I’m pretty sure that the season premiere of “LOST”‘s second season had to have been one of the most highly anticipated season premieres of all time. (The only other I could think of that would be comparable would be the season premiere of “Dallas” after ”Who shot J.R.”?) All that summer, people had been crazy debating what was “in the Hatch”, the largest of the cliffhangers at the end of season one. And the viewers showed up for it, too. 23 million viewers tuned in, a huge audience for a modern tv show.
And the producers didn’t let us down. They showed us what was in the hatch alright.
But in doing so, they also also exemplified two of the things that made “LOST” the most frustrating show of all time:
1) Answers to questions only led to more questions.
2) When you finally GOT an answer to a question… it was less interesting than the question had been.
Yes, our crash survivors discovered what was down the hatch alright.
It turns out the hatch was an entrance to a “station” left by a mysterious (of course) scientific group, the Dharma Initiative. The purpose of this station was to man a computer terminal and push a button every 108 minutes, otherwise the world would end. I’m not kidding, they said the world would end. A countdown clock on the wall and a buzzer system let the people in the station know how much time was remaining.
So right away in this series I should have picked up on the warning signs. My one question “What was in the hatch?” had now been replaced by two questions “Who/what is the Dharma Initiative?” and “What really happens if they don’t press the button?”
Another sign I should have picked up on, aside from the fact that questions multiply like tribbles on “LOST” is that an unanswered question is often more interesting than the explanation. Even though what was in the hatch isn’t one of the answers I was disappointed in by “LOST” – a scientific research station is just as valid and interesting as a lot of other things – but when the question was still unanswered it was so interesting to speculate that the hatch may have been left by aliens, or an advanced civilization from the past, or an advanced civiilzation from the future, or a portal to another world, or another universe…
Once it’s set down in black and white though, the guessing ends. And some of the fun of the show is taken away… by little tiny increments.
Yup, watching people push a button, or wait to push a button, or argue about pushing a button, or worry about pushing a button… is just about as fun as it sounds.
But the biggest problem I should have picked up on was that the show was moving in new directions. In season one, these people had just crashed. They were trying to survive against nature and against each other. They were discovering mysteries. We were learning about them. That’s far more interesting than when we already knew (for the most part) about them, when they had figured out (for the most part) how to get along together, and when they had food, water, a couple of beds, etc etc that the hatch provided.
I’m simplifying for discussion purposes. Obviously “The Button” wasn’t the only ball “LOST” had in the air in season 2. And not everyone was getting along. What I’m trying to illustrate though is that sometimes the new adventures that were replacing the old ones weren’t as interesting. In fact, I dont think any future mystery the series would introduce was as compelling as “The Hatch”. “The Donkey Wheel”… maybe? Mmmmm… no.
Plus there were times when the answers led the show to a place that was just plain boring. “The Button” was a ticking doomsday clock… should be compelling. But when you show people obsessing over it for an entire season, well. Not so much. On top of which, it completely nuetered one my favorite character, John Locke, by keeping him indoors and causing him to question his faith. Both of which were like polar opposites of what made him so compelling in the first place.
And the flashbacks were already drying up.
Hello, my friend. Hello.
In season 1, we knew nothing about these characters at all. So the revelations about their pasts were shocking, and large scale. Oh my god! Kate was a criminal before the crash? HOLY SHIT! Locke was in a wheelchair and now he can walk? Pbbbbt… Hurley’s a lotto winner? Nuh uh. LOL!
Now? Well, we knew the broad outlines. So all that was left were little details. For example, we knew Kate was a fugitive. We just needed to know what it was she did. We knew Locke was in a wheelchair, we just needed to know how he got there. And even those details were filled in. Eventually, by like the end of season two and DEFINITELY by the middle of season 3, the “flashback” sequences had become tired stretch jobs. Filler.
There was something interesting though, something that kept everyone’s hopes high for the series. The show proved to have an excellent batting average at bringing in new characters. Sure, there were Ana Lucia and Nikki And Paulo.. but there was also Desmond and Penny and Juliet and Richard Alpert and Mr Eko and Daniel Farraday and Ben Linus. None of whom were amongst the original cast.
Fresh blood helped keep us interested.
Especially of Note was Michael Emerson’s Ben Linus. A role for which he would win a well deserved Emmy for. This character was part of the show for five seasons, and I think I could count on one hand the number of times he spoke the truth aloud. He was just constantly lying. And yet, like some svengali master, you wanted to believe him. He always sounded as if what he was saying was true and RIGHT. He was awesome. If Emerson doesn’t play Satan at some point in his career, it will be a missed opportunity for the world.
