Monday, September 17, 2012

#458. Rewatching Lost

For the past few weeks, I've been watching Lost over again.  It's okay!  My sister's trained me on this sort of thing, with her regular marathon sessions of the eight seasons of Charmed, which I've sometimes participated in, so I'm an old pro.

Lost was originally broadcast from 2004 to 2010, and spans 121 episodes and six seasons.  It is a cult show that became a huge sensation and then a cult show again that notably disappointed probably all the people who started watching it because of the "huge sensation" thing.

The premise begins with the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 finding themselves deserted on a mysterious island.  Originally fans believed they were simply going to follow these characters until they got home, but then started to wonder if the point was to answer all the riddles.  Eventually the show itself got the characters home, brought them back, and attempted to satisfy the curiosity all those riddles excited.

Well, let's have a breakdown of the series in slightly more (but not too much!) detail:

Season One
The main body of survivors from the crash include Jack Shepherd, Kate Austen, John Locke, Sawyer, Hurley, Michael Dawson, Walt Lloyd, Shannon Rutherford, Boone Carlyle, Claire Littleton, Charlie Pace, Sayid Jarrah, Jin-Soo Kwon, and Sun Kwon.  (Yes, it was a large cast.)  They were all trying to figure out what had happened, where they were, and how they were going to get back home.  Claire was pregnant.  Everyone had complicated pasts.  Locke was in a wheelchair before the crash.  By the time Claire and Charlie were kidnapped by Ethan, whom Hurely figured out wasn't a passenger on the plane, they realized they weren't alone.  Michael built a raft.  It was burned down.  He built another one.  He and his son Walt, Jin, and Sawyer set sail.  The so-called Others sunk it and kidnapped Walt.  Oh, and there was a crazy French chick, Danielle Rousseau.

Key episodes:
"Pilot" (for obvious reasons)
"Walkabout" (revealing Locke's paralyzed past)
"Confidence Man" (my personal favorite, featuring Sawyer's basic conman story)
"Exodus" (season finale)

Season Two
Now knowing with absolute certainty that they were not alone, the survivors have been sent scrambling.  Locke discovered a hatch last season, and the big reveal of what was inside turns out to be Desmond Hume, last working stiff of the Dharma Initiative, the embodiment of the show's own efforts to explain what's so special about the island.  We also meet a separate group of survivors from the crash, who were in the tail section, all of whom are dead by the start of the third season.  My favorite's Mr. Eko, who pushes Locke to grow (but Locke always follows the beat of his own drum).  The biggest things to happen this season are Michael's obsessive quest to regain Walt from the Others, the appearance of "Henry Gale," who turns out to be Benjamin Linus, leader of the Others, and everyone trying to figure out if pushing the button inside the hatch is a worthwhile use of their time.  By the end, we learn that it was.  Turns out the one time Desmond failed to do so, the resulting electromagnetic disturbance caused the plane to crash.

Key episodes:
"The Other 48 Days" (the tale of the tail section)
"The 23rd Psalm" (the contrast between Locke and Eko)
"One of Them" (the debut of Ben)
"Live Together, Die Alone" (season finale, Desmond's journey)

Season Three
Think you know the Others?  Well, think again.  The season begins with Jack, Kate and Sawyer their unwitting captives.  In contrast to Ben, we meet Juliet, who at first does a terrible job of engendering the Others to us as she interrogates Jack, but eventually reveals a very endearing backstory.  Desmond, meanwhile, sets Charlie on a season-long march to his death thanks to the after-effects of blowing up the hatch, which allows him to see the future.  Locke marches ever closer to his destiny as he attempts to join the Others, and that rescue I was talking about begins to happen as we receive our first independent voice from off the island in the form of Naomi.  Also, we meet Richard Alpert for the first time, and Jacob is referenced!  Who's Jacob?  Only the driving force of everything that happens on the island...

Key episodes:
"Not in Portland" (Juliet's past revealed)
"Flashes Before Your Eyes" (Desmond's peculiar condition explored)
"The Man Behind the Curtain" (Ben's past revealed!)
"Through the Looking Glass" (season finale; march towards rescue; big Jack reveal at the end)

Season Four
The season known as the game-changer, in which the format officially shifts away from heavily focused on the survivors looking to get home to the survivors heavily looking to get back.  Previous seasons featured flashbacks while this season featured flash-forwards (a concept that helped a book become a short-lived TV series) in which the survivors who got home try to figure out what that means.  We also meet folks from the freighter everyone thought was going to get everyone home.  They're actually pawns in a long-standing conflict on the island that reflects the even longer-standing conflict that exists between Jacob and his brother, the Man in Black, but more on that later.  Production of this season was affected by the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike, so that's why it's shorter than even the short short seasons that follow, because the writers at this point had surprised everyone by outlining just how much was left of the series.

Key episodes:
"Confirmed Dead" (tales of the freighter team)
"The Constant" (everyone's favorite Desmond episode)
"Meet Kevin Johnson" (the further adventures of Michael Dawson)
"There's No Place Like Home" (season finale; or, there and back again)

Season Five
Locke makes an unexpected push towards destiny, finally discovering his true purpose in getting everyone back to the island, and all it takes is sacrificing himself!  Half the survivors are sent on a rollercoaster ride through time on the island, a result of tapping directly into the island's energy (which got Ben and Locke off the island, by the way), while the other half completes a complicated journey back.  Then the second half of the season has another split, with half of the survivors stuck in 1977 making everything happen that will get their plane crashed and allowing Jacob to get his candidates, and the others ironically in the clutches of the Man in Black, who only wants to sabotage Jacob's efforts and get off the island...I swear it all makes sense! But this is easily the season where you either figure out what's going on, or begin to throw your hands up, because all of this is relevant both to what's happened and how it all ends.

Key episodes:
"316" (how those who left came back)
"The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" (how Locke dies)
"The Variable" (freighter vet Daniel helps make sense of the time jumps)
"The Incident" (season finale; otherwise known as the secret origin of the hatch)

Season Six
Everyone still on the island is now picking sides, and the Man in Black doesn't play fair, constantly manipulating things, while flash-sideways through the season attempt to explore how things would've turned out if the survivors had had a little more luck on their side, and the plane failing to crash would be one of them.  We learn by the end ("The End" is also the name of the final episode) who Richard Alpert is, the exact conflict between Jacob and his brother, and what kind of happy ending is possible from all this.  The flash-sideways turn out to be the afterlife, by the way, the survivors reconciling their lives and eventually coming together, while the island at last finds a little peace with people running it (Hurley and, believe it or not, Ben) who only want what's best and are done with all the manipulating, which as you may or may not recall from all those flashbacks and shenanigans on the island, is exactly what everyone was previously doing with their lives.

Key episodes:
"Lighthouse" (Jack figures out Jacob's game)
"Ab Aeterno" (Richard Alpert's secret origin)
"Across the Sea" (Jacob and the Man in Black's secret origin)
"The End" (the end)

So many fans like to claim that there was no satisfaction to everything they'd watched.  I have to question how much of it they watched, because it's all there.  Walt, for instance, like Locke, was a prime candidate to replace Jacob, if the timing had been right.  It wasn't.  The plane crashed because of the electromagnetic activity that was at the center of the island and unbalanced by the Dharma Initiative, much as the balance between good and evil was offset by the Man in Black's jealousy of Jacob.  Everything that happened was a result of these two elements, obsessive quests to figure out what would happen (much like the fan reaction), and a bunch of characters who both were and were not defined by these things, but rather by the tragedies of their own lives, which were all directed by events on the island because that's what Jacob needed, to find a replacement who would keep the island safe, because of the old adage, power corrupts.  People who died before the end, who were killed by the Smoke Monster (the Man in Black) had made their peace, and thus didn't need to continue worrying about everything else, no longer had a vested interest in it.

Some fans have apparently wondered why Jack was so emotional.  Did you ever hear the anecdote that in typical J.J. Abrams fashion he was supposed to die in the pilot?  He was the audience surrogate, the first and last person you see.  The show was about big dramatic things.  If Jack wasn't emotional, the show would never have worked, just as if Locke had been able to figure things out sooner and been more effective.  The things you think about changing are the things that defined the series.  The characters were full of regrets.  The whole point of the show was to let go, stop overanalyzing everything.  It's not surprising that the fans who don't understand the ending don't get that.  Sure it was about big mysteries, but not in the way the unsatisfied fans thought.  The big mysteries had nothing to do with the island.  Yes, in the show, the island did not turn out to be an allegory.  But it was.  That's what it was all about.

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