Monday, 5 July 2010

Lost (2004–2010)

My review of all six seasons of Lost has now been posted over on Strange Horizons. That's right, all six seasons. My review contains comprehension character and plot summaries, appraisal and a criticial-theoretical interpretation of the whole in terms of trauma theory and 'magical thinking.' How d'you like them apples?

In other news, my post-Jordan purdah has come to an end. Reviews of other titles will follow.


rreugen said...

Interesting how your reviews tend to be better than the reviewed material - I'm talking about the WoT (or was it WtF?) series and this one.

I very much enjoyed the review, its final part in particular.

Lost, I didn't enjoy so much. To me the awful acting clearly demonstrated that the producers were too keen to compromise artistic values for the sake of eye-candy. That they would compromise script integrity for the sake of brain-candy was no surprise, and I totally expected it. It ruined the show for me after the second or third season.

I don't agree that the Locke actor was better - I saw him in the last season episodes, where he was supposed to be a completely different character, and unfortunately the differences were shallow - lucky the script kept asking him to do 'non-locke' stuff... The Ben Linus was very good, on the other hand, funny how they didn't know what to do with him in the end... I wonder if that speaks about the producers ability to work with real artists, maybe they're so used to mediocrity that they really can't find any use for excellence anymore.

My biggest complain though is that, final episode and all, they still let one of the most important enigmas of the show unanswered: what was the relation between Juliet and the cups? Season after season, every episode or so we would see her holding, caressing, gently hugging with her palms, a cup (presumably with something in it.) Was it something special that I miss, or just the result that they didn't give her a damned cigarette or something to do with her hands while, hrr, acting?

Wally said...

The Ben Linus was very good, on the other hand, funny how they didn't know what to do with him in the end...

They didn't know what to do with him in the beginning either - the producers conceived of Ben as leader of the Others only after seeing Emerson's extraordinary (and weird) performance in those first few episodes. They did the right thing though. Their management skills were always pretty good!


Adam, your review is (unsurprisingly) a tremendous piece of work: honest and wise. Bravo. I feel like you bopped the acting a little too hard, but better that critical sin than its opposite. Heh: I harbor mainly disgust and disappointment toward the show and I still almost bought your interpretation.

But I think your 'magical thinking' reading shades a bit toward magical thinking itself...there's just no evidence in the show's early going that it's taking a considered approach to the topic of bereavement - no more than Neon Genesis Evangelion had anything to say about depression, its creator's lifelong affliction, other than 'it sucks.' The finale of Lost is surely about comforting lies and departures and so forth, crassly so in keeping with the series's incompetent thematics (you're too gentle on the writers' laughable 'reason vs faith' talk), but I don't see any evidence that the show's thematic material is consciously manipulated.

Isn't it more likely that the show's young head writer just didn't quite have a handle on the material at the beginning, and so the writers returned over and over to the easiest possible material (see the quote below)?

I'd guess Lindelof realized at some point just how big an impact his own father's death had on the show's development, and after endless talks with his surrogate father figure Carlton Cuse, decided (sentimentally) to spike that topic in the final season. From an old Lindelof interview:

"I suppose the fact that [my dad] died shortly before we began writing Lost had a great impact on where my head was at the time, but he was an amazing guy who is pretty much responsible for my love of all things storytelling-related. He never even TRIED to steal my kidney. That being said, I think, mythically speaking, all great heroes have massive daddy issues...'' ( interview, 2007)

This is self-centered, callow-young-man stuff of the usual sort, oh well. My point is only that Lindelof evidently wasn't writing about magical thinking during the early years of the show, he was actually carrying it out - and Occam's razor suggests that this pure pulp show, so obsessed with its own formal features, probably wasn't carrying out a years-long inquiry into a mode of thought which only manifested comprehensibly after 100+ hours. In all likelihood it really was an empty entertainment, middlingly acted, childishly written, and the reason Lindelof/Cuse's final statement seems like a shitty ending is that it has less to do with the events of the show than the experience of writing it.

Or more briefly: The bung in the Island was the one thing keeping the head writers from crawling up their own asses.

Wally said...
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Adam Roberts said...

Thank you both for your kind words!

Wally: those quotations from the writers are interesting indeed. If I'd done, er, any research at all, instead of just spinning some thoughts off the top of my head and out of my (as commentators point out) too-fuzzy memories of the show, I might have unearthed them; and then used them to bolster my argument. As far as that goes, I suppose I'm less worried by what was in the writers' minds and more by text itself. I don't disagree with your main point, about the fundamental vacuity of Lost's cod-profound gameplaying with 'mystery' and 'faith' and so on. I suppose I just don't consider that vacuity incompatible with the kind of reading I propose. Of course, you'd expect me to say that.

"I feel like you bopped the acting a little too hard ..."

Oh, I'm certainly looking forward to your full-throated defence of the range and nuance of the acting of Emilie de Ravin, Josh Holloway and friends.

rreugen: I suppose I agree about Locke (and, kind of, say as much in the review): viz., that he worked better in the final seasons than the earlier ones. I thought he had actual screen presence, though, which was true of few of the cast.

My problem with Juliet wasn't so much the cups, as the fact that she possessed what I thought was a distracting physical resemblance to Heather Mills McCartney. With more legs, obviously. My wife didn't think so, though, so perhaps it's just me.

Wally said...

Oh, I'm certainly looking forward to your full-throated defence of the range and nuance of the acting of Emilie de Ravin, Josh Holloway and friends.

Well, I've got soft spots for the actors playing Desmond(!!), Charlie, Hugo, and Jin - and I seem to remember Claire being extra-adorable in Season One! Cusick in particular, as Desmond, showed real wit, though his role in the final episode was fucking awful. But Charlie and Jin appeal based on other things they've been in, and I think the Hugo-actor could do a lot with the right any case I agree that the Jack and Kate roles were colossally poorly served, though they were fine for the first couple episodes.

Plus: Faraday! The blonde obstetrician! Walt's dad! Trixie from Deadwood! The funny Asian! Decent actors squandered on bad scripts.