Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is 'Lost' Made Up As it Goes Along?

(SPOILER WARNING: If you aren't at least through with season three of "Lost," here be spoilers.)

The answer is surely "somewhat," but no one has convinced me that the "Lost" writers are winging it to an extent that's damaging to the show.

Yesterday, Kevin J. Guhl at Topless Robot published what he describes as 10 Clues the Writers of Lost are Making It Up as They Go Along. Given the relatively fast speed with which the pilot episode was put together, I think it's unrealistic to expect that full six-season arcs for the show's 15 main characters were fully realized. Even if they were, certain errors would still be unavoidable, given the scope of the show. (For example, in the pilot, Charlie says his Drive Shaft ring is just a tour ring, but we learn otherwise in season three.)

But I'm not sure "Lost" would be better if each character's story were strictly mapped out in advance, with no space for wiggle room. [bxA]The writers clearly reacted to their actors' strengths, and adapted to how the performers grew into their characters. Without this room to breathe, we might have seen cast members stuck in roles that they weren't suited to play.

Regardless, most of Guhl's observations are either minor quibbles or completely wrongheaded. Let's start-off with his top-ranked complaint and work our way back.

"1) Nadia (or, Sayid's the Playa)"
Guhl's number-one reason is pretty much completely off-target. He complains that Sayid told Danielle that Nadia was dead, then she turned out to be alive. He writes, "But here's the kicker: A flashback reveals the CIA told Sayid that Nadia was alive not long before he got stranded on the island. So, there's no doubt: Sayid lied about the love of his life being dead so he could have some hot tropical island sex with the bitchy blonde!"

But here's the kicker to that kicker: The Sayid-Shannon love story emerged after the flashback revealed that Nadia was still alive. It was by no means my favorite plot-line on the show, but the affair's purpose was to demonstrate that the Losties were beginning to accept that they may never get off the island, and decide taht it's time to start life anew as castaways. It was crucial to this conceit that that Nadia was still alive and Sayid was on his way to see her. Sayid was among the characters most determined to get off the island in season one, due to his desire to see Nadia.

Also, while Sayid's declaration that Nadia was dead may have been due to writer error, you also must consider the unrelaiable narrator factor. Sayid was saying it to an apparently crazy woman with a gun on him, and he'd been trying to earn her sympathy ever since she took him prisoner. Just sayin'.

"2) The Giant Four-Toed Foot Statue"
I don't see how anyone can complain about a lack of answers regarding the four-toed statue until the series has ended. There was nothing about the statue's presence to suggest that it would promptly play into the story. It was just sitting there, weird and awesome. The Sickness, for example, only recently came back into focus.

"Fans continue to ask about it, and it appears that the creators of Lost swear it will be address in season five...although they said previously it would be address in season four, and season three before that," Guhl writes.

I get the impression that the "Lost" producers like to send out false leads. Also, the writers strike forced them to move some stuff around. If the four-toed statue never comes up, then I guess this point holds, but I'd bet my gold-dipped genitalia that it'll be explained before the show ends.

"3) The Deal with the Others"
"Why take the kids? Why kill the Tailies, but not the main cast? Why bother with the disguises at all? Why all the whispering? Unfortunately, now that the Others have been decimated, it doesn't look like we'll ever find out."

Hrm. I thought it was pretty clear that the Others were taking the kids because they can't have kids of their own. And they took more Tailies than they killed. I believe that they only killed people when their cover was at risk, whether when dealing with the tailies or the main cast. Ethan was discovered, preventing him from completing his task.

I'd be surprised if the motivation behind the lists weren't further expanded upon. Even in season one, we learned that they were capable of infiltration, and not wild savages.

The article claims: "No, the real problem was that the creators of Lost forgot that actor Malcolm David Kelley was not Emmanuel Lewis, and would age much faster than the snail's pace of time that went by on the show. … Now, admittedly, Lost's writers and producers said they've always had a plan for Kelly's growth, but the truth is we've seen no evidence of this plan. "

Seriously. "Holy shit! This kids gonna age—we didn't plan for that!" If the writer's didn't have a plan for Walt's aging, why did he get kidnapped at the end of season one? I hope we'll see him soon—I was annoyed that he wasn't mentioned in the last episode, for example—but now that the skip forward allows for it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him again soon.

"5) The Hatch"
"There's the comical fact that for all the heartache and backache Locke went through in trying to open the Hatch, there was a flimsy door nearby the whole time that would have made life much easier."

Yes, I hate comical irony, too.

"When the inside of the Swan first appeared, it looked like a loft apartment in New York City, but quickly morphed to look like the bowels of the subway."

Does anyone really think they re-built the set after they made it up as they went along? Or did they maybe just use tight camera angles to make you think the opening of season two (one of the best openings ever) took place somewhere else—you know, so it would be a surprise that it was the hatch? All the stuff from that opening sequence is seen in the Swan later, we just get the whole picture.

"6) Boone's Transformation from Leading Man to Sacrificial Lamb"
"8) The Other Others Who Died Off-Screen"

You can't really complain about interesting characters whom you liked dying, Others or otherwise. The argument here seems to be that minor characters who will die shouldn't be interesting. And Boone was third-billed when the show started, therefore he shouldn't die. This is the same show whose original pilot killed-off Jack. What the hell? The whole point of Boone's death was to illustrate that no one was safe. It gives scenes a lot more suspense when you know that the creators are really willing to kill off characters.

"7) The Wasted Tail Section"
I know some people didn't like the tail-section detour in season two, but I thought it added a lot both in terms of the island mythology and as an alternate perspective on events. The shows first real lull didn't hit until the middle of season two, after the Tailies made it to the beach. It is a bit of a drag that all but one of the new characters died, but there were factors outside of the show that played into that as well.

"Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez), after a huge build-up, was shot dead prematurely along with Libby (Cynthia Watros) by Michael, who really didn't have much of a reason to kill them other than to sabotage his character--think about it. Couldn't he just as easily held the gun on them and threatened to shoot them unless they released Ben?"

Yes, if that was the only part of the bargain Michael made with the Others, I suppose it wouldn't make sense. But if Michael had revealed himself as an agent of the Others, he would've had a harder time leading Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley to the ambush.

"9) The Disaster of Nikki and Paulo"
I know everyone hates Nikki and Paolo, but I thought their episode was brilliant—The "Rosencranzt and Guildenstern are Dead" of "Lost." I was a bit dubious at the beginning of season three, but it was definitely worth it. Sure, it would've been better if they were hanging around in the background the whole duration of the show, but even if the producers did plan it from the start of the show (and this clearly isn't part of the main story, so I they surely didn't), it would be difficult to get non-background actors to stand around and do nothing for three seasons. If I recall, actor Rodrigo Santoro was annoyed that he did it for one season.

"10) Claire's Mom Is Very Opinionated for a Woman in a Coma"
This is a valid one. I would've preferred that the clip that accompanied this entry on Topless Robot were the one in which Claire talks about why she hasn't told her mom. I remember the conversation being fairly vague and brief, but it definitely implied that mother was strict and would freak-out.

I think these are the sorts of details that are, in fact, being made up as they go along, and there are a lot of them. But the show's constant reinvention of itself is part of its charm. If want a show without any inconsistencies, you probably need to watch one that only lasts 50 hours or less.

1 comment:

-Tim said...

Isn't "Prison Break" just as bad?