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LOST Answers
February 5, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

LOST Answers. Damon Lindelof tweeted about it. Now you can get answers to all of those unanswered burning LOST questions. From a "Scientist" no less.
posted by morganannie (48 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
What did the last episode suck so badly?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:12 AM on February 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


What did the last season suck so badly?
posted by dobbs at 9:16 AM on February 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


What did the show suck so badly but still people pretended it didn't?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:22 AM on February 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


What?

I loved LOST. Big past tense there. I thought the whole damn show was brilliant. I even liked the time travel and Sawyer being a much better guy back in time. I loved the bomb going off and the whole damn loop starting over. Except it didn't start over. It was kinda like they were wrong about the bomb.

But then that final season pretty much just pissed all over the previous 5. The parallel story lines of the characters off and on the Island was confusing and dumb (even for LOST).

All leading up to that final episode that said, "Yeah, we ran out of ideas that didn't suck, so we decided to use all the sucky ones in a final episode."

Even full frontal Kate couldn't have save that episode.

I had plans to go back and watch the whole thing over as soon as the final season was done. After that I wanted to go to the Spotless Mind clinic and get rid of the first 5.

This all said LOST Answers is actually pretty damn cool. Hope he doesn't run out of ideas any time soon.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:25 AM on February 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also.
posted by valkyryn at 9:37 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was underwhelmed by the finale also.
But I have to say, we're re-watching the whole thing again and it's really quite enjoyable. We're halfway through season 3 which I remember just DRAGGED when it was on TV. It's better when you can kind of plow through it, although the epidsode we watched last night was Nikki and Paulo, which is pretty unredeemable no matter how you slice it.
In re-watching, there are a lot of moments where you go, "Oh ya..." Little things that come up that you never would have caught the first time.
posted by chococat at 10:01 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do I have to justify the shows I like to people who don't?
posted by cmoj at 10:05 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I liked LOST, but you need to understand how television shows are sold initially and sold over time, which are two different things. A show like this can't possibly be cohesive because the targets are always moving. Example: Why did Mr. Ecko die? Because that actor quit. No other reason. But now you have to invent one that's plausible. And invent an ending where you previous idea remains plausible.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:09 AM on February 5, 2011


Even full frontal Kate couldn't have saved that episode.

I imagine there are a lot of things full frontal Kate can't save.
posted by phaedon at 10:11 AM on February 5, 2011


I am very analytical, and so the last season/show was very frustrating. But, I have since come to two conclusions: 1) If every question had been answered, it would NOT have been that satisfying. Mystery gives depth to a story. There was no way the writers could win here. 2) The ending was all about love and feelings. This does not satisfy the analylst in me, but it does bring the story of characters I had come to care about to a wonderful ending.
posted by UseyurBrain at 10:13 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly I couldn't make it past Stranger in a Strange Land - the episode with Bai Ling in it. *shudder*
posted by phaedon at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only watched season 1, but I read the summaries for the rest of the show. I only made it 4 or 5 episodes into season 1 before I had given up on being able to watch the whole run.

My two biggest problems were the pacing and the over-arching writing. Because the over-arching writing wanted to have all of these interesting mysteries they needed to leave all manner of things up in the air. But because the show was on prime time ABC, they needed to keep the episodes full of Something Happening. This lead to an odd too fast but too slow situation where it seemed like the show was a runaway bullet train that happened to be going in circles in Montana.

I also think that the show suffered seriously from being created in the standard network way: writing episodes week by week is great for sitcoms, I guess, but for a serious drama with long reaching plot threads it takes a lot of the cojones out of the show when someone who was slated to die had to be the last man standing because he wound up being a fan favorite. It's just weak.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:23 AM on February 5, 2011


I just want to follow up my Bai Ling comment with this link to a ridiculous interview. Which starts off with the question, "I got to ask. Why are you famous?"
posted by phaedon at 10:26 AM on February 5, 2011


Honestly I couldn't make it past Stranger in a Strange Land - the episode with Bai Ling in it. *shudder*

That was the episode that convinced ABC to let the LOST writers plan an ending to a show and not have it just go on forever. I'd encourage you to keep watching, that was kinda the lowest point in the show and it just got better from there (Till season 6 where it got a little worse, but still worth watching).
posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2011


Really? I had no idea. I do love going through box sets, so maybe I'll reconsider and revisit.
posted by phaedon at 10:38 AM on February 5, 2011


Dammit, all I want is the Ben & Hurley spin-off series. Is that too much to ask? Or a Sawyer & Miles buddy-cop series. I'd watch both/either of those.
posted by bayani at 11:07 AM on February 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Or a Sawyer & Miles buddy-cop series.

