Like a great deal of people who read this blog, I have been quite a big fan of ABC/Channel 4/Sky One’s LOST since the first episode many many moons ago (well, July 2005 but it seems longer). But the third series has been an enormous disappointment.
I’ll stop here for a second, as it goes without saying that the rest of this blog post contains spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen every episode up to and including last week’s “Enter 77“. If you don’t want to know, then shoo. I have a guestblog post over at division6 to read instead…
Right. LOST’s basic problem is that with although the writers have got the pieces suitably assembled, they never thought about the midgame. There’s only so much you can go by introducing the mysterious elements – the Monster, the polar bears, the Numbers, the magnetic anomalies, the Others/DHARMA Initiative, the whispers, the Hatch before you’re forced to start revealing things. And what’s been revealed is… crap.
The Others, far from being the sophisticated psychotics who at the start of series two could stealthily kidnap and kill random plane crash victims at a stroke, are now revealed to be a ragtag bunch of moody middle-class people who spend a lot of time squabbling; they are also proving to now be surprisingly easy to track, chase and kill. Juliet, the character introduced to spice things up within the Others’ camp, is actually a pretty uninspiring character; the resulting soap opera is a waste of the excellent setup with Benjamin Linus and Tom Friendly. In short, the mystery of the Others has been taken away, and behind the facade lies very little of interest.
The Hatch, and the station that lay beneath it, was introduced in one of the best-executed plot twists of all time at the start of series two; the ambiguity over whether it was of the utmost importance or a Skinner box an engrossing subplot, until they decide to stop pressing the numbers and whoomph! It just disappears. An entire series setting it up, and they get rid of it in one big electromagnetic flash. Why? Presumably the writers didn’t know where they could go with it, so they destroyed it. Same with The Flame, the communications station discovered in the last episode; a good new element to the plot, but the writers decide to blow it up at the end to save the bother of it featuring in future. Which leads to the question: Why bother with it at all then?
As for the Monster; well it barely featured at all the second series despite being one of the brilliant mysteries of the first, and now only pops up occasionally in strange disjointed episodes – it appeared to have a bit of a thing for Mr. Eko before promptly killing him and then buggering off.
Ah, speaking of which, it hasn’t helped that the show has killed off two of the more interesting characters, the aforementioned warlord-turned-priest, as well as the psychiatrist, former mental patient and chubby-chaser Libby. In their place appear to be two pieces of eye candy in Paolo and Nikki, who do nothing but moan they don’t get involved. Oh, and Desmond, who started out an awesome character but is now apparently capable of time-travel and clairvoyance, which even by LOST’s standards, is pretty whacked out desperate stuff. And of the existing characters, the tension of the Kate-Sawyer-Jack love triangle has been broken, and Jack himself is now lost without Sawyer and John Locke as his foils.
Perhaps the signs were there already; the LOST Alternative Reality Game had a terrible “Luke, I am your father” ending and the explanation of the numbers via the Valenzetti equation was deeply unsatisfactory. Good science fiction is absolutely dependent on a coherent internal universe and it’s clear that LOST doesn’t have that; promising and intriguing plot elements are painstakingly set up then discarded like they never mattered, mere red herrings. The resulting experience is quite disjointed and unsatisfactory, and makes you question the amount of time you put into watching the series.
There is the odd glimmer of hope; “Enter 77” had one good twist, in breaking the previous assumption that the Others and the DHARMA Initiative are one and same. I still hold out hope that the twist with the Portuguese guys in the Antarctic at the end of season two factors into the plot in a cogent way. But it could just be another red herring. As it is, there’s still too much chaff getting in the way of the wheat. Give us back the Monster, drop the soap opera elements, make the Others badass again and get the story arc going somewhere again.