12 March, 2009

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So here's the thing.

The fifth season of Lost has started airing on TVNZ, which means one thing: Jane Clifton is writing a review of the show for the DomPost. Clifton usually writes two reviews of Lost, one early in the season, and one after the season finale, and her reviews tend to be really rather astonishing for her strange tendency to completely overthink some aspects of the show while completely failing to understand elements that are plainly stated.

Last season, her post-season review became rather spectacularly confused as she constructed a nine-person Oceanic 6 (anyone who left the island by any means was counted, as well as one person who quite explicitly did not leave the island), while this season she outdid herself, trying to explain Miles' nosebleed (usually an indication that someone has been on the island before) by suggesting
"perhaps he has been before, but since his "before" is happening out of sequence with his "after", then technically he is a future previous visitor, which qualifies him for a nosebleed."

Now, I realise they don't exactly make Lost the easiest show to follow, and the inclusion of the skipping-record time shifts really don't help, but Lindelof and Cuse do a really great job in telling this phenomenally complex story in a comprehensible manner. It's not actually that difficult to follow. Arguing for Miles as a "future previous visitor"? It isn't possible that instead Miles may have been on the island in his past (perhaps as a child) and just doesn't remember? You have to go straight to "future previous visitor"? Really?

But the thing I find most enjoyable about her reviews is her complete inability to understand that one question has already been answered, multiple times. Every time she reviews Lost she raises this issue, expresses frustration for the show's failure to explain one single question that have already been answered. She refers to the question in the current review as "the still unexplained polar bear", and "that damned bear". She's so busy trying to overcomplicate things and "pondering the metaphysicals of Lost" that she completely failed to understand that we were given an answer to the question of "What the hell? Polar bears? On the jungle island?" back in season 2. Is it possible that the fact the orientation film actually showed us a polar bear while referring to "Zoology" as one of the areas of study for the Dharma Initiative told us something? That one moment answered the question - the Dharma people were brought the polar bears to the island for experimentation. Simple. And, if you missed that not-exactly-subtle explanation, in season 3 Kate and Sawyer spent six episodes locked up in the cages where "the bears" were kept. So anyone that was distracted during the orientation film had six whole bloody episodes to figure it out. And Clifton still doesn't understand? Wow. And not only that, she insists on proclaiming her ignorance every time she writes about Lost? Truly frustrating.

But the inclusion of the time skips does seem to have proven confusing for people other than Clifton. After watching an episode, the first place I visit is always What's Alan Watching, where Alan Sepinwall's posts offer some of the best Lost analysis around, examining how each episode worked (or didn't), whether it be in the mythology or just as dramatic television. And one thing I've found astonishing is the number of people that have difficulty understanding the concept of time travel. One particularly surprising misunderstanding seems to be that time travel into the past effectively renders you immortal. As one person recently commented "Since the 816ers are all living in 2004-2005, they can't potentially die in 197x". I find it fascinating reading as people struggle to understand how time travel could work out, and have difficulty understanding that there is a difference between linear time and the timeline of a time-travelling person, that someone's past may be in the future, and that a person's past existence doesn't actually preclude someone from being injured or killed in their present no matter what their place in the timeline. To me this all seems simple and logical, so it's astonishing to find just how many people are struggling with all this. Have they never seen a time travel film before? Have they never rewatched Back To The Future to try and figure out how the timeline changes came about, or struggled to understand what was going on in 12 Monkeys? Is it possible Lost is the first encounter these people are having with a time travel story.

In any case, it's proving to be a genuinely great season of Lost. I stuck with the show, even in those periods in early season 3 when the show really wasn't great, because even then there were enough sparks of brilliance, enough intriguing questions (and the occasional answer) to remind me what the show could be. But the best thing that happened to the show was the negotiation between the showrunners and ABC to finish the show after six seasons. It's astonishing just how free Lindelof and Cuse seem to be now they can plan the show out to completion. Every episode adds something, provides new information, advances the story, takes risks. They're positively racing towards the finish line. And the end result is a show that is actually getting better, at a point where most shows would be well down the track of getting tired creatively. It's exciting to see a show where the show makers are clearly fired up and inspired, and producing some of their best work. And I can't wait to see where they take us next.

In other words, Yay Lost.

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