Sunday, May 23, 2010

Off-topic: So, what was up with that Lost show, anyway?

(Above: A detail from one of Kate Beaton's Lost strips; follow the link below to see the rest of it and some of her other strips riffing on the show)

I didn’t watch Lost when it first started airing, as I didn’t watch a lot of network TV at the time—with the exception of Meet The Press. Back then I was still working as a writer/editor for an altweekly paper, and one day my fellow editor gave me the DVD of the first season of Lost to take home and watch if I was interested. She said it was incredibly addictive, and thought I’d dig it.

She had already watched and reviewed the DVD for the paper though, so I didn’t have to read in order to write about it. So there was no urgency to watching it, and I left it on top of the To Watch, Someday Hopefully Soon pile of similar DVDs that studios sent us for possible review.

One of my roommates at the time got to it before I did, and as I was passing through our living room one day I saw the oldest Salinger sibling from Party of Five, a hobbit and an attractive woman in what looked like part of air plane lodged in a tree, while some sort of big monster tried to get at them. It sounded like a dinosaur, but the director was being really stingy about showing it. I watched for a while waiting to see what the dinosaur looked like, got bored, and went back to whatever extremely important business I was doing in another part of the house.

My roommate reacted similarly to my co-worker; he liked it, was instantly addicted, and ended up watching many more episodes on the DVD in a row than he intended to, having some difficulty stopping watching it.

I asked about the dinosaur, and he didn’t know what I was talking about. So I asked about the monster—I assumed it was a dinosaur, but maybe it was a monster?–but he still wasn’t sure what I was talking about.

Eventually, we sorted out the conversation I was trying to initiate, and he informed me that no, they never did show the monster in the first season. There was a polar bear at one point though, and a smoke monster.

Both of these folks ended up getting caught up on the first season via the DVD, and then watching new episodes as they aired. I’d occasionally ask if they had shown the monster yet, or if they ever explained what was up with the island. They never did.

That was the extent of my flirtation with Lost. I just didn’t want to get involved spending hours and hours and hours watching a show where they never show the dinosaur, you know?

That said, I know the show has been enormously popular within my online, um, peer group…? The demographic of which I’m a part? Like, Marvel Comics let one of those Lost guys write the first third of a miniseries for them and published them without getting the rest of it, as if he were Chasing Amy-era Kevin Smith. Newsarama and similar sites would write about comics writers joining the creative staff (Brian Vaugh and Paul Dini, I think?). My then-local comic shop would always have dudes talking about the previous night’s episode whenever I went in on Wednesday afternoons to pick up new books. Kate Beaton did some strip sthat I didn’t get (but wanted to).

So I know some of you watched it. Hell, maybe all of you did.

I also know that the last episode aired tonight…or is maybe still airing, depending on your time zone. This I know because while I’ve never watched Lost, I watch Dancing With The Stars religiously.

So, can someone tell me in the comments section a) Did they ever show that goddam dinosaur? And b) What was the deal with the island anyway?

Go ahead, be as direct and spoiler-y as you want. Well, you need not to be detailed, as I don’t know the characters beyond The Guy Who Was On Party of Five, Harold Whose Name Is Hard To Spell So I Usually Just Say “Mercutio From Romeo & Juliet,” The Guy Who Was A Hobbit and The Fat Guy. Just a simple “It turns out they were in little Matrix vats and it was all a programmed virtual reality hallucination” or “They were all different personalities in the same crazy person’s head” or “It was all a dream M. Night Shyamalan had one night” is sufficient.

I have no intention of ever watching the show, and, if for some reason that changes (Maybe it will be on cable when I’m in a nursing home watching TV 18 hours a day?), I won’t mind knowing what’s going on.



revelshade said...

No dinosaur, just a smoke monster that sounds like a dinosaur except when it sounds like a bicycle chain factory. The island moves through time and there's a well with a white light in it that requires a guardian or something bad will happen. In the end 6 people escape, a lot die including table for 5 guy and the smoke monster who turns into Terry O'Quinn (who totally rocks everything he has ever been in, btw). The rest stay on the island. The end.

Hdefined said...

It's a stupid show. It's well acted and well directed, but the script makes Jeph Loeb look like a plot and dialogue genius. The ending was just a waste.

Ryan Roe said...

The monster from the pilot is that same as the smoke monster, and he turned out to be the villain of the whole show -- a very old entity who could assume the form of any dead person and had a centuries-long rivalry with his brother, the designated protector of the island.

Jacob T. Levy said...

And the deal with the island is that it was home to very special white glowy soul-magic electromagnetism, presided over by a local brother-and-brother god-and-devil pair, and the wacky things about the island were all either

a) unexplained effects of the very special white glowy soul-magic electromagnetism

b) arbitrary rules made up by the local god figure as he made up a game in which he could protect the very special white glowy soul-magic electromagnetism (and the world) from the local devil figure while also engaging in a "Trading Places"-like experimentation-on-people-to-win-an-argument-with-his-brother

c) the leftover detritus of one or another batch of people who had been brought to the island by the god-figure in the past as part of the argument-- one group becoming a wacky fun-loving gang of forest people who experiment on pregnant women while worshiping the god-figure, one group experimenting on polar bears and digging big holes in the ground while trying to investigate the magic as if it were just special electromagnetism.

jason quinones said...

never watched lost. glad i never did. i just find it weird that you seemingly have a sincere interest in the show simply because there might or might not be a dinosaur involved.

