February 19, 2009

So now Jack, Kate, Hurley, Said, Sun, and Ben are back on the island. Or so we presume. We saw only three of them last night.

Exactly how they got there we don't know, and they don't know. They took an airplane to Guam which was going to fly near to where the island is now (it turns out the island is always moving around). Then, at a point in the flight, there was turbulence, flashing and blinding lights, and Jack found himself waking up in a forest of bamboo.

For me, this series is interesting not so much for finding out how the plot is going to evolve. The writers will come up with a conclusion they think will be passingly satisfying. It will fail to tie up a number of loose ends, which will irritate some viewers. There will be a flurry of talk. And, then, Lost will pass away into television history, unless, of course, there's a movie t be salvaged out of it. This is all fairly predictable.

The worth of the program -- if there is any worth outside passing time in a moderately pleasant way -- lies in the speculations it induces.

One, for me, is whether if I could be whisked away to another world with a set of companions I found reasonably bearable, a world in which the complexities and hardships of this world would be flushed away, would I do it?

I'm not sure, but I might. The world we live in right now has too many hungry mouths and too many raging egos. We don't know what to do about them. Everything we can imagine involves immense cruelty.  Our problems are beyond managing. After a while, one gets tired of living in an unmanageable situation. That's why the world is becoming very wearisome for many of its inhabitants.

Even the difficulties on an island, with a population small enough that we could know every person there, might be better than what we have now. It could also be stultifying. But, if it were, it would be no more stultifying than the early times of humanity, because that's pretty much how they lived then.

The appeal of Lost is the appeal of going back, starting over again. That's what the character John Locke is supposed to show us. I presume he has the name he does because the philosopher Locke is associated with a blank slate, where we can write what we will.

I wonder if any of this is going to be made explicit as we proceed towards the conclusion. I don't think it matters. We have the power to make it explicit in our own minds.

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January 22, 2009

In the preview to the fifth season of Lost, the producers told us that this year questions will be answered rather than raised. But after watching the two hour premier, you couldn't prove it by me. The trouble is that once you get into time shifts, you really are lost so far as explanation is concerned. I'm sure the writers will cob something together but I doubt it will come across as seamless.

Lost has been a frustrating series, but fascinating also. The theory is that all people, characters as well as viewers, are searching for redemption and a fresh start. Being marooned on an island has, throughout literary history, offered those opportunities. When the island is not just an ordinary geographical feature but a land where the laws of physics don't work like they do everywhere else, the options are expanded.

There is a line, though, when fantasy becomes merely goofy, and the producers of this show have marched right up to it. Whether or not they'll step across the next two years will have to tell us.

One of the features that holds us, I think, is the concept of dealing with a manageable number of people -- about forty or so. In the backs of our minds, I suspect we're intimidated by the thought that we live on a planet with billions and billions of human beings. We can't grasp how to deal with them, and even with the best will imaginable, they clearly do present a threat to each of us. We wish most of them would go away, yet that thought spawns the question of why we have the right to stay.

If we were on an island with only forty people -- or even a hundred -- we could develop a sense of knowing something, even if the island itself were mysterious beyond knowing. It would be like when humanity began.

There have been a couple of times over the past four years when I've told myself I would stop watching Lost. I thought it had become too silly to be borne. Yet, I never did, which must mean the people who are making the series know a little something about human nature. Now, I'm committed to going all the way through with it. When it's over, I might not be glad I did. But, I'll do it nonetheless. That's really all the producers want.

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November 17, 2005

Now we know -- sort of -- what happened to the people in the tail section of the plane on Lost. The episode last night took us through their whole forty-eight days on the island, and their adventures with an unknown group who periodically kidnapped some of them. Now the tail-sectioners are going to merge with the original group and both of them together will have to deal with the mysterious "Others" who evidently have been on the island for some time. Does any of this interest me? I can't yet be sure. I keep going back to the series and it continues to drag so much that it wearies me. I suppose, over the coming weeks, we'll find out something about the longtime residents of the island and why they have behaved so weirdly. And maybe that will give the show the boost it is beginning to need very badly.

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The first two episodes of Lost's second season have revealed more secrets than the whole first year did. I wonder if the producers heeded the public view that the show was too much of a tease and decided they have to offer something more in the way of plot development. At any rate, we now know that underneath the island lies a huge bunker system and that living in it is a guy Jack met back in the normal world when he was exercising one night in the deserted football stadium. That's can't be a coincidence, can it? I hope the plot will work out to be something ingenious, but I don't have great confidence. It's going to take a fancy scheme to put together all the pieces revealed during the first year. And, I wonder if TV Land has that much brain power. We can hope, though.  (Posted, 9/30/05)

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Lost has the reputation of being a dreadful tease and the season's final episode (May 25, 2005) pretty well upheld the tradition. A few things were revealed, though. There are other people near the island. A few of them showed up in a power boat and kidnapped the boy off the raft, after it was fifteen miles out at sea, leaving the three others in a not very good condition. And the hatch of the big capsule finally got blown off, revealing a shaft going down, down, down. The main dramatic dialogue took place between Jack and Locke, while they were hauling aged dynamite through the jungle. Locke voiced his belief that they had all been brought to the island for specific purposes, and Jack gave him one his are-you-crazy stares (he's getting those down). Now we have to wait for next season and to tell the truth, I don't know whether we should wait or not. The problem with shows that have a big spooky mystery at their core is that the mystery never lives up to its billing. That tells us something about the imaginative powers of TV script writers. They're okay for everyday fare, but they don't get the big stuff right.