Emerson’s Linus was the leader of “The Others”, but we’re not informed of that at first. In Season 2, he’s captured and held in the hatch by the survivors. And for the half of a season that he’s there, he lies up a storm about being Henry Gale, who crashed on the island on a hot air balloon trip around the world. Eventually he’s broken out by one of the survivors who wants to trade him for his kidnapped son (who was kidnapped in the season 1 finale). That exchange (and the revelation that Ben Linus is the leader of the others) happens in the finale of season 2. At that point in time, a number of the key “Losties” are taken captive… one of the “cliffhangers” for the premiere of season to resolve.
Shit like this never happened to Gilligan!
Oh. And we also find out what happens if you don’t push the button. No the world doesn’t end. But there is a loud sound and a white light and you may wake up in a bear cave or lose your voice or be tripping out through time. You know, the usual.
So, anyways… season 3 begins with our heroes in captivity. Literally in cages (the cages that used to hold the Polar Bears). It turns out that “The others” have moved into the homes and scientific research areas left behind by the “Dharma Initiative”. They’re not scuzzy jungle dwelling gypsy types, they live in houses, with beds, and kitchens. They have book clubs, and swingsets. What was it I was saying about things not being as interesting once they’re answered?
The first portion of the third season revolves entirely around the main losties being held captive and Jack (a doctor) being emotionally blackmailed into performing surgery on the Other’s evil leader, Ben Linus. Why Ben was able to get sick on an island with healing properties was one of those loose end questions never adequately addressed.
Eventually more new mysteries would be introduced than would be solved, including Desmond beginning to experience time non-linerally, the ageless Richard Alpert, and Jacob and his magic cabin. It was all some crazy shit.
I’m surprised no one tried to capitalize on “LOST” by selling “Richard Alpert Age Cream”
Listen, I’m not here to recap all the whacked out things they were throwing out on Lost, there’s no way it could be done. By season three you had electric anti-monster fences and one eyed Russians and the crazy french woman’s daughter was Ben’s daughter now, and Locke’s father appears out of thin air and he turns out to be the person that conned Sawyer’s mom, I mean, all kinds of other crazy shit I can barely keep track of. I just want to touch on the highpoints so everyone knows in general where we’re at and how I was feeling at the time. And then on a high level I want to discuss it as a tv show.
And as a TV Show, it was having some problems. They had to kill off one of their best characters (“Mr Eko”) due to not being able to sign the actor. The child actor who played Walt – an integral character to season one – had this huge growth spurt and had to be written out of the show. I don’t care what they said about it – his absence was glaring. Dominic Monaghan’s character was killed off in the S3 finale, and I’m pretty sure it was because he only signed on for three years.
Gone too soon.
Plus the fans were up in arms about the constant breaks in airings and repeats. The typical network schedule does not work well for a show like “LOST”. Which is why everyone was pretty happy when the creators of “LOST” reached a deal with ABC involving an out plan, if you will. It would run for three more seasons of 18 (not 23) episodes each, to run as consecutively as possible beginning in January, rather than September. More like your cable channel shows run than your network shows. It also meant the episode countdown was on. You could literally figure out how many episodes were left to air at any given point in time.
It was also good because the “filler” would end. By the end of season three, I had had it up to my eyeballs with episodes that were obvious stretchjobs. Just complete stall tactics. No mysteries introduced, certainly no mysteries SOLVED, no real character development. They were easy to spot. I was totally getting frustrated with it. Completely frustrated.
Honestly, by the end of Season Three, I just wasn’t as into it as I had been.
Then, “LOST” recaptured my interest with a single episode. One of the all time great single episodes in TV history, the third season finale, “Through the Looking Glass”.
When did Jack grow a beard?
Not only was it a pretty decent episode already, with a touching sacrifice made by Dominic Monaghan’s Charlie Pace, but the flashback portion was especially intriguing. For a while now, the flashbacks had been treading water. All the stories that needed to be told about these characters prior to boarding the plane had been told already. It had been three seasons, you know?
But that episode, Jack had this strange beard, I couldn’t place whether it was before or after his wife left him, he was popping pills… he had never done that before, I just couldn’t get a grip on it, you know?
And then, right at the end, he meets this woman in a parking lot.
And it’s Kate. Kate gets out of the car. Wait, what? Jack knew Kate before the crash?
And then he said it.
“We have to go back, Kate.”
NOOO!!! HOLY SHIT!!! I still remember my reaction. I sprang up out of my chair. Honestly. I lept to my feet. It was that shocking. For three whole seasons we had been conditioned like Pavlov’s dog that that blurry sound effect they used meant “Flashback”. We had seen 67 episodes to that point. Flashback flashback flashback flashback flashback… I’m not going to write it out 67 times, you’ll have to imagine it. But 67 times in a row! Flashback.
Not this time. This time it was a flash FORWARD.
Now, I’m sure there’s some people who are going to read this without having seen the show, and the impact will be lost on them. But I’ll tell you this. At the time? I was right back into it. It was a great show again. Genius twist ending like that? This show is GREAT.
Now. All it had to do was stick the landing.
You can find the next installment of “‘Lost’. Are you %#$&ing Kidding Me?” HERE!