


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

For a while during this week’s episode I was thinking that using the time-travel plot device to go back and fill in all the continuity holes (e.g. what was up with Rousseau and her teammates getting “sick”?) is really, really good for the show – in fact, I started to think that it works a little too well. It’s very convenient that the Island ’s flashes just happen to bring Jin to the right place at the right time to see Rousseau’s team get attacked, and then her later elimination of the “sick” team, and then – supreme convenience! – meet up with the other castaways.

But then it dawned on me that this “too convenient” dynamic isn’t a problem at all – because it returns us to the central theme of the first season, which began to trail off in the second season and has been moved to the background of the show for some time now – the theme of the Island having a plan and a purpose, rather than just being a passive natural phenomenon.

Over time, as we’ve learned more about what’s on the Island and how the Island works, the focus has been on 1) the mechanics of the Island’s power, and 2) the conflict between the various human organizations (Dharma, the Others, Widmore, and now the 1950s U.S. Army) who have striven for control of its power. The mysterious things that happen on the Island have been less and less about the Island ’s purpose and more about powers harnessed by humans for their own purposes. This goes all the way back to the season 2 button-pushing hatch, where the unimaginable power in the hatch was under human control (first by Dharma and then by castaways). Back in season 1, when stuff happened on the Island it wasn’t under the control of anyone that we know of, except the Island itself, and the power of the Island was directed not to human purposes but rather to the Island ’s purpose for the humans – getting them to confront their inner demons. In season 4 there was a little bit of the Island having its own purpose, with John getting his commission from Christian to move the Island, but that was mainly framed as part of the war between the Others and Widmore.

In this season, at long last the Island is once again its own master. Clearly someone or something with a mind of its own wanted Jin to see what he saw and then carry the knowledge back to the rest of the group. And when Christian told John, “I told you that you had to move the Island – I said you had to move it, John,” and all the ramifications of that began to dawn on me, I was overjoyed. The perfect finishing touch was when Christian said he couldn’t help John get up, and John had a moment of – panic? anger? hard to say – but then accepted it and steeled himself to drag himself up with his own strength. Because he doesn’t need to understand. He needs to carry out his orders and trust that they’re right.

And notice that after John promised not to bring Sun back, Christian emphasized to John that his orders are to bring everyone back.

So now that we’re getting answers to the questions about what kind of power the Island has, the show is going back to the questions it raised in season 1 – namely what kind of purpose lies behind that power.

And we don’t have any answers about that yet. Is the Island’s mind independent? Or is “Jacob” some kind of collective projection of the inner desires and fears of the people on the Island, such that their personal demons get reflected back to them in the Island ’s behavior? Or is the Island a gateway to the afterlife? Note that Charlotte ’s statement “the Island is death” was the episode’s title. They’re deliberately dredging up the theory that the Island is really some sort of Purgatory – but they’re not committing themselves to that theory in any way, they’re just reminding us that it’s one possibility.

Final thought: perhaps John’s death was necessary so that Sun could be recruited to return to the Island without John having to break his word. If so, John’s death could be viewed as a poetically just penalty for his making a promise to Jin that he knew he shouldn’t have made. Because he disobeyed his orders, John doesn’t get to come back to the Island – sort of like Moses’ death on the mountain, just before his people enter the promised land, was his punishment for a seemingly trivial disobedience. John’s death being a “sacrifice” doesn’t conflict with its also being a punishment, as any student of theology will tell you.

But if John’s death is arranged in any way by the Island – as a penalty, a sacrifice, whatever – that implies the Island is somehow in control of events not just on the Island, but everywhere. Perhaps through human agents loyal to it or at least under its influence, or perhaps in some other, more disturbing way.

Either way, it’s clear that this season we’re not just out to discover what lies behind the time travel, the cursed numbers, the smoke monster, etc. We’re also – perhaps we’re primarily- out to discover what lies behind the words “Jacob sent me.”

Get Lost 8

January 30, 2009


“The name is Faraday. Daniel Faraday.”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

 I’m finally caught up on the new season of Lost. Some thoughts:

1) From “Libby says hi” to “Nice to meet you,” Lost is worth the investment for the humor value alone.

