Performance Review – LOST: Strange Family Robinson

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I’m trying something new here at Grump Factory. Sometimes, you watch or read or play something partway through and you can’t finish it for whatever reason (the game’s too hard/frustrating, the other books haven’t come out yet, etc.) but you still want to make a grump about it. I’m creating a new section called Performance Reviews where we will take hard-working entertainment properties and give them a critique without having finished it entirely. These shouldn’t be considered the final word on the subject, however, because a lot could change in-between a Performance Review and actually finishing whatever it is. So if you read a Performance Review here, please keep in mind that these are in media res opinions formed without the benefit of the entire experience.

And what better way to kick off this new segment than by taking a look at a series that’s just now reached its halfway mark: ABC’s LOST. Just the mention of the name is probably conjuring all sorts of different reactions. It was ABC’s breakthrough water-cooler drama when it premiered in 2004, riding a wave of media interest and hype usual to shows that broadcast networks have bet their Fall farm on. I remember those almost three years ago when I had almost no idea what LOST was. I’d heard a few rumblings about it, namely because a few Buffy the Vampire Slayer vets had attached themselves to it, along with DC/Warner Bros. writing dynamo Paul Dini. It was an interesting premise backed by a bunch of talent that I had trusted in the past, so I decided on a whim to tune in, rather skeptical of the whole enterprise. After all, aside from various Star Trek franchises (I’d been born into a family of fans) I had only started to watch TV network drama of my own volition with FOX’s 24. Three years later I’m still eagerly watching LOST each week while 24 has fallen completely off my radar.

i'll put some dirt in yer eye x3

So let’s pretend you have no idea what LOST is about. Short story: imagine being stranded on a desert island with 40+ of the most cockamamie characters a screenwriter could dream up and crazy, life-threatening shit keeps happening. Long story: Oceanic Flight 815 is flying over the Pacific Ocean from Sydney to L.A. when it has to make a a detour partway through. They turn off-course to make an emergency landing, except on their way to doing that the plane gets ripped from the sky and ends up crashing on an unknown island. Surprisingly, a lot (well, a lot considering what kind of crash it was) of people end up surviving. So they’re stuck on an island with pretty much no hope of rescue because the rescue teams will be looking about 1000 miles away from where they crashed. Oh, and there’s a giant, rampaging beast out in the jungle that kills people. Neat!

With the most expensive pilot in TV history, LOST became an instant sensation, boasting some of the highest Nielsen ratings around and sparking discussion, devotion and an almost frightening level of scrutiny among its fans. It was like the second coming of Twin Peaks! ABC had gambled correctly on leaving its “stranded on an island” premise in the hands of J.J. Abrams, who had delivered another hit earlier with Alias and even before that with (groan) Felicity. If his name sounds familiar, it should, since he’s now become a hotshot Hollywood director, helming Mission: Impossible III, a noble return to form for the blockbuster franchise, and is working diligently on fucking up Kirk and Spock with his Star Trek prequel. Yeah, unfortunately he’s sort of passed the series by, and left it in the hands of Damon Lindelof (and possibly someone else. Who cares). It’s still going strong three years later, so I guess they should be thankful that at the start of the entire project, they drafted out exactly what the mysteries of the show were and how they would answer them. While originally having a five season arc planned, the recent confirmation that ABC will be ending LOST after six seasons shouldn’t worry them too much, since they’ve stated they could adapt as needed to network time constraints.

