Wednesday, June 13, 2007

LOST - Season 3 Spoilers

Well, a bit late compared to everyone else but I've just finished watching the 2 hour season ending, and what an ending it was - phew!

So, Laura and I have become split over this. Lost lost it there throughout the beginning of Season 3, with the writers choosing to draw out the plot elements with more and more inane moments and dissections into more and more characters' histories. What did we really learn from them? Not a lot when you consider the "relentless narrative" (Osci would appreciate me bringing that in) of Season's 1 and 2. Because of that it lost viewers and good faith. Laura's fallen into that camp... she's now one of the Others, and therefore... I can't trust her any more.

She made the season finale difficult to enjoy, because she kept going 'Uh, I don't really care!' Either I'm easily pleased or I just love investing myself in story - which, incidentally is quite the opposite to the discussion we had with a head guy from Waterstones and Ken Follett t'other day in a back room of Birmingham's New Street store of Waterstones: 80% of book buyers are women apparantly. Why is that?

Well, discussing with my wife (we're talking again, just for this bit), she reads books for the following reasons:

  1. To escape her life
  2. To read a "happy" book and know that there will be a happy ending, and all will end as it should (something that takes me back to Adele Parks. She said she sells very well in Slovakia and the Balkan States simply because they've suffered enough and want happy (or as I'd term "flaky") books to read. They've had enough death, and can't stomach any more) - there must be some good in the world.
  3. To find someone who shares her concerns or worries, ie: a protagonist who has to deal with parents splitting up, etc. She wants to know how to feel in a given situation, or to just identify with someone and know that she's not crazy... to share in those emotions.
Number 3 incidentally, incidentally takes me back to Ken Follet again (it's okay, I'll be doing a write up on his masterclass soon). Ken Follet's masterclass regarded the creation and development of the suspense novel, now known as the thriller. Cutting to the chase he pointed out that his parents' generation were the first where all the males in Britain would have no choice about whether they'd be conscripted into active military service. This, obviously created great anxiety - it wasn't just a career. Ken said that the suspense novel, especially war related ones rose in sales along with war - because the boys and men wanted to know what they could end up going to. They had concerns about who they'd be on the battlefield. Would they stand and fight or would they cower in fear for their lives? Books provide a purpose to the zeitgeist, which, I guess backs up the ability for a topic to rise to the fore at any given time. The Da Vinci Code did just that. Suddenly everyone was "worried" about what the church had really down to Christ's heritage... well, at least in a "pseudo-we-care" sort of way.

Anyhoo, I've digressed far beyond the pail... Back to Lost.

One of Laura's biggest gripes was the cutscenes of Jack, bearded, returns from a flight home and tries to commit suicide. He's drinking and on drugs, a real nadir of his life, and we quite rightly assumed that this was part of his past, something from which he has run. This grated for Laura because we've had far too much backstory on Jack for them now to twist who he is into some failed doctor. Now, we're led towards thoughts that before heading out to Australia to bring home his father's body, he's going to lose his medical license. How would that look on his character arc? The failed hero?

I bought it for the simple fact that Jack's been through hell and I think he deserves that serious breakdown. Laura doesn't. He's had his chance and he's picked himself up every time. So, what do the screenwriters do?

The cutscenes aren't the past. They're the future. Jack calls Kate - and they never knew each other before the plane crash - he wants to get back on the island. They made a terrible mistake by choosing to escape. His life is meaningless!

Holy crikey! Everything occurring on the island is leading to their rescue and it's not the right choice?

This leaves even me in a quandary over whether I want to continue... knowing the future means that we can see the end, and it's all up the swanny. Regardless of the journey to be made, how can we relate to a protagonist (Jack) who is ultimately going to make the wrong choice? It's tragedy, but does that work if you can see the ending coming?

Potentially not. We knew that in Heroes there was going to be a huge explosion. We knew, because of the repeated statement to that effect that the season showdown would end there. It then becomes a chore to get there. Get a move on buddy! Perhaps that's why Tim Kring (Heroes creator) has opted now for a Chapter schema. Season 2 of Heroes will include Chapters 2 and 3 of the story. Therefore a big climax midseason.

Laura says that in Greek Tragedy, even in Shakespeare, the audience know the outcome. They know Ajax will die, that Oedipus will kill his father, Hamlet will have to resolve to kill his Uncle and die himself, etc, etc. But, the point of Greek and Shakespearian Tragedy IS in the journey, the wonderful prose, the characterisations. The outcome is just there to wrap up what everybody already knows.

So, how does this relate to Lost?