2) Once again, I rejoiced in the return of the real Hurley.

3) Jay is right that we shouldn’t try to suss out the “rules” of the show’s universe. Unfortunately, the show itself seems to feel the need to gesture in that direction – hence Juliet explains that “whatever you have with you” travels with you through time. That’s just asking for trouble. What counts as something you have with you? Do you have to be touching it? What about the backpacks? Their clothes touch the backpacks but they don’t – and of course if you say that anything touching your clothes also goes, why does “stuff you have with youness” traverse clothing but not other objects (say, for example, the Island itself)?

They’d have been better off taking an attitude more like this:

4) Why was Ben lighting a candle in the church?

5) Did you notice that Richard wears eyeliner? It’s pretty blatant. Maybe that’s the fashion for men some time in the future and he forgot to take it off when he came back. Or maybe he’s not really ageless at all – he just looks permanently youthful (like Dick Clark used to) because he has great makeup.

6) In the Lostverse, judges will issue court orders requiring people to give blood samples without revealing who’s asking for the sample or why – but if you walk into Oxford University off the street and ask to go through their employment records, they’ll open them right up for you.

7) Once again, for a man with unlimited cash and an army of goons who’s made tons of enemies and tampered with terrifying occult powers, Widmore’s security really bites.

But I don’t get that scene. How come Desmond thought Widmore would give him the address? How come Widmore gave it to him? I thought the whole reason Desmond and Penny were on the run was because her father was hunting them down. Why didn’t Widmore grab him and turn him over to the goons to beat Penny’s location out of him? If they’re not running from Widmore, why are they hiding? “Somebody toss me a frikkin’ bone over here!”

8 ) Forster’s Iron Law of TV Nerds: If a merely “recurring” nerdy comic relief character becomes a regular fixture of the show, he will gradually morph into a badass action hero who wins the affections of smoking hot chicks. This law derives its inexorable operation from the fact that all TV shows are written by people who are themselves nerdy comic relief characters in real life.

Mark my words, by the time Lost is over, Daniel Faraday will have killed some bad guys, and at least one other attractive female will demonstrate affection for him.

Also known as the Wesley Wyndam-Price Axiom.


Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Feb. 1999; Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, May 2004

HT Buffy Guide and Wikipedia

Is Lost Like Riverworld?

December 12, 2008

It recently dawned on me that the TV series, Lost, resembled the Riverworld series of books written by Philip Jose Farmer.  Given that I hadn’t read these books since I was about 13, I started to re-read them to see if there really were similarities and if the resolution of Riverworld might tell us something about what will happen in Lost.

Let me first say that you should re-read books you really liked at 13 with caution.  It wasn’t quite as great as I remembered.  I wonder what else I thought was really cool at 13 that turns out to be mediocre.  No wait, I don’t want to know.  In any event,  I was struck by the plot and thematic similarities to Lost.

The basic premise  of Riverworld is that every person who ever lived on Earth up until 2008, all 36 billion or so, is resurrected on a giant planet that consists of one super-long river that zig-zags from pole to pole and back again.  The river is lined by impassably huge mountains, so one can only move up or down the river, not over the mountains.  Everyone is reborn healthy at the age of 25 and is provided with food daily from special stones.  If they die in the Riverworld, they are just reborn somewhere else along the river.

The hero of the plot is the explorer, Sir Richard Francis Burton.  He is determined to discover who created the Riverworld and why.  He decides to find the headwaters of the great river, just as he strove to discover the headwaters of the Nile in real life.  Along the way he encounters all sorts of historical figures from different places and eras, including the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland (Alice Liddell), Hermann Goering, Samuel Clemens, and others.