Every season so far has had its own individual focus. Season 1 was all about survival and exploring the island. As you could imagine, crashing unprepared into a jungle wilderness left the survivors a lot to think about. Shelter and water had to be accounted for, along with what they were going to eat. Eventually they discover caves with some fresh water nearby, killing two birds with one stone (and almost two characters along with them). Tensions flared up as alpha males butted heads to see who would be the leader for the ragtag bunch of assholes that formed the cast of LOST (more on them later). And all the while, some real heavy shit’s going down. People see apparitions of people that shouldn’t be on the island, a metal hatch is unearthed, a humongous, rampaging monster keeps harassing the survivors, people get kidnapped, tortured and hung, and there’s freaky ghost whispers in the heart of the jungle and a set of numbers that seem to invite terrible things to occur. Really cool, intriguing stuff meant to act as an appetizer to show us what kind of show LOST is and what its modus operandi is like. Which is good, because part of the fun of the first season was that the audience had no idea what to expect. Almost ANYTHING was possible! When the metal hatch was discovered, it was one of the most exciting things I’d seen in a show (I hadn’t seen Battlestar Galactica yet, natch). And the PILOT. It was one of the most well-crafted introductions to a series I’d ever seen. Everything is laid out pain-stakingly well and makes you want to watch more episodes RIGHT AWAY. The finale was fairly compelling, too, with a plot hatched to build a boat to send a few folks out to wave down a ship, everyone moving off of the beach to hide from the malevolent Others that dwell on the island and blowing the hatch’s opening to kingdom come with TNT in a sequence right out of Wages of Fear. Its major flaw, though, is that it ends with something so incredibly cock-teasing and comparatively unexciting that it’s by far the worst finale out of the bunch so far. But still, it’s a pretty strong end for a season that had a very strong beginning. It’s the middle where the problem lies. Most of the time there isn’t the same sort of plot progression that there was early on or at the end of the season. Things feel as if they’re just in stasis until sweeps. It also has one or two duds for episodes. One of them is so completely stupid and meaningless that it’s almost completely skippable. Overall, it’s a fairly compelling season, however.

Season 2, though, is a cornucopia of interesting stuff. First off, it starts with a lovely, expectation-destroying scene featuring The Mommas and the Poppas in a way no one will soon forget, spiraling into a delightfully tense stand-off between the main characters and the hatch’s current occupier, whose identity comes as a shock. As it turns out, the ~40 survivors that we’ve been following so far weren’t the only ones to survive the crash, and we get a look at what these even more frayed loonies have been up to and how they clash with the original cast. The Others remain a significant part of the story, continuing their mysterious abductions and threats towards the main characters. But, really, this season is all about the hatch. Wrapped in mystery for almost an entire season, actually getting into it and seeing what it contained was an awesome revelation, especially since it opened up far more questions than it answered. An orientation video found inside the hatch explains it’s a research station, but researching what? There’s a computer attached to a timer that counts down every 108 minutes towards some sinister end that can be averted by entering the previously mentioned set of superstitious numbers and resetting the clock. It provides an incredibly fresh supply of blood to a series that was already doing quite well for itself. In fact, one began to worry that the producers bit off more than they could chew as mysteries kept piling on top of mysteries. Several people said “to hell with it” and gave up because they couldn’t wait for LOST to tell them what they wanted to know. It’s a shame, too, because the finale of the season brings several strands of plot to the boiling point, showing us what happens when someone lets the timer run down, explaining why Oceanic Flight 815 crashed and having the main characters confront the malevolent Others and even having a longtime cast member actually escape the island. By far the best finale in the series so far.

The problem comes with what lies in-between. You see, LOST has a fairly condensed timeline. Hell, after three seasons, it’s only been ~90 days since the survivors crashed. With such a small amount of time, that means that you could only have a day between when episodes happen, sometimes less. Which makes it extremely important to keep characters consistent. This is where Season 2 fails. I have no idea what the writers were thinking, but I guess they forgot that the show doesn’t work in real time, because you would have people completely forgetting what happened, to them, only days before, when it had been weeks or months for the audience. I’m thinking about one instance especially. This guy completely fucks over all of his friends and they should be completely pissed at him, and for about an episode, they actually are. But an episode later, they’re fucking playing CARDS with him like it ain’t a thing? BullSHIT, LOST. I expect CONTINUITY.

Season 3 becomes all about the Others and their designs on the island. They capture a couple important characters and keep them imprisoned for… some… reason. Really, I don’t know why. They go on some spiel about why they aren’t the bad guys, but they leave it solely at that. Eventually it becomes clear why they captured one of them, but it still doesn’t explain why the other two had to tag along for the ride, other than to create unnecessary drama. At the same time, everyone else is back on the beach trying to pick up the pieces from what happened at the hatch. One of them comes back mute, another with an awesome ability to see into the future and another… gets kidnapped by a polar bear. :3 By the time all of that’s been sorted out, the unnecessary captives of the Others have come back ready for VENGEANCE. And ill-conceived vengeance, at that. After they trot off to find the compound where the Others live, they of course come across yet more secrets of the island and manage to royally fuck up their rescue mission. After providence (or convenient writing) lets them off the hook and gives them everything they need to go back to their buddies, along with an Other defectee (but minus one of their own who defects), they basically go about life as usual. Yaawwwn. The real meat of the story’s happening with the Others, who require a hefty entrance fee to let the defect into their exclusive, creepy club. And we also find out that the leader of these looney tunes isn’t who we think it is, and is definitely one of the strangest twists the show has tried to foist upon us. And it all ends with a “final” showdown between the main characters and the Others, with a plan that may just get everyone off of the island. Not quite as exciting as Season 2 because of the lack of one, big, galvanizing bucket of weird like the hatch, but a good, solid notch in LOST‘s belt and actually better than Season 1.