Jack is the elected leader. A doctor in the real world, he's been stripped of his wife, his father, his life is pretty crap, and yet he faces the island, as they all do, and takes the mantle of protector, leader - and most of the other characters hand that to him - they need him to lead.

Echeat has this to say:

For a tragedy to occur there are five conditions. The protagonist, Othello in this case, must experience a death or a total loss of ranking in society. The audience must also be captured by the actors and feel some sort of connection to them. This is known as catharsis. In Shakespearean tragedies the protagonist always has a character defect or a tragic flaw. This tragic flaw along with pride will cause the protagonist to make an error in judgement leading him to his downfall and eventual death. These two elements are called hubris and hamartia. The unities of time, space, and action must also be followed. This means that the play must take place in a very short period of time, occur in one general area, and follow one main character throughout the play. Shakespeare orates for us a tragic occurrence in the life of a man who once had it all, throws it all away in a fit of jealous rage .

The downfall of the central character is the main concept of the tragedy. Without the main character’s downfall there is no reason for the reader to feel pity, therefore, no tragedy. The downfall of the protagonist in Shakespearean tragedies always originates from their tragic flaw.
Jack has hubris certainly. On the island, he is relied upon to save lives day-by-day. This gives him grandstanding, and pride in who he is. For Jack that all comes to a crashing end as soon as they're off the island. He has no one to rely upon him - admitting that he literally just flies, hoping that the plane will crash. Despite having been forced into the position of leader on the island, the detrimental effect on to his psyche is that what he is fighting for - the idea of escape - is based upon a life he already lost. Jack is our Hamlet, but as Aristotle says: "Tragedy must cover a short time period". We're not going to get that in Lost... we've got 3 more years. So, can we invest our time in 3 years of Jack consistently making the wrong decision?

I'm not sure we can.

But, looking to the future we can surmise the following spoilers:
  1. Jack, Kate and Sawyer (at least) survive and escape the island.
  2. Jack thinks the decision to communicate with off-islanders was wrong (just like Ben and Locke told him)
  3. It isn't Penny's ship - yet Naomi had Desmond's book and a piccy of Penny (Penny's father is too big a character to let go. He has to have some hand in the Other Other's)
  4. Season 4 will develop these Other Other's, the ones Ben didn't want to find the island, hence how it's possible for the show to continue for 3 more seasons.
  5. Who's in the coffin in the future? It's either Juliet or Ben. Laura thinks Ben because no one went to the funeral and it links in with how upset and wrong Jack was over leaving the island... I think it's Juliet. Who else would Jack get so upset about, with Kate being with Sawyer (note: the screenwriters were clever enough not to refer to any off screen characters by name. Essentially they've left themselves an open envelope to make it up depending on their whim - pah! Though this relates to crime writers, who just write, without a clue (often) as to who the murderer really is.
  6. Jack references his father in the hospital. So, either the island brings him back to life, or this is actually an alternate reality.
  7. Locke is probably going to just wander in and out killing people at whim - a shame, his character arc has lost the audience's empathy for him.
We still don't know why the stewardess from Oceanic appeared in the past, looking no younger (along with Richard's character).

Lots to mull over... I've got until Feb next year! Aw hell!


MG said...

I felt that the cutscenes being from the future was a bit of a shark-jump. Not sure I can take it seriously now. I mean, this is miniseries TV. Anything can happen, credible or not. Bobby can come out of the shower alive and it can all have been Pam's dream.

If that actually represents the real future then, as you say, it's all silly now. But it won't. In Lost, everything and anything, it seems, can be a metaphor. When you've established that even death can be reversed...well. We're deep in fantasy territory - and 'Lost' is unconventional fantasy, so doesn't even have to follow those rules.

It's like a Haruki Murakami novel. Best enjoyed if you just go with it, don't ask too many deep questions!

MG said...

(I mean Bobby Ewing of 'Dallas'...)

R1X said...

I get ya :)

Now what's the phrase they used in relation to Lost being drawn out and the feeling that it's being written on the hoof? Kicked the suitcase! Anyone?

MG said...

Done an 'X-Files'?

There's an art is making something a narrative so arcane, so byzantine and also self-referential that it gives the cunning appearance of being intelligible only to a) series nerds and b) media studies PhDs.

The rest of us watch thinking...well clearly I've just not put in the hours, assuming that someone in the world understands.

When in reality, no-one does.

It must be great, to feel free of the need to tie all the threads. I actually think it's a sign that the writers have transcended mere Good Writing and moved into Genius. Few people understand Genius and its a thin line between that and insanity.

Or else, the Emperor really doesn't have any clothes.

Which is it? Can you tell? I can't.