Here are the similarities between Riverworld and Lost:

  • In both people are stranded (perhaps after “dying”) in a place and are trying to figure out who made that place and why they are there.
  • In both the need for food and shelter is largely eliminated — in Riverworld the stones provide food and clothing and the weather is mild, while in Lost the Dharma stockpiles provide food and the weather is mild.
  • In both the purpose of their being there seems to have something to do with their moral development.
  • In Riverworld the people controlling the planets (The Ethicals) plant spies among people when they are resurrected.  In Lost the “Others” also plant spies among the Losties.
  • In both the spies are detected and the control of the Ethicals/Others is challenged.
  • Both the resurrectees and the Losties form new “governments” and split into competing factions that fight against each other.
  • People do not appear to age on the Island or in the Riverworld.
  • In both it appears that dead people come back.  In Riverworld it is more obvious.  But in Lost the dead regularly visit the living (e.g. Christian Shephard, Harper Stanhope, Mikhail Bakunin, etc…). 
  • Amazingly there is also a character (based on the historical figure) Mikhail Bakunin in Riverworld.

And I’m not the only person who sees connections between Riverworld and Lost.  While searching for material to verify similarities between the two I cam across this post on the Entertainment Weekly site by “Doc Jensen” that concludes: “C’MON, PEOPLE! There MUST be a CONNECTION!”

Let’s say that the Lost writers were at least partially inspired by Riverworld.  If that’s the case we might expect that the purpose of the Island will be like the purpose of the Riverworld.  Both may be designed to identify who is morally worthy to reproduce and create future civilizations.  Perhaps the whispers are the spirits of the deceased who sometimes find a way to materialize in a new body.  Perhaps the obsession the Others have with getting babies born on the Island is to re-embody those spirits or to figure out a way to create the future civilization.  Perhaps Aaron is important either because he embodies an old spirit or because he has passed the test to carry-on the new civilization.

Of course, Lost is not bound by Riverworld.  And maybe the connections are largely coincidence or just common themes in sci-fi.  But I’m guessing that J.J. Abrams and the writers were influenced by Riverworld. After all, Abrams is my age and may well have read the same books when he was 13.  So, Riverworld may give us some clues about where Lost is heading.

Get Lost 6

December 5, 2008


HT New York Magazine; photo illustration by Everett Bogue

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

It’s a special “great interregnum” edition of Get Lost!

I figured I would pick up our Lost feature and write about the coming season, what with the recent release of several promo videos for season 5, including this two-minute sneak peek . . .

. . . about which I think the only thing that needs to be said is: you can’t get that kind of court order without disclosing your name, morons. Would it have been so hard to come up with a more plausible way to conceal the identity of the forces behind the order? Maybe have somebody do it under a fake name? This is like last season when Sun supposedly bought her father’s company with the Oceanic court settlement. I know Lost has sometimes been aimless, but when did it get just plain dumb?

But anyway, as I started watching the trailers, which are mostly made up of clips from last season, and as I read over the final installment of our Get Lost feature from last season, especially the discussion in the comment thread, I came to a moment of revelation.

I have no idea what’s been going on on Lost.

And I don’t just mean in the season finale. I have virtually no memory of the entire season 4. Just now, when I mentioned Sun buying her father’s company? I didn’t remember that until I went back and read Jay’s last Get Lost post, where it’s mentioned in the comments. And right now almost the only other things I can remember from season 4 are the ones that were prompted by the season 5 promos I just watched.

This is weird, because I remember season 3 pretty well, even though it’s older, and (like all other sentient life forms) I liked season 4 a lot better than season 3. What gives?

I have a theory, and it’s not a comforting one. Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief when we saw the last few episodes of season 3 and it became clear that the creators had gotten the message: the plot needs closure. The questions need to be answered. And as season 4 progressed, it seemed ever more clear that the creators were no longer just stringing us along (as I think it’s pretty clear they were in season 3, and probably were by at least season 2) but were moving things toward a satisfying conclusion.

But is it too little, too late? Was season 4 really as good as we thought it was? Or was J.J. Abrams just playing with our heads again?

You know, the more I think about it, the more I’m convined that man has some kind of mind control power. I kept watching Alias all the way to the end of the final season, but in retrospect, I have no idea why. This must be what people feel like on Star Trek after some alien has possessed them and made them sabotage the ship – they stumble around the brig asking “what the heck was I doing?” (So I guess they got the right man to direct the big comeback picture for the Trek franchise, huh?)

