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Lost again

November 24, 2012

While our kids where over for part of the Thanksgiving holiday, I noticed Alex looking at season 6 of Diane’s Lost set.  I didn’t really think anything about it until later when he mentioned that his impression of the Lost series finale had dropped considerably since he had seen it (at the time he loved it).  This lead into a discussion about the series that I thought I would share here.  The rest of this article is one giant spoiler fest of not only Lost but a movie called Jacob’s Ladder.  Lost has an interesting history with me for a couple of reasons.  It was one of those shows that my wife got me into.  I had given up on network tv series for a number of years prior to it showing up, which is probably how I missed Firefly at the time now that I think about it.  Broadcast network television, between FCC oversight and trying to appeal to a mass audience, tends to fall back on formula quite consistently.  As someone who likes new, innovative and edgy shows, on the rare occasion when they did show up on a network channel, the odds were they wouldn’t make it past their first season.  As a result, I stopped bothering especially given the influx of syndicated and cable channel original series.  I had actually caught bits and pieces of Lost’s first season as Diane watched it and I was intrigued enough to be willing to give it a go.  I think she also wanted me to watch it because of my scientific background but, as I told her at the time, those skills are largely valueless in explaining anything in an environment where the writers can do whatever they want storywise.  The final push was when Diane assured me that the writers of Lost stated up front that they had a conclusion for the series in mind.  So, by midway through season two I was along for the ride and allowed Lost to be network television’s attempt to change my opinions about their content.  It could have ended better.

As I wrote in a previous posting, one of the many axes that people watch shows for has characters at one end and story at the other with a sliding scale of importance between the two.  People who watch shows primarily to follow the characters will get a lot out of Lost.  I’m someone who leans towards the story end of the scale so, I was…  I don’t want to say disappointed, because I honestly didn’t experience the ire that some fans of the series at the time seemed to.  I guess I would say, the finale lived down to my network expectations.  I have to admit that the writers didn’t lie to me in that they clearly did have an ending for the series in mind and, it would have worked if the series hadn’t become the phenominal success it was at the time.  Once the series got away from them, they had to add more content to keep people coming back but, clearly never let go of their original finale concept.  The end result is that all of the elements that I found interesting in the show got written off as being all a dream.  The angry response of some of the fans to this should have really come as no surprise to anyone.  Didn’t anyone else remember the reaction to the season of Dallas that got retconned as a dream by Bobby?  That went over like a lead balloon with the audience at the time.  On top of that, the movie Jacob’s Ladder is essentially the same idea and, although I personally like and respect the film, there were a number of very vocal critics at the time who panned it as just some movie about a guy’s hallucinations while he was dying.  So, the writers had plenty of data to know they were walking into controversial territory.

The end of Lost did address one problem I had with the show and that was Benjamin Linus.  I lay the blame for this squarely at the feet of the writers.  Investigation Discovery (ID) is a cable channel dedicated to true crime documentaries and, is basically Diane’s default channel that is left on in the house.  As a result, I have learned a good deal more about criminal behavior than I ever really wanted to.  And that is why I never bought into Ben as a character.  He would have been killed…  repeatedly.  When I see what people kill each other over in real life it is small potatoes compared to what Ben would do to people.  Then it gets worse, after he has screwed someone over, not only is he able to talk his way out of them killing him but, he is actually able to talk them into letting him screw them over again.  Now, I enjoy watching stupid behavior be appropriately rewarded as much as the next guy but, this just took a sledge hammer to my suspension of disbelief button, big time.  However, the ending did solved that problem for me pretty handily.   Since Ben was just a figment of a bunch of dying people’s imaginations he was just your standard nightmare.  That works for me.

On a final note, I want to share what I thought would have been a better ending for Lost.  One of the nice things about watching an insanely popular show is that it provides considerably more opportunities to talk with people about it.  Ron Park is a friend and former work colleague of mine who was watching Lost at the time as well.  Towards the end of the run, he shared his theory about what was going on with me and I really thought he had figured it out until the last few episodes.  His theory was that the smoke monster was a genie and that the island was the genie’s “bottle”.  The genie was trying to escape from his bottle and was using the humans who got trapped on the island to help him do that. This explaining the foreshadowing of the bottle breaking reference made at one point.  It also explained the flash forwards as the sort of behavior one would expect from a creature whose specialty is wish fulfillment.  Instead, we got what we got but, I still prefer Ron’s explanation to this day whenever I think about Lost.  I also still think that the first season of the series is definitely worth checking out as some great television.  It just would have been nice for me if it had ended better.

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