Of course, LOST can’t survive on weird-as-fuck plot twists alone. The characters matter, because in those middle episodes of every season, you’re not left with much else. That being said, the characters on LOST are some of the most fucked-up individuals you could ever hope to meet. Not a single one of them has led a normal, ordinary life, which is revealed each week through flashbacks that interweave with the present narrative. I suppose that would be boring if they were normal since this is TV, but still, the fact that everyone in the show has a dreadfully sordid past is a little eyebrow-raising.

Dr. Jack Shepherd (Party of Five‘s Matthew Fox) is the ostensible leader of the bunch, a former spinal surgeon on the way back from Sydney carrying his estranged father’s corpse in a coffin to bury him in L.A. He’s a bundle of controlling, daddy-issue neuroses that is ready to boil over at the slightest hint of discord. He yanks everyone out of the burning wreckage of the plane during an amazing sequence that makes it clear why Jack actually is one of the best people they could have hoped for to lead them, despite his initial reluctance and later stubbornness. Because he’s the closest thing LOST has to a main character, he’s had the lion’s share of flashbacks, and boy, do they paint an unflattering picture. Not only did he marry the woman whose ability to walk he saved out of OBLIGATION, ends up philandering, stalking her and ratting out his drunkard father (who happens to be head of surgery), but he takes a vacation to The Magical Lands of the East™ where he meets Bai FUCKING Ling who somehow has the magical ability to tattoo your true nature on you (or something?!) and he generally fucks her and is mean to her until she tearfully agrees to do his tattoo and he subsequently gets beaten up by her burly harem of men. Needless to say that was one of the most aggravating and worst flashbacks in the show.

Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) was a fugitive taking the plane with a U.S. marshal who was escorting her back to America to stand trial for her crime. What was her crime, you say? Well, she’d be happy to tell you. What’s that? You don’t care what her crime was, now that you’re all here on the island? Oh, okay. No. No, you can’t ask her what it was now. You said you didn’t care. Well fuck you, too. Seriously, because of Jack’s misplaced nobility after he found out she was the criminal on the plane, they dance around what she did until midway through Season 2. And it’s not really all THAT interesting. It’s kinda interesting, I guess. But, you see, Kate’s a fucking vortex of a character. Jack was originally slated to die in the pilot, leaving plucky Kate as the main character and leader. But then they decided they didn’t want Jack to die. So where does that leave Kate? Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeexactly. She’s deadweight most of the time, and a plot device at best. She will ALWAYS ask to be a part of any kind of mission into the jungle. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it’s for. And the even more hilarious part is that someone always says “No” to her, but she ends up tagging along anyways. Jesus CHRIST. The writers really don’t know what they want her to do, besides bumble around the island and have a retarded criminal past. Did you know that she ROBBED A BANK so that she could get her hands on a TOY AIRPLANE? This Season 1 episode is beyond lame and completely skippable since almost nothing pertinent to the main plot occurs. And her flashbacks almost always do nothing but pile on meaningless shit to her time on the lam. There’s some big motif with her where people say she’s always “running” but who gives a flying fuck about Kate? She’s just tits and ass at this point.