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Lost continues to tease us with just enough revelation to keep us coming back. Episode 12 last night (January 5, 2005), showed us Kate in fetching swimwear -- they would do well to have more "beach" scenes in a program like this -- and informed us that back in New Mexico she took part in a bank robbery, not because her motive was to rob the bank but out a desire to get something from a safe deposit box she couldn't get otherwise. Jack remains in a kind of despair about Kate, but she looks so good he can't decide to give her up. That, at least, is realistic. The island is having bigger waves than it does normally, and that means something, which may not be explained until Episode 144 or so. One of the problems with a series like this is it requires greater attention span than the average viewer can summon. We have to be on the watch for developments hinted at several episodes earlier. But that may convey a kind of cult status, which is always a good thing for a TV program to attain.

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The flashback on Lost last night (December 1, 2004) featured Claire, the pregnant girl from Australia. It turns out she may have been on the plane because a psychic she had been consulting foresaw that it would crash. His visions had told him that Claire must raise her baby rather than giving it up for adoption. Otherwise, disaster will be visited on the world. One wonders if there's going to be an attempt to weave all these sub-themes together in a mega-explanation of why the plane went down on this particular island. If so, it must have something to do with people who were already there before the crash. We met another of them last night, a creepy guy named Ethan, who, it seems, is about to kidnap both Claire and Charley. Goodness knows what his motives are.

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Now we know that on the island of Lost, in addition to the survivors of the plane crash, there is also a Frenchwoman named Danielle, who has been there for a long time and may be a little bit crazy. Or, maybe not. Maybe she just knows things about the island that the others have yet to discover. The episode of November 17th was mainly taken up by Said's encounter with this woman plus flashbacks to the time when he served as an interrogator for the Iraqi Republican Guard. Revelations of this sort should have been more enthralling than they turned out to be. That they weren't, makes me fear a bit for Lost. The overarching concept is good. But the details may not be able to live up to it. I understand that a great conversation is taking place among the fans about what's actually occurring. Some think the survivors are deluded to believe they're still alive. They're really in Purgatory. And this is one of the more staid of the interpretations. I'm still hoping that the creators of Lost will put together an intriguing story of what's going on. But, I'm not quite as hopeful as I once was.

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The flashback feature of Lost directed our attention last night (November 10, 2004) to the life story of Sawyer, who has been wavering, since the series began, between bad guy and maybe not such a bad guy. We have now found out that he has enough redemptive features in his past to give us hope that, he too, will find his moral core on the island. This series reminds me of Mr. Jefferson's beliefs about the three kinds of society available to humankind: European (top-down rule), American (representative rule) and Indian (no real rule at all because people lived in small enough groups they could work out their problems by everybody knowing everybody else). Jefferson, himself, constantly favored the third.  The popularity of Lost indicates that there are quite a few people who agree with him. If we could put everybody in a group of about fifty on an island, then, maybe, everything could be worked out. The problem with this world, evidently, is we don't have enough islands and our means of travelling between the ones we do have are far too efficient.

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The contest among the TV networks for most viewers of the third presidential debate was won by ABC. That's because the debate was preceded by Lost, which has proved to be one of the more popular new series of the season. You might think that a melodrama about plane crash survivors on a Pacific island (evidently, a very out-of-the-way Pacific island) would run short of material. But the producers are skillfully using flashbacks to show how people came to be on the doomed aircraft. Consequently, we have multiple sub-stories blending into the big story of how life can be sustained on the island. The featured flashback on October 13th dealt with the mysterious Mr. Locke, who, we had been led to believe, was some sort of secret agent. But it turns out he was a man confined to dreaming in a wheelchair. The crash miraculously restored his legs, and now he appears ready to assume the role in life he had formerly lived only in fantasy. Thus we learn that plane crashes are not bad for everybody. That might end up being the overall theme of the program. It plays to the common desire to escape current difficulties and make a fresh start, which could give Lost considerable staying power.

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The weekly episode of Lost was fairly quiet last night (October 6, 2004). The cop with the big hunk of metal in his stomach died, leaving swathed in mystery why he was transporting Kate in handcuffs. We're learning a bit about her former life through flashbacks but still don't know what she did. Nobody got eaten by the island's monsters. The dog was found, though why he hadn't come out of the jungle on his own was not explained. Nobody yet appears to be hungry, though what they're all eating isn't clear. Food has to become an issue pretty soon. It's a more slowly paced show than is usual nowadays and that may be part of its appeal. We have the sense that the enigmas will be explained sooner or later, and the program has managed, so far, to make waiting not only acceptable but even enjoyable.

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I've watched the first two episodes of ABC's new series Lost. And I guess I like it well enough to keep on watching. Castaways on an unknown island always have an initial interest. If the people themselves are at least partially engaging and the situation on the island intriguing, all it takes is competent plotting to keep things perking along. In this case we start with forty-seven people who survived an airplane crash in the Pacific Ocean, but since only fourteen people are listed as members of the cast, I have bad feelings about the fate of the other thirty-three. There's something, or maybe more than one something, on the island that's very big and has a taste for human flesh. Is this improbable? Of course. But's that's okay. Dramas of this kind depend on improbabilities. What's the chance that an airplane flying across the Pacific would crash on an island? (might there be an explanation for this later on?). And there's no chance that a plane which ripped apart in the air as this one did could have permitted anybody to survive. But, no matter. There they are, on the beach, trying to figure out what's going on. And we get to visit with them every Wednesday evening.

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