During season 4, we thought we had broken Abrams’ evil mind control spell. But was that just what he wanted us to think? (And if so, how could we know?)

By two-thrids of the way through season 3, which is where it started moving back from the brink, this show had accumulated a lot of amorphous mystery. If season 4 was really doing such a great job of pulling it all together, wouldn’t I remember it? Any of it?

So I’m sending out a bleg to all you Lost fans out there. Do you remember season 4, and does it seem as good to you now as it did in May? Is the show really any less aimless now than it was, say, at the end of season 2?

In the meantime, my “we’re all J.J. Abrams’ zombie slaves” theory does give me one reason for hope. Alias may have reeked for two straight seasons, but the big finale did in fact draw together the many loose ends of the convoluted plot in a highly satisfying way. So maybe we have grounds for hope that we’ll get the same from Lost – and clearly we aren’t going through a two-year reekfest on the way there.

Get Lost 5

May 30, 2008






The season finale did not disappoint.  I’ll sing its praises but first let me vent a complaint.

Jack’s decision to get the Oceanic six to lie about the island makes no sense.  He justifies the decision by citing the strength of the conspiracy to create a false Oceanic crash site in which they are all supposed to be dead.  But the first law of conspiracies is that you cease to be a threat once you tell as many people as possible as much as you know.  If you’ve already spilled all of the beans, then the conspiracy gains nothing by killing you.  Anyone trapped in a John Grisham novel would do well to keep this law in mind. 

I hope they provide additional justification for this decision, but keeping the secrets of the island does nothing to protect them or the people on the island.  Bad guys can and still do target them.  And because they don’t know where the island is, keeping secrets is not needed to protect the people left there.

Now on to the good stuff.  We now have some sense of why Jack wants to go back to the island — Locke has told him that his friends there are in trouble.  And now that Locke is dead he feels responsible, both for Locke’s death (in all likelihood) and for those remaining on the island. 

We also know why Kate does not want to go back.  She’s having dreams of Claire warning her not to bring Aaron back.  This is consistent with my earlier expressed theory that Aaron is supposed to be the next leader and there is a struggle about whether he should assume that role or not.

The struggle over whether they should return or not will likely be a main plot for next season.  One other interesting angle on Ben’s declaration that they all need to return is that he may use that to find Desmond and then Penny so that he can take his revenge on Charles Widmore by killing his daughter.  (hat tip to Greg for this observation) 

The discovery that Charlotte was previously on the island and may have even been born there seems quite important, especially given the fact that pregnant women seem to die before they can give birth. 

I’m assuming that Michael is dead and probably so is Jin (although he could have somehow been blown from the deck).  Having Christian Shepherd appear to Michael telling him that he could go was meant, I think,  to say that his purpose for the island was now done and he could die.

That vision strengthens the show’s reliance on mysticism, but the show also took steps to stay within the framework of sci-fi by revealing the negatively charged exotic material that moves the island (as well as bunnies).  It’s like dilithium crystals on Star Trek.  We don’t know how they work, but there is some physical substance that could account for a large chunk of the magic.

Now that the show is on hiatus for a few months, we’ll have to find some other distraction for Friday afternoons, but that shouldn’t be hard.  We are chock-full of distractions.

Get Lost 4

May 16, 2008

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

While Jay’s travelling, I’ll be providing your weekly descent into Lost geekdom.

This may seem like a strange thing to single out, but what I liked most about this episode was the return of the real Hurley. Last week I was a little miffed when Hurley decided not to go into the cabin. That’s not the Hurley I know: the one who’s driven to find answers about the malevolent force that’s killed his grandfather and ruined his life – and who has consistently shown himself to be physically brave in his pursuit of his quest. (“I can make it. I can get out of the way. I’m spry.”) This week I felt like we saw the return of the real Hurley.

This Hurley!

Okay, that thing in the woods – maybe it’s a monster. Maybe it’s a pissed-off giraffe. I don’t know! The fact that no one is even looking for us? Yeah, that’s weird. But I just go along with it, because I’m along for the ride. Good old fun time Hurley. Well guess what?


