My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What's Lost exactly?

The Hatch. The Hatch. The Hatch. That’s all we’re going to be talking about until RTE import the second series of J.J Abrams’ riveting, labyrinthine, frustrating mystery drama Lost, which concluded with a double episode a few weeks ago but which I just got round to watching recently.

We were left none the wiser, only with more questions and more conundrums to puzzle over. Fans that feel short changed would be well advised to check out the other masterwork from Abrams’ oeuvre, Alias (2001-present), the spy drama starring Jennifer Garner, that has consistently proven itself to be the most inventive, compelling, addictive TV show of the new century so far.

On the surface, Alias seems too high concept, too constrained by the narrative technique that has been chosen for it. But Abrams is a genius and has, on a number of occasions, completely upended the show, altering its dynamic entirely – yet it somehow manages to remain the same.

This regular rejigging and reinvention does not impinge on the show’s cohesion but instead, opens it out to reveal a much wider, deeper, thrilling story. Charles Dickens tried to end each chapter of his novels with a cliffhanger and Abrams has sought to stamp that trait onto his work. Plot arcs introduced in season one of Alias were not resolved until the end of the fourth series – so on that basis alone (not to mention how commercially viable Lost is), we could be in for a long run with this desert island thriller.

The Lost finale left American critics and fans decidedly under whelmed when it screened last May – but why did they expect anything less? Had they not been watching the same show we were? It’s beginning to look like the whole point of the show is that these characters – and us fans – are meant to be left in limbo, not knowing why things are happening or how it’s all going to end.

Devoted followers of the show have had the Internet buzzing for months about what is going on in this show. The common belief is that the plane crash survivors are in Purgatory and are all specifically stranded on some celestial island where they are to atone for whatever misdemeanours they perpetrated in the living world.

Other rumours suggest that they are in the Bermuda Triangle or that the island is part of some government experiment. But I think the answer is more philosophical and has been dangled before our eyes on more than one occasion throughout the series, conveyed through the enigmatic character John Locke (played so fantastically by Terry O’Quinn, who was criminally deprived of an Emmy in September).

He has frequently said to numerous characters that fate has brought them all to the island and that faith alone is all that can ensure their survival. This world in which they find themselves is dangerous: random, baffling crimes take place; the innocent are punished along with the guilty, often even instead of them. Nobody really understands why they have fallen on such hard luck.

Strangers are thrown together and must learn to trust each other and cooperate through some form of social contract in order to get by. All these people are flawed; they are equally capable of acts of kindness, love and generosity as they are of selfishness, greed and evil. Is this ‘the island’ we’re talking about, or just life itself? (ooohhhh!)

Our world is obsessed with ‘meaning’: everything must have a purpose, every person, act, event must be able to be explained rationally and some lesson derived from that contemplation. But as Locke stresses to the ‘man of science’ Jack (Matthew Fox), not everything can be explained by reason alone. Trying to extrapolate meaning from Lost is as futile as trying to figure out the meaning of life. That’s why we don’t have answers: because we’re not meant to.

Now, I've been known to read too much into things (way too much sometimes!) and I certainly would not be a Johnny Religious Head. But it is possible that Lost’s scriptwriters have ingeniously constructed a metaphorical discussion about the limits of post-Enlightenment thinking: that science and reason can, must provide answers in our world.

Maybe they can’t. Life is mysterious and its many plot twists can enthral and delight, intrigue and horrify in equal measure. The hatch, the strange polar bear, the numbers, ‘the Others’ are all MacGuffins that divert our attention from what this show is really trying to tell us: that the modern world we inherited from the Enlightenment, whilst equipping us with essential mental tools for survival, has left us with an incapacity to believe that faith might be the only quality that gets us through a baffling world that makes no sense and whose mysterious forces we can never truly grasp. Maybe that is what is truly lost.

Or perhaps it's all just a prank constructed by the writers to see how much nonsense fans will put up with and to what extent saddos like me will read too much into it! Either way, it's food for thought.

No comments: