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Lost in a hole


I recognize that because there was a five year gap between the last time I watched Lost and last night’s finale, I may not be the best-grounded person to offer a critique. Nevertheless…

In 1931, fourteen members of the British Detection Club published The Floating Admiral, a collaborative mystery. The rules were simple: You wrote a chapter that extended the previous chapters, and sent the entire manuscript on to the next mystery writer in the club. You also had to write the solution you had in mind when you wrote your chapter, but that solution was not passed on to the next writer. All of the solutions were included at the end of the published book. The result was a pretty good British mystery novel, with a tour de force final chapter that amazingly made sense of the entire concoction, even after one of the middle chapters introduced a wealthy of sticky information about British tide schedules.

The Floating Admiral managed to make sense of the clues strewn about. Lost seemed not to give a damn. Admitting again that I stopped watching after the first season, it seemed to me that the original idea in that first season was that the characters were in Purgatory. The writers abandoned that line when the Internets guessed it too quickly. The writers then began complicating the plot, some of which seemed to be heading toward an explanation of what the heck was going on (the steering wheel, the Dharma, the time travel) and some of which seemed to be merely arbitrary pointers to the fact that the island was magical (polar bear, the lottery numbers) and thus didn’t need detailed explanation. Then, about two years ago, the writers decided on what was really going on and forcefully turned the narrative’s wheel in that direction, introducing a (rather lame) mythology about two brothers, the flash-sideways, etc. Meanwhile, they had all the cruft from the previous years to deal with.

So, they punted. The magical elements were left as arbitrary and absurd, even though they had been presented to us as clues. Instead, the writers decided that Lost was really about character narratives. Fine, except that it spent a couple of hundred hours keeping us going (well, some of us) by dangling plot bait in front of us.

So, I understand that many people are happy with the resolution of the character narratives. But, I think Lost wrote itself into a corner from which it had no honest escape.


You know Jack stuck in a hole from which there is no escape escape by capping the light? That was the writers expressing their own plight. You know Jack magically escaping from the hole and dying happily? That was the writers’ symbolic wish-fulfillment.

8 Responses to “Lost in a hole”

  1. This is what I wrote as a comment to a NY Times article last night, before the show was over (I did not watch the Finale, either). Sounds a lot like your conclusion.

    “I almost started watching the series at the beginning, but did not for some reason. As the seasons went on I became happier that I didn’t start. The little I know, including this paragraph from today’s Times–““Lost” has never been an easy show to decode, but it upped the befuddlement factor even further in its final season. It killed off and resurrected characters, divided them among a constantly changing array of coalitions and added an entirely separate timeline, populated with different versions of the same people, set in Los Angeles” makes it sound like they were winging it with the plot. The fans will see how it holds together.”

  2. Just to be clear, I did watch the finale, plus the two-hour summary they ran before it.

  3. Ah-my “either” meant I had not watched any earlier shows OR the last; it did not refer to your TV schedule!

  4. Maybe you should actually watch the show before you criticize it. It only meant something to the people who actually spent six years watching it. It wasn’t for you.

  5. My comments were based on several articles about it, including the one I quoted. Everything I have read about it comments on the plot difficulties resolved and unresolved. This is a personal preference and I do not mean that one could not enjoy it. It just seems like the kind of show I would not have liked and obviously many viewers did not agree with me.

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