Other Ten Percent 7/11/14

Jul 11 2014

Hello, sorry I disappeared for this week. I’ve been writing a lot of fiction and trying to figure out how to write this at the same time without it sapping all my energy for fiction. Let’s try talking about TV for a while and see if that works.

So Nikki and I have been rewatching Lost and I’d highly recommend you guys all do the same if you’ve got a hole in your Netflix schedule. Not because it’s a ton better or worse than I remember it being. It’s still a deeply flawed show that was frequently capable of being one of the best things on TV. It’s just a very different show 10 years later.

For starters you can see its mark on everything now. Not just in the way that every network is trying to make “the next Lost” by buying whatever pilot includes enough weird quasi-mystical bullshit to sustain a fanbase but in the way that creators now fundamentally make TV shows differently because of Lost.

Lost didn’t invent sprawling casts deep mythologies or jumping around in time within episodes but it become a huge enough hit that it created a very clear mark of delineation. Before Lost shows deployed those ideas infrequently and carefully in order to not scare away their fan base. After Lost shows think of them as standard aspects of TV storytelling you can deploy whenever and expect the audience to keep up.

In fact Lost’s use of those ideas is starting to look a little bit dated and hesitant. Sure it’ll spend a whole episode abandoning the main cast to tell the story of some other group or person’s time on the island but it seems to rush through those stories, scared the audience will think its a waste of their time in a way that sorta makes that a self-fulfilling prophesy. In 2005 spending a whole episode just showing what happened to a second group of survivors from the plane crash seemed revolutionary. Rewatching it with Nikki last night my reaction was “Jesus, nobody’s getting any time to develop here. Why didn’t they make this a two or three episode arc?”

It’s also just a much more stylish show than I remembered it being. The flashbacks really allowed the show to jump around stylistically in a way that on first viewing seemed like a writer’s dream but on a rewatch I now recognize as a production designer’s nightmare. I’m not sure how much the designers on that show got paid but it was not enough. They do some damn fine work. Sun/Jin episodes are frequently kinda dull on a plot level but they’re like the show decides to drop you into a little Wong Kar Wai episode every now and again, beautifully elaborate wallpaper and all.

And that pilot. Jesus do the production values on that pilot still hold up. In the middle of season two we’re already getting to the point where the show’s “random bullshit happens” ambitions outstrip its “random bullshit happens” budget with the crash of the tail end of the plane but God damn the shots of that plane breaking apart are still as harrowing as they ever were.

It’s also weird how much of the chronology of this show I had totally wrong in my head. The french woman shows up and starts rambling about “the others” in like the 5th episode but Hurley’s backstory is really late in the first season. That means we’ve already sat through three interminable hours of Kate’s mysterious past of being a dangerous bad girl who’s never dangerous or bad enough that you have to stop finding her sexually attractive before the numbers show up.

That reminds me, oh man, some of the characters. For a show that’s finale refrain was “this was always a show about the characters judge us on that” a lot of these characters suck. Obviously a lot of this stuff still works or there’d just be no show. Charlie is still charming and adorable. Locke and by extension Terry O’Quinn still pretty much make the show they’re so great. Saiyd holds up surprisingly well when they give him something to do besides act as a lightning rod for IMPORTANT! POST 9/11! ISSUES! which starts happening basically right away as the show realizes it actually has almost nothing valuable to say about terrorism/torture/national security. But the show’s core triangle of Jack/Kate/Sawyer…

Nikki fundamentally hates all of them and I can’t blame her. I keep trying to turn her around on Sawyer who’s at least a fun guy when he’s a jerk but then whenever I try and make that point the show dives back into how sad and angry he is on the inside and I just want to play a Papa Roach song over his sad face.

On a first watch I thought of Kate and Sawyer as interesting characters the show eventually lost the thread on. Instead their kinda boring characters from the word go propped up by how little we know about them. Their performances and everything said about them implied hidden depths that were supposed to be revealed later and the actual reveal was that the emperor had no clothes. In the end they were just cliched criminals with hearts of gold and boring backstories. I remember being super mad when Kate and Sawyer finally made out the first time. On this run through they seem made for each other.

And Jack. Jesus Christ, Jack. If, with the end of Breaking Bad, we’ve reached the end of the age of the anti-hero then can Don Draper signing off next year be the end of the age of televised daddy issues? It doesn’t help that Christian Shepard is just a big old collection of inconsistent character actions in flashbacks demanded by the plot. Screaming at his son to not try to save everyone one minute and crying in a bar about how fantastically better than him his son is the next so that Jack can go on stupid Hero’s quest riffs about his role as leader. (But then don’t all fathers seem that way to their sons?…LOST) It also doesn’t help that Lost actually named the main character’s dad Christian Shepard. Presumably it was their second pick after Jesus McCarpenter was rejected as not obvious enough.

If it sounds like I’m just constantly ragging on this show I’m not. Freed of its responsibility as the BIGGEST GENRE SHOW ON TELEVISION Lost’s many flaws become kinda charming. We’ve entered into the period of the second season where Lost will finally progress the plot forward to like, Shannon getting shot by somebody from the tail section of the plane, and then they spend 3 episodes on flashbacks to let you know all about the guy who loaded the dryer wrong so that Saiyd was only wearing his second favorite shirt when Shannon was shot instead of actually showing the fallout of the event.

At the time I could not stand this and its what eventually led to me giving up on the show in the third season (before catching back up in the final season in time for the finale because) but this time I find it weirdly adorable. It’s like watching a three year old refuse to eat his vegetables when you’re not actually responsible for feeding them. They’re still being dumb but it’s adorable and kinda hilarious when it’s not your problem.

Same with Kate’s backstory and the dragged out reveal of what’s in the hatch and Boone’s entire existence. Freed of all the expectations placed on it Lost’s kind of a dumb show sometimes and you’re allowed to actually enjoy it in all its inconsistent glory.

I’m still probably skipping the one that gives the backstory of all Jack’s tattoos though.

 

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