The character-centric episode structure of Lost
is both a blessing and a curse. In the first two seasons, it was a brilliant way to slowly reveal secrets and connections among the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. Fans and even the writers of Lost
quickly realized this was getting stale, giving us sub-par, filler episodes like John Locke’s misadventures on a commune or Jack’s Thailand tattoo.
Surely the flash forward shift helped alleviate some of the problems, but how will the writers deal with characters who don’t make it off the island? For the first part of season 4, they’ve carefully avoided seriously addressing that issue. Of the first eight episodes, four featured flash forwards, two filled in details of how people came (or came back) to the island, one played with the conception of time, and the final one simply featured flashbacks on the island.
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Thus far, there has not been a single episode in the old tradition of featuring a stand-alone story arc that takes place in the past off the island. Not coincidentally, Sawyer, Locke and Claire, the three series regulars who are not members of the Oceanic 6, have yet to get their flashback episodes.
I bring this up because, heading into the final five episodes of the season, the writers are in trouble if they want to keep up the tradition of giving each series regular a featured episode. Thus far, almost every series regular has had an episode devoted to him, her or them at least once in every season they were a regular (the sole exception being Libby in season 2). Nikki and Paulo had one. Ben had one. Even Mr. Eko had one in season 3.
Following this logic, it should already be set in stone who these final five episodes will focus on. Locke, Sawyer, Claire, Jack and Ben are the only series regulars not yet featured in their own episodes. Yes, Jack popped up for Kate and Hurley, and Ben showed up in Sayid’s episode, but none have had their own time to shine.
Will the writers spread the wealth and allow these other characters to be the stars in the post-strike episodes? Recent spoilers provide some clues and for more on that, read up on Post-Strike Lost Spoilers for Season 4
. However, this article and the views expressed are in no way influenced by those spoilers.
The questions remains: how can the writers make Sawyer, Locke or Claire-centric episodes interesting when the story is now all about the future? Here’s where I propose an idea of pure genius: give them flash forwards too. Thus far, we’ve seen several flash forwards taking place in the real world. Just imagine the structural madness of telling flash forwards that take place on the island. These new flash forwards can show us what will happen on the island once the Oceanic 6 leave.
The problem, you may suggest, is what happens when the real-time action on the island catches up with these on-island flash forwards? Simple. After the Oceanic 6 leave the island (probably at the end of this season), the story should immediately skip forward to when Jack and whoever else returns, several years later. It would be like the end of the second season of Battletstar Galactica, only cooler. Then they could switch back to flashbacks to tell the rest of what happened in the absence of the Oceanic 6.
Perhaps this is all crazy, but I’m offering a very real solution to a very real problem we’re about to face. After such great, forward-looking episodes, do we really want to see Sawyer con another person in the past? Do we need to see how John Locke got a job at the box factory? The answer is no, but the solution cannot simply be to ignore these characters for the rest of the series, dropping them into background status. By introducing flash forwards, the Lost writers accidentally made flashbacks even more useless and boring. We’re done seeing what has happened, now we want to know what will happen
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of ABC)