Thursday, February 22, 2007

IT'S NOT THE ALL WORK AND THE NO PLAY THAT MAKES JACK THAT WAY: The conventional wisdom about Lost for the last couple of years has been that the audience needs it to start tying up some of the mysteries, and to a certain extent, I agree. A mystery isn't completely satisfying until the dunnit gets a who, and the puzzle isn't finished until all the pieces fit together. Lost isn't just a puzzle or a self-contained mystery, though -- it has elements of both, but it's also a continuing (even if finite, as Cuse and Lindelof are claiming) drama that has to survive beyond the resolution of its constituent riddles. Thus, while I agree that the show has to solve some (smaller) mysteries and pay out clues toward the eventual resolution of others, I part company with the conventional wisdom in that I think there are some questions that are better left unresolved.

To me, the biggest mistake of this season has been its focus on the Others. When they were a shadowy band of scruffy long-timers with an apparent mastery of the island and its supernatural dangers -- when they were defined by their Otherness, and by the menacing drums that often accompanied their presence -- they were a great boogeyman. We knew just enough about them, and found out just enough about them in small enough bits, to feel the adrenaline that the Lostaways felt when they were around. Now, in the clear light of day, we've seen their domestic snits, their parenting issues, their schoolboy crushes, their petty disappointments, and their office politics (there's a place for in-depth studies of dysfunctional institutions, and that place is The Wire; Lost doesn't do it very well). As a result they seem less like the Cigarette Smoking Man and more like the Stamford branch. No wonder Kate's attitude seems to be that "we can take these chumps."

To put this in high relief, the proto-Other was Ethan Rom, an infiltrating predator with superhuman strength. Ethan's replacement among the Lostaways is a slack-jawed, lovestruck teen with all the acting talent of the second banana in a junior-high-school class play. That's not a good trade.

Also, it was impossible to watch the flashbacks without being distracted by my Fuggers-influenced dislike of Bai Ling and by the fact that, even on network television, her breasts were yearning to breathe free.

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