Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Essay: The 'Lost' Fiasco

On 22nd September 2004, a new TV show aired in the US, with a pilot episode called 'Pilot'. On the 23rd May 2010, 121 episodes later, that show finally came to an end, with an episode called 'The End'. In between, it became a global phenomenon, was followed with religious fervour by millions of people, was analysed in pixel-level detail and spawned thousands of theories on what it was all about. Virtually all of them were wrong.

After it was over, a huge fan-fight broke out over how it ended. On one side were those who enjoyed the ending and thought those who disagreed were not true fans. On the other were those who hated the way 'Lost' ended, and could not imagine how it could satisfy anyone. They sniped at each other long and loud in every available public forum. For those of us who watched from the very beginning, it was hard to believe what had happened. Many, many blogs and articles and even books were written analysing what (if anything) had gone wrong. 'Lost' was simultaneously hailed as the greatest TV show ever and as the biggest sham. This is my own assessment of where it falls on that spectrum.

Season One was an astonishing piece of TV. The pilot episode was at the time the most expensive ever produced, involving a large cast and an entire plane demolished to create the beach crash site. The opening scene was, in my view, one of the most creative shots ever. Instead of starting with the plane itself, or some back story leading to the crash, we first saw an eye opening as Jack lay in the jungle amidst bamboo. It is silent. He gradually comes round, gets up, begins to run and as he reaches the beach we begin to hear the noises - screaming, shouting, explosions - and the camera pans to show us the full horror of the scene. It is extraordinarily effective.

The whole of Season One was of the same standard - well written, imaginative, beautifully shot - with interesting characters, well acted by the ensemble cast. Each episode focused on one of the characters, telling a little of their story by means of flashbacks, and what characters they were - the conman, the murderer, the torturer, the non-English-speaking Korean couple, the estranged father and son, and so on. The basic plot of survival on an apparently deserted island was augmented by intriguing spookiness - how come so many survived the crash? What was the scary tree-shifting noise in the jungle? What were polar bears doing there? Who - or what - killed the pilot?

Episode 4, 'Walkabout', was the moment when I (and many others) knew 'Lost' was like no other program. John Locke, the confident, capable knife-wielding hunter, had been a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair, before the flight. That shocking revelation was the first of many such, and sparked the audience into what would become a major part of the 'Lost' experience - theorising on what exactly was going on with this mysterious island. And there were hints of something more profound, in the names of many characters which were taken from famous philosophers and the like.

Season One ended brilliantly - despite setbacks, the squabbling Losties co-operated on two hopeful projects, building a raft for some of the survivors to escape and bring help, and opening a mysterious underground hatch. But the raft is intercepted by the Others, who kidnap the child Walt, and blow up the raft.

Season Two was just as good. We went down the hatch, and it was wierder than we could ever have imagined. The plane's tail-section survivors turned up, to provide more terrific characters, especially the drugs baron priest, Mr Eko. We got to meet the brilliant 'Henry Gale'. Michael went ballistic looking for his missing son Walt, and the hatch just went ballistic. By this time the web was alive with discussion groups analysing and theorising, and erudite articles and even books were beginning to appear, drawing out the themes of 'Lost' - science or faith, live together, die alone, light and dark, fate or coincidence, fate or destiny, and many more.

Season Three continued the trend of dramatic, if misleading, openings, but for the first time there were signs that the writers were running out of steam. The flashback format was tired, the Others were less interesting up close, and the mysteries were piling up with very little being revealed. The introduction of Nikki and Paulo was so badly handled that even the writers hated them. The suits insisted on a mid-season hiatus which skewed plotlines. There was a lot of tramping backwards and forwards through the jungle, and blowing things up, without much forward motion. Desmond had flashes of the future which were no more than a plot device. Nevertheless, the season ended with Charlie's heroic sacrifice and contact being made with a possible means of escape, as well as a switch to storytelling using flashforwards.

This was probably the high point for theories - anything was possible. Some of the best involved complex time loops, or graduate-level quantum physics. My favourite had the island on a 'moon' made of mirror matter in orbit within the earth, elegantly explaining such disparate clues as the Nigerian plane, the slave ship wrecked miles inland and the peculiar properties of the Smoke Monster.