Caleb said...

Huh. Weird. Well cool; thanks everyone!

i just find it weird that you seemingly have a sincere interest in the show simply because there might or might not be a dinosaur involved.

A dinosaur maybe being involved is generally enough to interest me in just about anything. I'd certainly watch a lot more police procedurals if one of the suspects was always a dinosaur, for example.

kelvingreen said...

Jacob, that's... fascinating. How much of that is exaggerated for comic effect?

I watched the first two or three episodes (I watched it for two weeks, but I seem to recall it starting with a double bill) and was quickly turned off by the atrocious writing, so I never went back. I'm glad it's finished now, so people in the geeky corner of the internet might stop going on about it.

Paul DeBenedetto said...

Lost sucks and the ending was a waste of time. Fuck that show.

Paul DeBenedetto said...

Lost was amazing and the ending totally validated every feeling I've ever had about it.

Jacob T. Levy said...

The only exaggeration for comedic effect is that the group called The Others were wacky and fun-loving. (And, of course, no one *on the show* compares the brotherly experimenting-on-people-to-settle-an-argument to Trading Places.)

Right up until 15 minutes or so before the end of the final episode, it still seemed plausible that some of categories (a) and (b) would be given more explanation. They weren't.

Now, you could watch almost the whole show and still think that all the mystical and sci-fi wackiness constituted mysteries to be solved. It's only in the third-to-last episode that the arbitrariness of the game between brother and brother is made clear, and in which the always-discussed electromagnetism is shown to just be an effect of the heretofore unseen glowy soul magic. For example:

The first two seasons had a major focus on The Numbers-- a sequence of six numbers that appeared all over the place and seemed to have magic powers/ the ability to alter fate/ the ability to regulate the electromagnetism/ etc. Many, many, many websites were built with theories about the significance of The Numbers.

In the final season, we found out that the god figure had been keeping a numbered list of the possible candidates to replace him as god, crossing people out as they became ineligible for some reason. The six numbers corresponded to the six final candidates (whose fates were all entangled with each other for that reason.) That's it; just the last uncrossed-off-arbitrary numbers next to the last uncrossed-off-names.

What we found out in the final season is that all the things we thought were mysteries-- which have solutions-- were instead just arbitrary stuff.

Trace said...

Paul posted one of those comments from a "sideways" pocket universe. But which one????

Hdefined said...

Like Jacob Levy said, another arbitrary thing was that season 5 took place mostly in the past, but then a huge bomb went off on the island, and in season 6, we saw a "flash sideways" that appeared to be a parallel reality in which no one had landed on the island. The main character even had a son, which he hadn't had in the "real" reality.

And then we find out at the end that the "parallel universe" is actually just purgatory, the son was just a red herring, and the bomb had nothing to do with anything, and the weird black-letters-on-a-white-background at the end of season 5 didn't mean anything.

Like I said, even Jeph Loeb could do better.

It sincerely felt like the writers tailored the plot to the audience's reactions - that is, if the audience guessed something, the writers did something different, and if the audience came up with a stupid nickname like "the Man in Black," the writers decided never to give him a real name.

Jeremy said...

I didn't watch much of Lost, but I had friends who were religiously dedicated to it, and would constantly tell me details about the show in an effort to get me on board.

From what little I know about it, it seemed very much like a show that just threw a lot of weirdness at you early on, and then worried about explaining it later as they went along. This seems like a fairly common problem with these types of shows (see X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, and Heroes for other examples).

These shows often start off interesting, because so much crazy shit happens early on that they can't help but be intriguing, but they are almost always disappoint when it comes time to actually explain the weirdness.

Tom said...

I never religiously followed the show but as the end credits seem to imply: they all died in the crash. So what previously followed was one mad trip in limbo.

Sorry friend, there's no dinosaur to be had.

Last two years I didn't watch a single episode. The recap before the show helped explain some things going into the last episode.

It was a great finale regardless.

Hdefined said...

"I never religiously followed the show but as the end credits seem to imply: they all died in the crash. So what previously followed was one mad trip in limbo."

No, Tom. It's the opposite: the crash was real, and the "the plane never crashed" reality in season 6 was limbo.

Which is very stupid, but that's what ended up being the case.

Matt D said...

Have you watched Primeval? I'm not speaking for the quality, but hey, dinosaurs!

caleb said...

Have you watched Primeval? I'm not speaking for the quality, but hey, dinosaurs!

Yes! And I love/d it! I think I've only seen the first two seasons, via DVDs from the library, and I believe there's at least one or two more DVDs worth of episodes extant, but I really dug what I saw (I think the cast changes quite a bit after the point I stopped watching).