And Sawyer (Josh Holloway). I hated Sawyer almost the moment he popped up on screen. He’s one of those characters. Not only did he steal crap from the wreckage, but he went the racist route and blamed the Iraqi on the plane for crashing them and then pulled out a gun. And tried like fuck to hit on Kate. He’s a Southern boy that was a con man before the crash. With his easy charm and good looks, he basically thinks he can get away with anything, including treating everyone like shit and calling them by retarded nicknames that feeble-minded boneheads think are clever and cool. Also he’s become one of the most popular characters thanks to his physical attractiveness, bad boy attitude and the number of fat, virgin cat ladies that watch ABC. But, you see, Sawyer has a sensitive side! His father killed his mom and then killed himself after they were conned by… the guy ORIGINALLY named Sawyer! And Sawyer has vowed revenge and even took the name of his enemy! But being reduced to doing what killed his parents in order to survive he’s so full of conflict and self-loathing and who CARES. His popularity has to be based almost solely on the fact that gullible women want men that they think they can “fix” and turn into the perfect boyfriend, considering that he’s almost nothing but an unrepentant asshole most of the time on the show. Unless you’re a hot girl. Then he’s a slightly repentant asshole who wants to fuck you.

And these three characters unfortunately bear the brunt of the face time on the show. Why? Because they’re young, attractive and in the middle of the world’s most aggravating love triangle. Honestly. That’s almost entirely what Kate’s good for now. Cock bait. She wavers incessantly between the clean-cut Jack and the brooding asshole Sawyer. It’s your typical romantic bullshit is what it is. And yet people eat it up. They’re undoubtedly the most popular characters on the show. There’s probably web shrines and Youtube tribute videos from here to next Tuesday. I got so tired of them that I started calling them The Douche Trio. It’s rare that you get a scene with any of them without it involving another. After three years on TV and 90 days on the island, Kate’s finally slept with Sawyer, but only because she wanted to make Jack jealous because he was spending all his time with another woman. But during the finale, Jack tells Kate he loves her! Lather, rinse, repeat. Wake me up when they’re all dead (never gonna happen).

But let’s not forget about John Locke (Terry O’Quinn)! No, not the philosopher. Good guess, though! This John Locke is an older, bald man who is what Crocodile Dundee would be like if he was American, old, and kind of creepy. He’s the best there is among the castaways at hunting and tracking and basically any sort of nature hoodoo. Wanna build a catapult? Locke’s your guy! Need a crib made out of twigs and spit? Locke would be happy to help! Oh, also he used to be wheelchair-bound before the crash and lived a miserable, orphaned existence involving extremely justified daddy issues, an inability to make interpersonal relationships work and generally being shat on by life. So this whole being stranded on a magical island that gives you the ability to walk again is a pretty sweet deal for Locke. And he’s not so concerned about being found. To the point where he’s sabotaged attempts by others to leave the island several times. And he has some weird sort of belief in the mystical nature of the island that drives him to obsess about shit. Not to mention that he is just about the opposite of Jack in every way. Jack’s young and attractive? Locke’s old and sort of looks like a pedophile. Jack believes in science and reason? Locke believes in magic and behaving like a crazy person. Jack says up, Locke says down. Jack says “I bet you can’t shoot yourself in the head”, Locke puts a bullet in his brain. You get the picture. Because of Locke’s talents at surviving on the island, people look up to him as another leader, and his interests come into conflict with Jack’s at numerous points which cause them to bicker and flail at each other like 2nd grade schoolgirls. But somehow because of his shaman-like mysterious nature and batshit insane antics, he’s been a fan and personal favorite almost consistently over the three years. You never really know what Locke’s gonna do next!

And those are only four fucking characters out of the entire cast of thousands. There’s Charlie Pace (Lord of the Rings‘ Dominic Monaghan), former rock star from the band Drive Shaft (snicker) who’s saddled with a dead end career, a heroin addiction, numerous attempts on his life by the island and one of the worst episodes of the series where he goes nuts and tries to kidnap and baptize a baby. Claire Littleton (Brick‘s Emilie de Ravin) is an outrageously pregnant Australian woman who is constantly being hit on by Charlie and in a state of anger because you all don’t care about HER BAYBEE. Oh and she has a hidden, useless connection to one of the other cast members. Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Jorge Garcia) is a ginormous tubbo who was formerly in a mental institution and eventually won the lottery by playing the “cursed” numbers and was a multi-millionaire who couldn’t seem to shake the amazing amount of bad luck that followed him around. Jin-Soo and Sun-Hwa Kwon (Angel‘s Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim, who I guess is a hugely famous Korean actress, respectively) are a Korean couple who despise each other because Sun’s father’s a rich dirty businessman who forced Jin to do thug work in order to marry Sun, which caused him to become an asshole, which caused her to become a bitch, etc. etc.