This. Please, I really want to watch THIS!
posted by Fizz at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


LOST would've been so much better as a 30 episode HBO series.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:57 AM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everything would be so much better as a 30 episode HBO series.
posted by saul wright at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Except the Wire which needed more episodes.
posted by morganannie at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


The theorem only applies to non-HBO projects, of course.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2011


A show like this can't possibly be cohesive because the targets are always moving. Example: Why did Mr. Ecko die? Because that actor quit. No other reason. But now you have to invent one that's plausible. And invent an ending where you previous idea remains plausible.

This is most definitely not true. It is true that creating a cohesive story over multiple seasons is very, very hard and requires a lot of work, but it has been done. For example: Babylon 5. That show was conceived as a novel for TV, with a defined beginning, middle, and end, and the creator, J. Michael Straczynski, had a detailed plan for the entire planned five year run of the show. He dealt with potential "real life" events (such as an actor leaving) by writing each character with a "trap door" in their backstory, that would allow him to get rid of the character at most any time without interrupting the main plot too much. In fact, the lead character of the show was fired by the network after the end of the first season, so the writers swapped in a new lead and picked up more or less where they left off.

It's true that the plot of Babyon 5 likely deviated significantly from the original plan: things happen, as they say. But if you go back and rewatch the very first season, you can still see the hints that were dropped about where the story was going. Of course, there was a cost to all of this cohesion: Straczynski had to write nearly every line of every episode himself for five years, which is a tremendous amount of work. But he did it, and the end result is five years of TV that actually tells a story, with characters that change and plots that create mysteries, drop hints, and then ultimately make sense.

So we can, and should, expect better than Lost on TV. TV is the biggest canvas we have for story telling, and we deserve better than "oh, well, they can't help but make it up as they go along." It's just not true. Lazy storytelling is just that.
posted by gd779 at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Around the time that the creators realized they weren't going to be able to satisfy people with an ending, I think they should have jumped the shark so far as to become a thing of unmatchable madness. There should have been a Harlem Globetrotters episode. Jack Bauer should have come to the island to fight the Smoke Monster or Ben or both. Batman and Sayid build a timespaceship that is grounded by a flock of birds. Everything had already descended to using the Island's magix as an excuse to toy with the audience and write off any logical plot gaps. Just make it so batshitinsane off-the-wall that people can not stop watching, but also so that the show as it existed up to the final season could remain with people as something pure in its mysteriousness. Divert the responsibility of a sensible conclusion with a kind of non-canon zombie circus.

No show would ever be able to do it again. And it would be incredible.
posted by pokermonk at 12:16 PM on February 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


No show would ever be able to do it again. And it would be incredible.

Actually, that's been done. I suggest you watch The Prisoner. I read once that, after the final episode, Patrick McGoohan (who co-created and starred in the show) had to flee the country and move to America for several years to avoid all of the angry telephone calls. I don't know if that's true or not, but I believe it.
posted by gd779 at 12:19 PM on February 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've always loved the idea of taking a perfectly good movie and ending it in such a way.

Like, if There Will Be Blood ended with Daniel Plainview drilling into a cavern of dinosaurs and just getting eaten, ending the movie right there.
posted by cmoj at 12:22 PM on February 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


With complete sincerity, I might add. As if that were a perfectly good resolution to the film.
posted by cmoj at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


When good, it was one of the best; when bad, it was one of the worst.
posted by rainy at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I imagine there are a lot of things full frontal Kate can't save.

I didn't like Kate much, and I think there were a number of occasions where we actually did get "full frontal Kate," but without actual skin.

The character's three stress reactions seemed to be "abandon current situation" (so she can decide not to and show growth), incite the other islanders by completely misrepresenting something to them (so the writers could drop some entropy into the plot by making somebody run off in a random direction), or make out with somebody (or otherwise intimate the possibility of sex, which is just "full frontal Kate," without the skin).

None of the times she pulled that really worked for me, so I'd submit that full frontal Kate saved nothing, ever.
posted by mph at 12:48 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, that's been done. I suggest you watch The Prisoner.