Season Four was disrupted by the writers' strike, but it covered all the essentials - the race to escape, the science team from the freighter with their questionable motives and the goons with guns (no question about their motives). But it all seemed a little over-wrought, and hard to believe. It ended in style - some of the Losties finally escaped, while Locke and Ben made the island disappear. The theorising began to chase its tail - surely after four years we should be able to see something of the endgame, more of the bigger picture? But no, for every mystery wrapped up a couple of dozen new ones sprang up, some of them contradictory. The more erudite analysis began to dry up at this point, as everyone waited for the last two seasons.

If Season Four was about leaving the island, Season Five was about going back. It was also the time-travelling season, where we met a number of familiar characters. We didn't learn much, but it was huge fun and (mostly) very clever. And it ended with a bang - a nuclear explosion which just may reset everything to the way it was before the plane crash. With the advent of time travel, it seemed as if we were now locked into a sci-fi scenario - everything would be explained in some kind of pseudo-scientific way.

But we also got the reveal which changed everything - meeting Jacob and the Man in Black, arguing on the beach. This was a serious worry to me, and I actually wrote in one forum that if 'Lost' ultimately boiled down to a pissing contest between two demi-gods, it would feel like a cheat. After all the science-chasing, could it really just be a matter of magic? It seemed impossible.

Speculation was now at fever pitch. Season Six would be the last and surely it would answer our questions. No one seriously expected every last little detail to be explained, but surely now the main pieces of the puzzle would fall into place? The writers themselves seemed uneasy about how the audience would react, but the fans passed the hiatus by compiling lists of mysteries to be resolved, they hoped, or laying out their minimum requirements for a satisfactory finish. But my worries were compounded by an interview with the writers at Comicon, when one of them wondered why fans asked what the island is - such a question was incomprehensible to him. Now, from day one, this has been the most common question anyone has asked. It doesn't expect a simple answer (of the form 'The island is an X'), but given all its peculiarities, it is surely perfectly reasonable to ask what makes the island the way it is. That the writers simply do not understand this curiosity suggests they and the fans are totally at cross-purposes.

But never mind, for I had discovered a new theory which set my mind at rest. Speculation was focused on whether the bomb would destroy the island altogether or reset everything to a time before the plane crash - but what if it did both? Suppose it split time into two alternate realities, one with no island and no plane crash, and the one with both, which we have already seen? Then Season Six would become a straightforward challenge - restore the split timeline, somehow. And if the two realities had intersected at the point of the crash, there could be some crossover, with some Losties from one reality and some from the other, one would have Apollo bars and Geronimo Jackson but not the other, one would have a paraplegic John Locke but in the other he could walk - there were a great many mysteries which could be solved by such a scenario.

And so to Season Six. It started well enough - back on the pre-crash plane journey, the same but somehow subtly different (Desmond was there, for instance), and on the island, the Jughead explosion aftermath and the Temple. But after a few episodes, fans began to get restless. Where was this going? And, more importantly, where were all the answers to the mysteries that everyone expected? There were some answers, true, but very few, and more questions were being raised all the time.

About a third of the way through the season, there came a sea-change. Some of those wanting answers became more strident, but a number of people shifted attitude. 'You know what,' they said, 'the answers don't really matter. It's all about the characters (or the themes or the ideas or the journey...)'. Well, maybe. But the writers raised many of the questions themselves, and actively encouraged the audience to speculate. It seems hypocritical, somehow, to then decide unilaterally that it doesn't matter.

For me, the season just became more and more depressing. The 'real' world stories, while often entertaining, and allowing us to see long-dead characters, seemed illogical and disconnected. And the island story seemed to be treading water - there was a lot of blowing things up and killing people, but no real forward motion. Surely we should be seeing the endgame developing by now? And it got worse. Twin brothers? A magic light? A cork? And what exactly was supposed to happen if the light went out, or Smokey escaped? Something bad, obviously, but it was never very clear what, or how it could be prevented.

And then there were things that just didn't fit. If Smokey was appearing as all the dead people, how come he could appear as Christian off island? How come Christian was so helpful to Jack initially? How come he could appear as people who died off-island? How did Smokey appear when he was supposedly trapped in the cabin? How did Smokey appear on Hydra island if he couldn't cross water? How could he be summoned at will?

And then there were people's motives. Why did Jacob take so little interest in the Losties he had supposedly brought to the island? Why did Smokey kill so many people who could have helped him escape?  And why did Jacob not simply recruit Locke the moment he arrived - the one person who actively wanted to protect the island?