Boone Carlyle (Pulse‘s Ian Somerhalder) is God’s friggin’ metrosexual gift to humanity who can’t seem to develop a personality on his own, and he has distinctly non-fraternal feelings for his stepsister Shannon Rutherford (The Fog‘s Maggie Grace) who is a beautiful spoiled cunt and knows it. She starts up the world’s most implausible romance with Iraqi Sayid Jarrah (Planet Terror‘s Naveen Andrews) who’s a torturin’ phenom that feels really bad about it, but sure he’ll take some pliers to that guy’s mouth if you ask nicely enough. Michael Dawson (The Matrix Reloaded‘s Harold Perrineau) and Walt Lloyd (Malcolm David Kelley) are a father-son duo in the fact that they are father and son. They don’t really act like a duo because Michael’s baby momma left him for some big muckity-muck halfway across the world. After she died, he went to reconnect with the son that he didn’t get to see grow up and the son of course has abandonment issues and isn’t very close to Michael at all. Oh and Walt may or may not be magical or psychic and Michael has one of the worst episodes of the series to his credit. And he likes to scream, “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT!

[deep breath]

Ana Lucia Cortez (Resident Evil‘s Michelle Rodriguez) is a tough bitch ex-cop who’s all angry and bitter because she’s been harassed by the Others almost nonstop and some thug killed her unborn baby by shooting her in the stomach while she was on the beat. But don’t worry, she worked out all her anger issues when she hunted him down and shot him in cold blood lol. She’s also sorta dyke-y except she gets drunk and flirts with Jack just before stepping onto Oceanic Flight 815 and kinda has this sexual tension with him that never gets explored or taken seriously. Libby (Cynthia Watros) is a clinical psychologist (or is she?!) and she has an inexplicable physical attraction to Hurley that never gets explained. But she did give her dead husband’s boat to the gutless Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusack) who buys it to win a round-the-world boat race to impress a girl. Only he ends up on the island. Whoops! Also he may or may not be able to travel through time. Mr. Eko (OZ‘s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is a huge Nigerian priest who happens to have had a past full of drug-smuggling before he decided to repent before the Lord. Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) and Dr. Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell) are Others who constantly scheme to do something or other for some reason or other to the castaways. But Jack harbors a FORBIDDEN ATTRACTION to Juliet because she’s a generic blond like his ex-wife, far as I can tell. And rounding out the Roman orgy of a cast is Nikki Fernandez (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (300‘s Rodrigo Santoro) who were lethally unpopular Season 3 additions to the cast.

The acting is almost universally strong, surprisingly enough. The actors can sometimes carry the show far further than the plot should reasonably allow them. Which is a nice alternative to focusing on plot over acting (I’m looking at you, Heroes). The weakest link in the entire ensemble HAS to be Evangeline Lilly. I mean, she’s not WRETCHED, but she’s just okay, and when put up against something that needs real dramatic chops, she seems like she’s doing Amateur Hour unlike Dominic Monaghan (her real-life husband fiancée hobbit) or Terry O’Quinn or even Josh Holloway. I’m sure I’d think she was amazing if she was, like, in a local theater or something, but on TV against so many veterans? Emilie de Ravin also isn’t as good as she should be, usually because of the material that doesn’t let her do much more than scream about her BAYBEE and act like an ungrateful harpy to Charlie. And is that accent of hers real or not? Does anyone know? It SOUNDS like it should be fake… Michael Emerson and Harold Perrineau are also given the short end of the stick in terms of what they’re allowed to do. Emerson’s Ben is usually a generically smug and all-knowing villain who keeps his true intentions so guarded that it’s tough to ever get a read on him. Perrineau’s Michael has blinders on to everything but his kid, and it gets annoying. There’s some semi-interesting stuff that gets developed between him and Sun, but it doesn’t really ever go anywhere. Actually, when I get to thinking, probably the greatest hurdle for actors on this show is constantly being pigeon-holed into a certain type that they hardly ever get to break out from. Hurley’s hardly ever forced to be anything other than the jovial fat guy. Shannon’s nearly always a turbo-bitch. Maybe that’s a non-issue since that’s who their characters are, but I think it’s more of a weakness of having such a huuuuuge cast. They can’t develop everyone equally, leaving most of the heavy-lifting to characters like Jack or Locke or Sawyer.