Nice! Never finished The Prisoner but just read about the ending here. So, I'll redact my penultimate statement... But how even more fitting, considering The Prisoner is an apparent influence on Lost.
posted by pokermonk at 12:52 PM on February 5, 2011


What the fuck is Lost about?

About two seasons too long!


I like this guy.
posted by graventy at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> A show like this can't possibly be cohesive because the targets are always moving. Example: Why did Mr. Ecko die? Because that actor quit. No other reason. But now you have to invent one that's plausible. And invent an ending where you previous idea remains plausible.

This is most definitely not true. It is true that creating a cohesive story over multiple seasons is very, very hard and requires a lot of work, but it has been done. For example: Babylon 5. That show was conceived as a novel for TV, with a defined beginning, middle, and end, and the creator, J. Michael Straczynski, had a detailed plan for the entire planned five year run of the show.


You're both right.

When a show is an open-ended thing, they can indeed fall prey to the "the targets are always moving" syndrome -- because the writers need to continue to spin the story and build the mystery for an unknown period of time, and keep ramping up the stakes and adding new plot twists. When I was talking about this with someone, I used the analogy of the Winchester Mystery House -- the heiress Sarah Winchester developed the eccentric belief that if she ever finished with construction and renovation on her mansion, it would be tremendously bad luck, so she kept the builders constantly working on projects -- and so there are things like stairs that go nowhere and trap doors and weird dead-end hallways and doors that open to the outside air and all sorts of weird pointless stuff that served no purpose other than to extend the construction. And the longer you keep a show going, the more pointless the "twists" become because they're all just meant to "keep the writing going", and the writers don't know what the end point is so they're forced to keep building more and more ridiculous fillips on things. (I'm looking at YOU, X-Files.)

The fact that Babylon 5 was always meant to have an ending at a finite date kept this in check. The writers knew how long they had to wrap up the story, they knew whether they could afford to throw in some little filip or whether they had to give it up becuase "it'd just complicate things and we don't have the time", etc. Shows with a finite end date do still occasionally have to deal with actors who quit or are fired, but it's less likely because when actors also know the end date, they're more likely to hang in there.

Lost started out as an open-ended thing, but it was starting to get weird and elaborate and baroque -- but the genius move that the creators made in the third season was realizing that, and then solving that by declaring an absolute end date. And things started to calm way down after that. There were still ridiculous clunker moves in the plot, but it didn't go into X-Files out-of-control territory.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on February 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do people still want answers to LOST? It seems pretty clear that we're supposed to think about how important feelings and relationships and our time spent with these wonderful characters and that we should no longer demand answers, because the answers we're given are silly and self-evident because they didn't matter. As this guy says:
TL;DR

Question: “Why couldn’t babies be born on the island?”

Answer: “The Incident”
(See also the blog post I wrote at the end of the series about how the writers decided that they could actually solve the problem of science vs. faith and chose faith so suck it, scientists! [self-link, clearly; sorry the images no longer work, esp. cause they were funny])

Anyway, I'm coming in here not to threadshit, but actually say to anyone still annoyed by the way LOST went who hasn't yet seen Fringe to go watch Fringe because it's like LOST if the LOST writers had cared about resolving mysteries or like The X-files if we'd ever learned what happened to Samantha and it was interesting and emotionally affecting.

Fringe > LOST.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:05 PM on February 5, 2011


Also, hah, this guy has another blog: twoandahalfmenanswers.tumblr.com.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2011


Using Babylon 5 as a compare/contrast example to LOST is ... difficult. I would venture that LOST's craft services budget exceeded the budget for Babylon 5 episodes.

You can say Babylon 5 can be cohesive because you know ahead of time where you're going. Fine. Well, you just can't do that with network TV. Not gonna happen. Babylon 5's story bible wouldn't ever have survived intact with the kind of focus-grouped network attention pressure and forces that were applied to LOST. No story would survive that intact.

Think about this. LOST went out with pretty high ratings. Again, I don't think it's going too far out on the limb to guess that more people watched single episodes of LOST's last season than watched entire seasons of Babylon 5.

I guarantee you that, right up until the end, there were forces within ABC pushing for another season. Where's the story going to go now?

No, what ended LOST was the profit-and-loss sheet, not the needs of the story. Everyone at that point would have asked for truckloads of money to continue, and that's why the plug was pulled.

But if not ... the LOST producers would have gleefully extended to another season.

