Are LOST’s Writers Lost?

May 16, 2009

So, Deena and I finally watched the season finale of LOST last night on ABC’s website. And I know I’m committing blasphemy to the legions of LOST fans by saying this, but this just ain’t the best show on television.

I watch it for the occasional flashes of brilliance when something truly powerful happens between the characters — like when Ben’s daughter was shot, or when Kate and Sawyer finally did the dirty in the bear cage. I’m less appreciative of the Rubik’s Cube nature of the story, of it being some type of puzzle to be solved. To enjoy a puzzle, one needs faith in the creators that there eventually will be a payoff, that things will make sense, that there is a master plan. I’m not all that convinced that a master plan exists in this show, or if one does, that it makes a whole hell of a lot of sense.

Two things particularly irk me about this show:

The first is the non-chronological nature of the storytelling. The show is loaded with flashbacks and flashforwards — this on top of a story with time travel — which interrupt the telling of the story. The story has become so confusing that they frequently have to have retrospective episodes where a narrator rehashes the events of the past season — in a more or less chronological fashion — just so you’re not as lost as the characters. The plotting of LOST looks like a train track assembled by a dyslexic meth addict.

Worse, the flashbacks are sometimes dropped in like Band-Aids whenever the writers need to give a character a motivation. For example, in Wednesday’s episode, the writers needed to explain Juliette’s inexplicable change of heart about whether to support Jack in his plan to detonate an H-bomb. So, out of nowhere, they show a flashback of her as a girl, learning that her parents are getting a divorce. Her parents said something like, “Even if you love each other, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be together.” This memory of hers is then used to contrive her motivation for helping Jack, because she’s suddenly decided she’s not supposed to be together with Sawyer, and she repeats that line to Sawyer.

The second thing that bugs me, as you’ve probably guessed, is the characters’ frequent and unexplained changes of motivation. In that same scene where Juliette’s support for Jack has suddenly changed, Kate’s has also — for no reason that I can tell other than that she’s going along with the pack. Why, for instance, did Ben save Locke from suicide and then suddenly turn around and strangle him? In a subsequent episode, he vaguely gave a reason for this, but it didn’t entirely make sense (nor could I have believed him if he did make sense because he’s been well established as a compulsive liar). Jack is the worst character for motivations that shift in the wind. In the early seasons, getting off the island was all he wanted, and then later he’s a drunken fool going around to his friends, yelling, “We have to go back!” — a motivation supposedly brought about just because he’s learned Locke has died. And then, once they’re back on the island, he starts telling people, “We don’t belong here!”

Well, thank God for the people at the Shocklines message board, who have insightfully theorized about some of the larger things of the show. The current theory is that Jacob and the other dude from the beginning of Wednesday’s episode are two Egyptian gods who are using the islanders as pawns in their machinations against each other. One of them apparently has the ability to shape-shift — perhaps into the Smoke Monster — which, if true, explains a lot of things in retrospect. . . . But I ask you, is it right to wait so many seasons for anything to have a shred of sense?

God, why am I watching this show?

And . . . when does the next season begin? I need to mark my calendar.

4 thoughts on “Are LOST’s Writers Lost?

  1. I refused to watch Lost for almost three years and then finally gave in. I’m not sure I made the right choice. While I don’t have a problem with the flashbacks and forwards and sideways (I love solving puzzles), there is a blender element to the show, an imperfect blender at that. I’m with you on the whole love/hate/confusion/glimmers of brilliance view. The next season isn’t until early 2010.

    • A blender with rusty blades! Thanks for your comment. I’m sure by 2010 we’ll need another “retrospective” episode to bring us up to speed.