(HT; you can see the original in all its glory at 6:00 here)

The really great thing about Lost is the amazing character portrayal. They’re not stereotypes. You feel like you know these people. Think about how hard that must be for the writers given the number of characters they’re juggling.

Second order of business. I believe this was the first time that the “flash backward/forward” storyline followed more than one character (or two closely related characters like Jin and Sun or Boone and Shannon – remember them?). I spent most of the episode thinking, “this isn’t working.” They were trying to do too many things, and the narrative didn’t gel.

Of course, at the end we saw why they were doing it. They were trying to set up the season finale with a feeling of epic scope – half a dozen plotlines all coming to a head at the same time and in the same place. Focusing on one character’s story would undermine the big closing montage of everyone trudging through the jungle towards The Orchid (it felt kind of like the Lost version of the “One Day More” number in Les Mis, or “Tonight” in West Side Story). So by the end I wasn’t disappointed with it, but on the other hand I don’t think they achieved what they were going for.

A side point that occurred to me: Earlier in the season, we established that the Oceanic Six cover story claims that eight people survived the crash and two never made it off the island. At the time I assumed that Claire had to be one of them, in order to explain the presence of her baby, Aaron. But now it transpires that the cover story claims Aaron is Kate’s. So now we don’t know the identities of both of the people who (according to the cover story) survived the crash but not the island.

On the other hand, the mystery of why Jack was reluctant to pursue Kate on account of Aaron has been resolved. Aaron is a constant reminder of his father’s failings, and as the show’s producers put it in a season 1 episode title, all the best cowboys have daddy issues.

Final note: the preview of the season finale claims (or perphas suggests, I don’t remember the exact words) that we will see the rescue of the Oceanic Six. Lost previews have lied many times before. But if this one’s accurate, does that imply that seasons five and six will take place in “the future,” i.e. 2005? Or will we see the rescue in a flash-forward?

See you in two weeks!

Get Lost 3

May 9, 2008


This third installment of our end-of-week Lost discussion marks the end of the third week since this blog started. 

Before getting to Lost, let me review the blog’s performance to date.  Since the first post on April 19 and the first public announcement of its creation on April 21, this blog has been viewed more than 9,200 times.  That works out to more than 480 times per day, including weekends, since the announcement. 

At least 39 other blogs have linked to this one. There have been a total of 39 posts, excluding this one, and a total of 171 comments. 

Thanks to Larry Bernstein, Greg Forster, Matthew Ladner, Dan Lips, Reid Lyon, and Ryan Marsh for their posts.  Greg and Matt are regular contributors and have done a remarkable job of providing informative and provocative material.  Reid Lyon has agreed to join the group of regular contributors, with his posts appearing on Tuesdays.  Greg normally appears (at a minimum) on Wednesdays and Matt on Fridays.  Thanks to all of these posters as well as the contributors of the 171 comments and the numerous links.  I really meant the “with help from some friends” subtitle.

And now back to our show — Lost.  I retract almost everything I said last week (who says that I never change my position?).  If the plot has strayed into the supernatural from the merely paranormal or sci-fi, I don’t mind.  The plot twists and mysteries are only getting better.

The most interesting development in the most recent episode (to my mind) was the idea of people being “chosen” by the island to protect it.  Clearly Ben was once special, receiving communications in the form of dreams, visiting with Jacob, being immune from illness, having control over events, etc…  But now Locke is the chosen one.  And we see that there is a process involving Richard and Abaddon to identify, recruit, and perhaps manipulate these chosen future leaders.  It’s not clear if Richard, Abaddon, Dharma, and Widmore are all on the same team, were once together but have since split, or have always been working against each other.  At least we now know that Richard does not age.

My guess is that Widmore was once the one chosen by the island but Ben succeeded him, which is why Widmore says Ben stole everything.  And I would further guess that Aaron is the next chosen one.  It seems that the chosen one has to be raised apart from his parents, as was the case for Ben and Locke.  Perhaps this is why Claire has been separated from Aaron — to prepare him for his role.  And perhaps the psychic warned Claire that she had to raise the baby herself to prevent Aaron from assuming his chosen role.

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