You create a pilot and a network orders episodes. You create as many episodes as you have orders for. You'll continue to get orders for them as long as ratings are high and costs are low. Is a character not pulling in his share of the ratings? Is the character costing too much? Is another character testing so well that you should see more of him/her? Change the story to reflect the audience's mood.

Why did Desmond last multiple seasons?
Why did Charlie die?
Why did Claire disappear for long stretches?
What happened to Libby? Ana Lucia?

They tested well. Or not.

Here. Here's the kicker that proves the argument. One of the most popular characters on the show was originally hired for a three-episode arc. Fans loved that the show finally had a "bad guy" with a name. Voila! The show's entire story arc is rewritten on the fly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2011


One of the things I find interesting about the ending they picked was that, despite the fact that LOST was conventionally thought to improve when an end date was decided, it could have really been plopped down there anywhere. Just kill Jack at any point and bring us to bardo, bright lights and all that.

Change the story to reflect the audience's mood.

Yeah, definitely. Look at Nikki and Paolo. Bring them on when the audience asks what's up with the background characters, bury them alive when they prove unpopular.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2011


It didn't make any sense, but it was so damn fun to watch!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2011


I think they should have jumped the shark so far as to become a thing of unmatchable madness.

G-G-G-G-G-Ghost Pirates!
posted by mikelieman at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2011


The show's entire story arc is rewritten on the fly.

By a staff of writers. If true, that story about how Straczynski wrote Babylon 5 is fascinating, but not indicative of how the episodic industry typically works. Which in turn does not involve a "lazy" process but rather one that is different, notably in that it is not entirely pre-determined prior to the filming of the first episode. That would be insane. Your typical network show is written six to eight weeks prior to airing.
posted by phaedon at 3:49 PM on February 5, 2011


What's always bothered me about the Babylon 5 comparison is that Straczinsky may have stuck a blow for consistency by writing all the episodes, the downside is: he wrote all the episodes and his dialogue is laughably bad. Maybe he has good story ideas, but I wouldn't really know because I've never been able to watch more than two episodes B5 without wanting to pour hot wax in my ears to block the grating sound... Maybe his dialog works in comic books where he got his start, but live actors spewing that stuff forth is more than I can take...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 6:03 PM on February 5, 2011


...bury them alive when they prove unpopular.

All I remember about them was something to do with diamonds. Probably best not to remind me.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:12 PM on February 5, 2011


It seems pretty clear that we're supposed to think about how important feelings and relationships and our time spent with these wonderful characters and that we should no longer demand answers

Who is in charge of deciding what we're supposed to think?
posted by grumblebee at 6:42 PM on February 5, 2011


My fundamental issue (beyond the dumbass flash-sideways/purgatory bit) with the final season of LOST is that the island went from being a character to a MacGuffin. The introduction of Jacob and smokey killed the characterization of the island.
posted by bfranklin at 7:34 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, what ended LOST was the profit-and-loss sheet, not the needs of the story.

Say what? Financial aspects played zero role. As The Devil Tesla points out, midway through s3 the showrunners sat the network down and forced them to agree to a firm end date of six season so that they could start writing cohesive scripts. It was known that s6 was going to be the end from that point on, there was never any question; ratings of s4 through s6 played no role in determining that it would end. The producers would have never wanted it extended because it was their hard fought battle to get an end date set in the first place.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:35 AM on February 6, 2011


Oh, and if the theme all along has been "forget the plot, it's about the relationships" don't have everyone pairing off as turtle doves when the show was supposed to be about group dynamics. That's why the first 3 seasons are so much better, they were still about a matrix of relationships rather than these trite, forced love affairs. I mean.... Sayid and Shannon? Hurley and Libby? I have a hard time feeling like all along this has been some metaphor for monogamous romantic love.
posted by butterstick at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


waiting a while to rewatch it entirely, but it's neat that still new stuff about the show will occur to me when i think about it. it seems to me that often the complaints about it are tied up in unrealistic expectations. it's about the experience, and no worthwhile human experience can be summed up as easily as tv shows have trained us to believe. life is messy and vague, and there are no simple connections or cause/effect relationships.

i can't imagine someone applying this kind of standard to david lynch (the logic/illogic of whose work, to me, definitely influences the lost final season).
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:05 AM on February 6, 2011


I guess I'd buy the "it's the experience" argument more if I found the time spent with the characters to be more pleasant than frustrating. There are shows that set up mysteries and resolved them in a less frustrating way (say, Fringe) and also shows where I found the people to be less . . . well, tiresome. Jack, particularly. And Kate.

