What started as an innocent discussion in our office almost turned to bloodshed. It began when one editor mentioned her love for The West Wing, and another retorted it was one of the worst television programs of all time. Then someone responded it wasn't as bad as Girls, a proclamation someone else felt was blasphemous. And so the R29 staff almost came to blows.
Instead of taking it out with violence, we paired up editors with very intense feelings to have them work out their TV show biases, and duke it out for our readers to decide. First up, associate news editor Seija Rankin takes anti-Lost activist and staff writer Gabriel Bell to task.
On The Beautiful Cheesiness Of Lost
Okay, I'll stop you right there. I know what you're going to say. You think Lost is totally outrageous and over-the-top, what with all smoke monsters, portals to hell, time traveling, and "We have to go back!" outbursts. And, sure, if you're a total realist who wants their television shows to be exactly like their everyday lives then, yes, I see your point. But, for me, I'm tuning in because I'm looking for something mind-blowing and escapist, that will cause me to end each episode screaming out "Holy sh*t!" instead of "Hmm, that was familiar and expected."
That's not to say I can't understand what the haters are saying about Lost — it just means that I feel like a superior TV-watching being who's privy to a secret club that the rest of you haven't been invited to. And that's the beauty of the show; it's so cult-like and all-encompassing that you wind up with this exclusive group of viewers that are suddenly your new best friends just because you both love it. It's the only other show that will bring together two strangers riding the 6 train with nothing more than a simple phrase like "I think Driveshaft was totally under appreciated." After all, all that Live Together, Die Alone business is powerful stuff.
The other truly amazing (yes, amazing) part of the show is the character development. Sure, the jaw-dropping plotline and constant mysteries are riveting, but over the course of the show you come to fall in love with each and every character (yes, even you Sawyer). When I started watching the show I had approximately a month to watch every episode of the first five seasons, so the sheer volume of Lost that I consumed led me to believe that the cast members actually were my friends. I started to confuse island life with real life, and I got so invested that I would randomly break out crying at the thought of Charlie's selflessness in his last moments, or the tragedy of Hurley's boyish sensitivity. So, maybe I became a little too invested, but it makes for a great point, right?
Of course, no pro-Lost argument would be complete without at least a few sentences dedicated to Desmond. If there's anyone out there who doesn't think that Desmond Hume is the true hero of the show (get out of here, Jack Shephard loyalists), I don't want to know you. Not only is D the most positively adorable man on the planet, but his solo mission to reunite the islanders in the final episodes is what, in my humble opinion, kept the show's ending together.
That's right, the ending — I suppose I should address that. Many of Lost's critics argued that the ending was predictable, or that the "They've been dead the whole time" concept is overplayed. And, I guess I don't have much of a counter argument except to say that as someone who was emotionally invested in the show and the characters (see: third paragraph), I found the last episode to be satisfying, meaningful, and even beautiful, closure. Oh, and anyone who didn't shed a tear over Jack Shephard's final breath, with Vincent at his side, probably is incapable of feeling any feelings at all.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC
Lost: You've All Been Conned
Well, Sejia, I guess I'm incapable of feelings. I mean, you still love Lost? Like, even after the last episode? I thought you were better than that.
See, here’s the thing with Lost: At its most basic essence, it purports to be a mystery. Where are they? Why are all these odd things happening? Lost compels you to ask those questions and, as a viewer, you instill everything that happens on the show with meaning because you were always looking for clues and waiting for the big reveal. Even the characters who fight and sacrifice their lives derive meaning and relevance through their relationship to the uncurling of the show’s fundamental mysteries.
Now, mysteries, as weird or wild as they might seem, are always built around strong, logical bones. Sherlock Holmes, for instance, would take the whole series of confusing, confounding events you’d been exposed to over the course of a story and replay them for you, explaining what actually happened. For that, there must be a clear reasoning underneath all the misdirection and shadows. It doesn’t matter if that reasoning happens to be based on magic or fantasy (think of how it was shown how Hermione seemed to be everywhere all at once at the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban) — it only has to be consistent with its own logical structure — to be explainable on some terms. That’s why mysteries are so attractive and their ends so satisfying.
But even as Lost used the lure of mystery and breadcrumb trails of clues to keep you addicted, it wasn’t really a mystery. Why? Because the creators were making it all up as they went along. There was no rationale, no secret, no grand unifying idea, no plan, no direction, no concept, no design, nothing. It was just one thing after another punctuated by a crescendo of violins to make things seem important.
How do I know this, you ask? Um, did you see the last episode? Not to spoil the whole thing for you readers, but basically all the weird stuff was happening and all these people were carefully put in place, so that…wait for it…Jack could stick a rock in a magic hole. That’s it. We get to the end of a seven-year mystery and the explanation is…uh…magic hole — JACK DIES/END OF SHOW. And don't get me started on the second-world/afterlife business. That's just filler and proof that there was no real core to the series.
Now, "magic hole" would be fine if there was any attempt to understand the "magic hole." But it — and the magic of the whole series — is never explained on its own (or actually any) terms. Where they were is not revealed. What happened is not dealt with. The relevance of the death, struggle, and sacrifice of all the characters you loved so much is not explained. Matter of fact, the basic justification for all the bad dialogue, lame sets, pointless diversions, cloying music, ridiculous plot twists, silly performances, unbelievable romances, endless flashbacks, self-seriousness, gratuitous wet-T-shirt shots, pretentiousness, over-sentimentalized moments, product tie-ins, on-screen Tweeting (remember that?), constant off-screen online theorizing, and tease, after tease, after tease never comes. Why? Because there was no secret, no meaning to begin with. Just "magic hole" — JACK DIES/END OF SHOW.
Lost isn’t a mystery. It's mysticism and a designed, fictive mysticism that demands faith and loyalty is a narrative con job. In my mind, Lost isn't even a television show. It’s a scam that’s fooled you into thinking it's interesting and watchable by making itself look like a decent story without supplying any of the substance to back that up. It's like that damn squirrel baby (pictured, above) — a bunch of garbage, buttons, and dead animals sewn together to look like something, then loved and cradled by a deluded crazy person who thinks it's a real, living thing. Enjoy your squirrel baby, sucker.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC.