Getting Lost

Locke fighting Ethan
In my continuing effort to succumb to popular and mainstream television culture (see: Desperate Housewives, The West Wing), I’ve added Lost to the list of current TV shows that I am now going to follow.

I all started sometime in the fall when Molly made a comment about how a friend had gotten (or was getting) her to watch the show. Shortly thereafter I read in Entertainment Weekly that Lost was a cross between Twin Peaks and The X-Files. I must admit — my curiosity was piqued at that time.

I resisted, however, and didn’t even add Lost to my Netflix queue.

Time went on and it seemed that more and more people recommended Lost to me. Then when I was in Minnesota for x-mas, I found that my sister, brother, and sister’s boyfriend were totally obsessed with the show. One thing to know about my sister is that she is probably the most frugal person I know. She never buys anything — except for season one of Lost. The fact that my sister paid money for the show really impressed me, though I must admit that I don’t really trust her taste in TV/movies (see: Friends, Notting Hill, The Wedding Planner, [anything w/Julia Roberts], and other romantic comedy-type things).

Like I said, though, the fact she bought it definitely made me a little more interested. I started looking around for the best deal on season one that I could find. Best Buy had it (on sale) for $39.99, Amazon had it for $38.99, and SecondSpin had it for $34.99 (used). Then I went to the Seattle Tower Records store and found it for $39.99. Now I know that isn’t a great deal, but the thing is, Tower is always wayyy overpriced since it’s slightly more independent than other stores. The fact that it was on sale at Tower convinced me that destiny was somehow leading me to Lost, so I picked it up.

I must also add that in addition to all of this peer-pressure or whatever, I was also interested in watching Lost because I absolutely love Terry O’Quinn, who plays John Locke. He played pretty major (though not starring) roles in both Millennium and Harsh Realm. I think he’s a great actor. He delivers lines slowly, but intensely, and is always able to channel some sort of sinister calmness. While his character on Lost isn’t very different from other characters I’ve seen him play, Locke quickly became my favorite character — and the most interesting.

On Sunday night I finished watching season one and also watched the first episode of season two. I am hooked.

What impressed me most about Lost are the character studies. Although this became a little formulaic after the first few episodes, each week does a flash back to the life of one of the people on the island to show how things were before they became stranded. Of course, everyone has an interesting and often sketchy background, but the characters are also pretty in-depth and three-dimensional.

At first I was disappointed, for example, with the stereotypical portrayal of Koreans via Jin and Sun. Jin was the dominating, verbally-abusive husband, and Sun was the submissive, quiet Asian wife. While I guess these stereotypes aren’t really prevalent on television in the U.S. anyway, I just felt like they were a little too cookie-cutter. But then we learn that Sun was learning English and planned to leave Jin, and that Jin, too, had intentions of leaving behind their stressful life in Korea and start anew in the Los Angeles, and that his father really wasn’t dead, and so on and so forth. What originally appeared to be a pretty simple and uninteresting relationship developed into something much more volatile and interesting.

The same can be said for pretty much every character on Lost, though I never felt it sunk to the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Everyone is complex and broken on the inside” cliché that it definitely could have turned into. And with a bunch of the characters, you are always sort of left to kept guessing as to whether they are really “good” or “bad” (obviously not that simple…), or people switch allegiances — things are always kept interesting.

In that sense, Lost reminds me of a reality show. It’s a study of what happens when you take a diverse group of people (and Lost may indeed have one of the most diverse casts that I’ve seen), throw them on an island, and see how they fend for themselves. Leaders will emerge, alliances will be made, promises will be broken, supplies will become short, etc. etc. From what I can tell, Lost nails this aspect really well. I remember reading somewhere that a majority of the writers have some sort of sociology background — and that fact totally shines through.

As for my thoughts on what happened during season one:

The saddest moment for me was when Michael accused Jin of burning the raft and in order to defend him, Sun speaks English in order to stand up for him. Up until that point, Jin thought that he was an outsider (in the fact that he couldn’t communicate with the rest of the islanders) along with his wife Jin. Upon learning that she speaks English and is one of “them,” he is completely isolated (from a language perspective) from everyone else. I imagine he must have felt very lonely and I can understand why he felt betrayed — manifested through anger — by Sun.

I loved the moment when Hurley (I think?) made some comment like, “And there is a huge monster in the woods but nobody seems to be mentioning that…” I figured the statement could be interpreted two ways: either it was a self-reflexive joke by the writers commenting on the fact that there are so many story lines going on that they sort of forgot about or put the monster on the backburner, or for people are in denial or magically forgot about the monster. Personally, of course, I like the idea of it being a self-reflexive comment, but who knows.

Speaking of Hurley, that “dude” pisses me off. He’s always making annoying comments and simple-minded observations and has just way too casual of an attitude about everything. (With the exception, of course, of the aforementioned statement about the monster.)

My favorite back-story has been Kate’s. She’s probably the most mysterious of the main characters so every little bit of information we can get is great.

My favorite storyline has been trying to figure out what is up with Danielle a.k.a. “The French Woman.” I was really pissed off when, in the last episode or so of season one, Charlie keeps making comments about how nuts and insane she is. Well duh — if you were stuck on an island for sixteen years or whatever and you heard voices of “others” who stole you baby at one point, you might be a little crazy, too. I think there is more going on with her than just delusion, and hopefully we’ll see her some more in season two.

What impresses me most about the people on the island is their ability to kiss-and-makeup, or whatever. Despite the fact that they are constantly fighting with one another, they are always able to overcome those little fights for the greater good. Jin and Michael, for example, hated each other for most of the season, then toward the end with Jin helps Michael on the second raft, they become really close. I think that’s awesome, and really gives me hope about humanity.

Since finishing season one, I’ve managed to go through three episodes of season two (thank you iTunes for selling episodes!!). The pacing is a little different than season one, I’ve noticed.

For example, in the first episode of season two we see Jack go down into the hatch and encounter Desmond. For the next two episodes, we see the scenes leading up to that repeated. So it’s like after episode one, episodes two and three jump back a bit and overlap. Conceptually it’s a cool idea, but it makes the action feel a little stilted, to me.

Furthermore, it seems like during season one pretty much all of the islanders were together at some point (with the exception of people being kidnapped or going off on solitary adventures). So far in season two, we have three sets of people: Jack, Kate, and Lock in the hatch; Michael, Sawyer, and Jin either in the ocean or “jailed” by some new characters; and the rest of the islanders in the caves or at the beach.

I know that all of this adds to the story complexity of the show and should add to the dramatic tension, but when you have three storylines going, plus the flashbacks, I feel like there isn’t enough justice done to everything that is happening. I’m not sure what the solution would be, but the concurrent storytelling just feels too busy to me.

That said, I’m excited to see how the season unfolds. Twin Peaks definitely crashed during season two, but Lost doesn’t seem to be going that direction. By always introducing new secrets and complicating the mythology of the series, Lost seems to be going more the way of X-Files, but with much better character interaction and character-driven storylines.

2 thoughts on “Getting Lost”

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