For example, Six Feet Under seemed to be about some of the same themes ultimately, but didn't rely on setting up contrived mysteries to hook viewers (which, let's face it, is what the writers were doing) and also gave us messy resolutions. But I was fine with that, because, I guess, it seemed true to the initial marketing, and because I ultimately liked the characters and cared about what happened to them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2011


No, what ended LOST was the profit-and-loss sheet, not the needs of the story.

Say what? Financial aspects played zero role.

I'm guessing you're both somewhat right and wrong.

I remember when the producers cut that deal with the network, and, indeed, it gave them a lot more control. Certainly, the series wouldn't have lasted longer, no matter how good the ratings were. But I'm guessing if it had totally tanked before the last season, the network would have cancelled it. I may be wrong, but I doubt they signed a contract promising to pay for new episodes, even if only two people were watching them.

If I'm right, this means that the producers did need to think about think about the bottom line while they were writing and shooting various episodes. And it's even possible the network stepped in and made suggestions -- or demands. The only thing the network couldn't demand (after the agreement) were more episodes after the agreed final season.

However, I think arguments like "LOST was the profit-and-loss sheet" are the sort of over-simplifications that cynical types like to say, usually with a "don't be so naive" voice. The truth is a lot more complicated, because the people in charge are worried about more things than just immediate profits.

They are worried their balancing their offerings (does this show work well with what comes on after it?). They are worried about their image (does this show make us look good?). They are worried about attracting certain talent (if we do this show, will actor/director X work with us in the future?) Etc.

Some of them -- being human -- are even worried about things like art, aesthetics and entertainment. My guess is that there were some "soulless" Network executives who were actually fans of the show.

So decisions about TV dramas tend to get made via the tug of many force. I am not saying the bottom line isn't one of those forces. It may -- in most cases -- be the main force. But it's not the only force.

Also, it is totally possible to craft a good drama within the confines of a TV Network. You just need to know the parameters going in. ASSUME that actors will leave. Definitely assume that you each season might be the last. Now, there's nothing you can do if you get cancelled mid season. But, in general, it's foolish to plan a show that will only be satisfying if it lasts five seasons. TV producers should know better. So you give each season a satisfying arc. You can leave unanswered questions for next season. But at least give viewers some sense of closure.

For a great example of this see "Deadwood." To a large extent, "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" also used this technique. And it's been the norm in England for decades.
posted by grumblebee at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Using Babylon 5 as a compare/contrast example to LOST is ... difficult. I would venture that LOST's craft services budget exceeded the budget for Babylon 5 episodes.

Ha! It's funny because it's true.

You can say Babylon 5 can be cohesive because you know ahead of time where you're going. Fine. Well, you just can't do that with network TV. Not gonna happen. Babylon 5's story bible wouldn't ever have survived intact with the kind of focus-grouped network attention pressure and forces that were applied to LOST. No story would survive that intact.

Babylon 5 was on network TV, in a sense. It started on PTEN, which was intended to be a "fifth network." But set that aside: the original Babylon 5 story most likely didn't survive network meddling. If you dig deep enough, you'll find that there were a lot of changes over the years. But because you had a showrunner that actually cared about continuity, and cohesiveness, and maintaining the "TV as a novel" concept, they rolled with the punches and made it work anyway.

By a staff of writers. If true, that story about how Straczynski wrote Babylon 5 is fascinating, but not indicative of how the episodic industry typically works. Which in turn does not involve a "lazy" process but rather one that is different, notably in that it is not entirely pre-determined prior to the filming of the first episode. That would be insane. Your typical network show is written six to eight weeks prior to airing.

And that's exactly the problem. That level of showrunner involvement (or at least the alternative that gumblebee mentions) is what we need in order for TV to be drama rather than dreck.

What's always bothered me about the Babylon 5 comparison is that Straczinsky may have stuck a blow for consistency by writing all the episodes, the downside is: he wrote all the episodes and his dialogue is laughably bad.

It was... uneven, to be sure. Some of it was quite good, and when it managed to call back a half-forgotten line of dialog from three seasons ago at a crucial moment (and it was obvious that this had been planned all along), it was amazing. However, I do take your point. That was a weakness of the show. For what it's worth, it gets better over time.
posted by gd779 at 7:26 PM on February 6, 2011


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