None of it made sense, and even the things which were explained were retro-fitted - the numbers related to the candidates? Then why engrave them on the outside of the hatch? Why did the candidate numbers mean anything at all to the Dharma Initiative? The sickness which affected both Sayid and Claire (albeit in different ways) was not the same as the sickness which affected Danielle's party, nor was it related to the quarantine situation at the hatch.

And so we came to 'The End', the double episode finale which revealed the nature of the Sideways world, resolved the Smokey dilemma on the island and showed us the final reunion of the Losties. There were various reactions:

Wait, you mean they were dead all the time? A lot of casual (ie only watched each episode once, that is, normal) viewers were confused by the Sideways world and the afterlife ending. This was not helped by the network showing the wrecked plane on a deserted beach after the credits - it was intended as a wind-down moment, but it inadvertantly suggested that the whole thing was a dream or purgatory or some kind of afterlife. To those who watched obsessively, and discussed everything endlessly online, this part was less confusing.

That was a fitting send-off for the characters, so who cares about answers? Many people basically gave up on getting answers during Season 6. That doesn't mean they were unimportant, only that the writers were unwilling (or unable) to give them to us. That's OK. The story is what the writers make it, and if they chose to focus on some aspects at the expense of others, and if some of the audience was prepared to accept that, fine.

An emotional ending, but... was that it? A lot of people felt unsatisfied by the whole of Season 6. Yes, the ending was a suitably rousing finale, with some tragedy but with an almost happy ending (I cried buckets), but still, there felt like something missing. In the end, the big reveal of the sideways world was all to answer a question that no one had ever asked, namely, what happens to Losties after they die?

I hate the writers! How could they betray our trust like that? There was a huge and noisy explosion of bitterness after the finale. Some people felt that the lack of answers, indeed the lack of anything approaching coherence, negated the whole six years of 'Lost', and they said so, loudly, and then went on and on and on about it.

My own feelings were more like grief. I had loved Lost for five whole years, and that final season seemed like the year of the painful divorce, or even something like a death. I went through several of the various stages of grief - denial, resignation, anger and eventually depression. Even now, a full year later, I can still get angry about it, if something triggers the right memories. Lost was so good - imaginative, mysterious, exciting, funny and utterly absorbing. I obsessed over it for five years, and spent countless hours online, discussing, theorising, analysing. I watched every episode several times, read books about it, joined in the between season games, got the video game, searched the screencaps for hidden meanings. And ultimately, there weren't any.

It seemed as if Lost was a vast jigsaw, with pieces being released every episode, so that one day we would be able to see the whole picture. Even when, as time went by, it became clear that there would never be enough time to reveal every last piece, I assumed that we would get most of it, that there was, in fact, a picture to be found, that Lost was a coherent story that (maybe) got a little out of hand. But now I think the pieces were just a random jumble.

It would be too much to say that the dust has settled on the furore. Maybe it never will. Even just recently [early 2011], George R R Martin (a fantasy writer) stirred the pot by declaring that Lost's ending was a 'turd', and hoped his own work would not end so badly, triggering a Twitter abuse-fest from Damon Lindelof. Looking back with a year's hindsight over the full six years of the show, how do the fans feel about it now?

It was totally awesome, and those who disagree are not true fans. Damon Lindelof actually said that the haters were not real fans, but he later retracted that view when he watched the latest Harry Potter film, and hated it. But for those who loved every minute of Lost, that's great. In the immediate aftermath, most of the reviews were positive, although with some reservations, so probably most viewers enjoyed it too, overall. But many people were not so positive, and they were fans, too.

It was great, even if not much was answered. Anyway, it was always about the characters, wasn't it? Well, was it? A purely character-based show tends to have a single lead, or maybe two or three, whose characters drive the plot forward. Lost was always an action-based entertainment series, and managed to dispose of a great many characters over the years for various non-plot reasons without affecting things overmuch. Mr Eko's actor wanted to leave, Nikki and Paulo were hated by the fans, Libby was killed off to add pathos to Ana Lucia's death.

Very few characters had much development, either. Sayid was a torturer, then reformed, then tortured again, then reformed, then became an assassin, then reformed, then tried to change history by killing young Ben, before finally achieving a redemptive death. Charlie kicked his heroin habit before his sacrificial death. Kate eventually stopped running to look after Aaron, only to run back to the island again, albeit with slightly improved motives. Sawyer had perhaps the most character growth, before Jack's leap of faith got Juliet killed. Most characters were either comic relief (Miles, Frank), or motivating love interest (Charlotte, Penny), or were one-trick ponies (Shannon, Boone, Claire, Rose and Bernard) with not much scope for development. This was especially true of the later seasons, where the new characters often seemed fairly pointless - Charlotte, for instance, or Ilana - with no backstory to speak of.

Even for the main characters, motives were often unclear and plotlines were abruptly dropped. Why, for instance, did Jack actually decide to go back to the island? Yes, his life had become pretty miserable, but despite all that we never actually see the moment when he makes the decision. He meets Locke, tells him not to be so ridiculous, of course he's not going back, and the next thing we know - he's going back. Why did Sun make approaches to Widmore? Why did Sayid act as Ben's unquestioning assassin, and then stop as soon as Ben told him everyone dangerous had been killed (even though Widmore, the biggest danger of all, was still alive)?

But maybe it was all about the hero, Jack? Maybe his was the only real character development? So, let's see, Jack had Daddy issues which left him feeling inadequate so he needed to fix things, and he was a man of science, who distrusted faith. At the end both of those had changed (and a heap of people had died along the way as a result). There have been some attempts to shoehorn Jack's progress into the traditional Hero's Journey, but it's not a good fit. Ultimately, Lost was not a character-driven story, but many people enjoyed the characters more than all the rest, and that's absolutely fine.

Maybe we didn't get the answers spelled out for us, but we got enough information to work the answers out for ourselves. In a few cases this is true. No one ever said explicitly that the polar bears were a Dharma experiment, that one of them turned the frozen donkey wheel and ended up in the desert, that after Dharma fell they escaped, but we could deduce all of that from what was said or shown. And a lot of people suspected the whispers were the voices of dead people trapped on the island. But for other questions, the answers were not obvious or were downright contradictory. The numbers, for instance - season 6 gave us one answer, that they were to do with Jacob's candidates. So why, then, were they so important to Dharma, who had nothing to do with Jacob?

But for many mysteries, no answers were given, and it was left up to the fans to work it out to their own satisfaction. The real problem with this idea is that if you ask any group of fans what the answer is to mystery X, you will get a multitude of different answers, all carefully reasoned and deduced from what was shown on screen. That's not an answer, it's just confusing. In the end, the only true answer is the one the writers themselves had, if any.

However, leaving things vague allows anyone with a theory to continue to cling to it. One famous theory was that Lost was a video game, with 6 levels, and the characters had to fulfil certain roles and accomplish certain objectives before moving on to the next level. The author invested a huge amount of time and effort into it, and after the finale was able to say with some conviction: game over! Is it really likely that the Lost writers were intentionally following this line (but neglected to say so explicitly)? Or is it more likely that the theory creator simply shoehorned every piece of evidence into the desired framework, which was flexible enough to cope? Most theories, it has to be said, came to dust.

It was obvious for years where things were heading, and those who complain just didn't pay enough attention to the clues. And for everyone who thought the ultimate direction was obvious and was flagged up several seasons ago, there was at least one who thought it was going in a completely different direction. Lost was actually hugely successful in keeping everything ambiguous. The strange things that happened could all be explained either by real world answers, or pseudo-science (sci-fi), or by the paranormal (supernatural). It was only in Seasons 4 and 5 when we began to see things which were difficult to explain without the supernatural (or magic) - the moving cabin, the ash, the changing picture frames, Michael's inability to kill himself, and so on. And this was exactly the point when the main plot was moving very much in a sci-fi direction, with time anomalies and so forth. So the signals were mixed, to say the least. It was not until the introduction to Jacob and the Man in Black in the finale of Season 5 that things veered sharply into magic territory once and for all (and even then, many people still hoped for a sci-fi explanation, like alien or future technology).

They just made it up as they went along. Well of course they did - up to a point. Novels are crafted from start to finish, with a great deal of editing and rewriting and polishing, but TV series tend to be sketched out, with the details filled in as they go along. This is especially true of multi-season shows. But the writers insisted they knew the end point right from the start, and put in the reference to Adam and Eve in Season 1 to prove it. Well, maybe they did know who the skeletons were, but it was hardly a resonant answer. We'll probably never know for sure, but I suspect that the only things they had worked out from day one were that Jack was the hero, that the last island shot would be Jack's eye closing, and (possibly) the afterlife reunion. Everything else they made up as they went along (which was why it was so disjointed).

