Sunday, January 17, 2010

Your quick guide to ABC's Lost

So, whilst recuperating from knee surgery, my brother and I got caught up on Lost, a series we both used to be into. This catchup involved buying a copy of season 5 from Barnes & Noble on Blu-Ray, and letting it rip. I stopped watching a few episodes into season 5 because it became un-fathomable.

For those who do not know, Lost follows a bunch of characters through a broken timeline. You can flash back, flash forward, and flash to the present moment (when ever that may be) at any given moment in the show. This combined with the fact that they are progressively developing a complex science-vs-super natural series of plot points makes this a challenging show to understand. Commercial interruptions and 1 week delays between episodes do a tremendous amount of violence to the story, and your ability to follow what is happening. It is very difficult to follow the show as it is presented on commercial television. It would work better as a mini-series on HBO.

So, in the interests of promoting season 6, which should be the end of the series, I have decided to publish a little mini-primer giving you the absolute idea of each season. Each season has had an organizing principle. Each season has had a different organizing principle. If you understand the one key principle of each season, it makes every little development much easier to understand.

Season 1

In season 1 a bunch of different people from different cultures and background crash land on a strange island when Oceanic flight 815 breaks in half just off-shore of said Island. The absolute idea is survival. How do a bunch of fully modern humans, totally dependant on a complex division of labor, manage to survive in a natural environment? With no training and experience as hunters and gatherers, can they survive in this strange, but lush, environment they know nothing about? There is also a political formation story here. These people do not agree with each other about the correct course of actions as they seek food, shelter and water. They also encounter many bizarre things about this tropical island as they forage inland for food and fresh water. Will they be able to form a cohesive unit and survive? Will they break into warring factions?

Season 2

Season 2 makes the jump from a survivalist tale to a Twilight Zone story of science fiction and mysticism. The survivors of 815 discover a "Hatch" in the ground, belonging to a group called the Dharma Initiative, a mysterious group they know nothing about. The hatch is occupied by a Scottish fellow named Desmond. Desmond was not a member of the Dharma Initiative. He was marooned on the island in a sailing accident. He pushes a series of numbers into an Apple IIe computer on an exact time interval every day. He says he has too to avoid catastrophe. He doesn't know what will happen if he fails. He flees the "Hatch" presuming that the survivors of 815 are his relief. Much chaos and conflict ensue.

Season 3

This season is follows a theme of capture and oppression by a group called "The Others" who live on a small neighboring Island. We do not know if they are Dharma people, or something else. The conflict between the survivors of 815 and "The Others" dominates all of season 3. Season 3 basically ends with the survivors of 815 breaking the yoke of The Others.

Season 4

The theme of season 4 is all-out war, as forces behind the Dharma Initiative return to the Island to reclaim their prize research outpost... or so we think. The shit gets pretty hairy as a crew of ruthless and vicious mercenaries are unleashed on a band of simple air-wreck survivors, and The Others, neither of whom seem up to the task of battling seasoned, hardcore, elite, fighting men. The Others and the survivors of 815 are forced into an uneasy alliance to survive this onslaught.

Season 5

I have not finished season 5 quite yet, but I am drawing very close to the end. The theme is pretty clear. The theme is absolute time-paradox as a prelude to soap-opera. There has always been a bit of time paradox in Lost. There has always been a bit of soap-opera in Lost. They kicked both into over-drive mode this season. There is also a great extension of the super-natural aspect of the Island. We discover that the spirit of the Island called Jacob is actually Christian Shepherd, the father of Jack Shepherd, who is the 815 resident doctor/surgeon. We discover that there is a bizarre Mayan/Egyptian temple on the Island. We discover that the smog-monster is that temple's supernatural guardian. We also see the Island bring Mr. John Locke back from the dead, which ain't never supposed to happen in any scientific universe. Dead is dead.

So where are we going from here? God only knows. I would expect the survivors of flight 815 to be assimilated into the body of "The Others", for them to destroy the last vestiges of the Dharma Initiative, and for this new polity to live happily ever after on the Island.