'Lost' Wednesdays: 'I just need to show them something'
I've been thinking today about "Lost," about why there are so many who are angry that they're not getting enough answers, mostly spurred by this post by Zap2It's Ryan McGee, which uses a similar puzzle analogy to my review from last night. McGee is suggesting that "Lost" fans are expecting answers, and they're simply exhausted from having to wait for them. They've moved from wanting to figure things out on their own to wanting the show to give them its answers. But I think it runs deeper than that. To some degree, "Lost" is being taken away from us.
"Lost" has always been a show with a complicated relationship with its fans. It's its own thing, sure, but half the fun for a lot of us has been in trying to outguess the creators, trying to figure out what they were up to before they could reveal it. Now that we're into the final throes of the series, it's not that we're not getting answers -- because we're getting quite a lot of them -- it's that they're not OUR answers. The creators of the series are gently but firmly reminding us that this isn't our show. This is their show, and they're going to end it how they want. If that involves a metaphysical chess game played between two demigods and doesn't involve our elaborate theories that try to tie together mid-'70s pseudoscience with Egyptian mysticism, well, we're just going to have to learn to live with that. It's entirely possible many of these elements will come back into play, but in a way, the show is no longer OUR show. It's the "Lost" creative team's show, and it's increasingly so every week, with every little piece of information that's doled out.
Now, obviously, a lot of people want a concrete explanation about the relationship between the Dharma Initiative and the Others, or about how Jacob and the Man in Black seem to have set up the "rules" everyone follows, or other things like that. And that's fine. I would like those things, too, and I have to admit that if we didn't get at least a strong suggestion of how these things worked, the show would feel incomplete to me. But I also have a fairly confident feeling that the show will answer the biggest questions. Heck, it's already answered what the Smoke Monster is (though we don't know the how or why), and it's made a very strong suggestion as to the ultimate nature and purpose of the Island. Those are the two things I figured the show simply HAD to answer without completely botching the landing, and they're mostly out of the way. For me, it's all gravy from here on out. Your opinion might differ.
But let's move on to what you had to say. I'd like to thank all of you for the kind words about both my piece and the episode. And even those of you who disagreed with me did so in a very thoughtful fashion. You know I can't stay mad at you!
Before we begin, though, I assume you've all seen this? Look off to the right in that photo. It's an interesting painting to just happen to turn up in the flash-sideways world, no? And at the Paley Festival event, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said that the painting of director Jack Bender would turn up again in a very important episode as an important clue. That sure looks to me like it could be it, don't you think? It really gives credence to the theory that this is some sort of hallucination constructed by Smokey and Jacob, though it's interesting that the scale is balanced in the picture.
Let's turn to Twitter, where @ScottAMcArthur asked me if I thought Desmond was just in line to replace Jacob at series' end. While I have to admit it's possible (and more possible than I would have thought before "Happily Ever After"), I just have trouble seeing this play out with anyone other than Jack taking Jacob's place. He's the guy who seems to be maneuvering into that position, and it seems like Desmond is more of the wild card, the guy who can float between universes and make sure everything lines up just right. Or, at least, that's my read on it.
@LoulaBurton brings up a theory I've read a number of times since the episode ended: that Eloise is creating a world where her son never died, and that's why she's so intent on seeing it remain the way it is. While I'd hesitate to assign her that much of a role in putting things together, I think it's a pretty good notion of what might be motivating her to make sure things stay the same. What's interesting is just how much both Daniel and Charlie push to have the alternate world evaporate, as if they understand that they're supposed to be dead. It's a bit suicidal on their parts, but if your death was meant to happen, maybe it can be excused.
Neil Haner sends an e-mail that links to this post that compares the show to the novel "The Last Temptation of Christ." I don't buy all of it, but it's certainly a good touchstone for a story about a world where you seem to have everything you want, but you're actually lacking that certain something. I also like that he closes with this notion: "If, as we learned in 'Ab Aeterno,' all (the characters') souls are up for grabs in a contest between Jacob and Smokey, where Smokey will try to tempt and corrupt them all to defeat Jacob, it makes sense that the Alternate Reality is, in fact, their Last Temptation."
Reader Ben writes to say that he thinks he can explain the polar bears on the show. I've read other theories about how all of this works out, but I like this one too:
"If you had a doorway (the island) but you didn't know where/when the exit was...what is the one thing you could send through it that, no matter where/when it arrived, would probably be documented and very, very out of place? Answer: a polar bear! Which is why we had that great moment in season whatever where the Dharma folks find the polar bear remains in the desert."
Let's turn to the comments now. As stated, these were some fantastic comments, and I highly recommend you all go and check them out if you don't normally. These are some of the best "Lost" thoughts out there.
Joe writes about some of what I was getting at above. He worries that the solution will ultimately prove too simple, that it will disappoint for that reason alone:
"My main concern with the future of the show doesn't have so much to do answers as whether it will maintain its originality. After seeing Desmond go all Dr. Manhattan in that machine, I became concerned that our latest Answer was going to be an outright rip from 'Watchmen.' I kind of dread each of the show's reveals should they be at best an homage -- at worst a rip -- from 'The Stand,' 'Twin Peaks,' or whatever of the many book covers we've been shown. I have faith that the show won't enter too deep into that territory, but it's probably my main concern next to consistent characters (for which I'll forgive Penny, who seemed to have forgotten Desmond calling her by name at the stadium). So I guess I'm just worried that when I finish the puzzle, I'll realize I already did it five years ago -- but I don't doubt I'll have enjoyed myself and still find the picture pretty."
I disagree that we have to worry the show will simply turn into one of its influences. Obviously, "Lost" wears its influences on its sleeve, but up until this point, it's been good at not being beholden to them. I can't imagine that would be the case in the final episodes.
A different Todd, Todd Gilchrist, takes issue with the puzzle metaphor:
"But to suggest that the creators are in any way deliberately not trying to provide something satisfying so that (according to your metaphor) you have to look at the spaces in between the pieces of the puzzle in order to appreciate your effort, that's bad storytelling, and to defend that is just being thoughtless and too infatuated with something to see its flaws. Because I am sure that the creators think they ARE providing something satisfying, but they're just killing time waiting for a third (or however many) season-ending nuclear explosion that's going to change/ end/ resolve things even though they've made no real effort to explain any of the random (although at the time they were incredibly important) details that were lorded over in episodes past. Because at this point, the Others and the Dharma Initiative all essentially is irrelevant since the island has completely been taken over by the Jacob/ Man in Black narrrative, but as a longtime viewer, it makes me feel like all of my hours of watching and caring about all of this storytelling from past seasons was a waste. And on a show where the creators have told you from day one that it's ALL important, that's an insult."
To be honest, I always take TV producer-speak with a grain of salt in these regards. I know the "Lost" producers have said since Day One that everything would make sense and everything would add up to something. I've always just assumed that some of it was unimportant, so finding out that it was won't bother me too much. But I can see where people like Other Todd are coming from.
--Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)
Photo: Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) is back. All is right in the world. (Credit: ABC)