Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Lost" knows everything


Lost has rewired my synapses. Lost: it has riled and absorbed me, taking up a special spot in my brain usually reserved for Michigan football and the visceral emotion that I feel when recalling Atonement or my most recent Hold Steady concert. I try to stop thinking about it, but then I cannot. And now I am knee-deep in geek fan-boy mode, scanning message boards and blogs and re-reading recaps of episodes that I've already seen twice.

It has long stopped being a serial with heavy hooks. Pick up a syllabus to an intro class on philosophy, anthropology or religion, and the show covers half the topics. Its dozens of plotlines and dozens more characters are not (as I once thought) a card trick. There's substance here, dude, a virtuoso melding of plot in service of ideas about free will, sacrifice and social organization.

Lost. Here I've been thinking about The Sopranos in its closing hours, and suddenly, that show feels weak and sad in comparison -- As the World Turns with gunplay. This is not fair, I know, because the two don't need to be compared. The Sopranos has been great television, and I have loved it. Today I decided that the past three episodes of Lost have been more interesting, thrilling and disturbing than the final three seasons of The Sopranos.

In Lost, we've had patricide and the calculated massacre of a village, revenge killings and the island equivalent of political assassinations. The body count has been immense -- at least fourteen characters in the season finale alone, and (we think) probably one more. A major character stepped back from suicide and another elected to die in hopes of saving a friend.

"NOT PENNY'S BOAT"?

But none of it feels particularly forced. This isn't 24. The explosions come after long slow buildups, deep character development, ongoing references to Enlightenment philosophy and Old Testament prophets. They're not writerly plot twists intended to set up the next hour. No salacity here. At a certain point you punch yourself in the face and say, "This shit is on ABC? Have I been shortchanging the show because it's on a broadcast network? And how can something so deep and complex and tremendous be marketable?"

I've spent too much time wondering about the timber used in Carmela Soprano's construction project and not enough contemplating the organizing principles of society and individuals through the lens of Lost -- or even, say, what the underground market forces behind the 19th Century slave trade have to do with all of this.

The show deservedly evokes observations like this:
How I loved this scene for presenting without judgment some very complicated ideas about justice, personal responsibility, and how people become the people they become. Yes, the morality of all this is troubling and disturbing. So is our world. Which brings this full circle.
These people:
  • Ben Linus: He is a villain as persuasive as Hannibal Lecter. (Michael Emerson owes much to Anthony Hopkins.)
  • Jack Shephard: I never, ever would have thought that I would be transfixed by a Matthew Fox performance, let alone feel a kind of rooting interest last seen in second grade when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom hit theaters.
  • Hugo Reyes: Every time he's on screen I feel happiness and trepidation all at once.
  • Claire Littleton: I care about her so much that it hurts.
  • John Locke: Whatever bad acts he commits, I am convinced that he will be the show's ultimate hero.
If The Sopranos was born as a child of the '90s -- a self-aware parable about personal hedonism, the emptiness of prosperity, a little self-help therapy and illusions of sensitive mannishness -- Lost is all '00s: people coming to grips with tragedy that they never expected and never deserved, negotiating random acts of violence and manipulations by leaders they trusted, never able to reckon with the extreme relocation forced by external events.

I feel, like, pained that I didn't pay closer attention when I watched earlier episodes.

The Sopranos is (almost) dead. Long live Lost.

9 comments:

Flop said...

This post confirms for me that I should have been watching Lost and never should have bothered with the few episodes of The Sopranos I watched when it first came out.

Zilla Rocca said...

I'm more obsessed with Desmond than any other characters (with maybe the exception being Ben, a man with the creepiest eyes primetime TV has ever seen).

I like the fact that Desmond was a former drunken monk who fell in love with a rich man's daughter and pushed her away because of his cowardice. Now he can see the future like Final Destination and shoot guys with a harpoon. And his accent is bad ass.

Mr. Met said...

There's nothing funnier than listening people talk about Lost. I'm sure the show is awesome, but come on -- it just seems batshit insane.

CrimeNotes said...

I'm sure the show is awesome

That's the key part of your inane comment.

OMG, this batshit insane dude named Dante just wrote this psycho poem where he goes to hell and talks to dead people! How ridiculous and unrealistic.

Flop said...

I didn't realize that's what Clerks was about. I've only seen it in bits and pieces ...

crimenotes said...

Zilla -- doesn't he kind of remind you of Eric Clapton?

I just bought Season 2 on DVD and am starting it now.

Zilla Rocca said...

Good call, CN.

On a sidenote, did you happen to catch Saayid in "Grindhouse?" He essentially played the same role except he cut his beard and dressed like Jerry Garcia. It was amazing.

CrimeNotes said...

I re-watched the first four episodes of Season 2 last night. You really do see how carefully they plant the seeds for later developments in virtually every scene. For instance, there were all kinds of tips about Hugo -- "put this man in a straitjacket," one of his pre-lottery friends says -- and I'd forgotten all about when Desmond first ran into Jack while they were running the steps ... argh, all so good.

Flop said...

I'm getting sufficiently into this that I might have to ask for things to be spoilered.

CN, can I borrow Season 1?