It raised TV to new heights of complexity - pity so many people just didn't understand it. Pearson Moore wrote: "The creators of LOST were attempting to generate a work of enduring significance, an audacious statement about the condition of our humanity and the value of human civilisation." And: "Only the concerted application of several forms of analytical technique, aimed at illuminating key interrelated facets of the story, will allow us to unravel the deeper significance of this television masterpiece."  And: "Those who do not believe that all remaining questions posed by LOST were resolved in the finale were not immersed in the series." Well, OK, if you like. Personally, I thought it was just a piece of entertainment, with a whole heap of mysterious stuff sprinkled on top like hundreds and thousands - very pretty, tasted good at the time, but ultimately not very substantial.

To be honest, I think it is always possible to write a profound essay around any TV show, even something as trivial as a game or home makeover show. It doesn't mean that the profundity is in the show itself (intentionally or otherwise). If you splatter dots randomly over a page, you can draw lines (make connections) between any two of them, and you can even draw straight lines through several at once, and pick out clusters here and there, but there's no meaning in that. So, you can write an in depth article about any two characters in Lost (Kate and Frank, for instance), or about any theme you see (or think you see), and it will sound good, but there's no guarantee the writers thought of anything of the kind.  It's good that Lost inspired such introspection, but so do a great many other TV shows with no pretensions to significance at all.

There's no doubt that Lost was the first of its kind. It wrapped a simple tale of people stranded on a desert island in a cloak of intriguing mystery, and the flashbacks, flashforwards and flashsideways were terrific, but what really made it special was that legions of fans got involved in trying to work it out. The writers encouraged that, to their credit, and provided viral online games to jolly things along, but they never understood what (many of) the fans were really looking for, and that disconnect was the ultimate tragedy of the show.

It was the ultimate long con - well, they really fooled me. A con trick requires a degree of intent on the part of the perpetrator, and I never really believed the writers were deceitful by design, although many people did come to that conclusion. Certainly they encouraged speculation and theorising, but that isn't quite the same thing. I would say that if there was deceit, of a sort, such that many people were convinced that Lost was deeply meaningful in one way or another (saying something profound about the human condition, or an unbelievably complex puzzle to be solved), it was largely self-deceit. Many fans simply wanted it to be clever and complicated. In the end, there was no vast interconnected puzzle, merely a small number of trivial puzzles which were given trivial answers, and an enormous number which had no point whatsoever. Any profundity was added by the viewers themselves - the program itself never rose much above the standard level of mainstream TV (good triumphs over evil, love is all you need, live together, die alone, make the ultimate sacrifice, save the world, you gotta have faith). I suspect the writers were never quite clever enough to imbue the program with real depth, or to pull off a con trick of that magnitude.

So what was the deal with Walt? (Or Libby, or the time jumping, or the outrigger, or Miles, or Christian Shephard, or the island moving, or the poison pill, or the ash, or Annie, or those changing picture frames on the staircase, or... or... or...) Well, we're never going to know now, are we? The writers never thought any of those things were important enough to deserve thinking about. In some cases, we got a partial answer that raised more questions than answers - Smokey was appearing as Christian Shephard, but that doesn't explain how Jack saw him off-island, why he was helping Jack initially, or why he was helping Sun and Frank. The most likely answer is that the writers threw a lot of mysterious stuff into the mix, without having any idea how that would fit. Some of it got retrofitted, leaving big holes, and some was just left dangling.

All that business with the magic light and the cork - that was just so stupid. I have to admit to some sympathy with this point of view. Compared with the post-doctorate level theories that were going the rounds for years, this is simplistic, to put it mildly. It's as if the writers just shrugged and said - well, it's magic, isn't it? And the magic seems to have no boundaries, so everything and anything can be explained. Jacob went off-island? Magic. The island moves in time and space? Magic. The island is hard to find? Magic. The poisoned pill only works if you trust the person giving it to you? Magic. Richard is immortal? Magic. The Losties time-hopped but the Others didn't? Magic. It's just arm-waving.

I think many fans really wanted to be amazed, as the writers had amazed us innumerable times before with those unexpected reveals at the end of each episode - the Whoa! moment which came before the credits and had us up half the night analysing. And ultimately the finale was not amazing. The reveal about the sideways world was mildly interesting, and it was a rousing emotional send-off, but it was not in the least mind-blowing. An 'oh well' moment.
I know many people went into the finale still hoping against hope that there would be some shocking twist which would turn everything around. Maybe the island was created by alien or future technology? Or perhaps it just wasn't real (in some way)? But no. The island was (supposedly) real, and the sideways world was not, and many of us found that impossible to accept.

