Lost: A Growing Sense of Wariness
Lost: A Growing Sense of Wariness
Lost might be my favorite show on television.  I say might, because making a declarative statement about a television show like Lost is both silly and pointless.  A TV series can be judged both as a whole and on the merits of individual episodes.  For comedies, it's much easier to say that The Office or 30 Rock or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is your favorite show because comedies don't rely on what might happen next.  Sure, there is the occasional cliffhanger, but we like comedies because they make us laugh, and generally we can peg the ones that make laugh the most and call them our favorites.  For Lost, our judgment has to constantly be updated.  Events that occur in every episode inform events that occurred in previous episodes, sometimes greatly altering their meaning and significance.  This is why, in this long and torturous Lost hiatus, I'm starting to get a little bit scared.

Don't get me wrong – I love Lost and look forward with great anticipation towards the season 5 premiere.  In addition, Lost hasn't disappointed me on a macro level at any time in its first four seasons.  However, the more I get to thinking about it, the more I have to conclude that Lost is on the path to ultimately disappointing its legion of fans, perhaps in a brutal manner.  

As a Lost fan, I expect questions to be answered.  Not all of them (that'd be impossible at this point), but all the major ones.  By nature, I'm an optimistic fellow, and have always convinced myself during Lost's run that the audience will indeed be rewarded for its loyalty.  But, it seems that in almost every interview the Lost show runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof give, the duo sends out subtle hints that Lost shouldn't be about the answers, and that sometimes it's more desirable to leave some issues open for debate.  In theory, this is a fine sentiment.  Unfortunately, this is not what the Lost fans expect, nor is it what they want.  Lost has been consumed in a manner unlike any other series in TV history by its fans, and the scrutiny of every little detail by those fans on an episode to episode basis is truly astonishing.  It's only logical to assume that, by the time Lost is dead and gone, that all these details will fail to hold up to this intense scrutiny.  How could it?

The reason I'm writing this article right now is that I read an interview tonight with J.J. Abrams.  It comes from The Onion A.V. Club, and it's ostensibly about his new series Fringe, but there's some juicy Lost stuff in there as well, including an especially apt passage that only increases my fears.  Answering a question about his penchant for not revealing things, Abrams said this:

I think that even if you're wondering if two characters are ever going to kiss, drawing out the inevitability is part of the fun. Whatever the genre happens to be. Now in a movie, you get all the answers by the end, except in Pulp Fiction, where you don't ever really get to know what's in that case. But even in movies—a great example is North By Northwest, where you don't really know what the microfilm is, but who cares? By the end of the movie, the answer that you get is not really the answer that you thought you wanted to know. The answer you get is: 'Oh, they're in love, and now they're married, and these were the circumstances that led up to that. They almost died a number of times, but they survived and they found each other.' I feel like in telling stories, there are the things the audience thinks are important, and then there are the things that are actually important.

There is nothing terribly wrong with this answer, and I mostly agree with him.  In movies, a lot of times the answers characters are searching for aren't the answers that really matter to those characters or the audience.  The problem when this sort of argument is applied to Lost is that Lost is a series where the answers the characters are looking for are also the ones the viewers are also seeking.  Take the reference to the magical briefcase in Pulp Fiction.  Not knowing what's inside is a great device for a two-hour movie.  But, what if Pulp Fiction was a TV series and the contents of the briefcase were the source of the drama and a constantly sought after mystery by the characters?  The audience would demand to eventually know the contents of that briefcase.  Same goes for Lost, and its laundry list of much-pondered mysteries.  The audience needs answers, and the fans will be pissed if they never come. 

I'm probably reading too much into this, but I think it's worth discussing.  Abrams' comments are troubling because the ending of Lost has, supposedly, been planned since near the beginning, when J.J. was still heavily involved with the series.  If that's the case, then couldn't Abrams' thoughts here be a subtle warning that Lost fans may never get the answers they think they will?  I sincerely hope not.


-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
Source: The A.V. Club
(Image Courtesy of ABC)

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