Tuesday, January 26, 2010

AS WE ARE ABOUT TO EMBARK UPON THE FINAL SEASON OF LOST, I wouldn't be surprising a great many people by making the statement that LOST is very likely the greatest television drama ever made. This is no idle claim. Sure there have been classic TV dramas out the wahzoo but I really don't think they can hit all the bullseyes that LOST has in 5 seasons. THE TWILIGHT ZONE, for instance, is a stone classic; however, it is an anthology program which features episodes which vary dramatically in quality. OK, let's keep it in the "science fiction" vein for the moment and consider STAR TREK; certainly a classic but also containing wildly varying amounts of quality (remember the "Kirk turns into a woman" episode?!?) and also one that was abruptly cancelled and was prevented from providing a complete story arc. This is probably the most remarkable thing about LOST. Before the first scene of the pilot episode was shot, the creators of LOST had the entire story arc fixed and determined and there was a definite goal in sight. Always meant to be a "limited" series, LOST is in fact more Dickensian than Roddenberrian (to corn a phrase). Charles Dickens famously serialized many of his novels a chapter at a time in periodicals which the reading public devoured. Chuck knew where he was going too and GREAT EXPECTATIONS was never going to be an endlessly continuing series but a finite storyline. LOST shares this in common with Dickensian fiction: it is a TV series with a definite beginning and an end and the entire show has been working towards this final season. This is perhaps one of the major accomplishments of the series: the acknowledged successful return of true serialized fiction to television. Unlike 99% of TV dramas which start with a good premise and then expand upon it season after season meandering without an end point in sight, LOST is more novel-like in its use of serialized fiction in pursuit of a definite end.
At the risk of belabouring a point, another commonality between Dickens and LOST is the vast VAST array of incredibly complex characters populating the series. Practically every character on LOST, however small, is incredibly well-drawn with complex and sometimes contradictory sides providing internal battles which make for compelling viewing. This brings me to the flip side of the storytelling: the characterizations are equally as solid as the plot. This is no small feat because usually one or the other takes precedence: an incredibly intricate and entertaining plot featuring rather cardboard characters or an intensely detailed character study in which not much happens. Here on LOST we have the best of both worlds: an endlessly fascinating storyline populated by a host of character we care deeply about. The amount of emotionally wrenching moments are balanced by the amount of intellectually electrifying plot-twists and revelations. I honestly can't think of another TV drama which has ever managed to combine both aspects so monumentally well while still maintaining a series which has a definite final goal in sight. It's truly that impressive.
LOST is also extremely rewarding when watched and re-watched and re-re-watched. It never grows tired no matter how many times one watches the entire series. And trust me, I've rewatched everything up to now quite a few times. LOST always rewards continual revisits. An incident occurring in season 1 or 2 might go completely unnoticed until sometime in season 5 when it suddenly becomes significant. This is another of the strengths provided by a complete story arc which was worked out before the first episode went on the air. The tapestry of LOST in richly interwoven (even moreso than the one Jacob was weaving in his sanctum sanctorum) with a seemingly unending cache of riches. And this is another plus of the show. LOST takes the audience seriously and never talks down to it. LOST has a respect for its audience which, in this day and age of MTV editing and 5 second soundbites (apparently 15 second soundbites are too long, now), may be a little too optimistic but for which I am very grateful. If you feed the public pap, they will come to subsist on nothing else. Perhaps this tactic inevitably leads to the absolutely idiotic contention that LOST is somehow "confusing" or "too hard to understand". Nothing could be further from the truth. Each and every thing that happens in the show is perfectly intelligible and will always be fully explained -- sometimes you might have to wait a couple years, it's true, but do you really want ALL your mysteries served up to you on a paper plate?!? And since, from the moment I first became aware of LOST I was also aware that this was a finite series which would come to a complete conclusion, I have always been completely trusting of the writers. And that trust has never once been let down.
And so we come to the eve of the final season. Since every one of the 5 seasons so far has never varied in quality, I find myself immensely confident that LOST will arrive at a satisfactory conclusion; one in which all our questions will be answered and our emotional need for closure will be met. I am not one of those people who is sad at the series coming to an end. I in fact can't wait to have a complete LOST saga under my belt because the first thing I'm going to do when the last episode airs is watch the entire series all over again. For LOST is indeed an epic in the truest sense of that much overused and weathered word and, I believe, will lend itself to repeated viewings for the rest of my life. On a purely personal note, this final season itself will hold extra significance for me. I will be watching it for two because my dear friend Peg is no longer here to watch it with me. I was responsible for getting her into LOST and we had a ritual each winter, as the new season DVD was released. I would bring it over to her house and we would watch it together and prepare for the new season airing a month or so later. As a matter of fact, when my pre-ordered Season 5 DVD of LOST arrived in the mail this past December, I unwrapped the box set and found myself crying unexpectedly because, for the first time, I would not be bringing it over to Peg's for us to watch together. I had to watch it by myself. Peg didn't live to see the conclusion to the series so, as the final season begins on February 2, I will be watching for the both of us.


Weaverman said...

LOST has completely passed me by although a few of my friends (over here) were enthusiastic (are they still?) I have to say I like the idea of a finite series and think it should be mandatory. Things go on far to long. Remember the promise that THE SOPRANOS would absolutely run for only three seasons - look what happened! Like a lot of people I've started buying complete sets of TV shows recently so perhaps if the right offer comes along on LOST....Who knows?

Dis Guy said...

Ya know one of the first things I thought of after the initial shock of Peg's passing was almost word for word in my mind; "She never got to find out how LOST ends".