throughsilver: So, I’ve seen Lost
Olympic Tom: How much of it?
throughsilver: all of it.
Olympic Tom: Bloody madman…
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So, after I caught up on Desperate Housewives, I decided I might as well delve into my DVD collection and see what all the fuss was about regarding JJ Abrams’s latest escapade. I had been putting it off for ages, not least because of the size of it. I mean, twenty-four episodes?
That, and I thought it had been over-hyped. I didn’t see anything beating Desperate Housewives – and especially not in such a short space of time. However, after a chat with some fans, I decided I might as well dive right in.
I don’t recall when I started watching disc 1. Think it was either Wednesday or Thursday. Thursday, most likely. Finished it on the Saturday. Did half the season in one day, and I don’t regret it. Literally, I was watching it all day, save for meals (which I generally ate while watching) and two exercise sessions, to compensate for the couch potato action.
The reason why I dorked out on it so much is because I was hooked. Good thing it was as long as it was, because I’d have been gutted if it were any shorter. I was gutted when it finished anyway, but more on that later. At the end of some of those episodes, I remember thinking ‘how can they end it like that?’, only to be soothed by the recollection that I have the DVDs. Having to wait a week between episodes would not have been good for my mental health.
In fact, it’s good that I did watch it so quickly. If I had watched it on TV, then my associates would have had to cope with months of my obsession, rather than days, which is how it stands now. A worse prospect, while I’m theorising, would be the idea of sitting through ad breaks, or losing interest over the months it took for the season to play out. Don’t see that happening somehow, though.
Anyway, the programme itself. I’m not sure where it stands in the pantheon that is modern day US drama. I know for a fact that I’m being swayed somewhat by the recency effect, as I much prefer it to Desperate Housewives, and I preferred that to either The Sopranos or Six Feet Under (the traditional champions). Maybe Lost just is the best and I am, like Hamlet, trying too hard to intellectualise the instinctual.
What I do know is that the character development on the show was insanely good. I like to think of myself as reasonably cynical when it comes to TV programmes, and I was manipulated from severely disliking two of the characters, to loving them by the season finale.
Primary among these was the character of Sawyer. Introduced as a violent redneck who’s suspicious of middle-eastern people, I naturally didn’t like him. He was also smarmy, a scavenger, and didn’t seem to like anyone. However, as the season wore on, we learned more about him, he started opening up, and when he stood on the raft, pistol aimed at the mysterious strangers, I realised that he was my favourite.
This excellent writing extends to the flashbacks of each character, which I recently learned had the same effect on my perception that it was intended to. I thought by about half-way through that these flashbacks were less mere character development devices than they were excuses to wander into different genres for up to an episode at a time.
There was the rock band drama, the single mother issue, curses, Iraq war romance – it covered everything, and given the context of the show, worked perfectly within its parameters.
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The idea of peril, a basic component of any good drama, was everywhere here. The idea of the unknown was the main thing, as the setting was a desert island. This was ramped up by the idea that characters initially couldn’t be trusted (Sawyer), grew to be enigmatic (Locke, though he was a bit dodgy in the pilot as well), or were simply morally ambiguous (Kate).
This went through the roof with the introduction of Ethan. Here was a character who, during their first fight, was harder than protagonist Jack. Locke admitted Ethan was more of a hunter and tracker than he was. The simple fact that he had infiltrated the camp so easily lent an air of suspicion that anybody else could be one of them.
When Ethan attacked Charlie and Jin, that assault instigated a perpetual fear through the rest of the season that there was no safety in the woods. The attack of Claire, that you couldn’t be safe at base camp. Secure yourself from the jungle and you could be attacked from the sea. There were traps in the jungle, as well as boars, polar bears and… whatever it was that killed the pilot. As well as that terrifying ‘security system’.
The biggest antagonist, as with the massively under-rated Blair Witch Project was simply the unknown. What is the monster? What is the security system? We, as viewers, know very little. We don’t know where Ethan came from, nor those evildoers in the sea, as of the season finale.
And this is why it is so potent a programme. We all have a fear of the unknown to an extent. And when we move to a new job or city that fear is there. Therefore, we can identify with these people who have been thrown into a world of potentially immense danger, and massive mystery. A TV show where characters die for good (five, off the top of my head – swimmer, beach dude, pilot, air marshal, Arzt and Boone). Six, then – and anyone can die, at any time.
When the party leaves on the raft near the end of the season, I have a feeling of impending doom. I don’t see them reaching any other land, nor of getting rescued. However, seeing as such key characters as Sawyer and Michael are on there, stakes are high.
When the boat first appeared, my instinct was ‘pirates!’. When the strangers demanded Walt (luckily a flashback explained why a ten year old kid had such an old man name), I wasn’t surprised. Earlier in the episode, Rousseau abducts Aaron, due to the whispers telling her They were coming for ‘the boy’.
I knew ‘the boy’ was Walt instantly; he had to be. His stepfather didn’t want him, because weird things happened when he was around. ‘He is different’. Locke said the same thing when explaining why he was teaching the child to throw knives. He reads a comic book with a polar bear in it – and polar bears appear on a tropical island. The secret has to lie with him, whatever it is.
I’ll just post this now. More thoughts as they come. Maybe on Desperate Housewives.