All is Not LOST… Yet?

Posted by Gabriel von Grünbaum on February 12, 2010

I’m scared of Lost.  I know that there are a lot of you out there who feel like I do.  I’ve been hurt before, and fearing the pain of past disappointments I enter into each new relationship with caution – watching for the signs.  Yes, when you’re a fan, you have a relationship with your entertainment.  The shows we love make us laugh and cry, have a spirit and a personality – we’ll even set up special “date nights” with our favorite shows where the cell phone goes on vibrate, our glasses are filled with a nice vintage and a tasty plate of goodies sits at the ready (for me, Johnny Walker Black and my 2 Minute Nacho Surprise!, made by melting cheese over crunchy things found around my kitchen… mmm-mm!).  We build up expectations about what we want from our shows, and all they ask in return is that we just keep watching.  We will.  We will keep watching as long as they meet our expectations – or find a delightful way to break them.  We’re the fans; that’s what we do.  Just don’t hit us with shit and there won’t be a problem (sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

From what I remember of studying business back in school, and practicing it now day to day, there are steps in customer service and meeting expectations is the least you can do successfully.  Lost went ahead and jumped to the next step in the very first episode – exceeding the expectations of us who would become fans, customers.

People are trapped on an island?!  How interesting.  Expectations met.

We watch the plane tear apart mid-air!?  Holy cow!  Bonus.

There’s something mysterious and frightening on the island with them?!  Now that’s awesome, count me in!  Expectations exceeded, with some finally crafted story set-ups and solid acting, production design and directing.

The next step is selling a transformation for the customer:  Beers that instantly make hot chicks flock to you.  Cars that instantly make hot chicks flock to you.  Pants that instantly make your butt look amazing… so that hot chicks will flock to you.  This is also that feeling you get when you walk out of a movie inspired; that flickery dream of light in a dark room has just changed your life, and you’ll never look at the world the same way again.  Until, sometimes, you do.  What we’re talking about here is a spectrum – on one end is 10 Minute Abs promising to get you ripped for life in just 10 minutes (so that hot chicks will flock to you), and on the other is Eckhart Tolle telling you how to live in awe of every magical moment of your life by reading The Power of Now (so that hot chicks will flock to you?).

Speaking of magical moments, how about that Lost intro… just LOST coming at you with that boomy sound.  Feels like a transformation may be in store for you – fingers crossed.  The perfect mood setter for the show.  Although, I don’t know why they never bothered to animate that LOST a little better, to hide where the edges poke out around the corners of the letters as it comes at you.

This is where fear starts tugging at the back of my brain.  Such a simple, inexpensive fix.  They could pay any kid still in art school $50 bucks to fix that.  Why didn’t they?  This tells me the details don’t matter to the creator of Lost, J. J. Abrams.

“Whoa!” I think I just heard some people yell, “This is J. J. Abrams you’re talking about here!  AliasStar Trek!”

I know.  Oh, how I know.  J. J. creations have a way of letting me down deep inside, and that hurts, because all I want to do is love his creations.  Honestly, I’m a lover, not a fighter.

Smokin’ hot secret agent who goes undercover in lingerie under the covers?  Yes, please!  But in the end I didn’t know why I was still watching Alias.  What was the payoff?  Where was it going, and why?  Why should I care?  Just a detail compared to all the hot action?  Maybe.  Maybe I just missed something.  Maybe I was too busy enjoying Jennifer Garner in a colored wig and not much else.  Might I be detecting echoes of this in Lost?

Hard workin’ handy men shot into space to fight an asteroid that will destroy the planet?  Intense, let’s do it!  I think J. J. may have had me just where he wanted me on this one.  I had a good night at the movies with Armageddon.  Lots dramatic space adventure, things exploding and cool dudes saying funny things and doing lots of super cool action.  However, most of my friends knock me for this one (as do most critics), they see it a bunch of loud nonsense that stole an evening of their lives.  “And why was a gatling gun on a drilling machine?!”  Again, some details seem to be missing here.  Somehow this world wasn’t fully complete for people.  I’m sure many will say director Michael Bay shoulders much of this responsibility – and I’ll agree.  In the end, all I remember are the action parts with explosions – there must’ve been stuff happening in between that I didn’t remember, even walking out of the theater that night – was that stuff not relevant?  Might I be detecting echoes of this in Lost?

A hot librarian-type FBI agent joins a special division to investigate the bizarre and paranormal?  I miss the X-Files too, bring it on!  I was so excited for Fringe.  Strange science gone bad!  But in the first season he sort of threw the science part out of the sci-fi mix and just seemed to declare, “They did it with that mysterious science we’ve all been hearing about!  Ooo… Spooky!  Science!  Hey, is that Mr. Spock?!”  Might I be detecting echoes of this in Lost?