In the end, regardless of whether anyone loved the ending or hated it or simply accepted it, I think Lost ultimately failed on two levels:

Lost failed as fantasy. What is fantasy, exactly? There is no easy definition, and a huge amount of overlap with science fiction and the broader speculative fiction. Many writers (and readers) cover the full spectrum of possibilities. In essence, fantasy is anything which could not possibly exist in the real world, whether because it's set in a completely created world, or because it features magic or mythical creatures or artifacts. If the strangeness can be explained by science (even hypothetical or very unlikely future science, like time travel) it is generally regarded as sci-fi. Up until the end of season 5, Lost could just about have squeezed under the wire as sci-fi, although there were some fantasy elements (the magically moving cabin, for instance, if in fact it did move). In season 6, barring a last-minute reveal of aliens or people from the future, we were in full-on fantasy territory.

But fantasy has certain rules to be followed. In particular, the magic system has to be well defined. If the story features pink unicorns who fly, and green ones who don't, you can't introduce flying green ones (not without a humungously good reason, anyway). Nor can you do just anything with magic - it has to have limits, otherwise it becomes a deus ex machina (and therefore a cheat). The limits may involve who can do it, or when, or where, or what sorts of things it can do (hurl thunderbolts? heal the sick? raise the dead?), and the writers are allowed to make up their own rules, but it can't simply be a free for all. Well, if Lost's magic had any rules, I never worked out what they were.

Lost failed as a story. Well, it had a beginning (the plane crash), a middle (everything up to the end) and an end (Jack's death), but was it really a story? A 6-year long TV show is always going to have a hard time defining a story arc which spans the whole show from start to finish. The more urgent imperatives are to create stories which fill a single episode, or run through a single season, and unless the writers have a very clear idea of the overarching story right from day one, there is always going to be some element of inventing the plot on the hoof.

I think it's fairly clear now that the writers had no solid structure underpinning the individual episodes and seasons. They had the beginning, and they had some elements of the ending, but they had no idea at all how they were going to get from one point to the other. There was no sense of a gradual reveal of important pieces of background information, rather it seemed (especially after the first two seasons) as if new elements were simply hurled into the mix without much co-ordination. It's instructive to compare 'Lost' with 'Babylon 5', which had a carefully plotted mythology uncovered piece by piece, episode by episode, to reveal a coherent whole.

I suspect that, failing a concrete plot structure, in the final series the writers tried to  aim for some kind of deep and meaningful subtext about faith and love and trust and the futility of science, but almost inevitably they fell short. After five seasons of choosing cheap thrills and trite sentimentality over meaning, it was too late to try to get profound. That kind of depth has to be built-in from the start. So Charlie died a hero's death to save Claire, but to no purpose. The ensemble cast and Jack's line about 'live together, die alone' meant nothing - it was all about Jack (with a minute amount of help from Kate). Sayid killed more people than most of us have hot dinners, but he got into the churchy afterlife, while poor Michael, who made one mistake under great stress and redeemed himself at huge personal cost, was doomed to stay on the island indefinitely. Kate went to huge effort to reunite Claire and Aaron, while Sun and Jin chose true love and each other over their daughter. The underlying messages were mixed, to say the least.

 'Lost' was a success on many levels. As an action TV show, it was brilliant. As a water-cooler talking point, it was a phenomenon. For five whole years, it was arguably the best thing on TV, keeping millions of viewers absorbed and entertained. It's difficult to appreciate just how many hours fans spent analysing and speculating and theorising and trying to understand what was going on and to rationalise the mysteries. It's even more difficult to appreciate just how much of a waste of time that was. There really was no rational explanation for most of what went on. There wasn't even an irrational explanation, in fact. Things happened - well, because the writers thought they were cool, I suppose. And that would be all right if that was what they planned all along, a sort of metaphysical commentary on the meaningless of life, or a deconstruction of post-modernism, or similar deep-sounding nonsense. But I can't quite make myself believe any of that.

In the end, despite all the hype and all the brilliance along the way, it failed a large part of its audience. John Locke said: "Everything happens for a reason" and many of us believed him. But in this case he was wrong. For those who are happy with the way 'Lost' ended, or who see something profound in it, or just enjoyed the ride as simple entertainment - I'm happy for you. For everyone else - I feel your pain. I've learned my lesson - never again will I get quite so obsessive over a mere TV show. It isn't worth it. [First written May 2011]

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