Monday, November 15, 2010

Lost: The Complete Review - Part 1

So the unthinkable has occurred. I have finally finished the entirety of the TV show known as Lost. Yes, I know; for those of you who know of this massive undertaking, you must be saying, "Well, it's about damn time!" But what can I say? I was taking my sweet time. I started it somewhere around a year ago, after all. So, you know what? I'll make it up to you. I'll make this my most comprehensive review yet, and all of it will be awesome.

This will be spoilertastic. Beware.

The Premise

Lost involves a plane crashing into the middle of nowhere, leaving almost all of its survivors on an island that nobody has ever seen before. No, this isn't Survivor. This island is a messed up place, and impossible events occur that can't be explained. A pillar of smoke terrorizes the island, appearing when one least expects it in order to kill and generally scare the crap out of everyone. For no particular reason, polar bears occasionally show up. The remnants of a massive statue can be seen on one part of the island. The survivors see things that they shouldn't, such as people who have died along with those who haven't. Needless to say, there's some serious shit going down here.

The show's overall plot revolves around figuring out the secrets of the island, along with people trying to get off of it then back on again like some sort of drug. We watch it because we want to know more; the show is both very good and very irritating at revealing very little. Whenever the end logo appears, "Lost", you want to shake your fists at the TV. Whenever it says, "Previously, on Lost...", you want to smack the fast-forward button as fast as you can. It is a show predicated on the need to keep you hooked.

But the real meat of the show comes with the characters. Each of these characters are truly lost in their own way, and it is clear that they, perhaps, are there precisely so that they can figure out how to fix themselves, how to reconstruct their identities, and how to get over previous traumatic experiences. This is the best part of the show, as each of the characters for the most part are greatly detailed with multiple facets. The acting is mostly brilliant and the relationships that grow between the survivors are compelling to watch. Thus it is that, even when you could care less about Lost's shenanigans in telling you jack shit about the island, your affection for at least some of the characters keep you watching and hoping that they succeed even if everyone else fails.

The Island: Pros and Cons

After watching six seasons of this, I can mostly say that the island is absolutely preposterous. For a show focused on the ambiguity of human personality and relationships, to discover that the island's entire purpose is to contain some mythic battle between good and evil was very disappointing. For most of the show, you see that none of these characters necessarily have the right answers. Jack may be a decisive leader, but he is also emotionally imbalanced. Locke may be the epitome of wisdom in human form, but he is also far too susceptible to doubt. Kate may be... nevermind. Kate is a twat.

For the first five seasons, it is clear that there is something powerful and unclear behind the unexplainable events that occur on the island. Nobody quite knows what that is, and the emphasis is as much about simply surviving as discovering why the strange shit keeps happening. This uncertainty helps one to empathize with the characters; they are strangers in a strange land, and it is only their own determination and willingness to cooperate that can help them to survive. However, it is also clear that manipulating some and bullying others can help one survive as well. Thus does Lost become analagous to real life; what is good and evil is never altogether clear. It also makes the personal stories have that much more resonance; the big picture is murky, which makes individual successes that much more potent.

However, this inexplicably switches in the sixth season to a cosmic battle between good and evil. It is revealed that the island's guardian (the good guy) is in place to prevent the smoke monster (the bad guy) from escaping the island and somehow destroying the world. I won't lie; seeing the smoke-monster-personified-Locke is chilling and magnetic. But there is next to no way to empathize with him. Why shouldn't I think that those who align themselves with the smoke monster are complete idiots? Why has the perspective shifted from the trials and triumphs of the individual characters to a more surface level fight to victory?

Flashbacks, Flashforwards, and Flashing my Brains Out

One saving grace here is the flashbacks. Throughout Lost, the episodes are almost always split between events happening on the island and events that happened at some other time. What these serve to do is to give us that character focus so that, even if what happens on the island is boring or irritating, we can enjoy a side story that has a definable beginning and end, regardless of whatever cliffhanger the island portion chooses to foist upon us. Some of these flashbacks are more interesting than others; Hurley's almost always bring a smile in some way whereas Sayid's flashbacks can often cause eye-rolling as we are subjected to yet more torture shenanigans. Some have more impact on the characters than others; Locke's flashbacks of defying despair despite all odds is far more appealing than discovering how Jack got his dumbass tattooes.

Later on in the series, we get the flashforwards where, instead of going back in time, we go forward. This is perhaps the hardest to keep track of, as the events of the flashforward eventually, somehow, metastasize into the present, but they are interesting for the most part. Aside from Jack's epic homeless man beard. They show us what happens when the main characters are away from the island, how their progression as individuals seems to halt, and why they must return. These were the least interesting 'flashes', but I could see their use after a while.

Then, finally, we have the flash-sideways. In the sixth season, the flash-sideways presents us with a sort of parallel universe where we see what would have happened if the characters hadn't of crashed on the island back in the FIRST season. At first, I was skeptical, but in the end it allowed me to enjoy the presence of characters who had passed away or changed beyond recognition once more. It somehow brought out the nostalgia of the 'good old days' of Lost. We get to see Locke again as his old self, we get to see people meet each other once again for the first time and, through indescribable means, recall their memories of the island in the other universe and remember what these people meant to them. It is difficult to explain, but it serves a purpose that helps to bring light to the show when it needs it most, when the events occurring on the island are too awful or too opaque.

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