(I’m glad to say Fringe seems to be getting better with the second season.  Fingers crossed.)

Speaking of Spock, should we revamp that old Star Trek show with a big budget movie?  Uh… well, I do miss it… okay, be careful and don’t let me down!  Star Trek is a perfect example of what I’m talking about here.  I honestly left the theater, turned to my friend and proclaimed that it “deserves an Oscar.”  I know, I’m dramatic sometimes; but I enjoyed it that much!  However, in the very same breath… Red Matter?  “How did the Romulans do it, Mr. Spock?!”  “They used Red Matter.”  “Ooo… nasty.  Science sure is spooky!”  Look, I know the Star Trek world is always throwing around things like “warp drive” and “dilithium crystals,” but for the geeks that are paying attention, they put in the effort to explain how the stuff works.  Once again, might I be detecting echoes of this shortcoming in Lost?

(Dilithium:  A crystalline mineral used to regulate the anti-matter-powered warp drives that allow starships to travel faster than light. Dilithium’s chemical symbol is Dt, its atomic weight is 87 and it is a member of the hypersonic series of elements.)  See?

At the very least, what I’m talking about here are the artful little touches and details that make a manufactured world complete, make it feel real.  (I buy the world of Beetlejuice 100%.  The only thing I wonder about the world of FOX’s 24 is does Jack Bauer ever eat or break for the restroom?  But the other details are so strong I don’t wonder for long.)  In the worst case scenario, I’m talking about neglect, or glossing over, the very McGuffin of the story.  (Oxford English Dictionary’s entry for McGuffin: noun, an object or device in a film or a book which serves merely as a trigger for the plot.)  This device can be a crucial element to the story or entirely inconsequential, but it has to fit within the world the story’s set in.  Lost has about 147 or so of these McGuffins left open-ended and confounding.  Will enough of them get wrapped up in the time left?

The Starship Enterprise shouldn’t be fighting the red ball of water produced by the Mueller device inspired by Milo Rambaldi – three “empty at the core,” open-ended and coufounding McGuffins from Alias layered together for that “deep and complex” McGuffiny feeling – quickly, and pointlessly, regurgitated into the Star Trek movie.  Give the bad guys big subspace bombs or something, subspace is an area already established in the Star Trek universe and you can just leave that ramshackled Rambaldi out of it.

But that’s the way he made Star Trek, and so I walked away putting a band-aid on the little break in my heart, because my enjoyment of it on so many other levels was greater than just that one element .  (By the way, I didn’t mind all the lens flares everyone else complains about, and I defend J. J.’s creative take on a lensy flarey future.  Shiny!)

So I’m scared of Lost.  I’m afraid it’s going to hurt me in the end.  After loving it so thoroughly all these years I afraid it’s going to leave me feeling empty inside – that what I chose to invest so much time in was pointless – that ALL the questions I’ve built up over the last 5 seasons are going to have stupid answers that are pointlessly complex (like, this was all taking place on the nose of Bruce Willis’ sneezing cat after inhaling Red Matter in a dream Rambaldi is having 6000 years ago during a nap on Mars) – that it’s given me all these crazy, whacked-out questions but it won’t bother giving me any actual answers – that it may not meet my expectations, and that ending the show on an inspirational note may be totally out of the question – that J. J. Abrams just doesn’t respect us enough to take those extra steps.

You know, this is starting to sound a lot like the actual workings of life in general – and has Eckhart Tolle convinced me to ask too much of life, to find inspiration around every corner?  Maybe my 10 minute abs and I are wrong.  Maybe J. J. Abrams’ is a creative act of real life itself.  Have my hot-chick-seducing beers and I been missing it all this time?  Maybe J. J. Abrams faithfully recreates the delight and disappointment of genuine existence – reminding us that we don’t get answers to all the big questions, the big whys?  Pure honesty, pouring out through his fictions.

Except, I’m already living that every day, and I’d really love to remember my time with Lost as a stunning and unparalleled entertainment adventure, rather than just time lost to another honest reminder that life can be disappointing.

If that’s the case, J. J., lie to me.  You’ve made me a geek for your creations; you’ve made me a fan; you’ve raised my expectations with Lost, and now I’m hoping you may even exceed them; at very least please make it make some kind of sense; so if you have to, lie to me.

(And I’m okay with the island being controlled by an Egyptian robot machine made of nanites from the future, as long as its fits in the established world of this crazy island, has a purpose that fits with the established story arc, and is in no way powered by a Rambaldi Red Matter device.  Just so you know.)

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