Amias said...

It's true: My wife got me into LOST at around the finale of Season 3, where they started the flash forwards. Now after watching the rest of the show and burning through what I missed on Netflix, I was initially hopeful that this finale would be more rewarding than BSG. But it wasn't. I really wasn't expecting answers to everything, and in fact they provided many MANY answers in season 6 (even if they weren't the answers you or I wanted), but everything Christian Shepard said in the finale basically crapped on everything, rendering the last season 50% pointless and the happy endings in the finale actually not happy. For example: No, Jin and Sun aren't going to raise Ji now. Because they're dead. No, Sawyer and Juliet aren't going to go get coffee. Because they're dead. Miles, he's just dead and uninvited to the ascendancy party. All this goes to say: If you ever want to actually invest time in sci fi shows that attempt to tell long stories, PLEASE make sure they have a series bible, a la JMS and Babylon 5. Because otherwise, as a previous poster as said, it usually turns out to be as pointless as a circle in a sandstorm.

kelvingreen said...

Primeval managed two series before it got cancelled, but then they gave it a reprieve, and I believe a third series is being made now.

Amias, agreed. The only time I've seen this kind of long game work is on B5, and that's because JMS had it worked out from the start. X-Files fluffed their mythology episodes because they were making it up as they went along. Nu Galactica fluffed it because they were making it up as they went along. As I said above, I gave up on Lost very early on, but even then it was clear they were making it up as they went along.

Dr. Grimm said...

A lot of people seem to have missed the point of the last episode, or at the very least, a lot of detaisl that were pretty plainly spelled-out.

The Island was a magical creation (never said exactly who created it) to contain the Source of All Evil, which I took to be some form of Hell considering the ominous red glow coming from the hole in the ground. Somehow, people can become and assigned Guardians of the Island, and become immortal when they drink from the waters surrounding the "heart" of the Island. Jacob and The Man in Black were twin brothers born to a woman who was shipwrecked on the Island, and for another unexplained reason the then-current-Guardian murdered the twins' mother and raised them as her own, eventually picking Jacob (the good son) to be the Guardian when MiB gives-in to his curiosity and decides to leave the Island. MiB kills his "mother" in return, and Jacob gets HIM back by tossing him into the Island's heart, and he immediately emerges as The Smoke Monster AKA "the dinosaur", yet again by unclear circumstances (my theory is that he was somehow exposed to the concentrated evil the Island is containing, and thus became Monsterized), thus making him immortal and able to shapeshift into either his normal form or any person that died on the Island. Also, the brothers cannot kill each other due to some magical pact.

Jacob goes and selects potential new Guardians at key points in their lives, again involving unexplained magic-type tropes that leave a lot to your own imagination. Eventually, the "recruits" crash on the Island, and the entire series is basically the drawn-out selection process to decide who the new Guardian will be.

The ending was as so: Man-in-Black (who at this point appeared as Terry O'Quinn's John Locke character and remained that way unless he was in Monster-form) and Jack "Party Of 5" Shepard, who volunteered to be the Guardian, fought each other after the evil had literally been uncorked and the Island was falling apart. Jack was mortally wounded during the fight, but ultimately kills MiB (who was now mortal thanks to the Island's light going out) by throwing him off a cliff. Jack makes Hurley (the fat guy) the new Guardian, while Ben (the previously evil mastermind who redeemed himself slowly over the past couple seasons) becomes Hurley's #2. The rest of the characters fly off the Island in their just-repaired plane minutes after Jack plugs the Source of Evil and restores its cork. Jack dies with a smile on his face just as he's seeing the plane escape successfully.

Dr. Grimm said...

What people are confused about mainly, is the "Sideways Reality" stuff; the whole last seasons consisted of flashing back-and-forth to what appeared to be an Alternate Reality where the plane never crashed on the Island and everyone went about their lives, however it was soon revealed there were many, many differences such as Jack having a son, Sun and Jin never being married, etc. It was discovered at the end that this was was actually a form of Purgatory that each of the Survivors' spirits "created" for themselves so that when the last of them died, they'd be able to reunite and move-on to the Afterlife together. It was EXPLICITLY said that this Purgatory had no concept of time, and that "Everyone has to die sometime". Hurley and Ben remark about how they were a great #1 and #2, respectively, obviously remarking about their unseen adventures as the Island's new Guardians. Once everyone had "woken-up" and realized where they were, the Survivors were all happy to see each other, now in their respective dream relationships, and at peace. They didn't all die at once, they didn't all die at the end of the episode, they died at different stages in life and their friendships brought them all back together because their experience on the Island together was the most important thing in their lives. It was a moving, touching finale and it really shouldn't take a genius to get what happened, because I'm certainly not one. I honestly think if people just paid attention a tiny bit more, they might learn to enjoy things a bit better.

Hope that helped!

nyrdyv said...

I'll keep saying it: that last episode really need Jimmy Buffett.


Steven G. Willis