Friday, May 12, 2006

The Trouble With Lost Is...

Now don’t get my wrong. I enjoy Lost. I watch it every week, but I have to admit, sometimes I find myself fast-forwarding through certain scenes *cough flash-backs cough* because they tend to drag. I realize to some of you Lostphiles this is a betrayal, but let’s face it, the show moves at a glacial pace. We’ve been watching for two years and yet only, what, 50 days have passed on the island?

Certainly Lost has secured itself a position in our cultural lexicon as one of the most original, complicated, and surprising shows in the history of television. I think the pilot episode is probably the most brilliant single episode of television that has ever been. And the deftness at which the writers juggle a cast of characters that now includes about 15 series regulars is nothing short of staggering. HOWEVER…at the beginning of this television season, when Veronica Mars and Lost were scheduled at the same time, I was finally able to put my finger on what bothered me about Lost and has simultaneously kept me from becoming obsessed with it.

With other serial shows (such as Veronica Mars, Buffy, etc.) there is always an end in sight. I don’t mean the eventual end to the series, but the events of a season lead up to a resolution of some kind in the finale. Questions will be answered and the “Big Bad” will be dispatched. Lost has a much more amorphous pattern, and I am sure that is what attracts some people to it. Instead of one over-arching villain, characters are faced with battling themes or their own personal demons. Example: on Buffy, there would be a theme to a season, such as season four’s “oh, grow up!” and the characters would work through it in tandem with conquering the Big Bad (and while I’m on that topic: shut up, The Initiative).

On Lost, however, the only thing sustaining the second season has been the emotional theme. I think it has been clear that his season is about faith and what moves people to place their faith in different things. The best example of this is probably the Jack vs. Locke vs. Ecko triumvirate that has emerged. I think Lost deserved a lot of recognition and praise for breaking the serial mold of television and trying something different. After seven seasons of Buffy, I was the first person to admit the Big Bad formula had become a bit trying. But now, after seeing Lost and its reliance on characterization to sustain momentum, I can say that in my opinion, it doesn’t work enough to hold all my interest.

The best parts of Lost are, for me, the current action on the Island, as the characters struggle to make sense of their surroundings and each other. Who are the Others? What is the point of that dumb button? Will Kate and Jack ever get it on (I’m not aboard the Sawyer train y’all)? Where the HELL is Walt and/or my chiffon? The parts I find infinitely skipable are the questions involving the castaways backstories. Sorry, I don’t really care about Michael and his ex-wife, even if she was in Serenty. I don’t care why Sawyer is such an asshole. And I REALLY don’t care about Kate. When the show backs off from the forward-moving portion of the story, I lose interest.

Now, maybe five years down the road when Lost is over and all questions have been answered, I will slap myself on the forehead and think, “why didn’t I pay more attention to that flashback in the third episode! It had all the answers!” But I doubt it. If Lost’s writers would resolve themselves to answer at least one specific plot thread a season, I would find it a lot more enjoyable and a lot more engaging. For example, if I knew without a doubt that going into this season’s finale I would know what the hell is up with that hatch, I would be much more excited. But since there is no guarantee we will get any answers (despite the producers claiming the opposite, methinks they doth protest too much) I find it difficult to anticipate episodes of Lost as much as I do other shows.

So, what’s my point? My point is that while I enjoy Lost, and count it among my top 5 shows, I’m not able to become actively involved in it’s fandom or mysteries. Perhaps I am someone who needs to see a light at the end of a tunnel or have instant gratification. So while I tape Lost every Wednesday night, I might not get around to watching it until Saturday. And that’s ok. It’s a great show with a great cast (hellooooooo Matthew Fox, rowr!) but it lacks the momentum I need to become fully engaged.

No comments: