Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Found Lost

Five years ago, I decided during May to watch Lost from beginning to end. I was bored, a bit stressed, and mildly depressed for a couple of reasons. I found an online streaming site and went through the entire first three seasons.

It was a crappy, free streaming site that used videos from multiple links. I didn't use Netflix at the time. I had no job to pay for it. So I went along with that until I got to season 4, which merely played the first episode of season 3 all over again. The second episode was correct, but I wasn't watching that without watching Episode 1 of the fourth season. So I stopped.

Three weeks ago, it occurred to me that Lost might be available on Netflix, which I now have and pay for, so I searched and immediately found it. From there, I picked up from where I left in late May of 2010.

It wasn't difficult to get into the series again, and it started a marathon binge-watch that helped me get through my first six-day workweek at Wal-Mart to offset the flying lesson costs. That was roughly how long it took me to watch seasons 4 to 6 entirely, staying up until almost 3am in the morning to get through several episodes after work.

Having watched it all in its entirety, it no longer seems complicated for me in any way at all. Seasons 1 to 3 all feature character backgrounds and presents mysterious science-fiction, sometimes supernatural mysteries of the island. This includes the convergence of the main and tail section survivors and the introduction of The Others, native inhabitants of the island that have their own mysterious, suspicious intentions.

Season 4 is all about the survivors' contact and dealings with a freight ship that has apparently been sent to rescue everyone (though it turns out its only real purpose was to remove The Others' leader Ben Linus). New characters are introduced. It also features "flash-forwards" of select characters after they've been rescued from the island, (with the character of Jack desperately wanting to return) and eventually how they were rescued. The character of Ben Linus manages to 'move' the island by turning a wheel, causing himself to be teleported to Tunisia.

Season 5 has everyone split up between those who stayed on the island and those who were rescued; on the island, Ben's action has caused the leftover survivors to time-jump back and forth to different time periods. Mid-way through, John Locke manages to turn the wheel himself, stopping the island from time-jumping, but stranding everyone in 1974 while he ends up in Tunisia in the present day. From there he is helped by Charles Widmore to persuade those that left to return, an intention of John's from the 4th season. When he largely fails, Ben Linus murders him and manages to round most of the six up (including John Locke's body) to take a flight certain to pass within the island's mysterious reach. Ultimately all six rescued end up on the flight and back on the island, but they're split up; some end up in 1977 where those that never left are living with the Dharma Initiative, and others end up crash-landing in the present day. The 1977 group are absorbed into the Initiative while the present-day group marvel at John Locke's sudden return to life. Jack ends up trying to detonate a hydrogen bomb in 1977 to prevent a certain plot element in time from happening, therefore eventually preventing the original plane crash, which he does.

Season 6 is simply an alternate look at all the survivors' lives had the plane not crashed on the island (now underwater due to the bomb). It also has an alternate storyline where instead of working, the bomb's detonation merely transported everyone to the present day. It turns out John Locke is a human form of one of the mysterious entities on the island known as the 'smoke monster' (which had taken previous dead human forms known to the survivors throughout the series) and has an agenda. Essentially, most of the island's mysteries are solved and certain character backgrounds are finally told, and in the end Jack prevents this entity from leaving the island (its intention the entire time). In the alternate storyline, everyone's story is revealed to be part of a means to bring them together to 'move on,' everyone having died individually already.

To put it as simple as possible, it's about people crashing on an island that's mysterious and haunting, etc., their dealings with the natives, their attempts to leave, their attempts to return, and their ultimate showdown with an evil entity in the end in an attempt to protect the island. With unusual elements, time-travel, and science-fiction thrown in.

I liked it right up to season six. Up to then, it mostly made sense to me. But at the same time, even halfway through season five, some things didn't add up. A big example of this is Jack's conflicting desperations. At first he's dedicated to leaving the island. Then he's dedicated to returning. Then, almost right after he's returned, he's dedicated to preventing himself and everyone else from ever coming in the first place. Then he's once again dedicated to staying on the island. He becomes Jacob's replacement, defeats the 'man in black,' and then dies peacefully where he wants to die.

