Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Netflix Streaming Review - Lost

So I've been debating how to review this show for the past few days now.  Because to be perfectly honest, I don't have any real feelings about it.  I didn't love it, I didn't hate it, and I really don't think much about it.  And considering that Lost concluded in 2010 and it's pop culture relevance has tempered off to the point where people now just shrug and drool when I ask them if they've seen it, I'm not sure what exact point this review is going to serve.  Because let me tell you something, brother.  Binge watching Lost is kind of like deciding to run a marathon for the first time; about halfway through you're thinking to yourself, "What the f*ck was I thinking actually trying to do this."  And yet you can't quit because, well, you've devoted so much time and effort to getting through the first half.  And if you aren't prepared to power through the next couple of hours/seasons of pain, then you're in some serious trouble, brother (okay, watch the show and you'll get the joke).

Now in case you've been living under the heaviest of rocks for the last decade, Lost is a show about a commercial flight that crashes off the coast of an unidentified island, resulting in the flight's survivors making camp on the beach and attempting to salvage some sense of society.  They, a cast of characters we slowly learn more about through hundreds upon hundreds of flashbacks, are soon thrust through a whirlwind of adventures and encounters that ran only be summed up by one word:  aimless.

I don't know the process for how the Lost story unfolded in the writers' room, but I'm guessing it resembled something along the lines of a fast break being led by a power forward:  lumbering, slow and completely lacking confident and authoritative direction.  And this is Lost's biggest problem.  The narrative is a structural clusterf*ck of the highest order.  Like, it's borderline impressive.  I mean the fact that they could pull off a compelling ending that was narratively sensical is... well, a miracle.

But the fact that one is amazed that a satisfying ending was reached (and trust end, there are tons of people that think the ending sucked) is not exactly an indicative endorsement of the show overall.  And Lost brings this on itself.  When I reviewed Blue Valentine, my main complaint was the structure of the narrative.  It relied too heavily on flashbacks, ultimately eschewing a middle and making the two main characters feel like four different supporting characters simply united by similar physical appearances.  Now imagine this similar sort of problem on steroids when it comes to Lost.

As I've probably made abundantly clear at this point, Lost relies on flashbacks like MTV relies on a demographic of brain-washed teenagers.  Consequently, it traffics in such over-the-top ambiguity it's borderline comical.

*Two characters discover out of place thing on island*

Character 1 - "WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?"

Character 2 - "It means... the island is speaking to us."

Yeah, I imagine that style of "explanation" for virtually every mystery that is presented to the audience.  And it just made me want to dismissively wank all over my room like a retarded monkey.  Because that's not telling a story.  That's not having the balls to tell a story.

Every plot question presented is a hydra of non-answers that morph into an unrelenting snowball of mystery that eventually digs it's own grave.  Because as much fun as it is to be presented with mystery after mystery as a viewer, the whole fun of the mystery is the idea that you'll get some sort of satisfying answer as payoff.  The punishment should fit the crime, so to speak, gnome sayin'?  I mean imagine your parents leaving hints that you were going to receive the most amazing gifts all during Christmas Eve, only to discover on Christmas Day that all you were getting were a jigsaw puzzle and bowl of plain oatmeal.  Weak. Because building up anticipation to the point of creating impossible expectations is kiiiiiiind of a dick move.  So yeah, I can see why people were annoyed by the ending.  The nature of how the story was told lent itself to building up to a climax, but not actually being able to follow through with it (yeah that's a sex joke, what of it?)

Lost suffers from a litany of other problems:  lazy, two-dimensional characters, religious overtones that feel heavy-handed and out of place most of the time, and the reliance on numerous deus ex machina tropes like time travel and a thermo-magnetic who-gives-a-sh*t sort of stuff.  If you've seen Prometheus, this may sound familiar.  I'm guessing this is the curse of Lindelof.  Massively ambitious and trying to bring the big questions to the big and small screen, but really... just failing in the actual execution.

Which is too bad.  Because Lost on a far more minimalist scale, tailored to actually examine these sort of "big" questions as opposed to being obsessed with how their cosmetically presented, would be something else entirely.

For shame, for shame.

Grade - C

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