The recurring characters on the show are interesting, too. The best, by far, has been Danielle Rousseau (Babylon 5‘s Mira Furlan), a scientist whose research vessel crashed there ~16 years ago, a mysterious sickness (and the hostile Others) taking her compatriots and her newborn baby kidnapped. During the intervening time, she’s gone native, rigging the jungle with traps and is not strictly on the side of the castaways. The always lovely Clancy Brown (DC’s animated Lex Luthor) guest stars as Kelvin Joe Inman, a remnant of the DHARMA Initiative, a scientific group that had occupied the island in the past in order to study its secrets. A personal favorite is William Mapother (Tom Cruise’s creepy cousin) as Ethan Rom, a “survivor” of the plane crash that’s half-next door neighbor, half-Terminator.

The primary strength of LOST, however, is in its long and winding plot and its ability to keep you completely rapt and interested in finding out the answers to all the secrets of the island. Most of the time, the answers they give you are quite satisfying and intriguing. And of course they usually bring up more questions. Me, I love that. It’s a mystery show and the mystery never ends! It’s a serial drama of the best kind (well, the second-best kind, if we include Battlestar), keeping you glued to the set every week to see what new twist they’ll introduce. I finally can feel some of the anticipation and “WTF” that audiences back in the early 90s must have had watching David Lynch’s own mystery show, Twin Peaks. At the time and pretty much up until today, Twin Peaks gave audiences something they hadn’t quite experienced before, and did it with panache and quirk enough for five shows. Only now are we seeing LOST inspire more shows in this vein, paving the way for genre serial dramas like Surface, Invasion and Jericho! Everyone watched those, right? Okay, okay, so The X-Files was there for a while, and it was kinda the same thing, but it was far more watered down by episodic content than LOST is. So nyah.

But the show’s far from perfect. There are the aforementioned deficits in development among the cast. But probably more annoying is the fact that almost no one in the show ever asks anything that would be pertinent to discovering more about their situation. No one is all that curious about exploring the island to see what’s out there. I might give them that one based on the fact that there’s a spooky monster roaming around, but sheesh. What do they do all day long? Sit on the beach and eat fruit? And what about finding out what that fucking monster is? When they’re finally confronted with the Others who seem to know a LOT more about the island than they do, the characters usually don’t ask them anything really important. Or if they do, they’re easily placated by recursive answers. I won’t spoil it, but Ben takes Locke to meet the “official” leader of the Others, Jacob. After being rattled by his encounter, Locke asks Ben, “What was that?!” And Ben answers, “That was Jacob.” Well, DUH. Way to ignore the SPIRIT of the question, asshole. Even among the castaways, information is hoarded like dragon gold. Kate comes up to Jack and Juliet with important information. Juliet says, “Jack, maybe we should tell her–” and Jack immediately interrupts her by saying “NO.” What the fuck, Jack? Every now and again the writers will make the characters say little self aware things like, “Gee, why doesn’t anyone share information around here?” or “How come no one’s curious about blah blah blah?” Newsflash, writers: it’s not cute, and it’s not a solution to the problem. Hopefully now that there’s a set end date for the series, the writers won’t feel the need to dance around revealing things nearly as much as before, but I doubt it. The artificial curtain over the audience’s eyes will likely go on.

Another thing that I absolutely gripe about is the release schedule. For Seasons 1 and 2, it was absolutely horrendous. God awful. Nigh-criminal. And I’m not just saying this because the show works better marathoned (although it totally does). I’m saying this because there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to when episodes would premiered. You’d start off the season with four or five new episodes, then a few weeks of repeats, then a few new ones, then a month of nothing, then a new one, then Christmas hiatus, etc. It was frustrating trying to figure out when to tune in! It exacerbated all of the suspense in the show to a point where people just began not caring. It became so bad that a website called IsLostARepeat.com was created in order to tell people if that week’s episode was new or not. For Season 3, the powers that be split the season up. Six episodes would consecutively play during fall, then the other 16 would consecutively play in Februrary. A solution that placates everyone, right? Viewers don’t have to worry about finding a repeat in LOST‘s place and ABC doesn’t have to worry about not having one of its heaviest hitters in the Fall. Only problem was that the split was ill-advised and poorly executed. The producers said ahead of time that the first six episodes would be their own little arc that would resolve before the show started again in the winter. But they lied. Episode 6 ended in a mediocre cliffhanger and the entire arc didn’t get resolved until episode 9, in February.

Who knows if putting nine episodes instead of six in the front half of the season would’ve helped? Season 3 started with its most meager viewer ratings yet. People were obviously getting fed up with LOST‘s deliberate pacing and indulgent twists and cockteasing. One could chalk it all up to the law of diminishing returns, but I’d still bet that LOST was losing the faith of its audience by being too coy. And who could blame them? It’s tough to know how to space out a mystery when you don’t know when the end of it is going to be. Producers don’t get to tell the network when a show is ending, the network tells the producers. Thankfully, ABC finally made up its mind in the face of a shrinking audience and renewed LOST for three more seasons of 16 episodes each that will air consecutively. After that, LOST must gracefully give up its timeslot for other, less audience-aggravating shows and head to the farm upstate where ABC retires their workhorses.

There’s going to be some things to miss, however, aside from the colorful characters and wacky convolutions. The score by J.J. Abram lackey Michael Giacchino is very well done for a television show, containing a definite, memorable theme for the show and working it like a leitmotif for different characters and scenes, along with other very competent orchestrations. But really, the recurring theme is the best and most memorable. I bought the first season’s soundtrack and haven’t regretted it. What they should have regretted, however, was using licensed musical montages during the first season. It was usually some dopey Damien Rice or Jack Johnson song that dripped cheese, and was usually explained by way of Hurley playing music on his Walkman, which thankfully ran out of batteries. I’ll stick with the original score and Giacchino’s ridiculous titles for the tracks.

The photography for the show is frequently gorgeous, too. Shooting on location in Hawaii for the island, lush greenery constantly surrounds the castaways during Season 1. In fact, it’d be hard to make it all look ugly. So Season 2 switches it up by splitting half its time between Hawaii’s gorgeous jungles and the hatch’s 1960s atomic bunker atmosphere. Very dank and claustrophobic when contrasted against the usually open beach that the show takes place on. Season 3 swings things back in the favor of the verdant palette of Season 1, but still contains the grimy, depressing interiors of hatches and even throws in the white bread feel of the suburbs. Shots are thoughtfully chosen, with many motifs being used throughout the series, such as the first shot of every episode beginning with an extreme close up of someone’s eye and the duality of black and white. It definitely helps add another layer to the entire series.

So where does LOST go from here? True to its form, Season 3’s finale makes it hard to say. LOST could take any number of forms at this point, most likely the one we least expect. And really, that’s what I like about the series. Every time I think I know exactly what’s going to happen, LOST throws a curve ball and proves to me again why it deserves its place among the best television of the decade. It may not always be perfect, but it’s gripping, surprising and completely unlike anything else on TV at the moment. Thinking back to when I turned it on during the premiere and seeing that first scene with Jack and the plane wreck, I have to admit I STILL haven’t seen anything on TV that has rivaled it in terms of how efficiently it creates tension, empathy for the characters and most importantly, how it completely steals your attention. Although LOST has definitely had its highs, nothing so far has been able to attain that same feeling. Maybe that’s a good thing, though. If it did, I’d never be able to focus on anything else between new episodes.

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9 Responses to “Performance Review – LOST: Strange Family Robinson”

  1. Valkysas Says:

    jesus christ that was a long read.

    but I read it.

    it was fucking long.

  2. Perversion Says:

    Wow….good job, Mr. Mora. I’ll have to read your blog more often.

  3. johnmora Says:

    Why thank you!

  4. buzzdroid Says:

    This is truly a fantastic display, however, you have not toched on the complete idiocy with which I am surrounded. I cannot stand it any longer and I have broken my silence.

  5. btothefuckingz Says:

    Bai Ling.

  6. james Says:

    Nice read, but I like the show and I’m sort of biased. I’d be really curious to see what you’d think of Alias, which took the cock-tease to an extreme level during its brilliant first season in the form of cliffhangers at the end of every episode.

    Although Alias also shows that maybe it’s a good thing that JJ left Lost, if only because of the spectacular way that Alias’s mythology imploded upon itself by the third season. Seriously, at least it took the X-Files 5 season for it to collapse under its own weight.

    Here’s hoping that Lindof is smart enough to pay attention to that and try to avoid the same mistakes, and thus far he seems to be dong alright.

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