I think the writers had good fun with the constant time-travelling in the fifth season. I certainly enjoyed Sawyer's reactions to the very random jumps. The character backstories were also pretty interesting. The first four and a half seasons were pretty cohesive, but after that point it just got kind of random and sudden, which threw it off a little for me. I wonder if the writers weren't quite sure what to do once they got everyone returned to the island successfully. It seemed like there was a great expectation of some sort of war or adventure or something great once everyone was back, considering it was constantly suggested that nothing could come together or work properly for the island's sake (or everyone on it) if the six that left hadn't promptly returned.

I'm pleased with the ending in terms of the select few (including Claire) that managed to fly off the island on the plane, but I'm puzzled at the seemingly random choices of characters and the unusual, overly sentimental meaning of the "flash-sideways" time-line as they call it. Some things are never explained and seem kind of hard to believe - that there's a woman on the island sometime during the middle ages that 'protects' it and raises two children to do the same, that the island has this seemingly magical light at its core, and has all this significance. It's almost treated like a character on its own.

There definitely are a lot of great positives. The storytelling in general, disregarding the randomness of the latter episodes, never really faltered within the episodes themselves. The writers manage to intertwine a lot of things at once. I highly enjoyed Richard Alpert's story, and how Jacob fits himself seemingly randomly into everyone's life. If this series was novelized into a series of books, it would make a great adventure story in terms of the characters and some of the plots - like Sayid working as a secret assassin for Ben, or Desmond's backstory.

There's a lot of great acting too. The best moments of the sixth season were Jacob's interactions with Titus Welliver's original version of the 'man in black' (it would have been so much easier if he had a name). Jacob is constantly quiet and serene and laid-back yet in charge, and the M-I-B is similarly quiet, yet insanely desperate, which shows, and almost hilariously. "All I want to do is leave, Jacob, why can't you let me leave?" "As long as I'm around you're not going anywhere." "Yeah, well, see, that's why I want to kill you, Jacob." "Even if you do, someone else will just take my place." "Yes, well, then I'll kill them too." Then he smashes a wine bottle on a log in slow-motion. Very dramatic. In a humorous, petty way. I also highly liked how, in some way, virtually every minor character save for a few were re-written into other parts just as minor but obvious and important. Like the radio person on the freight ship later turning up as Desmond's driver in the sideways time-line in the sixth season.

I congratulate the writers for handling a lot of backstory, intention, intertwining plot elements and time-travel specifics, and how they slowly reveal more and more of certain realities as the show advances. I also congratulate the actors on a very pleasing, highly plausible performance. But I will say I'm just a little put-off at how the last season was put together. It seems like a silly, slapped-together kind of ending that revealed some interesting things but largely didn't make much sense to me. The biggest issue that created this, while it provided a huge dramatic ending, was Jack's immediate eagerness to detonate a bomb.

One thing I should finally note is where everyone's been since. I can't think of anything I've seen any of the ensemble cast in since Lost finished, with an exception for Michael Emerson, who played Ben Linus; I've noticed him in Person of Interest, and I've seen Evangaline Lily in a shampoo commercial - but I can't think of anything since that I've seen Mathew Fox in, or Terry O'Quinn, or Jorge Garcia, etc. It's like the show brought together all these great actors for one performance, and then they all went their separate ways, just as minor or unknown as they were before. I have seen a few of them in films and TV before they showed up on Lost - I caught Nestor Carbonnell in The Laramie Project (2002) and Titus Welliver in Born to be Wild (1994) but otherwise that's about it.

Maybe I'm just not prone to enough pop culture to have noticed.

After five years, I've finally finished, and I can give a proper grade.

Overall: B+

It would have a higher mark if the last season and a half weren't kind of screwed up. Despite that, the writing was pretty high-end.

Red Cloud
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