Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting LOST Again

Last week, I walked by the newspaper vending machines at work and my eye caught LOST on the cover of USA Today.  Guess that means that it’s time for me to follow up on the first LOST column I wrote about 4 months ago.  I should start off by letting it be known that I am personally spoiler-free in regards to this show.  There are plenty of sites out there that reveal plot points several episodes in advance and let litters of kittens out of the bag weekly.  I think Star Wars fanatics brought about spoilerism as a professional career, and plenty of amateur Jedis watch ABC on Wednesday nights.  In either case, I’ve found through personal experience that satisfying curiosity cravings does little but ultimately ruin the fun.  With that said, anything you read here comes from me without any inside knowledge.  

     Speaking generally about the show, I suspect that the creative direction is changing on the show, with the bottom line (as normal) dictating things.  The ratings for Season 2 took a sharp dive over the winter months, and when a show like this has such a terrifyingly large budget, the powers that be won’t sit idle.  Two heavy complaints have been addressed this year, as the season will be shown in two uninterrupted blocks (6-episode fall run and a 16-episode run in the spring) and the series will be given a jolt of action (and sexiness!  Woo!) to liven up the episodes.  The deliberate pacing contributed to atypically low rerun ratings, which have been pulled completely by ABC for the time being (they may resurface in the summer).  In what I read to be a pre-emptive move to side step a common fate for high-budget shows, it has been put out there that LOST will run for a total of 5 seasons and will be resolved on the big screen.  If the ratings cannot justify the expense, networks have shown that they will slash budgets and pull the plug on shows before their time (ask Joss Whedon about that).  By shortening the show by 2 seasons, it will be easier for the creative team to keep the cast together, speed up the action and plot advancement, and hold off antsy studio execs.  I’ll see this though – no matter how LOST ends, you can put a healthy amount of money down that it will be galling and upsetting to millions of frustrated fans.  

     To recap from what I wrote before, LOST can be broken down into four elements:  Understanding the island and its purpose; understanding the inner workings and background of the survivors; watching how the characters reconcile their pasts with their new lives; and the soap opera interplay between the survivors.  As I said in the previous writing on the subject, that final element is superficial and fluid.  A Michael-Sun-Jin love triangle was abandoned after season 1 in response to viewer apathy.  The Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle, however, will go through the typical 90210 pacings (Kate’s pregnant!  But who’s the REAL father?).  In contrast, the mysteries of the characters and the island were determined in advance of the pilot and will be revealed in drops over the next few years.  I walked through the character pasts a few months ago, so I’ll tackle the island now.

The Island
     Fan theories on the island have been far-reaching for two years: limbo or purgatory, the Bermuda triangle, a dream, a man-made base, an alternate reality, a time warp in the past, etc.  The producers have systematically refuted nearly all of these theories, claimed that all things are scientifically explainable, and the season finale helped eliminate several possibilities.  In the final minutes, an observation crew took notice of Desmond’s EM blast on the island, demonstrating that the island truly is a part of “the real world.”  Still, it’s tough to buy that this is a standard Pacific isle in the vicinity of Tonga.  The producers have proven themselves to be sly and amused by inserting obscure clues for the ravenous diehard fans of the show.  Nine episode titles are playful puns, four happen to double as famous song titles from the 60s and 70s*, and one of those song titles happens to be White Rabbit, which very likely is also a nod to Alice in Wonderland.  Another reality-altered story that is referenced is The Wizard of Oz, by way of the Others’ so-called Henry Gale.  Coupled with the Island’s healing of Locke, Rose, and possibly Sun and you have to pause and question whether there truly could be a scientific explanation.  Oh, and there’s the matter of that quasi-alien statue foot seen by Sayid, Sun, and Jin.  

Gale’s assertion that God could not look down upon the island was fairly ominous, as was the exchange between Hurley and Sayid regarding where “or when” a discovered radio broadcast was originating.  Finally, why could Desmond not escape the island on the boat?  Gale instructed Michael to follow a very specific heading in order to leave last season, which would suggest that there is some manner of a “portal” in and out of the Island’s otherwise invisible and inescapable bubble keeping survivors trapped and outside eyes out.  

     Still, supplies are being dropped on the island, and it is highly likely that Desmond’s fiancee will find her way to the island with the aid of her observation crew.  Perhaps we’ll be told that it was an electromagnetic cloaking field that rendered compasses useless and possesses healing properties a la magnet bracelets.  That would ask for plenty of belief to be suspended but alas, we have to go along with TV reality.  Speaking of which, ask your friendly neighborhood physicist if it’s a good thing to be able to see and hear an EM blast.  
     There are plenty of other island questions to be asked: what is the purpose of the thick cable that runs into the ocean?  Is it an electric cable, a transmission wire, an achor, or something else?  Just what is the empathic, machine/dinosaur-sounding, pilot-snatching, ground-hole-exploding smoke monster that tried to drag off Locke and stared down Eko?  We’ve been told that it’s a security system, but I’m pretty sure that’s not in Brinks’ catalogue.  What was Dharma trying to accomplish there – was it all about psychological tests or was there a higher purpose?   Is Dharma even in charge at this point?  There’s been no clear connection between the agency and the Others as of yet.  Season Three should shed light on the Darma/Widmore agenda and whether it is still the driving force on the island.

     What do I think?  Again, I think we’re all going to be crabby when it’s all revealed and is less than what we wanted.  Until then though, I’m just going to enjoy the journey.

* Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun, Springsteen’s Born to Run, and Marley’s Exodus.  I’m not sure how to fit in the apparently made-up 70s band Geronimo Jackson, but I’m sure that has to do with something somehow.